Robert Robideau

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Robert Robideau
Robert Robideau.jpg
Born November 11, 1946
Portland, Oregon
Died February 17, 2009(2009-02-17) (aged 62)
Barcelona, Spain
Occupation Painter, activist

Robert Eugene Robideau (November 11, 1946 – February 17, 2009) was an American Indian activist who was acquitted in the 1975 shooting deaths of two FBI agents in South Dakota.

Early years[edit]

The second of 12 children, he was born in Portland, Oregon, on November 11, 1946, to William Robideau from the White Earth Reservation who was of Ojibwa, Dakota and French descent, while his mother Yvonne Lavendure was from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.[1] In Portland, he attended Theodore Roosevelt High School. He graduated from Portland State University, where he earned a degree in cultural anthropology.[2]


Robideau left Portland with his cousin Leonard Peltier and other family members, heading to South Dakota to become members of the American Indian Movement and to participate in its protests against corruption and poverty on tribal reservations. The AIM occupied the reservation town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973, known as the Wounded Knee incident.[2]

On June 25, 1975, two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams who had been investigating a case involving stolen cowboy boots followed a car onto the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and were shot and killed by heavy rifle fire. Leonard Peltier was named by the FBI as a suspect in the case and placed on the agency's List of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. While driving Peltier's station wagon in Kansas several months later, ammunition in the car exploded, seriously injuring Robideau and other AIM members in the car. Robideau was arrested and tried together with Darrelle Dean Butler in a Federal court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the killings of the FBI agents and was acquitted.[2][3] Defense attorney Lewis Gurwitz showed the jury a sacred pipe during opening arguments and stated that the pipe would be kept on the defense table during the trial as a sign that the Native American's religion forbids murder.[4]

Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Peltier, and he was charged and convicted of the slayings and sentenced to two life sentences.[2] Robideau led a committee seeking a pardon for Peltier. Robideau was included in Incident at Oglala, a 1992 documentary about the incident directed by Michael Apted and narrated by Robert Redford.[2]

Later life[edit]

He later became a painter who focused on Native American subjects and served as director of the American Indian Movement Museum in Barcelona.[2]

In a 2006 item posted on, Robideau was critical of claims of freedom of speech in justifying the 2005 editorial cartoons portraying of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper. Robideau cited a cartoon of Peltier portrayed as an Indian terrorist posted on the FBI website. He quoted a visiting professor who lamented the continued use of Chief Illiniwek as the official mascot of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, noting that "Not one university in Germany would contemplate having a rabbi as a mascot."[5]

Robideau died at age 62[6] on February 17, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain. Spanish officials indicated that the cause may have been from seizures related to shrapnel that had remained in his brain after an accidental explosion. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife Pilar Compos Robideau and two sons Billie and Michael Robideau.[2]


  1. ^ Lewis, Hugh M. "Robidoux Chronicles", p. 195. Accessed February 21, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g via Associated Press. "American Indian activist Robideau dies at 61", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 20, 2009. Accessed February 21, 2009.
  3. ^ via Associated Press, "A Navajo Teen-Ager Testifies on Gunfight At a Trial in Dakota", The New York Times, March 27, 1977. Accessed February 21, 2009.
  4. ^ Staff. "Two Indians Go on Trial In Deaths of F.B.I. Agents", The New York Times, June 9, 1976. Accessed February 21, 2009.
  5. ^ Robideau, Robert. "An American Indian's View of the Cartoons",, February 10, 2006. Accessed February 21, 2009.
  6. ^ Robideau's obituary in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer lists his age at death as 61, though a calculation based on his birth date of November 11, 1946 would make him 62 at the time of his death.