First anti-DAPL activists sentenced to jail

Biologist and schoolteacher found guilty; others had charges dismissed

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN – Hundreds of trials for activists who stood against the Dakota Access Pipeline have seen the judge’s gavel, but only two, so far, received jail time.

Mary Redway, 64, a retired environmental biologist from Rhode Island, and Alexander Simon, 27, a teacher living in New Mexico, both were found guilty and sentenced Thursday to jail by Southeast District Court Judge Thomas Merrick. Both activists, known as water protectors, were arrested on October 22, 2016 along with 140 others, most of whom had their charges dismissed.

Despite the North Dakota State’s Attorney’s lack of a recommendation for jail time, Merrick sentenced Simon to 18 days in jail and Redway to a total of six days, with two already served.

“There is no logic or consistency to the different outcomes people received on these same charges,” a Water Protector Legal Collective press release stated. “Judge Merrick’s decision to sentence them to jail demonstrates disparate treatment.”

Activists calling for prayer form human chain to prevent others from marching on law enforcement – photo by C.S. Hagen

The Water Protector Legal Collective is an indigenous-led, on-the-ground legal team defending activists arrested during the months-long Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. It is currently fighting up to 427 criminal cases in North Dakota, according to the legal team’s website.

Merrick reportedly signed the petition trying to change the law temporarily allowing out-of-state attorneys to represent activists facing charges during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, the Water Protector Legal Collective reported.

“That effort failed,” the Water Protector Legal Collective press release stated.

The North Dakota Supreme Court Clerk’s office reported 536 comments on the judges’ petition to change the current law. The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld their January ruling granting permission for out-of-state lawyers to continue defending those arrested during the controversy. “We conclude termination of our prior order would be premature,” Supreme Court judges said.

During the public comment period, many asked the state a question: why is it permissible to accept out-of-state checks from Dakota Access, LLC, but not allow out-of-state lawyers to defend people not from North Dakota?

Dakota Access, LLC recently gifted $15 million to the state via the Bank of North Dakota, and sent Energy Transfer Partners teams to first responders in North Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, with additional checks, totalling $1 million.

The financial gifts have been called bribes by opponents of the pipeline, and the act of a “good neighbor” by those supporting the pipeline.

The Water Protector Legal Collective says the denial of the motion to allow out-of-state lawyers is part of the reason two activists received jail time days after the Supreme Court made its ruling.

“We see this decision as his attempt to send a message that people will face harsh sentences regardless of innocence or guilt as a means to put pressure on others with pending charges to take pleas or forgo trial. The prosecutorial discretion and conviction of some and not others has been arbitrary and targets what police and state’s attorneys call agitators.”

New Mexico teacher Simon was charged and found guilty of misdemeanor charges of physical obstruction of government function and disorderly conduct, and was acquitted of disobedience of safety orders during a riot, according to court records. Rhode Island biologist Redway was found guilty of disorderly conduct, acquitted for disobedience of safety orders during a riot, and found not guilty of physical obstruction of a government function, according to court records.

Merrick is the judge that dismissed charges against The Guardian photojournalist Sara Lafleur-Vetter earlier in October. He was scheduled to retire at the end of 2016, according to news reports.

Hundreds of cases still remain to be tried. Officially, 761 people were arrested during the months-long opposition to the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, and in July, 114 cases were dismissed by the state. Eleven people received guilty verdicts; 50 pleaded guilty – primarily on lesser charges — and three have been acquitted. A total of 854 people were arrested, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective.

[ Editor’s note: This is a continuing story and will be updated with new information]

Speaker at NDSU Purports Racist and Anti-LGBTQ Agenda

Pre-organized advertisement speaker linked to Confederate hate group

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – A week before William Fleck decided to attend an anti-LGBTQ speech at NDSU, a transgender friend committed suicide. Fleck’s friend was bullied. He was persecuted – locally – and driven to a desperate act.

Fleck knew what he was walking into when he entered the Memorial Prairie Rose Room on October 17, but the audience’s acceptance still shocked him.

He attended the speech entitled “Religious Freedom and the Constitution,” organized by the Lutheran Student Fellowship Organization, and delivered by Jake MacAulay, the chief operating officer of the Institute on the Constitution.

Jake MacAulay with Pastor Steve Schultz and Representative Chris Olson at NDSU – MacAulay Instagram photo

The Institute on the Constitution is more than another benign-sounding name. At a time when the AltRight is twisting semantics to soften their collective messages, it’s listed as a legal arm of Michael Peroutka of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is also reported as a theocratic, Christian nationalist outfit run by white supremacists, according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.

“I just wanted to make sure that I could tell the people that they could talk to me if they had questions,” Fleck said, “so that suicides like my friend’s would never happen again. When you get this far right, the opinions and other viewpoints tend to fade away. I needed to interject a new viewpoint that was personal to me.”

The speech focused on homeschooling, but also implied that being LGBTQ should be illegal, and defended slavery by advocating George Washington’s slavery practices weren’t so bad, because he let them stay in their houses when they became too old to work.  

“It became quite obvious from the get-go that this was a lot more political,” Fleck said. “It was a very Libertarian Christian mixture. From the get-go, I wanted to go speak there so I could show these people there is a different side of things. He compared being LGBTQ to jumping off a building. You wouldn’t want someone to jump off a building, so why would we let people be LGBTQ? It was very subtle.”

While MacAulay spoke, the audience listened, sometimes nodding and communicating verbal agreement, Fleck said.

“The audience was very receptive and engaged,” Fleck said. “The speaker would often have mottos on slides and ask the audience to repeat them with him.  They would occasionally verbally agree with the speaker when he made a point that they agreed with.”

With approximately 30 people in the audience, no one spoke against MacAulay, Fleck said.

“No one did anything,” Fleck said. “I was really shocked. It was blatant racism. It was insane.”

The speaker was advertised on the NDSU website as a “discussion on the American view of law and government, the Biblical purpose of civil government, how to combat Common Core,” among other issues. The advertisement reported the Institute on the Constitution as an educational outreach organization presenting American founders’ view of American law and government, and that MacAulay is an ordained minister who established the American Club, a constitutional study group.

When MacAulay spoke of America’s first president’s slavery practices, Fleck couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“I was shocked, my mouth dropped, and my mouth has never dropped before,” Fleck said. “I’m interested in LGBTQ+ rights because I have been harassed almost my entire life for being LGBTQ, and have had many transgender friends who have suffered unimaginable pain because people treat them terribly. I think that awareness of racism is stronger than ever, but that the awareness has caused many to push back and expose deep racial tensions in America that were previously ignored or swept under the rug.”

Fleck was the only one to speak out, he said, and he waited until the end.

“I did that during the Q and A session because I didn’t want to interrupt him. The speaker intentionally wanted people to get riled up and even said at one point that he wished there was a wall full of protestors.”

When Fleck finally spoke, he didn’t address the speaker, he talked to the audience.

“Do not address these people, ignore them, they are playing a culture war,” Fleck said.

The speech comes after white supremacist fliers were found on NDSU campus, after letters from the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan were sent to the university’s newspaper, as well as many other campus newspapers in North Dakota and across the nation, and after another speaker earlier in the school year tried to promote an anti-LGBTQ agenda.

MacAuley was formerly involved with the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition, and also with the Minnesota-based “hard rock homophobic ministry, You Can Run But You Can’t Hide International,” according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.

The group’s leader, Bradley Dean Smith, has been quoted saying it is moral to execute LGBT people.

MacAuley also claims that “half of the murders in large cities were committed by homosexuals,” according to the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.

After the speech, Fleck approached a member of the organizing committee, Lutheran Student Fellowship Organization, and asked if they had done adequate background checks on the speaker. The response he received disappointed him.

“These are our views on the Constitution,” the person reportedly said.  

Fleck is active in politics. He’s president of the NDSU College Democrats, program director for College Democrats of North Dakota, and he’s also a volunteer for the transgender advocacy organization called the Darcy Jeda Corbitt Foundation.

Sadie Rudolph, media relations coordinator at NDSU, said students are authorized to invite speakers to their own events.   The university’s institutional equity and compliance statement says it is “fully committed to equal opportunity and affirmative action,” and its policies enforce a “strong denouncement of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.”

Attempts were made to contact Lutheran Student Fellowship Organization President Jared Rudolph, advisor Benton Duncan, and treasurer Holly Johnson, but none replied.

 

College newspapers targeted by KKK

Since Charlottesville, Ku Klux Klan attempts to appeal to college minds

By C.S. Hagen
VALLEY CITY – The White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are targeting North Dakota university newspapers in a cry for help: a book banning.

So far, Valley City State University’s ‘Viking News,’ and NDSU’s ‘The Spectrum,’ have received a letter postmarked Fort Myers, Florida, with no return address, from someone claiming to be a “Loyal American Patriot,” asking for for help banning a book titled ‘The Slave Players,’ by Megan Allen, published by Burn House Publishing.

KKK letter sent to university newspapers in North Dakota

“Dear Editor: Recently, we have come under extreme fire for being a hate group,” the KKK letter began. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. We follow the teachings of the Bible and only wish to keep the white race pure as God intended for his chosen people. Only those who live in ignorance call us hateful.”

The anonymous writer then targets “loudmouth literature,” a work of fiction and a love story, which was “clearly written just to agitate the college-educated, who always think they have a better answer for the woes of the world.”

The KKK letter writer further states Allen is a “white woman who knows little about white society.”

On the Burn House Publishing website, Allen mentions the KKK targeting her book on October 10. “I really just set out to write a novel about racial injustice and maybe weave in a good love story. And the AltRight has decided to beat the hell out of me for it. It must be good though, or they wouldn’t care so much.”

Burn House Publishing also replied, stressing that the critics are refusing to identify themselves. “To the skeptic who wrote us. The Southern Poverty Law Center is currently investigating the KKK attacks on our behalf. They have great resources and lots of experience in tracking down and exposing them for what they are.”

Since the Charlottesville, Virginia rallies in August, which left one woman dead, the AltRight and other pro-white activist groups appear to have changed tactics. Instead of marching with tiki torches, they’re sending out mail to further agendas. Pro-white hate groups have also attempted to become more socially acceptable in recent years, replacing words like “genocide” with “ethnic replacement,” not using “white nationalist,” and choosing “identitarian” instead.

Groups like the KKK also maintain that whites may not be superior, but that whites need a homeland of their own. Instead of saying, “purge non-white people,” they twist semantics to call such minority groups criminals, rapists, and terrorists.

Halfway through the letter, the writer quoted a line from the book, which the KKK finds hateful.

Envelope used to target a student newspaper in Valley City, ND

“There will come a time when blacks stop praying for salvation and start praying for bombs of their own,” the letter stated.

“Who says that? That’s the kind of hateful talk that can start a racial uprising, and is about as un-American as you can get. Most Americans we talk to support the banning of this book. Brown or colored or white it should make no difference. Hate is hate.”

The KKK is currently attempting to apply pressure on Google to have the website taken down.

“They’ve been sending those to school papers for a while if they got down to the V’s,” Jenni Lou Russi, a media teacher and editor at Valley City State University said. She found the letter in school mail on Tuesday.

The envelope is handwritten, but the letter is typed, a form letter, with the KKK logo on the upper left hand side. The incident isn’t Russi’s first brush with racist organizations. A few years ago someone put a swastika on the sidewalk in front of her house the night before the first night of Chanukah.

“Is this demographic their market?” Russi said. Why were college newspapers targeted instead of professional media?

Jack Hastings, editor in chief of NDSU’s “The Spectrum,” said he had just received the letter, and wasn’t sure what his office was going to do with it yet.

“I guess I’m surprised and slightly disturbed by it too,” Hastings said. “First off, the presence of a group such as the KKK surprised me, but now they’re targeting college campuses. Seeing this delivered to our office is upsetting to me.”

College campuses are places of study, full of potentially susceptible minds eager to learn more about the world they’re preparing to enter.  

“Most college papers are pretty liberal, maybe they’re trying to sway that,” Hastings said. “This letter seems like a call to action. It has the potential to maybe grow, and it could pick up easily on a campus, more than a city newspaper.”

About a week ago, the campus was hit with “Identity Evropa,” white supremacist posters, which were quickly taken down, Hastings said. “Identity Evropa” is a defined as a racist white supremacist organization by the Anti-Defamation League, and designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Despite hate group attempts to reach out to college students, Hastings said he believes most people won’t be persuaded.

“It seems like everyone is aware that this is not ethical or even moral,” Hastings said. “I feel like the public here is pretty accepting and accommodating to people when it comes to race.”

Other university newspapers were called for comment, but would not go on record or could not be reached.

 

Hate crime resolution passes in Fargo

With the recent uptick in local hate crimes, the city says no more

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Fargo City Commissioners passed a resolution to establish the city as a hate-free community on Monday, and one commissioner voted against the bill.

The resolution was originally written by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, and passed unanimously by the Human Relations Commission in September, before it was handed over to city officials. The resolution requires city leaders to officially recognize hate crimes, speak out when hate crimes are committed, and puts additional pressure on the city to become a more inclusive city.

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn was the lone voice against the resolution, which passed before a room full of concerned citizens.

“It doesn’t accomplish anything,” Piepkorn said after the meeting. “We got more important things to do.”

Human Relations Commission Chair Rachel Hoffman presented the resolution saying it was a statement about Fargo being an inclusive community, and that the city will no longer tolerate hate crimes.

“Asking us to weigh in on an inclusive memorandum for our city, the exact same resolution went before Moorhead, and will go before West Fargo, and will be a regional approach to the issue of inclusion,” City Commissioner John Strand said.

