Over the 16 years of his service as Republican Governor and the one interrupted year of his service as Republican Congressman, William Janklow had enjoyed enormous popularity among most South Dakotans despite persistent rumors that he had raped a 15 year old American Indian girl in 1967. Those rumors never stuck to Janklow, their adhesive force weakened by his firm denials, by the lack of positive evidence, and little else but words spoken by his accusers to challenge him.
When Peter Matthiessen’s “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,” was first published in 1983, Janklow turned into a pillar of fire. Matthiessen reported the rape story in his book but he did not uncover any official documents that detailed the young girl’s side of the story. Still, the rape story and other unflattering vignettes of Janklow were now in print, and Janklow responded scorchingly by suing Matthiessen, the book’s publisher — The Viking Press — and even some South Dakota booksellers that defied the lawsuit-threatening Janklow by daring to sell the book, all for libel.
Matthiessen eventually prevailed, but the book disappeared during the 8 years of litigation until 1991, when the book was finally republished. During the time Matthiessen was writing his book, the case report of the official Bureau of Indian Affairs investigation was unavailable to him. The BIA at that time refused to release it to anyone.
But between that time and 1995 the disposition of the file had changed and I was able to get a copy through my own Freedom of Information Act request, fulfilled in June of 1995, and provided to me from where I was able to track it down at the Aberdeen Area Office of the BIA, South Dakota.
Ironically, so long an inept manager of Indian affairs, the BIA yet managed to make a defense of the young woman’s story against Janklow’s version of events possible by preserving the case file where her words are contained, where even the FBI has not. The file repository of South Dakota FBI records in Minneapolis, Minnesota has no record either of the BIA case report, or of the “United States vs. William Janklow,” file number 70-4483, which was destroyed, they said, in “…Nov., 1976 following instructions by FBI Headquarters under a routine destruction of records program.”
Strangely, neither does the South Dakota District Court, where Janklow served as Attorney General from 1974 to 1978, have that file, when that is where the case went for prosecution.
38 years ago, long before he became governor, Attorney William Janklow worked on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in south central South Dakota as the director of that tribe’s Legal Aid Services.
Jancita Eagle Deer was a 15 year old local American Indian girl in the 8th grade who occasionally did some babysitting for the Janklows. Black hair, brown eyes, 118 pounds, Jancita was a thin pretty girl who attended school in the small reservation town of Mission, and stayed at the girl’s dormitory there.
As part of the statement which Jancita gave to Peter Pitchlynn — the Bureau of Indian Affairs Special Officer who investigated the rape — makes clear, William Janklow began to make sexual advances toward Jancita in an incident foreshadowing worse things to come:
During the Christmas vacation, which started on December 22, 1966 Thursday, I stayed with the Janklows and on Friday Mrs. Janklow left for Flandreau, South Dakota. That night, which was Friday, December 23, 1966, I stayed with the Janklows and on Friday Mrs. Janklow left for Flandreau, South Dakota. That night, which was Friday, December 23, 1966, I stayed all night with Mr. Janklow alone in the house. Mr. Janklow forced me to have three mixed drinks of gin and vodka and some other kind that I don’t know what it was. He tried to dance with me, but I told him that I don’t know how to dance. On Saturday, December 24, 1966 Mr. Janklow and I left for Sioux Falls at about 1:15 p.m. in his car arriving in Sioux Falls at about 4:45 p.m., December 24, 1966. He let me off at my aunt’s place, Mrs. Lola Blue Bird. Before we left from Mr. Janklow’s house in Mission he gave me $12.00. As he gave me the money he said, “Don’t tell on me for making you drink last night.” I stayed with my aunt in Sioux Falls for one week. When I arrived in Murdo, South Dakota on December 31, 1966 on my way back to Mission Mr. Wayne Moore met me there in his car at Murdo and as we returned to Mission Mr. Moore explained to me that I was supposed to tell Mrs. Janklow that I had gone to Sioux Falls on the bus rather than with Mr. Janklow in his car. As we drove to Sioux Falls Mr. Janklow put his hand on my leg repeatedly and every time he did he would put his hand farther up.
Less than a month later Janklow once again removed Jancita from the dormitory, as Dormitory Guidance Teacher, Georgia Kaye Lord, reports in a letter to the department head, Manuel C. Moran:
On Saturday, January 14, 1967 at 4:45 p.m., Jancita Eagle Deer came to my office and informed me that Mr. Bill Janklow and his wife were to check her out that evening. At 4:50 p.m. I telephoned the Janklow’s and confirmed this. I was going off duty at this time so I offered to bring Jancita home with me, as the Janklow house is adjacent to mine in the housing complex. I did take Jancita to the Janklow home and saw her enter at about 5:15 p.m.