He reminded city leaders and the crowd present that this was the week that white supremacist rallies and counter rallies were planned days following the Charlottesville, Virginia AltRight rally that left one woman, Heather Heyer, dead.

“That is part of the context about inclusion, and we want to be positive and inclusive of all people,” Strand said. He went on to point out that weeks ago Amazon was looking for a city to invest in, and people asked “Why not Fargo?” Strand said.

“Inclusion is a fundamental requirement by Amazon,” Strand said. “They will only move to a community that is inclusive, and this is a contemporary topic and one we should be embracing in every regard, and we should always be respectful of every individual, and protecting of every individual.”

North Dakota currently does not have hate crime legislation; Minnesota does. Already in 2017, Fargo has documented at least six crimes that were racially motivated, or are being investigated as potentially racially motivated crimes.

Barry Nelson, of North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, is one of the leaders who plans to propose hate crime legislation to state government in 2018. An attempt at establishing hate crime laws was previously made, and failed, but today, North Dakota is second in the nation for hate crime incidents, per capita.

To combat hate crimes, which are different than crimes of a similar nature, laws must be made, advocates of hate crime legislation say. Hate crimes are different because they are based on hate, intolerance, and misunderstanding, and victims can possibly be chosen at random, as in the case at a local Walmart when Amber Elizabeth Hensley screamed, “We’re going to kill all of you…” to three Somali American women this summer.

The resolution comes at a time when the city is also looking into discovering the costs of refugees, a movement spearheaded by Dave Piepkorn, who sees refugee resettlement as an “unfunded mandate,” and maintains that the state should have more of a say in deciding how many refugees it can take per year.

During the same city commissioners’ meeting,, Fargo Cass Public Health Director Ruth Roman gave a report saying her agency looked at the Family Health Care Center, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, and Cultural Diversity Resources for interpreting services, and decided the city should stick with Family Health Care Center.

Typically, $25,000 is used per year for translation and interpreter fees, but the costs are increasing up to approximately $36,000, Roman said.

Currently, Fargo is footing the bill for translation and interpretation fees on medical issues, monies which are not entirely used on refugees. International students, visitors, among others, are included in such services, Roman said.

“Yes, some of this is for our new Americans,” Roman said. “But not all are refugees.”

Interpretation services must be offered to obtain other federal monies, Roman said. At first she relied on family members to help translate, but that tactic proved to be unreliable at best.

“We should be getting reimbursed, this is Fargo money and it’s very confusing and I’m not that bright of a guy,” Piepkorn said. He added that 80 percent of the refugees coming to North Dakota are brought to Fargo.

“I’m asking about tax monies, and I don’t apologize for asking these questions,” Piepkorn said. “What’s funny is that they’re the ones calling me racial epithets, isn’t that funny? But I got thick skin.”

“I want us to be cautious that we do not single any groups out,” Strand said. “All citizens deserve equitable treatment under the law.”

A Valve Turner’s Trial: Mostly Guilty

In rural North Dakota, free speech is on the line

By C.S. Hagen
CAVALIER
– Friends call John Eric Foster the valve turner a hero, the state is trying him as a criminal, and the Keystone Pipeline named him a terrorist for stopping their oil pipeline flow for eight hours in 2016.

Michael Foster and Samuel Jessup halfway through the trial – photo by C.S. Hagen

After a week of trial and a five-hour deliberation, a jury found Foster guilty on all counts, except the most serious charge, reckless endangerment, leaving felony criminal mischief, felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, and criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.  

Foster’s co-defendant, Sam Jessup, who filmed the action, was convicted of felony conspiracy to commit criminal mischief and misdemeanor conspiracy trespass, both sentences which could carry a maximum of 11 years imprisonment.

“I’m feeling so relieved and peaceful right now, because I’ve been wondering for a year how this would all play out, and now I don’t have to wonder,” Foster said. “I’m grateful to the jury for wrestling with this for several hours. There were some tearful faces in there, whether they were unsure, or whether they were simply feeling the weight of sending someone to prison, I think they were taking it as seriously as they could. I would not want to be on that jury.”

Foster’s trial brought activist groups, civil rights advocates, climate change analysts, reporters from Washington D.C. and New York, to the picturesque town of Cavalier, population barely 1,300, the seat of Pembina County.

Lady Justice stands tall above the neoclassical-styled courthouse, but her scales dipped heavily with Foster’s case. On the trial’s third and fourth days, Judge Laurie A. Fontaine denied Foster’s necessity defense, denied the testimonies of four expert witnesses on Climate Change, and denied motions for acquittal by the defense.

“While the proffered experts could testify to the data supporting the existence and severity of climate change, there is no argument that they have the knowledge or expertise to testify on how knowledge of climate change affects an individual defendant’s mental state, intent, or level of culpability,” court documents said.

Foster, 52, stands accused of felonies with a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison, years more than any other activist arrested. His action – considered the biggest coordinated move on U.S. energy infrastructure undertaken by environmental protesters – has been covered by national media, but little has been reported by mainstream media in North Dakota.

Foster helped halt 15 percent of US oil consumption for the day. Jessup, who filmed Foster on October 11, 2016, is being tried as a conspirator.

Climate guru Dr. James Hansen, a former NASA researcher, was one of the expert witnesses planning to testify. “I’m the one who said tar sands are ‘game over’ for climate, and here [is Michael Foster] facing trial for trying to do something about it.”

Michael Foster, Samuel Jessup, expert witnesses on Climate Change, Dr. James Hansen to Foster’s right, and supporters – photo by C.S. Hagen

The state argued in court that Foster willfully shut down the Keystone XL pipeline with the intent to rob oil transporter TransCanada Corporation of nearly $1.2 million. The prosecution’s team, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Byers and Pembina County State’s Attorney Rebecca Flanders, failed to properly admit evidence, and failed to notify the defense properly about their clean-cut star witness, Trevor Pollack, a manager for TransCanada Pipeline.

The defense argued that Foster is guilty of nothing more than trespass; that he gave proper warning to pipeline officials, who then called law enforcement about a terroristic threat, before shutting the pipeline down. The defense scored one point with the judge when they objected to the prosecution’s lack of clearly identifying Pollack’s credentials.

After a 10 minute recess during Thursday proceedings, Judge Fontaine came back into the courtroom, stroked her chin, flipped through law books, mumbled back and forth about arguments, then ruled in favor of the defense.

“I’m not going to allow to allow any more testimony about risks,” Judge Fontaine said. “It’s not the defense’s job to keep asking for information.” The prosecution wanted the case to be about potential risks to property and people; the defense wanted to include climate change and the pipeline’s damage to the environment.  

The defense may appeal the judge’s repeated denials.

“There are a lot of judges who make that call,” said Jessup’s attorney, William Kirschner, of Kirschner Law Office in Fargo. “We are allowed to appeal. I was hopeful, but who knows, we’re not done yet.”

“It has become a case about free speech and the right of free expression in an economy dominated by the oil industry,” said Emily Lardner of Washington DC, Jessup’s mother.

Two Keystone lawyers dressed in black suits sat silently at the back of the courtroom.

“The company is trying to figure out how to prosecute without providing evidence for these crimes,” Jessup said. Despite being on trial himself, the courtroom drama is the first he’s seen up close. “They’re testing us out to see what they can get away with. Climate change poses a threat to our nation and our future.”

Ken Ward, 59, of Oregon, is another valve turner who was recently found guilty, but received no jail time in Washington State. He attended the trial after serving 30 days community service while working for Habitat for Humanity. He fully anticipated jail time, as does Foster. They both knew the risks before their group, a total of five valve turners with Climate Direct Action, stopped tar sands oil from flowing in Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, and Montana.

Nine people were originally arrested in the coordinated action to safely shut down valves on five pipelines carrying tar sands oil from Canada into the United States. The additional three valve turners include Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle, Washington, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and Leonard Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, who are still awaiting their court dates.

All were involved in Climate Direct Action, and all believed their actions were morally and legally justified in order to avoid catastrophic harm to humanity.  

John Foster, one of the defendants, is also a kayaktivist with the Mosquito Fleet Rapid Response Team, and involved with Al Gore’s initiative, the Climate Reality Project.

Michael Eric Foster – “Who Will Stop Us” – wet plate by Shane Balkowitsch

Foster was disappointed with the court’s ruling to disallow his necessity defense and the testimonies of expert witnesses. A sticking point with the prosecution was that he was untrained and put lives and property in danger, but the state failed to prove that, Foster said. Prior to him shutting down the pipeline in 2016, the pipeline had already been shut down five times.

“People doing this without error, without accident, there’s some basic procedures that were followed,” Foster said.

Until late Thursday, Foster planned to take the stand. In the end, he was not allowed to.

“I thought I am betraying myself, I will regret this for the rest of my life,” Foster said. “The truth is if I’d taken the stand there would have been so many objections and fights, the jury would have had to leave the room. Without even getting on the stand, it’s pretty obvious we knew what we were doing out there. North Dakota really wants to win something; they prosecuted very vigorously. The judge was very patient and kind. Everybody put a lot of time into doing this right.”

Climate change is the reason he turned the valve, Foster said. He is committed to his cause and rarely drives a car, preferring to use a bicycle. His decisions have cost him much, personally, and may cost him much more.

A necessity defense is used to shield people who must break the law in order to prevent greater harm. So far, three of the four trials involving valve turners across the country have denied defendants the necessity defense option. One case in Minnesota remains to be determined.

Tensions were high between the prosecution and defense. The courtroom felt like a law room should, sturdy, dignified, with high ceilings, intricate millwork, fold-up school-style wooden chairs. A sturdy wooden bannister separates the onlookers from the legal teams.

Little evidence but memories remain of the 2005 burning and shooting rampage that occurred in 2005 by an angry local farmer, James Thorlakson. Once-blackened halls are clean. The 1912 dome, the only building designed by Buechner & Orth in North Dakota, stands somber and brilliant.

The jury, sitting like beached whales, chairs pivoted toward the judge, were frequently dismissed to allow for arguments on the prosecution’s failings during Thursday’s proceedings.

Evidence of the crime: Foster’s white hardhat, his fluorescent work jacket, the bolt cutters, among other items used on the day the pipeline was shut down, sat on a desk.

“Yes, there was a risk,” Foster’s attorney, Michael Hoffman, said. “There’s a risk if I walk across the street to go to my car. Pipelines have inherent risks. The state has not proven their case.”

Nearby farmers and neighbors were not warned of a terroristic threat, Hoffman said, and the only conclusion is that law enforcement and the reporting pipeline company were not overly concerned.

“It all goes back to the fact that you can’t have it both ways,” Hoffman said. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too, it is overcharging of these crimes against Michael Foster. His intent was to stop the flow of the oil as a change in the narrative of climate change, and this was a symbolic event, if anything. You do not have any evidence that any persons or property were in any danger, or that he was in a culpable mental state.”

Even the state admitted, earlier in the trial, that Foster was trying to raise public awareness and that his actions would have a temporary effect, Hoffman said.

After turning the valve, Foster left chrysanthemums behind, and immediately confessed to Chief Deputy Sheriff Fred Marquaret. After hearing about a terroristic threat by pipeline field manager Lonnie Johnson, he went home to grab his binoculars, taking more than 30 minutes to arrive at the scene.

“I didn’t know what was happening until I got there,” Marquaret said. “Was I going to encounter some kind of fire or explosion? I didn’t know.”

After arriving, he first scoped out the area, then saw two people heading toward him. He asked Foster what was going on.

“He stated he had cut the padlock, and had turned the valve,” Marquaret said. He said Foster was polite, and didn’t resist arrest. Citing probable cause, deputies also arrested Jessup and a documentary filmmaker named Deia Schlosberg. Charges on Schlosberg were later dropped.

“Was 9/11 a peaceful protest? Was the Oklahoma City bombing a peaceful protest?” Kirschner said. “Is there a difference between taking action?”

“Yes,” Marquaret said.

“Is it really fair to say the two are not comparable?” Kirschner said.

“Pipeline manager Lonnie Johnson just asked us to check it out,” Marquaret said.

“How did you know it wasn’t a hoax?”

“I didn’t.”

Kirschner argued for his client, Jessup, that the two did not conspire; Jessup was there to film, and he never entered the manual shut-off valve control area, known as Walhalla 8-2, as it is 8.2 miles from the Canadian border.

Lady Justice atop the Pembina County Courthouse – photo by C.S. Hagen

“My client was there when a crime was being committed,” Kirschner said. “My client was there to record and live stream. Just being there doesn’t make him a conspirator to criminal trespass. There is no evidence that he said or planned anything beforehand.”

“He bragged ahead of time, he boasted after the fact,” prosecutor Byers said of Foster. “He shut down the Keystone Pipeline, he knew he would cause losses of more than $10,000. Yes, nobody was injured, but an untrained operator not knowing the equipment he’s using – it didn’t go bad, but it certainly could have. There is enough evidence to have a jury possibly convict.”

Did Foster put the pipeline and people’s lives at risk when he decided to shut down the Keystone Pipeline?

“It’s a big system, so it’s hard to stay on top of everything,” Pollack, the manager for TransCanada, said. He was on duty the day Foster shut the pipeline down, and company employees immediately put the pipeline into a “safe mode” when they received the warning call. Later, when pipeline pressures fluctuated, they commenced an emergency shutdown, which took approximately 28 minutes.

“It was not a chosen controlled shutdown, but it was controlled,” Judge Fontaine said.

The prosecution rested their case on Thursday, and defense gave short arguments on Friday morning, showing in full a video the prosecution had shown only 18 seconds of, and then turned the case over to the jury. Showing the video to the jury was considered a victory for Foster, who was unable to speak out on climate issues during the trial. Friday’s proceedings were short but tense. Defendants Foster and Jessup, friends, family, and supporters, waited in the courtyard’s lawn for hours while the jury deliberated.

The jury gave its verdict around 7:30 p.m.

The expert witnesses barred from testifying included: Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Tom Hastings, an author and co-coordinator in conflict resolution at Portland State University, and Reverend Rebecca Voelkel, director of the Center for Sustainable Justice.

Foster, a former mental health counselor, has been living in North Dakota for the past month. He traveled partly by rail and by bicycle from Washington to the state to prepare for the trial.

“I can’t get over some of the things I’ve seen and learned, and how different the world looks from this point of view,” Foster said. “I’m kind of disgusted with myself and my coastal elitism. I can just imagine how I look and sound, some of my attitudes — and there’s a part of me that thinks I may relocate to a place like North Dakota to do some climate work.

“This is where it is at, this is where people are real and understand the truth, and I think we can learn a lot from getting out of our blue states and our bubbles, and just having decent conversations with people who care about the land and care about their kids.”

Sentences will be handed down next week.

Modern feudalism: tenant vs. landlord

Moorhead family given eviction notice after requesting repairs to rental property

By C.S. Hagen
MOORHEAD – Water seeps into the Barbly family rental house, and has been leaking for two years, creating mold, eating away at trim, and forcing the family’s five children upstairs to sleep on the living room floor.

The company managing the property at 1510 34th Avenue South says the family is responsible, and linked the seepage to a sump pump hose placed too close to the building, and also to gutters, according to letters sent to the Barbly family.

Last week, after three years renting the two-story duplex, and a day before mother Hawa Barbly was going to send an official complaint to the company, the Barblys received a 30-day eviction notice from Prairie Property Management.

Hawa Barbly and children where they currently sleep due to seapage issues in basement – photo by C.S. Hagen

The Barbly family’s contract with Prairie Property Management states the family is only responsible for mowing the lawn and shoveling snow, Gabriel Barbly, the father, said. Minnesota law states that tenants are not responsible for property upkeep, unless written in the contract and provided reimbursement in writing for their work, supervising attorney for the Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota, Heidi Uecker said.

“That’s not the tenant’s problem,” Uecker said. “Under Minnesota law a tenant can be responsible for doing upkeep or repairs to the rental property, if they were responsible for sump pump care, location, repair issues, that has to be in their lease in writing, and they have to be compensated for doing so.

“Otherwise, they’d be a homeowner if they wanted to be responsible for a sump pump. That’s the landlord’s responsibility all day long.

Two years ago, Gabriel moved the sump pump line, but water still leaked in, he said. Gabriel is the pastor of the Bethel World Outreach Church – Fargo, at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, and his wife is a former dental assistant struggling through her fourth year battling cancer. Cancer forced her to quit her job at Apple Tree Dental, in Hawley, four years ago.

The Barblys have repeatedly tried to reach out to the Fargo-based property management company, but to little avail. Prairie Property Management is listed as a full-service property management company locally owned and operated since 1996, according to the company’s website. The company maintains more than 2,500 rental units, ranging from efficiency apartments to high-end townhomes.

Never before late on a monthly rental of $1,200, both have decent credit, Hawa Barbly said. Among other costs, the Barblys paid $157 out of pocket for a carpet cleaning, paid another $144 to have the sump pump hose redirected, and paid another bill of $1,278 for an inspection by Environmental Air Solution.

“There is something wrong with the foundation,” Gabriel said. “This is beyond me.”

Cookie-cutter duplexes to the Barbly’s left and right don’t have the same issues, Gabriel said.

“We don’t want to leave this for someone else.” Hawa said. An oxygen machine whirs beside her, pumping air into her nostrils. She began her fight with colon cancer, but Sanford documentation says the cancer has spread to her lungs. “We don’t want another family coming in here and experiencing the same problem.”

Downstairs, wood has rotted away from where water has leaked in. A chunk of wall has been cut out.

Gabrial and Hawa Barbly at home – photo by C.S. Hagen

Hawa wrote a letter of complaint for “numerous ill-treatment” and was preparing to send it when she received the eviction notice. They’re trying to find a lawyer, but no one wants to take their case. Heidi Uecker said cases like Barblys’ might be exactly what her organization looks for.

“We called many times with issues and problems with the property, and your office will delay to attend to us; we didn’t push, assuming, maybe there was a load of repair calls,” Hawa wrote in the letter.

The family called on September 25 with two issues related to the leakage and ensuing mold. “We first called about this almost two years ago, your office again delayed to come in and when you finally sent someone in they only brought a huge blow dryer and ripped the carpet strips from that side of the walls, which have not been replaced since, and left.”

Concerned about her children’s health and her continuing battle with cancer, she made all her children sleep upstairs in the living room. A company repairman came a second time, citing gutter issues. The Barblys’ gutters are identical to houses on either side.

“I expect them to help us relocate, or pay the $1,200 for an inspection,” Hawa said. “But now they’re kicking us out. No lawyer will help us in Fargo, as they’re all in cahoots.”

“While we set high standards and utilize a process-driven approach, at the end of the day, our reputation is earned through a consistent commitment to service and by nurturing high-quality relationships,” the company’s website stated.

Repeated attempts were made to contact Prairie Property Management personnel responsible for the Barbly residence, but a company employee said unless the Barblys gave written permission to respond, they would not talk about the issue.

Gabriel said he gave a handwritten note to company management on Tuesday afternoon, and after repeated calls, no response was given.

If the Barblys do not move out before noon on Halloween, October 31, the management company stated they will be charged $2,500, as permitted by the state (holdover clause).

“There is no law that I am aware of that would allow the landlord to force them to pay $2,500,” Uecker said.

Although Uecker cannot comment on a specific case, she said a landlord cannot evict a tenant because they want repairs made. Such an eviction is called a retaliatory eviction.

“It happens a lot, especially to our poorest and most vulnerable of people, because they are scared to fight, because they are scared about getting a bad reference, they just leave and end up in shelters or on the streets because the landlord does this to them.”

By and large, Minnesota has much greater protection for tenants than the state of North Dakota does. Minnesota has programs allowing tenants and landlords to enter courts on their own to force a landlord to make repairs, Uecker said.

“If something is affecting people’s health and safety, we obviously pursue these things,” Uecker said. “We probably are the only organization of attorneys, it’s my job, providing good outcomes for people to avoid homelessness and to keep health and sanitary housing where they are at, is of utmost importance to us.”

Cody Schuler, executive director of the F-M Coalition for Homeless Persons, agreed that North Dakota is far behind Minnesota as to current legislation about fair housing.

“Landlords tend to be jack wagons, that can be a true statement,” Schuler said. “I think from a fair housing standpoint, we have some crappy laws here in North Dakota. Minnesota is obviously better, as it’s a more progressive state as a whole.”

“We need a tenant’s union in this state,” Michelle Rydz, of the High Plains Fair Housing Center, an advocacy organization in Grand Forks for fair housing, said. “Renters have no voice.”

A landlord is responsible for maintenance of premises, according to North Dakota law, and must comply with current building and housing codes affecting health and safety of tenants. A tenant is responsible for maintenance of the dwelling unit, complying with obligations such as keeping the area clean, safe, removing rubbish, keeping plumbing fixtures clean, and not to deliberately or negligently destroy part(s) of the premises.

A tenant may make repairs and deduct costs from the rent, according to North Dakota law.

At times, landlords also abuse their tenants and get away with it, Rydz said. That’s where her organization steps in.

“I have to say that as a fair housing advocate, I do see instances where some bad actors are targeting the most vulnerable, especially new Americans, because of the language barrier,” Rydz said.

‘No one should have to be afraid’

Details of a faked adoption, mother-to-be speaks about how she was duped

By C.S. Hagen
WOODWORTH
 – Autym Burke spent months preparing a nursery for the child she thought she was to adopt.

Living in Oregon, she’d seen pictures and videos of the Native American baby she planned to name “Ruby.” The paperwork seemed to be in order, at first, the caseworker seemed legitimate. After all, Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-ND, included her in a campaign video.

The reported caseworker, Betty Jo Krenz, was included in a 2014-campaign advertisement approved by Cramer. She also spoke at a congressional subcommittee meeting involving Cramer, and bragged about her relationship with the North Dakota congressman and a presidential candidate, Burke said.

“In the beginning she did mention her tie to him [Cramer] several times,” Burke said. “She also said she was a friend of Ben Carson. It was really only in the beginning. I’m sure it was to gain our trust.”

Betty Jo Krenz in Kevin Cramer campaign ad – YouTube

Burke spoke of Carson, the neurosurgeon, and former presidential candidate, currently the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump Administration.

Krenz also said she was a nominee for the 2017 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award, Burke said, for which anyone can be nominated but only 10 finalists are accepted. Spokespeople for the prestigious award affirmed Krenz had been nominated, but was not selected.

“Embarrassing that we fell for this nonsense,” Burke said. “But when I checked out the Congressman Cramer thing, it was legit.”

Cramer was contacted for comment repeatedly by telephone and emails. Cramer’s Communication Director, Adam Jorde, replied saying, “Congressman Cramer is unavailable for your interview request.”

Krenz, approximately 46, was a former caseworker for Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services until she was fired in 2011, and is currently under investigation for fraud and being involved in fake adoption proceedings by the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Department. Krenz has a long criminal record involving forgery and bad checks under her current surname and a former surname, Edland, from 1998 until 2015, according to North Dakota court records.

She appeared in Cramer’s campaign ad entitled “No One Should Have To Be Afraid” in 2014. Three years later, the video had 314 views and 15 subscribers on YouTube.

Approximately 1,500 miles away in South Dakota, “Ruby’s” birth mother, Jodie Blackboy, a registered member of the Spirit Lake Nation, knew nothing about her infant daughter being a candidate for adoption. Her baby’s real name is Julissa, and said in a Facebook post that the scam continued behind her back for eight months.

“I did not know Betty Jo Krenz was using my daughter’s pictures for her own gain,” Blackboy said. She discovered what she called a scam through a Facebook post from Burke.

“My daughter was never up for adoption and I’m not going to jail for drugs,” Blackboy wrote in a public September 23 Facebook post. “I trusted this woman for years, almost let her take my child, thank God I didn’t, I would have never got her back, and only to find out she was in it for my child.”

The same day she posted a picture of Krenz and titled it: “Human child trafficker alert.”

Another Facebook conversation written by Amber Jo, who claimed to be Krenz’s daughter, said her mother is “as corrupt as the person who fired her, and as far as I’m concerned, she should not be around children herself. I know her well, I’m her own blood, and this lady has no right to be around those children.”

The alleged long con
A family friend who wishes to remain anonymous introduced Krenz to Burke in February this year.

“First contact with her was over the phone,” Burke said. “Before this ordeal was complete, we had communicated by phone, text, Messenger, and she even came to my home in Oregon to conduct what we now know to be a fake home study to make sure we were qualified to adopt this little baby girl. She inspected our home and spent a great deal of time with us over the course of a week.”

Screenshot of conversation pertaining to the baby Autym Burke was to adopt with Betty Jo Krenz assistance – Facebook post

Even though Krenz came with a high personal recommendation, Burke did her due diligence, she said. Krenz seemed well connected, and said she loved the Native American people. Her apparent relationship with Cramer played a “huge role” in believing Krenz was credible. She was an apparently fierce advocate for women and children and helped find homes for the children of birth mothers who didn’t want to or couldn’t raise their children, Burke said.

“I have to say, there are very few people I have ever liked as much as I did Betty Jo upon first meeting a person,” Burke said. “She was so great.”

Day by day, Burke’s dreams of adopting a baby girl slowly melted away.

“There were a few things throughout the whole process that caused a slight amount of doubt here and there,” Burke said. “However, she told me many times that I have lived under a rock my whole life and just don’t get how the system works. She is very convincing. It wasn’t until the very last week of August that I knew she was lying to us, and that this baby, who we had named Ruby, was never coming home to us. It was a heartbreaking process getting to the end of this and uncovering her lies one by one. Very, very painful.”

The most poignant proof Burke had about what she calls a con was the lack of proof.

Weeks of delays were followed by excuses. Judges had full court schedules. Paperwork needed signing.

“Something in my heart was telling me that she was lying,” Burke said.

Burke, who has no natural children, and her husband, who has two boys, began demanding proof of the documentation they were promised. They wanted to stop relying on Krenz’s word.

“When she couldn’t produce the proof over the course of the last 48 hours of this ordeal, we knew it was all lies,” Burke said. “And then I confronted her with her lies and she didn’t even deny them.”

Krenz is still under investigation, and has not been arrested at this time. Repeated attempts to contact Krenz have not been successful.

Screenshot of conversation between Betty Jo Krenz, sometimes known as Jo Betty, and Autym Burke on August 26, 2017 – Facebook post

“I can’t explain how painful this realization was for us,” Burke said. “Of course I know now that this sweet little baby was never meant to be ours, but it was still a heartbreaking blow to our family.  I know my husband and I never held her, but she truly was in our hearts.”

The Burke family didn’t seek out a Native American child to start with, she said.

“Our hearts were open to any child from anywhere,” Burke said. “However, when this came into our lives without us seeking it out, it felt very meant-to-be at that time.”

Knowing little about Native American adoption issues, they accepted an explanation that their baby-to-be was not eligible for enrollment in an indigenous tribe. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 gave a strong voice to tribal governments concerning child custody hearings involving Native American children, by giving tribes jurisdiction on a reservation.

An indigenous child is considered a ward of the tribe. The act was enacted due to the excessive removal of indigenous children – approximately 35 percent – from traditional homes into non-Indigenous and religious groups.