The next morning Jancita returned to the dormitory. The first person she spoke to was Catherine Bourdeaux, a Supervisory Instructional Aide. In her own letter, handwritten to Mr. Moran, Mrs. Bourdeaux tells what happened:
On Sunday, January 15, 1967, Jancita Eagle Deer came in the office to check in from weekend. I spoke to her and could see that she had been crying. She stood there for awhile…Then finally she said “Mrs. Bordeaux, may I talk to you?” I took Jancita in guidance office. By then she began to cry and said “Mrs. Bordeauz, something terrible happened to me last evening but I don’t have mother to tell my trouble to.” So I said “Jancita, I am here to help you…” Of course she hesitated a few seconds then she said “Mr. Janklow checked me out for this week, and on Saturday evening he took me up town to see if there was a dance at Mission Hall, but there was no dance. Then he started to drive toward west of Mission about one mile then turn to right on country road and took advantage of me.” So she said again “He took advantage of me, and I feel awful.” I told Jancita to make sure about the statement she had just made because I had to report to Miss Lord and Mr. Moran. I told her that false statement could get her into trouble. Of course she said “Mrs. Bordeaux, I have proof to show you,” so she unbuttoned her shirt and showed me hickey, another word discoloration of the skin, on her breast and right neck. Jancita said Mr. Janklow told her that he was going to check her out this coming Wednesday because he was going to Denver, Colo. on business trip, but she said she did not want to be checked out by him anymore. He also told Jancita that he would divorce his wife if she would marry him. Jancita said she told him no because he has a nice wife.
It is here in the copy of her letter that was provided to me that the wording becomes too broken to read. Though I requested a better copy of Mrs. Bordeaux’s statement, I was then informed by the BIA that their own copy is also light and unreadable. Several lines pass before the following can be read more clearly:
…so Mrs. Geroux told him I was in guidance office talking to Jancita, so he went right in the office, but I was out at the time talking to Miss Lord. Shortly after Mr. Janklow went in guidance office, Ms. Lieb heard Jancita crying so she came out and told Miss Lord and I that there might be some trouble in the office, since she heard Jancita crying so I asked Miss Lord, she better go and see, so she did—the meantime Jancita came out in the hall where I was standing and said “Mr. Janklow told me not to get him into trouble.” He told her that he would buy her everything she wanted.
This is the statement Jancita Eagle Deer gave me on Sunday, January 15, 1967.
Georgia Kaye Lord was the second person to see Jancita that morning. Her letter to Mr. Moran continues the story from her perspective:
Sunday, January 15, 1967, I went to work at the Rosebud Girl’s Dormitory at 1:00 p.m. I entered the Instructional Aides Office and noticed that the center door between their office and mine was closed. I was informed that Mrs. Catherine Bordeaux, Supervisory Instructional Aide, was talking to a girl in my office. At that time Mrs. Bordeaux opened the door and asked me to come in. I entered and found Jancita Eagle Deer seated by the window crying. Mrs. Bordeaux then went back into the Instructional Aides Office and answered the telephone. She then came back to the door of my office and asked me to step across the hall. We went across the hall and talked for five or six minutes. Mrs. Bordeaux felt that she should inform me of what had happened without having to repeat the whole story in front of Jancita. At this time, Mrs. Bertha Lieb, Instructional Aide came to the door and said, “Miss Lord, I think you had better go into your office. Mr. Janklow just came in and it sounds like big trouble in there.” I crossed the hall and entered my office through the north door. Mr. Bill Janklow was alone in my office walking toward the window. I walked around and sat at my desk saying, “I think you had better tell me your side of the story.” He then proceeded to tell me the following: On Saturday evening, January 14, 1967 Jancita Eagle Deer had supper with the Janklow’s in their home. After supper she asked Mr. Janklow if she could have a couple of drinks. He said “no”. A little before 8:00 p.m., Jancita asked Mr. Janklow if she could attend the dance in downtown Mission, South Dakota; He said “no” at first, but was only teasing. At about 8:00 p.m. Mr. Janklow drove Jancita downtown. As they passed the dance hall, he noticed only one light was on. Mr. Janklow then told Jancita that he wouldn’t let her out unless there was a dance. She then asked him if he would buy her some Peppermint Schnapps. He said “Of course not”.
Mr. Janklow then told Jancita that they would drive around for awhile and wait and see if the dance would start. They drove around for about thirty-five minutes. At approximately 8:50 p.m., he let her off in front of the dance hall. He then told her to be home by 1:45 a.m.