Krenz has numerous GoFundMe accounts, including one that is now now closed, which raised $16,544. Another account Krenz is credited with being involved with is called a math camp for Lakota children and raised $4,470. Krenz was also involved with the Kind Hearted Woman Dream Shelter, in Jamestown, with Robin’s House, a shelter for women and children, and with a blog called Restless Spirit Blog, last updated in 2015. On a September 2016 YouTube channel, Krenz discusses a $2,000 micro grant she planned to use to help women for Damsel In Defense, an empowering women organization.

Three years ago, Krenz issued a public statement on Disqus.

“Well, I am proud to say I am a birth mother of a baby girl I chose to place up for adoption 22 years ago, and I can assure you I received nothing and paid my own medical expenses,” Krenz wrote. Punctuation and grammar have been altered for editing purposes.

“Adoption fees go to the place that does the legal work involved in name changing and other court work involved. Legitimate adoptions thru agencies such as The Village do not pay the birth mother a penny. I know nothing about surrogate mothers, but I have seen children sold on a reservation and it’s nothing that I care to see legalized in this state.”

“We are very sad at the heartache this had caused for Jodie Blackboy as well,” Autym Burke said. “I never would have reached out to her if not just to try to protect her and Julissa from Betty Jo. Honestly, putting this behind us would be the best way to begin healing, but we felt she needed to know. We felt she too was lied to. And as sad as this loss is, we truly are so glad that it ended where it did and did not go further, and that Jodie and Julissa are together and doing so well.

“We will stand by them as long as it takes to shine the light bright enough on this issue to make sure no one else is victimized by Betty Jo Krenz. And maybe more people will come forward if they hear our story.”

Savanna’s murder suspects plead not guilty

By C.S. Hagen 
FARGO – Brooke Lynn Crews pled not guilty to all charges related to Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind’s murder and kidnapping of her child in Cass County District Court on Thursday. Crews’ live-in boyfriend, William Henry Hoehn, also entered a not guilty plea on Wednesday, according to court documents.

Brooke Lynn Crews and William Henry Hoehn – photo provided by the Fargo Police Department

The couple were charged with class A felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and after Greywind’s body was found, wrapped tightly in plastic and duct tape, snagged by a tree in the middle of the Red River, the suspects face additional charges of conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to give false information to police.

Crews entered the courtroom shackled, dressed in prison orange, and remained expressionless while waiting for court proceedings to begin. The 38-year-old understood all the charges when read to her, and her attorney, Steve Mottinger, entered the plea for his client.

“We ask the court to enter a plea of not guilty on all counts,” Mottinger said. He also asked the court to postpone trial for 60 days in order for the defense to properly prepare. The next court date was moved from November 29, until January 3, 2018 at 10:30am. Hoehn is scheduled to reappear in court on December 6 at 10:30am.

Both suspects have so far not accepted invitations for interviews. They formerly lived at Apartment 5, 2825 Ninth Street North, Fargo, which is where police report Greywind was killed. Her baby, Haisley Jo, was found on August 24 in the custody of Crews, according to police.

Bail for the couple had been set at $2 million, and was not changed on Thursday.

 

Nation, city, misleading public on refugee costs

Refugees cost taxpayers money, but the buck doesn’t stop there

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – All fingers point to refugees being cost positive for cities, states, and the nation, and yet pressure from the Trump Administration on local city leaders to curb the influx of “huddled masses” persists.

In Washington D.C., Trump Administration officials are refusing to recognize a recent study performed by the Department of Health and Human Services, or H.H.S., that reported refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenue over the past decade than they cost, according to the Washington Post and New York Times.

A different study, also ignored, came from Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities, or LEO, a research department at the University of Notre Dame. The March 2017 study stated refugee resettlement is cost-beneficial to the United States, especially with resettled children.

Over a 20-year period, refugees who entered the United States between 18 and 45 years of age, paid taxes in excess of support received by $21,200.

The White House defended its rejection of the study by saying H.H.S.’s conclusions were illegitimate and politically motivated, according to the New York Times. And yet right-wing media outlets, such as Breitbart, refuse to report on such numbers, reporting instead that taxpayers will spend $4.1 billion in 2017 to support 519,018 refugees resettled in the United States since 2009. Little to no mention is made of refugee benefits in the article.

In Fargo, a similar pattern has emerged. Despite the lack of hard, cold, statistical data, reports and testimonies from business leaders, entrepreneurs, police, human rights organizations, and new Americans echo national findings, saying refugees are beneficial for Fargo and the state.

“Unfortunately, the refugee and immigrant controversy is no longer about fact-finding,” Hukun Abdullahi, member of the Moorhead Human Rights Commission and North Dakota United Against Hate, said.

Originally from Somalia, Abdullahi has taken a stand against recent immigration issues and increasing hate crimes in Fargo. Washington D.C.’s anti-refugee agenda has spread like a virus, infecting local governments and encouraging bigots to target New Americans and trump up political agendas.

“This issue is more about Making America Great Again or in other words, Making America White again,” Abdullahi said. “Historically, immigrants and refugees have been blessed to obtain bipartisan support. Maybe that was because most immigrants and refugees were white and Christian at the time. They were able to blend in more easily and were perceived more ‘American’ per se. With growing numbers of immigrants who are no longer white or Christian, this has really made people think about what America has become, and thus want their country back.”

The country, the state, and even Fargo’s demographics have changed, and xenophobia lies at the root of such opposition, Abdullahi said.

“There is nothing wrong to that about having an opinion,” Abdullahi said. “What is wrong, however, is there are still groups of people who never want immigrants and refugees to be seen as equal to them.”

Within President Donald Trump’s first week of taking office, the refugee issue came under fierce debate when Trump signed an executive order stating “Secretary of State shall, within one year of the date of this order, provide a report on the estimated long-term costs of USRAP (United States Refugee Admissions Program) at the federal, state, and local levels.”

In Fargo, the fire was lit during a Fargo City Commissioners meeting on October 24, 2016, by Dave Piepkorn, who also serves as deputy mayor, when he attacked Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, a nonprofit group responsible for handling refugees in the state.

Piepkorn wants to know the costs of refugees, an obscure price tag as few agencies distinguish refugees from other racial types. Piepkorn sees refugee resettlement as an unfunded mandate, and that the state should have the right to decide on the numbers of refugees it allows. He’s also stated that refugees are depressing wages locally, and receiving benefits other residents are not receiving.

Trump’s chief policy adviser, Stephen Miller, is using identical tactics form public opinion. Miller is concerned only with costs, not fiscal benefits, when determining the annual refugee cap, which he is attempting to slice by more than half, or less than 50,000 for the nation. On Wednesday, Trump’s Administration announced it capped the amount of refugees the nation would accept at 45,000 US, which means with 19,000 from Africa, 17,500 for the Near East and South Asia, 5,000 for East Asia, 2,000 for Europe and Central Asia, and 1,500 for Latin America and the Caribbean.

So far, Piepkorn has expressed similar if not identical considerations, despite the repeated attempts of city officials, Lutheran Social Services, and leaders from the Fargo Human Relations Commission, to discuss the issues.

Instead of agreeing to sit-downs with local leaders, Piepkorn has made his views known on right-wing radio stations such as AM 1100 The Flag Need to Know Morning Show, where Piepkorn took partial credit for influencing the former Trump special adviser Steve Bannon’s platform against immigrants.

Piepkorn has been repeatedly contacted for comment, but so far refuses to answer telephone calls or call back.

“Let’s have a conversation,” Barry Nelson, of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and the Fargo Human Relations Commission, said. “Dave Piepkorn has never reached out to any one of us who did this at his request. He’s never wanted to talk about it, and again he didn’t show up for the report.”

Although Piepkorn has led the charge against the displaced in Fargo, he failed to appear at one of the most important meetings pertaining to the issue.

“To me, it is a lack of leadership to not only deny the facts and figures that do not agree with that so-called leader’s ideology or opinions, but it is inhumane and immoral to target a group of residents and citizens to advance one’s agenda,” Nelson said.

To combat rising hate crimes, the Human Relations Commission passed a resolution originally proposed by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, or AFL-CIO, establishing Fargo as a hate-free community. The resolution was passed on to the Fargo City Commission this week to be voted on next month, and was passed unanimously by the Moorhead City Commission on Monday.

“It puts the city on record as saying that these crimes keep occurring and allowing city leaders to make a statement that this city won’t tolerate hate crimes,” Nelson said.

Despite the national upheaval on immigration issues, those that are behind such political agendas and racist reforms are numerically inferior, Abdullahi said.

“Fortunately for us, this group of people is very small,” Abdullahi said. “The denial of facts from the US Government is an example how such a small group of people in influential positions could still disrupt lives of many and diminish the value of what immigrants and refugees are contributing in their new society.”

Some numbers Piepkorn has been searching for have been discovered, such as financial costs provided by the Fargo Police Department, nursing and interpreter costs from Cass County Public Health. Most agencies, however, do not track refugees.

Since January 2002, 3,677 refugees have been settled in Fargo, according to a Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota report. New Americans are employers, taxpayers, and field workers, choosing occupations few local citizens are willing to apply for.

Statistically, what is known at the local level is that refugees contributed $542.8 million to the city’s GDP in 2014, and have a spending power of $149.4 million, according to the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report, a study commissioned to the Fargo Human Relations Commission to perform and released in April.

First-generation immigrants are cost-positive in North Dakota by approximately $3,250, and long-term benefits are incalculable, according to the study and the City of Fargo’s Community Development Department. First-generation households are cost-positive by $4,900, making North Dakota the second most cost-positive state in the nation.

Between 2011 and 2013, immigrants in North Dakota paid $133.9 million in taxes and spent $425.7 million, according to the Fargo Human Relations Commission’s first report, released in February 2017.

Nationally, since 2011, the U.S. Refugee Admission Program has received approximately 655,000 applications, with more than 75 percent of the applicants fleeing from Iraq, Myanmar, Syria, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bhutan, according to the United States Government Accountability Office, or GAO.

In 2016, the United States admitted 85,000 refugees, the largest yearly number in more than 15 years, according to GAO.

“This is not cost overruns on a bridge or road construction. This is not a debate about whether or not to construct a city hall or a dam,” Nelson said. “This is putting a target squarely on the backs of men, women and children who ask only that they have a chance, just like most of our ancestors, to begin a new life in safety and security.

“This is putting human beings in harm’s way. Is that the moral leadership we want and expect in our community, in our country? I truly hope that the moral leadership and citizenry of our community will look at the true facts of refugee resettlement and see this kind of discounting and targeting for the basest and cruelest of human instincts that it is.”

Historically, the refugee debate is nothing new. In the 1840s, Americans turned their hatred on the Irish fleeing famine when potato blight struck. At that time, newspapers reported the Irish were disease-ridden, they threatened American jobs and welfare budgets, they practiced an alien religion, they were rapists and criminals — charges remarkably similar to accusations made in Fargo in 2016 by Valley News Live — and more recently by Commissioner Piepkorn — against the area’s refugees and new Americans.

In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States. Chinese, at that time, were escaping persecution and civil wars, and because of their distinct culture, their Qing-styled queues, they became easily-identifiable targets for racial “purists,” who accused them of depriving jobs, unionizing the mining industry, and forcing the lowering of wages. The blatantly racist policy was not abandoned until 1943, when China became an ally with the United States against Japan.

The list goes on: French-speaking Catholic Acadians in 1755, Germans in 1848, Jewish refugees in 1848 and 1939, Vietnamese refugees in 1975, seven Middle Eastern countries in 2017.

Ironically, while Americans favored keeping the world’s downtrodden from its shores, one of the nation’s foremost and secret goals after World War II was to hunt for military and scientific booty, which sometimes came in the form of Nazi scientists, in covert actions such as the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency’s “Operation Paperclip.”

Historically, crackdowns on refugees have led to little more than demonization, breeding division and fear. Since 1882, U.S. presidents have gone through cycles of banning or restricting ethnic groups, only to apologize years later for inflicting harm, according to professor Erika Lee, a historian at the University of Minnesota.

Lee helped start the website Immigration Syllabus, which shies away from political debate and focuses on immigration facts.

“When we close the gates, we look back on those periods with shame,” Lee said in the Star Tribune. “And I do feel that we are on the verge of repeating some of those past mistakes.”

“Refugees entering the U.S. as adults tend to have poor economic outcomes when they first enter, but they improve significantly over time,” the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities report stated. “Use of Medicaid, welfare, and SNAP decrease over time, while employment and income increase.”

After 20 years in the United States, approximately 11 percent still rely on SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as Food Stamps, and incomes increase exponentially.

Currently, the present cost of relocating a refugee is $14,384, and over time the refugee receives $86,863 in social insurance costs, but pays taxes of $122,422, which leaves a cost positive net payment by the refugee of $21,195, according to the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities.

“By their tenth year in the U.S., refugees are cost-neutral,” the report stated.

The report also noted that refugees who enter the United States before turning 16 graduate college at similar or higher rates than their US-born peers. Two factors help explain poorer results for refugees 15 and older, the first being limited English, and the second that older child refugees are more likely to be unaccompanied by parents or an adult.

While opponents of refugee resettlement twist the narrative to say refugees take jobs away in Fargo, nothing could be further from the truth, James Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp., said.

A Regional Workforce Study reported Fargo had 6,500 unfilled jobs in 2005, a number that will grow to 30,000 by 2020.

“This inability to fill jobs has been a major contributor to the slowdown in our local economy, and the refugee resettlement program has an important part to play in addressing this workforce shortage,” Gartin said. “Cutting back on the refugee resettlement program will not benefit the Fargo-Moorhead economy. It will do the opposite.”

For those who feel refugees are prone to become criminals, think again, the Fargo Human Relations Commission reported in January 2017. Immigrants are 1.7 times less likely to become involved in crime than native-born people, according to information from the U.S. Census Bureau and reported on by the American Community Survey.

“Many are threatened by the mere fact that many of us own our homes, businesses, and drive new cars,” Abdullahi said. “It’s possible because we work hard, harder than many imagine. This haunts such people because they have always thought of us as less deserving. If it were up to them, they would not hesitate to throw us in cotton fields and strip away our rights.

“We are a minority and it will remain that way for a long period of time. I strongly believe one day, this negativity is going to go away once people start realizing we are a part of this community, just like they are. I urge former refugees and immigrants to be patient, but speak up when you see acts of racism and discrimination.

“There is nothing to be concerned about at this time, because we are legal residents and citizens and have rights, and rights to be united with our family members, as allowed by the U.S. Constitution.”

“They are stealing our babies”

A former Spirit Lake Tribal case manager under investigation in allegedly faked adoption proceedings

By C.S. Hagen
WOODWORTH – A former case manager for the Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services is under police investigation for fraud and allegedly faking adoptions for Native American children.

Stutsman County Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating Betty Jo Krenz, approximately 46, and currently living in Woodworth, according to court documents and Stutsman County Sheriff’s Department Detective Jason Falk. It was unclear if other agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are involved at this time.

Betty Jo Krenz – YouTube

According to Janel Herald, a registered member of the Spirit Lake Tribe and involved with organizing information pertaining to the case, the FBI, as well as the Spirit Lake Nation, Grand Forks Police, Rapid City Police, Devil’s Lake Police, Medford, Oregon police, Boise, Idaho police, the North Dakota State Attorney General’s office, and Jamestown Police are also involved in the investigation.

Krenz was a case manager for helping children at the Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services until 2011, and has been a high-profile figure, interviewed by the New York Times and local media about her work with children on the reservation.

The Krenz family was interviewed by Valley News Live in January after she attended President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Krenz also gave testimony before a congressional subcommittee, which included Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-ND), according to 2014 media reports.

“She was employed with social services and she was released from here,” said June Yankton, the Spirit Lake Tribal Council administrator.

Krenz has a long criminal record of writing bad checks, forgery, and counterfeiting, under both her current and former surnames.

Online complaints against Krenz have become viral during the past month, and came to a head after Autym Burke, of Oregon, posted about her experience with Krenz on September 21 to Jodie Blackboy.

“My husband and I met a woman named Betty Jo Krenz,” Burke wrote. “We were introduced to her earlier this year because we were told that she helped facilitate adoptions for Native American children who needed good homes…My husband and I have wanted to adopt for over a decade and had just begun the journey to adoption when we met her.”

What followed was a description of lies and deceit, of a woman who tricked the couple out of money and their hopes for adopting a child named Julissa.

“Anyways, we were told there was a baby to adopt, and that baby, we now know, was your [Jodie Blackboy’s] daughter,” Burke wrote. “For months, we received photographs, videos, and updates about her, thinking our family was going to be adopting her. It ended in heartbreak when we realized that we had been scammed by Betty Jo Krenz.

“We were lied to and left heartbroken. And I’m sure you’ve been lied to also. I can send you everything I have. I have tons of photos and videos of baby Julissa.

“I’m only keeping them as long as I need them to prove my case to you, and to the proper authorities. Once that is done, I promise I will not keep them. I’ve closed the door and know that this baby is, and always was yours, and I am truly glad that she is safe and sound with you, her Mom.”

Blackboy acknowledged that the baby involved in the adoption proceedings was her daughter, but declined to comment further.

Betty Jo Krenz – former Facebook photo

Other online messages between alleged victims and Krenz talk about Julissa, whose adopted name was to be Ruby, and Haisley Jo, believed to be the same baby taken from Savanna Greywind on August 19. Krenz’ messages about Haisley Jo were written on August 22, while Haisley Jo and the suspects in Greywind’s murder weren’t found or arrested until the following Thursday, August 24.

One September 27, 2017, the Spirit Lake Tribal Council banned Krenz from entering the Spirit Lake Reservation. Tribal Administrator Yankton said that the Tribal Council plans to issue a press release later.

Krenz, also known as Jo Betty, described herself as a “fierce advocate for women and children of rape and abuse” on a former Facebook page profile. Since Wednesday, however, all her Facebook pages have been taken down, and four telephone numbers for her are no longer working.

“They are stealing our babies,” Linda Black Elk said on a Facebook post. “If you ever doubted racism and genocide in North Dakota, you won’t after reading this: Betty Jo Edland-Krenz, a white woman from the Fargo area, was once a child advocate for the Spirit Lake Nation foster care program. Red flags were raised over the years. People found out about her felony convictions and other suspicious behavior and tried to warn the community, but very little was done. In fact, Betty Jo has numerous GoFundMe accounts open for various projects that never seem to come to fruition.”

One GoFundMe account, now closed, raised $16,544. Another account Krenz is credited for being involved with is called a math camp for Lakota children and raised $4,470. Krenz was also involved with the Kind Hearted Woman Dream Shelter, in Jamestown; with Robin’s House, a shelter for women and children; and with a blog called Restless Spirit Blog, last updated in 2015.

On a September 2016 YouTube channel, Krenz discusses a $2,000 micro grant she planned to use to help women by donating to Damsel In Defense, an organization that empowers women.

“I am a thrift store shopped for children’s books and toys,” Krenz wrote in the Restless Spirit blog. “If you feel you can help in any way please donate to Robin’s House and help me make Robin’s dream come true and the families be comfortable.”

“The state government loves her because she is a Trump supporter and was even featured in Kevin Cramer’s campaign,” Black Elk wrote. “For some reason, they consistently overlooked her track record and upheld her as an exemplary citizen.

“It has now come to light that Betty Jo was attempting to sell North Dakota’s Native American babies,” Black Elk wrote.

“I’m just trying to prove my story, and an agent at the Attorney General’s office is working on going through all of my documentation,” Autym Burke said. “We have been scammed, and I know of another family. We were ‘adopting’ babies who we now know were never for adoption. I’m working with many law enforcement agencies right now, and cooperating and trying to help as much as I possibly can, so that no other moms, babies, or families who want to adopt are scammed, lied to, and hurt.”

Burke declined to talk about case specifics further, pending investigation.

Online, netizens call Krenz a whistleblower, who thinks she is safe because of her previous work on the Spirit Lake reservation.

“Yet she is victimizing our Native people and needs to be held accountable for her wrongdoing,” Ashley Roulette, of Oberton, said in an online post.

Deb Bjorem, from West Fargo, met Krenz in March 2017, and said she too was cheated financially by helping her, and another woman from West Fargo who runs a daycare and did a benefit for Michelle Schumacher last year, who both claimed to be raising funds, primarily for abused women and the homeless.

“I opened myself to them, I told them everything about my past, my history, and now they use it to their advantage,” Bjorem said. “They have my whole life in their hands. I’ve lost so many so-called friends because of this, but I hang on to my faith in Jesus as I have for the past 20 years. The truth will set you free, and it will come out in the end.”

Bjorem said Krenz is in Hawaii right now. Others who admit knowing Krenz say she is remains in North Dakota. 

This is a breaking story; updates will follow.

State settles misconduct allegations with Dakota Access Pipeline developers

Big Oil saves face, state to get new trees by end of 2018

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK
– The Dakota Access Pipeline developer agreed to plant trees to reach a settlement over two misconduct allegations while constructing the pipeline on Wednesday.


A total of 20,000 trees are to be planted by December 31, 2018 along the pipeline route, a total cost that will exceed the $15,000 settlement the North Dakota Public Service Commission offered in August.

Although pipeline developer Dakota Access LLC, faced 83 counts of improperly removing trees and foliage, multiple claims of topsoil removal, failure for having a proper spill prevention plan, and rerouting the pipeline without properly notifying the Commission after finding a cultural site, no fines were levied.

The issues involved in the misconduct allegations were disputed by both parties involved, resulting in an apparent “saving face” incentive for Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners.

“The parties to this agreement have determined that settlement and compromise of the dispute is in the interests of their respective stakeholders and agree to resolve the Order to Show Cause proceeding and the investigation proceeding without any fault or admissions being made by either party to the allegations made,” the agreement stated.

The pipeline developer has until the end of 2018 to plant the 20,000 two-year-old saplings, which can be willow, juniper, aspen, pine, ash, cedar, oak, spruce, boxelder, or maple trees, according to the agreement.

The company also agreed to to repair disturbed topsoil, distribute a current spill prevention manual to current registered pipeline companies throughout the state, and conduct training programs on unanticipated discoveries and the Commission’s route change process at the 2018 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference.

Dakota Access, LLC also agreed to bring a “speaker of national or international renown” to speak during the North Dakota State Historic Preservation Office, all expenses paid by the pipeline developer.  
All other complaints against the pipeline developer were dismissed with prejudice, according to the agreement.

In late August, Energy Transfer Partners, struck back at NoDAPL organizations, calling those involved “racketeers,” “parasites,” “rogue eco-terrorists,” and “criminals,” and demanding a jury trial while alleging the multiple defendants processed millions of dollars and fraudulently induced donations to support the NoDAPL cause.

The lawsuit was filed approximately three months after the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board filed a civil lawsuit against TigerSwan, LLC, the security “fusion leader” for Energy Transfer Partners. The lawsuit stated that the security company and its founder, among other oil companies, worked illegally in North Dakota.

Local feces hate crime marks sixth racial incident in 2017

A Fargoan’s car is no longer drivable days after a neighbor reportedly tells him “You cannot be here,” victim said

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – A Somali-American discovered animal feces spread inside his vehicle Monday evening, an incident many believe was a direct threat and a hate crime.

Yusuf Mohamed’s car was locked at Maplewood Apartments, 1010 23rd Street, South Fargo, he said. The culprit broke in through his driver’s side window and spread feces across the dashboard, front and back seats.

Yusuf Mohamed and his vehicle behind him – photo by C.S. Hagen

“This is threat, happened to us,” Mohamed said. “When I opened my car I see animal poo. It was disgusting. I can’t even imagine what happened to my car. I cannot even enter my car until I fix this problem.”

Police responded to the incident, telling him not to enter the vehicle as the feces might pose a health hazard, Mohamed said.

Mohamed found the mess inside his Toyota Corolla at 6pm Monday. The last time he drove the car was the day before, returning home around 10pm, Mohamed said. He believes the incident may stem from a verbal assault he received from a neighbor last Tuesday, September 12.

“You cannot be here,” the neighbor told him, Mohamed said. “You and the other guy, the both of you get out of here. And he telling me you are roadblock to here, but I belong to here. He said to me so many insults, my religion, my color, my language, and he told me you are not belong to here.

Yusuf Mohamed preparing to open his car’s door – photo by C.S. Hagen

“And I told him ‘Fix your language.’ And he did not stop until I go, and I say, ‘Shame on you with your language.’ This is what happened.”

Mohamed arrived in the United States 20 years ago, worked as a factory employee until he was recently injured on the job, and has never been the focus of a hate crime before, he said.

“I have seen things happen to other people in the community, but nothing has happened to me,” Mohamed said. “This is way, way, way too much.”

Police officers told him they had never seen such a crime before, and that the incident is under investigation.

Inside of Yusuf Mohamed’s car – photos provided by Hukun Abdullahi

Although North Dakota does not yet have hate crime legislation, Mohamed is now worried about his own safety.

“Really, I am worried about my safety because the guy found me and followed me when I went down. Now I am worried about my safety. The guy broke into my car, he could break into my apartment and kill me.”

He has also lived in the Maplewood Apartments for six years without incident. He believes that President Donald Trump’s Administration has encouraged haters to vocalize and now physically damage property in the name of white supremacy.

“When the head of the government say bad things about Muslims or insulting other countries, then they do whatever they want,” Mohamed said. “Everything is on the head. If he say bad things, what about the other people? Already they broke the First Amendment, the Second Amendment. The other people can do whatever, because already it’s broke.”

Hukun Abdullahi, member of the Moorhead Human Rights Commission and North Dakota United Against Hate, said hate crimes are being committed in Fargo/Moorhead on a near-daily basis. Mohamed’s incident marks the sixth hate crime in Fargo in 2017, Abdullahi said.

Hate crimes are not about black or white racial issues, but about a protected class versus an unprotected class.

Toyota Corolla and the front door scrapes – photo by C.S. Hagen

“What I see is that this is terrible,” Abdullahi said. “And it’s happening only to one specific community. This is why we need hate crime legislation in North Dakota, and city ordinance too. It’s happening every day. A lot of people this is happening to and they’re not talking about it. We wanted our community to speak out. This is their city. This is their country.

“Whether you kill us, vandalize us, there is nowhere we will go. We came here the way others came here. Fargo is a welcoming city, and there are just a few who are doing this.”

Earlier in 2017, a car belonging to a New American was spray-painted. An assault on a Somali-American on July 2 is being investigated as a possible hate crime by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and was virtually swept under the rug, Barry Nelson, of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, said.

James Patrick Billiot, 32, Fargo, and Justin William Rifanburg, 28, West Fargo, assaulted Shuib Ali, who was moving into an apartment when the attack occurred after racial epithets were said, according to police reports. Nelson said the two men were charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor, were fined $250 for their crime, and the victim was not alerted to the court case.

Later in July, Amber Elizabeth Hensley was filmed while threatening to kill three Somali women in a Walmart parking lot. Video from the incident went viral, and the four people involved later made up, apologizing at the police station.