Mr. Janklow did not see Jancita again until around 10:00 a.m. January 15, 1967 when he picked her up by the laundromat in Mission, South Dakota.
Following this story, Mr. Janklow asked me if he could talk to Jancita. I told him “no”, as I felt it would only be more upsetting to her. I then told Mr. Janklow I thought it would be best if he left the dormitory. Mr. Janklow left.
At about 2:30 p.m. Jancita Eagle Deer came back to my office and told me the story that now appears in her statement. At this time she showed me a bruise, commonly known as a ‘hickey’ on her upper chest.
Photographs of the bruises were taken, but they were not included as part of the BIA’s case report, and I was unable to locate them elsewhere.
We now come to the axis of the report, Jancita’s own statement:
Miss Kaye Lord, Teacher in Guidance at the Todd County High School, took me over to Mr. Janklow’s place after I was checked out from the dormitory at about 5:00 p.m., January 14, 1967, Saturday. I had supper with the Janklows and at about 7:55 p.m., January 14, 1967, Mr. Janklow drove me to Mission, South Dakota, from the Todd County dormitory complex where the Janklows live which is approximately one half mile. When we passed the dance hall Mr. Janklow said, “Jan, look there isn’t any dance because the lights are not on.” Mr. Janklow then said, “We might as well drive around until the dance starts.” I said, “I want to go to the show again.” Mr. Janklow then said, “Would you like to drink with me tonight?” I said, “No, I would rather go to the dance.” By that time we were passing the West Side Station at Mission going west. As we drove west on Highway 18 Mr. Janklow said that he could not be my guardian anymore. He also said it was because he could not get any money from the welfare or from my dad. We drove on west and about a mile and a half past 83-18 junction Mr. Janklow turned north on a dirt road. He stopped on a hill where the gate was closed. Mr. Janklow then told me to slide over. I said, “No.” He leaned over and said that he had to get something. He pushed on something and the back of the seat that I was sitting in fell back. He then pushed me back in the seat on my back. I tried to get up. Mr. Janklow said, “Will you go away with me?To hell with my wife and my children. I’ll divorce them.” He also said “The first time I saw you in my office I was crazy about you ever since then.” During the time he was holding me down and saying these things he unbuttoned my blouse. I was hitting him with my right hand during this time. I kept telling him that I wanted to go back into town, but he didn’t pay any attention to me. At this time he said, “God damn, what are you so frightened about. I won’t hurt you.” Mr. Janklow at this time unbuckled his belt and zipped his pants open. He then pulled my skirt up and tried to pull my pants down. He finally got my pants off both legs. He then got on top of me and had intercourse with me for about ten minutes. he then got up and told me to put my pants on. He then said that he would take me back into town. During the time that he was having intercourse with me he was also putting a hickey on my chest. I showed the hickey to Miss Kaye Lord when I reported to her about what happened at about 2:30 p.m. on January 15, 1967, Sunday. According to Mr. Janklow’s clock in the car it was 8:50 p.m. January 14, 1967 when we started back to Mission, South Dakota. On our way into town Mr. Janklow gave me three dollars in bills and asked me not to tell on him. He also told me that he would check me out again on Wednesday. He also said, “Would you like to go along with me to Denver.” I said, “If I could take one of my girl friends along.” He said, “No, I want you by yourself.” He then said, “Forget it.” He then said, “What if I wanted to check you out, then what would you do?” I then said, “I don’t know.” By this time we were in town and he dropped me off at the dance hall. I joined up with Amy Wright and Patty Wright and we walked around town for a while. Karen Fuller was with us part of the time. At about 12:20 a.m., January 15, 1967, Alfred eagle Deer (my brother), Diane Black Bull, one other girl and a man and I all went to Winner. We returned from Winner about 7:00 a.m., January 15, 1967. We went to Ramona Herman’s place where we stayed for a while. We then went to the laundromat where Karen Fuller did some washing. As we were going back to Karen’s place Mr. Janklow came by and told me to get into the car. He then took me to his house. He then sent his wife to the store. After she had gone to the store he balled me out for not coming back that night. I asked if I could go back to the girl’s dorm. He said no that he did not want me to go to the show that afternoon.
In her interview with Peter Pitchlynn, Georgia Lord adds more:
She stated that he then went all the way with her, that he did have sexual intercourse with her. She stated that she did try to fight him off. She then showed me a hicky on her upper chest. She also had one on her neck which she said that Janklow did it. She was crying during this time…she stated that it hurt her to go to the bathroom and that her leg was stiff and sore.