“Yes we are aware that a break-in took place, and the resident reported to our site manager this morning,” Kurt Bollman, president of Goldmark Property Management, the company that manages Maplewood Apartments, said.

“As in any case of any type of crime, we always ask that the resident contact the police, which he did, and I can tell you, in general, if a resident was determined by the court system of a crime on the property, that resident may, very probably, get evicted, because we don’t tolerate any type of crime, on the property, and especially resident against resident.”

The incident is still under investigation by police, who were also contacted for comment, but did not respond to further requests for information by press time. Bollman wouldn’t answer questions about the tenants possibly involved.

“If a resident has lived with us for six years, there hasn’t been the problem,” Bollman said. 

The North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and Welcoming FM are hosting “A Community Conversation About Race” event at 7pm tonight, Tuesday, September 19.

Haisley Jo Comes Home

After nearly a month of frustration, boyfriend of slain Native American woman retains custody of baby girl

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Twenty-four days after baby Haisley Jo was brutally taken from Savanna Marie LaFontaine-Greywind, the infant girl returned home to her father.

Haisley Jo Greywind-Matheny – photo provided by the family


Ashton Matheny, who according to DNA results released Monday is the father of the nearly one-month-old child, was awarded full legal custody of the baby, according to Krista Andrews, Matheny’s attorney.
The infant girl had been in the custody of Cass County Social Services during the legal process and DNA testing.

“She’s good, she’s a beautiful baby,” Andrews said. “They’re both doing well.”

Haisley Jo was found in the care of Brooke Lynn Crews, 38, in the apartment she shared with William Henry Hoehn, 32, at Apartment 5, 2825 Ninth Street North. Both were arrested five days after Greywind – eight months pregnant with Haisley Jo at the time – went missing. The couple share identical charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to give false information to police.

Andrews, an attorney with Anderson, Bottrell, Sanden & Thompson, practices family law, and said that although authorities took nearly a month before returning Haisley Jo to her family, the case was unique and tragic, and Matheny retained custody immediately following the DNA test.

“Why so long is that social services, the courts, and everybody wanted to make sure they were doing the right thing,” Andrews said. “It probably felt like it took longer than it did.”

Greywind’s body was found wrapped in plastic and duct tape in the Red River, according to police. Although Fargo Police Chief David Todd so far refuses to say that Greywind was the victim of fetal abduction, her death was a “cruel and vicious act of depravity,” according to Todd.

Both suspects are being held in Cass County Jail under a $2 million bond. Crews’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 28 at 1:30pm, and Hoehn for October 4 at 9am.

Brooke Lynn Crews and William Henry Hoehn – photo provided by the Fargo Police Department

Little miracles
Neighbors of the Greywind family say Savanna’s spirit is watching over them.

Sweet scents of burning sage waft from the apartment complex. Pictures, candles, and flowers now adorn the complex’s front door and lawn.

Christopher Miranda and girlfriend Rhonda Grimli live on the floor between the Greywind’s and the suspects’ rooms, and discovered a stray boxer and pit bull mix over the Labor Day weekend at the apartment building. The dog was found by a neighbor, who gave the go-ahead to post a picture of the dog on Facebook.

Shortly afterward, the dog’s owner replied, and was reunited with the dog, named Milton.

Milton – the lost and found dog

“I believe it was Savanna who brought him here,” Miranda said. “It felt good, it was the first time really we felt good around here since this happened. The dog made me forget all this stuff that has been going on constantly in my mind.”

To help the Greywind family, a local three-year-old sold more than $1,000 in lemonade for Haisley Jo. A Fargo North High School football game led a “miracle minute in honor of the Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind family,” where cheerleaders collected $1,270 from fans to deposit into the family’s registered bank account at US Bank, under the name of Haisley Jo.

A young man named Skylor Charboneau took first place at a powwow over Labor Day Weekend and donated his winnings to the Greywind family.

An online petition to the City of Fargo to tear down the apartment building in which the Greywind family lived has already been signed by 2,250 petitioners.

Candlelight vigils have been held across the state as concerned citizens placed red light bulbs in their front porch sockets to honor the 22-year-old’s memory. GoodBulb, Inc., which sold the bulbs for $5 apiece, donated $3,125 to the Haisley Jo Donation Fund.

Greywind began her nursing career in Devils Lake, and then transferred to Eventide in Fargo. She had been dating Ashton Matheny since her freshman year in high school, and the couple were looking forward to starting a family.

“All of Savanna’s family and Ashton will miss her tremendously,” Greywind’s obituary stated.

Savanna is survived by her daughter, Haisley Jo, her parents, Norberta and Joe, her brothers and a sister, her grandparents, and nieces and nephews, the obituary reported.

“The pain I feel is like no other,” Norberta said in a public Facebook post. “All my children are my world and the loss of my oldest daughter is very devastating. Just don’t know how to pick myself up from this. So much guilt, anger just every emotion.

“I apologize if I shut out the ones closest to me along with everyone else. I’m sure I will continue to do that. It’s just how I am dealing with this. Just want to thank my Lafontaine family for being there for my family from the beginning and I know you will continue to be there. I love every one of you.

“The Fargo community, Turtle Mountain, Spirit Lake communities, and the entire world have been so supportive.

“My goal is to fight for justice for Savanna. My baby did not deserve this. She was an amazing person, so much love to give and she was the rock of our family, her pregnancy was the most exciting time for us, to lose that and my grandbaby will never know her mother just tears me up.”

Frustration
Many aspects of Greywind’s case have frustrated family and friends. From the police investigation after her disappearance and consequent murder, to Haisley Jo’s absence, to claims of people attempting to profit online from the tragedy, to the apartment Greywind and her boyfriend Matheny planned to rent.

When Greywind paid a deposit of $700 for an apartment across the street from where her family lives, no contract was prepared, family reported.

The property Greywind was planning to rent at 3013 10th Street North is owned by McIntosh Properties, LLC, according to the City of Fargo assessment information, and has an appraised value in 2017 of $572,400. Margaret McIntosh signed the receipt with Greywind in August.

McIntosh Properties, LLC is active and in good standing, and is authorized to invest in, own, and manage real estate, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State. McIntosh is listed as the registered agent of the company.

The property, which has total square footage of 12,288 square feet, is listed as a 12-unit complex with an addition name of Cedarholm, and is legally authorized to be used as an apartment building. Taxes for 2016 of $7,674.46 have been paid, according to the City of Fargo assessment information.

Savanna Greywind recipt for rental property

North Dakota law states that landlords can require a prospective tenant to complete an application, and charge an application fee, which my not be refundable. The fee is typically used to cover the costs of checking a tenant’s references, and an applicant can request a receipt for payment, which Greywind received. Such fees, however, are not considered security deposits.

An agreement between a landlord and tenant is a lease agreement, which can be oral or written. A lease is legally binding on both landlord and tenant and cannot be changed without both parties’ consent.

“For the protection of both the landlord and tenant it is best that the lease agreement be in writing,” the Legal Services of North Dakota stated.

Either party may terminate a lease agreement with at least one calendar month’s written notice. Failure to give proper notice could result in loss of a security deposit.

A landlord also has the right to require a security deposit, which is what Greywind’s family said she paid for. Her boyfriend’s name was not included in the receipt as he was currently unemployed.  Any security deposit must be returned to the tenant at the end of a lease within 30 days, or the tenant given a written accounting as to why the deposit was not returned. Disagreements are usually taken to Small Claims Court.

The Greywind family and supporters believe a special case should be made for Savanna Greywind, however, and the deposit should be returned.

McIntosh refused to answer questions regarding the situation, and hung up the telephone.

Although police no longer consider what was thought to be a crime scene on a farmstead in Clay County, Minnesota a place of former interest in connection to Greywind’s murder, they’re still asking the public for information. The police tip lines number has changed to (701) 241-5777.

“Old Man With A Sign” Takes Fargo By Surprise

Second tour for elderly online personality protesting President Trump brings “The Sign” to Downtown Fargo while traveling the nation

By C.S. Hagen
Fargo – On his worst day protesting Donald Trump’s Administration, Gale McCray received nine one-finger salutes. Thirty minutes on Fargo’s Main Avenue and Second Street intersection, the white-haired Texan received three.

McCray and his double-layered cardboard sign started becoming an Internet sensation during his first trip to Washington D.C. He frequently refers to “The Sign” as a proper noun, almost like his friend or mischievous traveling companion sneaking a photo opportunity beside Trump memorabilia vendors, music festival stages, or religious billboards. Written in black marker on white background, McCray, 74, and his eight-month-old slightly-battered sign, have attracted threats and fans across the nation.

“Trump. That boy don’t act right,” the sign reads. The flip side reads “Resist,” and has dozens of signatures.

The saying has Southern roots, and means something just isn’t quite right. Usually, such a phrase as “that boy don’t act right,” is followed up with “God bless him,” McCray said.

“Old man with a sign” comes to Fargo – photo by C.S. Hagen

McCray can talk a mile a minute, but when he’s on the sidewalk, he lets The Sign do his talking. As a trusted companion, The Sign occasionally needs to “stretch out and relax” while he sips a brevé latté with one Splenda. Even then, The Sign – placed carefully along a nearby fence – can’t escape the curses or one-finger salutes. Sometimes, The Sign leads him into potential trouble.

Like the time McCray stumbled onto a Westboro Baptist church compound in Kansas.

“The Sign told me to photo bomb these Westboro Baptist crazies, so I did,” McCray said in a Facebook post. His Facebook page has more than 2,400 followers.

His mission began at an intersection in Fort Worth, Texas, and he’s “been riding the wave ever since.” He grew tired of contacting his state’s representative fruitlessly.

“I’m kind of a ham,” McCray said. “I just come out here with a sign. I didn’t organize this or plan this, I just stood out on the interstate in Fort Worth and social media took over.”

While on the road, McCray eats at Cracker Barrels, Dairy Queens, Starbucks, and Burger Kings. He stays with friends, or sleeps in his car. To help fund on-the-road survival, a friend set up a GoFundMe account which raised $2,000, and he sells t-shirts. He wings most of his destinations, and is wondering after a trip west to Bismarck if he might not drive to Mississippi.

He doesn’t protest every day, and has no idea when he’s going to stop. Recently, in Des Moines, Iowa, he lost a tooth and plans to travel to Mexico to get it fixed.

On his Facebook page entitled “Old man with a sign,” he encourages followers to find their own ways to resist the current administration.

“Posting on Facebook that Trump is a ______, is not resisting,” McCray said in an August 16 Facebook post. “We must decide, do we turn away, or do we take a stand against neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalism, and hate? There is a darkness rising now, a rot, a malignant, spreading poison. We must be careful, but loudly and forcefully reject this nightmare of rising domestic terrorism. We cannot let this monster continue to grow.

“Congress should censure the President, now. Today.”

When people ask him what is wrong with the Presidential administration, his answer unswervingly remains the same.

“If I have to tell you, you will never understand.”

Some people call him a hero, a description McCray doesn’t know how to mentally wrestle. Like his sign, he also has had his share of hardship. After 21 years working as a mailman McCray fell into drugs, lost his wife. He managed to quit, however, and in his 40s got a degree and ended up working as a therapist for addict rehabilitation, he said.

The best aspect about his trips around the country are the people. When passersby see his sign, “Some people just break out laughing, and that’s the greatest thing,” McCray said.

Most drivers passing by McCray while he stood in the late summer heat honked and waved. When the third person gave him the middle finger, he chuckled good-naturedly.

The worst place he visited was Springfield, Illinois, but he remembers a woman in Washington D.C., in a wheelchair, struggling to climb the stairs to the Lincoln Memorial. She took one look at The Sign, and spat venom.

“You’re despicable,” the elderly woman told him.

“It’s just sad,” McCray said. “All she knew about me is me and this sign. To have that much hate.” McCray shook his head, then leapt back into action, holding The Sign up for a couple in a pickup truck to study. They remained quiet, and McCray stood back.

“Sometimes, there’s no way to tell,” McCray said. “One time there was this big old man barreling toward me and when he reached me he just shook my hand and thanked me.”

McCray’s favorite spots are medians. He can flash The Sign to both lines of traffic. In Fargo, he stood on the southwest side of Main Avenue during rush hour, and said although he would never move to Fargo, he loves what the city has done to its downtown area.

McCray will quit protesting when Trump is out of office, he said. He’s not hoping for a miracle, though.

“I don’t get into hope,” McCray said. “We’re not going away. I’m not here to change anyone, that would be grandiose on my part. I’m here just to let people know we’re here, and we are not going away.”

 

‘Looking for another Indian girl to kill’

Indigenous women are raped and killed every year, their cases disappearing into a labyrinth of legal jurisdiction

By C.S. Hagen
STANDING ROCK – Long ago, Native American women would stuff dirt up their dresses to keep from getting raped by the wasi’chu, meaning eat the fat, a term which has evolved to denote the collective white man.  In those lawless days, they preferred death to the pain and humiliation.

“If the military catches you, stuff your insides with dirt in the hopes that they kill you,” Myron Dewey, a Paiute/Shoshone Native American, and owner of Digital Smoke Signals, said. His grandparents passed the story and other oral histories to him.

Today, the wasi’chu still hunt indigenous women with relative impunity.

A list of Standing Rock’s indigenous murdered and missing women was first penned by Wasté Win Young, LaDonna Tamakawastewin Allard, and Alva Cottonwood-Gabe, and read along the Missouri River during a prayer walk on August 30.

“This prayer walk was ignited by Savanna Greywind’s murder,” Win Young said. “Even though Savanna is not from Standing Rock, it is important to acknowledge and pray for all missing and/or murdered indigenous women. So this list was started to acknowledge women from Standing Rock. The list began to grow as families from places other than Standing Rock asked to have their relatives added to the list.”

After each name was read, a child put tobacco in the water for them, Win Young said. Too many of the victim’s names had no stories to tell in online searches.

As a child, such stories weren’t boogeyman tales meant to frighten her, Standing Rock member Win Young said.

“We always knew growing up in my family, my mom would tell us not to go anywhere, or do anything,” Win Young said. “We always knew growing up they were unsolved, we were always told to be really careful. When we were real tiny my mom and dad would warn me about being kidnapped, all the time.”

Never go to a public restroom alone. Never go to fraternity parties, you’ll get raped. Never go to New Town, never go to Williston. Don’t even think about traveling through the Bakken, especially near a man camp. If police tell you to pull over, never stop in a deserted area, always travel to a well-lit public spot, are some of the rules Win Young and other Native American women live by.

“I was vigilant all the time,” Win Young said.  A graduate of the University of North Dakota, she is now a mother with four children. “That’s my biggest fear, that something will happen to my children. There are cops, even tribal cops, who do that to the women. They rape them, and then leave them out there. It’s always been really bad, but the media just doesn’t cover it.”

Growing up, fear was Win Young’s constant companion.

“These were real individuals that we grew up with knowing that their moms were missing, they were killed, and they knew their killers were out there, maybe looking for us, looking for another Indian girl to kill.”

Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase, founder of the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, a citizen-led organization that helps bring the missing justice, said sexual exploitation on reservations is an issue that has always been a problem, and had never gotten better.

“I don’t think anything has changed except the awareness of it,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “Normally, families of the missing and surviving loved ones are ignored by authorities, so they go into this dark place and they find some resolve somehow in their own way, and they continue on with life.

“They’re kind of pushed onto the back, back burner,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “I think now that there are some fire starters like myself bringing this to the forefront, so that other people are starting to come out of their dark closets. People are talking about it more.”

Native Americans go into this dark, shameful place because of the stigma of drugs and alcoholism on reservations. Yellow Bird-Chase is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and from the Fort Berthold Reservation.

“I think people have been shamed into not acknowledging that this is a problem,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “Now we have the opiate craze going on and we have the non-native people suffering too, but this has always been here. It’s a social status, and it’s becoming so widespread.

“Like they told us decades ago, by the time we reach the new millennium, by the year 2000, everyone will know someone with AIDS or HIV. I said a few years ago that within 10 years everybody will be able to identify with a lost or missing person, this is an epidemic as well.”

A few pictures of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous women

Candace Rough Surface, 18, was beaten, raped, then shot five times in 1980. Her body decomposed in a muddy and shallow bay for nine months before a local rancher found her. The crime remained unsolved for 16 years because of racism and prominence of one of the killers’ families. James E. Stroh II, of Wisconsin, was convicted 16 years later of the crime, as was Nicholas A. Scherr, from Kenel, South Dakota, who pled guilty in 1996, receiving a 100-year prison sentence.

Natalie White Lightning, an employee of Standing Rock’s Prairie Knights Casino and Resort, was sexually assaulted and murdered by Lance Craig Summers on March 18, 2014, and her body was tossed near Fort Yates, in Indian country. Summers pled guilty to second-degree murder and received a 10-year prison sentence. White Lightning’s death received little media attention: a two-paragraph obituary in the Bismarck Tribune, and a short clip on KX News.

In April 2015, Jessie Manley’s murder received slightly more attention than White Lightning’s. A Native American man, Richard White Eagle, from Fort Yates, was charged with sexually assaulting Manley after she passed out on his couch, according to documents filed by the U.S. District Court of North Dakota.

Monica “Mona” Bercier-Wickre disappeared from Aberdeen, South Dakota on April 7, 1993. She was 42 or 43 years old, and wasn’t reported missing for nearly two weeks. Her remains were discovered on June 16, 1993 in the James River. By 2000, police had a suspect, but not enough evidence. The suspect was never publicly identified, and the case remains unsolved.

In a rare double homicide, Dorothy Cadotte Lentz, 56, and her daughter, Pamela Lentz, 21, were killed at University Square Apartments in Grand Forks, in 1987. Pamela was an undergraduate student at North Dakota College of Science in Wahpeton when she visited her mother. Police discovered Dorothy’s body, stabbed repeatedly, throat slit and then strangled, and Pamela, who was three months pregnant, was strangled, and was reportedly dating the suspect, Keith Bishop, according to a research paper by A.J. Williams written in 2008. In 1989, all charges were dropped against Bishop, because the prosecutors’ case was ‘circumstantial.’

Lakota Rose Madison’s life ended at 17 years of age, killed by her cousin in 2001. Described posthumously as a hero, she was an activist who dealt with personal issues such as drugs and gang activities, and dreamed of creating safe houses and cultural exchanges among youth communities. Madison was found dead along the Grand River after disappearing for three days. O’Neal Iron Cloud was charged with second degree murder after beating Madison to death.

Thirty-one-year-old Ivy Archambault was raped, taken out of town, and then bludgeoned to death in October 2001 by a 15-year-old burglar. Gary Long Jr., with a long list of previous convictions, including burglary, assaults, and animal cruelty, was sentenced two years later to 45 years imprisonment. Archambault’s death led to her sister, Jackie Brown Otter, creating a domestic shelter where threatened women could go in McLaughlin, South Dakota.

Perhaps the most well-known case is the story of Anna Mae Aquash, whose 1975 murder is still a controversial topic. At 30 years old, she was shot in the back of the head and found two months later after the snow melted in Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. An activist involved in the Trail of Broken Treaties, she also joined Oglala Lakota at Pine Ridge during the 71-day armed standoff at Wounded Knee. The FBI and the courts say she was killed by American Indian Movement members Leo Looking Cloud and John Graham after being suspected as an informant, but the investigation took nearly 30 years, and nobody was convicted of her murder until 2014.

More than 70 women have disappeared from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside since 1983, and Teressa Ann Williams, a First Nation woman from British Columbia was one of them when she was reported missing in 1999, according to “Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder,” a book written by Lee Mellor. Robert William Pickton, 52 at the time of his arrest in 2002, was a hog farmer in Port Coquitlam, and fed his victims to his pigs. Although Williams’ killer has never been found, most suspect she was one of Pickton’s victims during what has become to be known as the Edmonton Serial Killer case.

Ashley Loring HeavyRunner, 20, was last seen on June 5, 2017, in Browning, Montana. As of August 23, HeavyRunner was still missing. “All I want is my baby sister,” Kimberly Loring, HeavyRunner’s sister said in a Facebook post. “Sister it’s time to come home now, come home please. I will never stop searching for you. We will find you sister.”

Actress Misty Anne Upham, best known for her role in the 2008 film “Frozen River,” disappeared on October 5, 2014 in Auburn, Washington. Local police refused to recognize that she fit the description of a missing person, and her body was found on October 16, 2014 in a gully. Search parties believe her death was an accident, but said that she could have been found much sooner if law enforcement had conducted a thorough search.

In August 2006, Victoria Jane “Vicki” Eagleman, 33, from the Lower Brule community in South Dakota, went missing. A month later her body was discovered, naked and beaten, by volunteer searchers near Medicine Creek. As of April 2007, the FBI and the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe were offering a $15,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrest and indictment of the killer or killers. In 2016, the FBI doubled its reward for information.

Carla Jovon Yellowbird went missing on August 23, 2016, on the Spirit Lake Reservation. The 27-year-old was missing for approximately a month before her body was found in what authorities called a suspicious death. More than a year later, no suspects have been arrested in connection with her death.

Jimmy Smith-Kramer, a 20-year-old father of twins, was killed in a vehicular hit-and-run at the Donkey Creek area north of Hoquiam, Washington, in May 2017 while in his tent, according to media reports. James D. Walker was arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter. The Quinault tribe claim the incident was a hate crime, and Smith-Kramer was a registered member of the Quinault tribe.

Another name was added to the list by Elliotte Little Bear: Glynnis Okla, from Wakpala, South Dakota, who was found in a cornfield, and whose murderer was never found.

Killing with near impunity
International laws are clear; domestic jurisdictions are not.

The United States has ratified many international treaties guaranteeing indigenous women the right to not be tortured or mistreated, the right to liberty and security of person, the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The U.S. government is also obliged to acknowledge that indigenous peoples have the right to self determination, to ensure federal and state officials comply with human rights standards, and to adopt measures to protect individuals against human rights abuses, according to a 2006 UN Human Rights Council declaration at the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Prosecutions for crimes of sexual violence against Indigenous women are rare in federal, state, and tribal courts, resulting in impunity for perpetrators, a Congressional testimony by an Amnesty International U.S.A. researcher said.

“A Native American woman in 2003 accepted a ride home from two white men who raped and beat her, then threw her off of a bridge,” Carol Pollack, the Amnesty International U.S.A. researcher reported. “She sustained serious injuries, but survived. The case went to trial in a state court, but the jurors were unable to agree on whether the suspects were guilty. A juror who was asked why replied: ‘She was just another drunk Indian.’ The case was retried and resulted in a 60-year sentence for the primary perpetrator, who had reportedly previously raped at least four other women, and a 10-year sentence for the second perpetrator.”

Survivors of sexual violence in Indian lands also face prejudice and discrimination at all stages of the federal and state investigation and prosecution, Pollack said.

“While the perpetrator is ultimately responsible for his crime, authorities also bear a legal responsibility to ensure protection of the rights and well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples,” Pollack said. “They are responsible as well if they fail to prevent, investigate, and address the crime appropriately.”

The disregard for hurting Native Americans is nothing new, according to a 2007 oversight field hearing by the Committee on Natural Resources U.S. House of Representatives.

Unresponsiveness is the typical answer Georgia Little Shield, director of the Pretty Bird Woman House Shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, receives when she calls for police assistance for battered women, she said during a Congressional hearing in 2007. Sometimes women prefer to spend the night in jail rather than face an angry oppressor.

“These stories are true, and there are more of them that could be mentioned,” Little Shield said during the hearing. “When a Lakota woman runs 18 miles to town for help and feels safe in a jail that is, that is a city jail, you know there’s something wrong. The city police have no jurisdiction over Native women or men, so their hands are tied.

“When you hear a city police officer say, ‘Georgia, I just could not do anything,’ it’s hard. We have become a lawless nation and now the people are taking the laws into their own hands. When this occurs, we have more rapes, more domestic violence, more inviting violence or gang violence.

“I’d like to leave you with this,” Little Shield said. “Glynnis Okla, Leslie Iron Road, Candy Bullhead, Gloria Reeds, Lakota Madison, Candy Rough Surface, Diane Dog Skin, Leona Big Shield, Ivy Archambault, Debbie Dog Eagle, Camilla Brown, Cheryl Tail Feather. Then there’s Vicki Eagleman and Lanelle Falles from Lower Brulle. These women lost their lives to violence.”

Brenda Hill, the Native Co-Chair of the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said during the same hearing that American Indian women are targeted more than any other group of women in the United States. White women are victimized at 8.1 per 1,000, and Native American women as 23.2 per 1,000.

“At least 70 percent of the violence experienced by Native Americans are committed by persons not of the same race,” Hill said.

While Native Americans represent less than 10 percent of the population in South Dakota, Native women fill more than 50 percent of the women’s shelters in the state.

“This statistic alone is starling,” Hill said. “It is directly tied to poverty and lack of housing.”

Carol Pollack, the Amnesty International researcher, spent two years investigating the problem of sexual violence against Native American and Alaska Native women, and helped launch a worldwide campaign to Stop Violence Against Women in 2004.

“One in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped at some point during their lives and 86 percent of perpetrators of these crimes are non-Native men,” Pollack said.

Native women are not only at especially high risk, but are also frequently denied justice, Pollack said. Her investigation led her to Standing Rock, among other places, which illuminates the challenges in policing a vast, rural reservation where tribal and federal authorities have jurisdiction. Standing Rock Sioux Reservation spans 2.3 million acres and has a population of 9,000 people, of which 45.3 percent live below the poverty threshold. Standing Rock also has its own police force, which is operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and a tribal court, which hears civil and criminal complaints. In 2006, Standing Rock had seven patrol cars.

“Native American and Alaska Native advocates have long known that sexual violence against women from Indian nations is at epidemic proportions and that Indian women face considerable barriers to accessing justice,” Pollack said.

Jurisdictions
When Edith Chavez argued with her former boyfriend while traveling to Mandan in June 2015, he beat her then dumped her in Valley City. What followed was a nightmare of escaping a kidnapper intent on trafficking, only to be jailed by police, according to media reports.

Planning to meet an aunt in Fargo, Chavez hitchhiked nearly 40 miles to a Casselton gas station, where she was hit over the head while texting family on her laptop computer. The next few days were spent in and out of consciousness. Her attacker deactivated her Facebook page and kept her drugged.  She managed to escape somewhere in western North Dakota, and wandered to the tiny town of Wildrose. From there, she traveled another 54 miles to Williston, where police expressed more interest in her criminal record than finding her attacker, according to media outlet Timberjay.

She was jailed on a bench warrant, and later released. Dehydrated and bruised, she limped more than 125 miles north to a Minot hospital where she contacted family at the Vermilion Reservation in Minnesota.

Eleven days on the run, and few people tried to help Chavez. Those sworn to protect and serve only worsened her traumatic experience, admitting they have little information to investigate, Timberjay reported.

Complicated jurisdictional issues delay investigations and prosecutions of sexual crimes, Pollack said. “The federal government has created a complex maze of tribal, state, and federal law that has the effect of denying justice to victims of sexual violence and allowing perpetrators to evade prosecution.”