Ms. Lord, who knew both Janklow and Jancita, “…had no reason to believe that she was not telling the truth…” and believed Jancita. “She has never made any such complaints before to my knowledge. Sometime after recounting the previous night’s events, Jancita told Ms. Lord that she wanted to call her guardians, Johnny and Yvonne Arcoren, which she did. According to Ms. Lord:
At 6:30 p.m. Mr. and Mrs. Arcoren came to my office and informed me that they were go9ing to notify Cato Valandra. I then made arrangements with Mr. and Mrs. Arcoren to meet me at the Rosebud Public Health Hospital the following morning.
At 8:00 p.m. I went to Emanual C. Moran’s…home and reported to him in detail the information I had received that afternoon. I also informed him that I would take Jancita eagle Deer to the Rosebud Hospital the following morning, Monday, January 16, 1967, and he agreed to meet us there.
At about 9 a.m. on Monday, 16 January, 1967, approximately 36 hours after the alleged rape occurred, Jancita was finally examined by Dr. John Crockett at the hospital in Rosebud, South Dakota. Dr. Crockett explained to officer Pitchlynn that “…due to the long period of time that had elapsed before the examination, there was little possibility of there being any evidence discovered…” by the exam. No physical evidence was found.
On the morning of 18 January, 1967, FBI Agent John Penrod, over from Rapid City, actually advised William Janklow of his rights. But there the matter would end—the Forces of Justice must have been out of breath that day, because they weren’t interested in chasing William Janklow.
In a letter dated 27 February, 1967, to FBI Special Agent in Charge, Richard G. Held, U.S Attorney General Harold C. Doyle declined to prosecute the “United States vs. William Janklow,” citing “…insufficient evidence to support the allegations of the victim, and that said allegations are unfounded.”
The Attorney General’s remark is an astounding example of prejudicial 1967 status quo thinking, revealing more about the Attorney General’s interest in pursuing Janklow that it does about the merits of the case, for although he could have opined that there was not enough evidence to obtain a conviction—he should not have judged that Jancita’s allegations were “unfounded.” That is the job of the jury which Doyle seems to have supplanted. But rather than pointing out the missing physical evidence in the form of semen stains, Doyle instead repudiates the victim in his letter, dismissing Jancita’s story outright while accepting Janklow’s version of events, without ever giving a jury of their peers the opportunity to decide who was telling the truth.
Two bruises and the word of a credible 15 year old Indian girl, broken and in tears, matched against the word of a white male attorney was apparently not enough in 1967 with which to face a jury. We will never know who a jury would have found more convincing on the witness stand, but if the reactions of those surrounding the scandal are any indication, Janklow certainly would not have looked good. However, a trial might have provided some answers to questions raised by the criminal report. For example:
1. If Janklow was not infatuated with Jancita, why did he spend so much time with her alone? He drove her to Sioux Falls, a four hour trip from Rosebud, and then enlisted Wayne Moore to keep that fact hidden from his wife. Why? He also spent at least one night alone with Jancita in his house while his wife was across the state.
2. Why did Janklow take that turn down a deserted dirt road where Jancita says the rape occurred? Even today that road is unlit and pitch black at night. The road goes nowhere, ending at a gate that leads onto the drive of a distant farmhouse. When interviewed by Pitchlynn, Janklow admitted taking her down that dirt road, but said that he was “Just there a few seconds…” But that he went there at all is suspicious. It is an odd place—a dark, isolated, untraveled place for a 27 year old married man to take a 15 year old 8th grade girl after sunset, even for an alleged “few seconds.”
3. Why did Janklow go back to the dormitory at all? Janklow had picked up Jancita the following morning at 10 a.m., and took her to his home. She stayed there for a couple of hours and returned to the dormitory at about 12:30 p.m. So after already having spent a couple of hours with her that morning, Janklow went back to the dormitory to speak to Jancita while she was in the process of reporting the alleged rape of the night before.
What could he possibly have had to say to her at that precise moment when he appeared to be concerned about what she might be saying?
Did he know that she was going to accuse him of rape? If so, how? An innocent man should have had no idea that she was going to make that accusation. Her accusations should have been a complete surprise to him if he did not rape her. But there is no indication in the statements that he was surprised at all. Rather, he appears to have been afraid and concerned about what Jancita was going to say, and was there for damage control, and no other purpose.
The only answer to the question of why he went to see her we are ever likely to get was supplied by Jancita herself in 1967. In the hallway to Catherine Bordeaux, after Janklow had confronted her, Jancita said: “He told me not to get him into trouble.”
In his own statement to Ms. Lord, Janklow said that he was not going to let Jancita out unless there was a dance. Janklow used this as reason to drive Jancita around town. It was during this drive when Jancita alleges Janklow took her to an isolated spot and raped her. Afterwards, however, he does in fact release her in Mission. But according to the criminal report, “It turned out that there was no dance” that evening.
The question naturally arises then about why Janklow said he wouldn’t let her go unless there was a dance, before the alleged rape, and then does precisely that after the alleged rape? If his initial refusal to let her go was merely a pretext to drive Jancita around and set her up for what was to follow, then it is easy to understand why he said that to her. If he was truly interested in keeping her supervised, he would have made certain there was a dance before letting her go. He did not do that. Instead, satisfied to release her after the alleged rape, Janklow abandons the 8th grade girl—whom it was his responsibility to supervise—not seeing her until 10 a.m. the following morning.
For Jancita the future would be short and bleak, while for Janklow it would be long and bright, with success after political success until he became one of the most powerful men in South Dakota, until it seemed that he was a man who could do no such wrong as he was accused of having done. His website biography quotes an anonymous newspaper about his Governorship after the first eight years, which now seems ironic: “…what he did he did with the honesty and courage of convictions.”
In contrast, for Jancita Eagle Deer there would be death on a dark Nebraska highway, her speech silenced by a speeding pickup truck after only 23 years of life. She left behind two children, a broken marriage, and a desire for acknowledgement and justice that was never satisfied. In St. Francis, South Dakota, a small low block of polished gray stone marks the earth where she is buried: “Wife—Mother, Jancita M. Eagle Deer Sheldahl, 1951—1975.”
William Janklow’s career as a politician came to a startlingly sudden end in January of 2004 with a bang. The smug and angry impatience which seems to have characterized much of Janklow’s private life finally caught up with him when he sped his car through a stop sign and killed a motorcyclist.
He was sentenced to a mere 100 days in jail.
Between 1967 and 2005 much has changed in American society. One’s accomplishments and public image are no longer sufficient to represent one’s private morals, because we have so often seen under the high noon sun of media scrutiny how widely at variance with one another those two things can be, and often are.
If William Janklow did rape Jancita Eagle Deer, then he did what has always been done to a people perceived to be in the way of what others want. The pattern of such abuse was laid long before the birth of William Janklow; the neglect and abuse of Native America was an institutional norm by the time he was born. It has become so natural and common that many people can’t seem to imagine what, if anything, is wrong with it. Malice toward Indians is now tradition in states like South Dakota, many of whose people seem to think that abuse of Indians is sanctioned by Indian exhaustion, vulnerability, and isolation. America, after all, is a country built on the burial ground of a massacred way of life—and it would be insincere to think that everyone who benefits today from our sad history can look back at the events of those times with authentic regret, especially since much of their material wealth and comfort is a consequence of that history.
Covered from view in 1997 by Janklow, there was a controversial mural entitled Spirit of the West, painted by Edwin H. Blashfield, on a wall in the Capitol building of Pierre, South Dakota, where Janklow sat for so long conducting the state’s business, that powerfully signified this attitude and perhaps explained why the legal system of South Dakota dismissed Jancita Eagle Deer so easily. It was a picture that Governor Janklow must have noticed many times over the 16 years of his Governorship: Standing impressively tall and spread wide, it proudly depicted the march of white settlers across America. Beneath their wagon wheels and feet lay the fallen, cowering bodies of Indian men, their faces twisted in fear and agony, their hands in front of their faces trying to defend themselves from the crushing weight of a holy American progress westward.
The same attitude is found again in the four gigantic stone heads for which South Dakota is most famous, carved out of Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills, a sacred land to the Lakota guaranteed to them by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, then illegally broken by the U.S. Government when gold was there discovered and the lands taken back by force.
Those heads are a symbol of national pride to many non-Indian Americans.
But they have a more hypocritical significance to those Indians who were chiseled out of the Black Hills that monument was chiseled into.
It is an American theme played over and over again in the anonymous lives of America’s first people, still. When Indians have something the descendents of Europe have wanted for themselves, Indians have historically lost to their desires.
Is that what happened to Jancita Eagle Deer?
It would have been so usual.
© 2007 by DM Duncan
Note: I posted this piece several years ago on my first blog, the now defunct The Feral Philosopher. I’m publishing it again for the the first time since then on this blog, just so it has a public home, because I think it’s a story that’s important enough to remember. Try as I might, I am incapable of not meddling with my own work, so in the process of transferring the story to this site I rewrote several of my own passages because I wasn’t pleased with how I had written them years ago.