Three main factors determine where jurisdictional authority lies: whether or not the victim or the accused is a member of a federally recognized tribe, and if the offense took place on tribal land.

If a suspect is Native American, then tribal and federal authorities have concurrent jurisdiction. If a suspect is non-Native, then only the federal government can prosecute.

“Neither North nor South Dakota state police have jurisdiction over sexual violence against Native American women on the Standing Rock reservation,” Pollack said. “State police do however have jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence committed on tribal land in instances where the victim and the perpetrator are both non-Indian.

“Jurisdictional issues not only cause confusion and uncertainty for survivors of sexual violence, but also result in uneven and inconsistent access to justice and accountability,” Pollack said. “This leaves victims without legal protection or redress and allows impunity for the perpetrators, especially non-Indian offenders who commit crimes on tribal land.”

Criminals flee both away from and to tribal lands. Police report criminals at times cross the bridge to the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota, stop the car, get out, and laugh at police from the other side because they are banned from pursuing criminals any further.

The trafficking can follow a pipeline: from gang activity on reservations, to the oil drilling in the Bakken, all the way to Duluth, an international port on Lake Superior, known as a commercial sex hub. From there, low-income Native women are lured to “parties” on ships, only to wake up en route to Thunder Bay in Canada, listening to their kidnappers talking about who they’re going to be sold to.

“There are all kinds of this stuff going on, in the Bakken I’ve heard horrible, gross stories that happened to women and men out there in the man camps,” Win Young said.

Once, when her gas tank was nearing empty, she stopped to fill up at station near Williston. “Men, clearly, just that fast, were checking me out, blatantly, one other guy whistled at me, and when I was walking past the gas pump a guy just waved and said ‘Hi.’” Win Young said. “It’s real. That was something that was brought here by the oil boom. And I know that there are more men than women out there, but that’s what it breeds.”

Although Congressional hearings, protests and petitions have had little effect on society’s disregard for indigenous women issues, Win Young still has hope the future will be brighter.

“It’s just crazy because I see the face of America, and North Dakota changing,” Win Young said. “Today, the largest demographic in many tribal nations is 18 to 25 years of age. I see this real fear that the old-school white people – they’re fearful that they’re losing what they have. It bewilders me that people can be so out of touch and so racist.”

 

Savanna’s 24 Steps

“A Cruel And Vicious Act Of Depravity”

A frantic week of searching for a pregnant 22-year-old Native American woman ends in tragedy, suspects arrested, and a city is hurting

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – It’s a short distance from the Greywind family’s basement apartment to the third floor, 24 steps, to be exact. Apartment number five is boarded up tight.  Neighbors, who were allowed to move back in Sunday, are scared, and don’t want to speak about the suspects sitting in Cass County Jail, now charged with conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, and false information.

An even shorter route leads to the rear door and a parking lot. From the outside appearance, the building is clean, white washed; no palpable evil emanates from apartment number five. The suspects do not resemble monsters. They’re people anyone could pass on any street and at any time.

The apartment complex from which Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind went missing from – photo by C.S. Hagen

Five days after Savanna Marie Lafontaine-Greywind disappeared on August 19, Fargo Police arrested Brooke Lynn Crews, 38, and William Henry Hoehn, 32, of Apartment 5, 2825 Ninth Street North, Fargo, and believe they have the right suspects.

“By no means is this case closed, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Fargo Police Lieutenant Jason Nelson said. “But there is no indication that there are other suspects involved.”

Apartment #5, the room to which Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind went before her disappearance – photo by C.S. Hagen

Before the weekend, both were charged with class A felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and now after Greywind’s body was found, wrapped tightly in plastic and duct tape, snagged by a tree in the middle of the Red River, the suspects face additional charges of conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to give false information.

At the same time, police responded to the report of a body in the river, volunteer searchers also discovered strange evidence of a possible crime that may be related to Greywind’s murder  in an abandoned farmhouse off 90th Avenue Northwest in Clay County.

“A conspiracy requires an agreement with one or others to do things which are otherwise unlawful, and someone take s an overt act in furtherance of that conspiracy,”  Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said.

The backdoor, easily accessible from apartment #5 – photo by C.S. Hagen

Pending the results of an autopsy from Ramsey County’s Medical Examiner’s Office in Minnesota, police would not say if Greywind’s death is being investigated as a fetus abduction, but Greywind was killed, and her baby girl, named Haisley Jo, was found 24 steps away from where her mother once lived.  

“As the chief, I speak on behalf of the men and women of the Fargo Police Department, and I tell you are hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of this young lady,” Fargo Police Chief David Todd said. “As law enforcement, through our investigative efforts we will continue to pursue justice for Savanna. Savanna was the victim of a cruel and vicious act of depravity.”

Greywind’s body was found Sunday afternoon by kayakers in the Red River in Clay County, Minnesota, and she disappeared from Fargo in North Dakota. A crime that crosses state lines frequently becomes a federal case, which may present jurisdictional issues.

Front door of the apartment building from which Savanna Lafontaine-Greywinf disappeared – photo by C.S. Hagen

“It’s premature for me to go into that right now,” Burdick said. “We need to weigh the facts, and we feel we have appropriate charges to move forward right now in Cass County in state court.”

North Dakota banned the death penalty in 1976, but the federal government does employ capital punishment for federal offenses such as kidnapping leading to death.

Although many case facts are still unknown, what is clear is that Greywind, 22, and eight months pregnant, left her apartment on the first floor to model a dress for Crews at approximately 1:30 p.m. on August 19, according to Nelson. An hour went by, and her 16-year-old brother texted her for a ride to work. Greywind’s father, Joe, went upstairs at some point, but no one answered the door, Nelson confirmed.

Greywind’s mother, Norberta, drove her son to work at around 2:40 p.m., then returned, and by approximately 4 o’clock climbed the 24 steps to apartment number five and knocked. Crews answered the door and told Norberta that her daughter was no longer there.

Later that night, family reported Greywind missing. The next day missing persons fliers were posted around town, and by Wednesday the family announced a $7,000 reward for information leading to Greywind’s discovery.  Three consent searches were made by police of the apartment complex, but no information was forthcoming until Thursday, when police obtained a forensic warrant and discovered a healthy newborn infant inside apartment number five with Crews.

Police believe the infant is Greywind’s baby girl, and are waiting on DNA test results.

Fargo Police, West Fargo, Moorhead Police, Cass and Clay County sheriff’s departments, North Dakota’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, are involved with the investigation. Luminescent-shirted volunteers have helped with with searches totaling more than 150 tips, and by Sunday combed more than 35 areas of interest. Since police became involved, a total of 35 detectives, four sergeants, two lieutenants, cadaver dogs, K-9s, watercraft, aircraft, and a deputy chief have been working around the clock on this investigation, Fargo Police Chief David Todd said.

The Fargo Police Department also teamed up with Minnesota K-9 Search Rescue & Tracking handler Paul Matheson with dogs specially trained in locating placentas to search multiple points of interest, including dumpsters, vacant fields, freshly dug-up earth, and construction sites, police reported.  

The activity early Sunday morning brought Norberta and Joe Greywind from the hotel where they were staying. The couple appeared nervous, quickly walking toward where four police vehicles and a fire truck were parked along the Red River. They stopped, waiting for any word, but law enforcement officials were busy.

They spoke of anger toward their former neighbor, frustration with police who they said initially suspected them and Greywind’s boyfriend and father of the baby girl, Ashton Matheny, of being involved in their daughter’s disappearance for two days after she was reported missing.

“The whole family was looking forward to the birth of her baby, my first grandchild,” Norberta said. In the darkness, 3:30 in the morning, her voice choked as she watched police drag a pontoon into the Red River.

Federal agents are still watching them, Joe said.

“We are a tight knit family,” Joe said. The Greywinds and Matheny are members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas Tribe. “It’s just us, and that’s just the way it is.”

Norberta said she was always wary of Crews, and didn’t like the way she looked at her daughter. She mentioned a public Facebook post Crews posted on July 22, 2016, of a Native American woman breastfeeding a baby with two other infants on her lap, which disgusted her.

“And to think of what my daughter might have gone through?” Norberta said.

Later that day, more than 400 people showed up for Fargo’s Native American Commission annual picnic, which after approval from Greywind’s family also became a march honoring Savanna to Veteran’s Memorial Bridge.

All attendees were smudged with burning sage after lunch.

“This is community spiritual support,” Willard Yellowbird, cultural planner for the City of Fargo, said. “We march as one voice, one sound, one spirit, one community, regardless of tribe, race, or creed. Our goal is to bring Savanna home.”

Behind him, four men, including Zebediah Gartner, 20, an Anishinaabe from Fargo, sang a Native American song while beating a drum. Their voices rose and fell, synchronized drumbeats softened while Gartner drumstick rose high, then crashed into the soft leather. Dozens ate barbecue and hamburgers from plastic plates, while luminescent green-shirted search volunteers gathered for the upcoming meeting.

“All this energy is for people who are feeling sad, we have all this positive energy and this need that everybody has to feel this goodness now, at this time, native and non-native,” Yellowbird said.

In a statement Monday, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney offered appreciation to everyone involved in the case, and observed a moment of silence at Monday’s City Commission meeting.

“I would like to acknowledge the profound sadness being felt within our metro area over the loss of Fargo resident Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind,” Mahoney said. “Savanna was taken from this community far too soon and in an utterly reprehensible manner.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Savanna.  

“It is in these moments that we fully appreciate the tight bond uniting our community during times of crisis and distress.  As your Mayor, I’ve been very moved by the outpouring of support shown during the search efforts.  The willingness of our people to volunteer and help others is appreciated and uplifting.  Please remember that instances like this do not define Fargo; Fargo is instead defined by our people’s incredible spirit of resilience and their collective acts of support exhibited in the aftermath of difficult circumstances.”

Greywind’s family and friends watching while police search forest early Sunday morning along Red River banks in Moorhead, Minnesota – photo by C.S. Hagen

Arraignment
Hoehn, pronounced Hayne, entered the television screen dressed from neck to ankles in orange on Monday afternoon. Hands folded in front of him, he remained emotionless when the charges were read against him.

He was charged with class AA felony of conspiracy to murder Greywind with Crews, a crime punishable up to life imprisonment without parole, class A felony conspiracy to kidnap the infant child of Greywind with Crews, punishable up to 20 years in jail and a $20,000 fine, and then a class A misdemeanor conspiracy to mislead the police investigation punishable up to one year in jail and up to a $3,000 fine.

Tanya Martinez of the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office asked Hoehn if he understood the charges.

“Yes, I do,” Hoehn said.

“Because two of the these charges are felonies, we will not take pleas from you today,” the judge said. “Rather this matter will be set for a preliminary hearing on October 4, at 9 in the morning.”

William Henry Hoehn in prison orange – photo by C.S. Hagen

Hoehn is unemployed, and qualified for a public defender, fees for which he may be responsible for paying back if proven guilty. He has a prior criminal record including child abuse in 2012, possession of drug paraphernalia in 2011, and a simple assault domestic violence charge Hoehn pled guilty to in 2016.

“Mister Hoehn was uncooperative and in fact misled the investigation,” Martinez said. “In addition the state has information that there were Internet searches that would lead a reasonable person to believe they were looking at staying somewhere else. They were searching places like Travelocity… the state is asking for $2 million cash bail only.”

“Two million dollar cash only is set at such a high level to be unattainable,” Hoehn said, straightening up for the first time. “Um, I would request that we do something along the lines that we be able to use a bail allotment, if that is a possibility. I don’t know if that is a possibility to me, but I know that two million is unattainable for any regular person. That is not a reasonable bail.”

The judge agreed with the state’s attorney, setting bail at $2 million cash only.

Crews looked at home in her orange pajama suit, keeping her head bowed most of the time while Martinez read the same charges. If the case is not tried in a federal court, Crews faces more than life imprisonment, and also received a $2 million bail.

Brooke Lynn Crews at arraignment – photo by C.S. Hagen

Because Crews also has a criminal history, bad checks in the early 2000s, and an assault in Minnesota that was later dismissed, the state asked for the same bail. “There were efforts to look for and places to take flight,” Martinez said. “We are recommending for two million dollars, cash only.”

Crews understood and did not attempt a discussion. Crews also qualified for a public defender, and her preliminary hearing was set for September 28, at 1:30 p.m.

Red lights
Family and friends are asking the City of Fargo to illuminate their front porches with red lights this week.

As a member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation, Ruth Buffalo attended the arraignment hearing, and asked for people to honor Greywind and remember missing and murdered indigenous women every year.

She wants the case to be tried in a federal court, as all registered Native Americans belong to a sovereign nation.

“One of three Native American women go missing every year,” Buffalo said, pointing to friends standing nearby. “And those statistics are not accurate because a part of the cases go unreported. If and when we go missing, it should go straight to federal, not the state.”

“I’m here as an indigenous person and mother supporting another indigenous person,” Amanda Vivier, also of the Turtle Mountain Tribe, said.

Family who attended the arraignment declined to speak.

Andrew Varvel, from Bismarck, said the Greywind’s case feels surreal, and not only because of the mystery behind Greywind’s death.  

“Here, we have the State Historical Society hosting a stilted ‘cultural event’ to ‘foster healing’ while Indians throughout the Upper Midwest are converging on Fargo in a desperate search for Savanna,” Varbel said on Sunday, before Greywind’s body was found. “One side seeks cultural understanding, while the other side is frantically searching for a woman who is probably dead by now.”

Varvel also hopes the case goes to a federal court. “Regardless of what you think of the death penalty, if federal prosecutors don’t seek the death penalty in this case, the racial bias in this region becomes glaringly obvious.”

Search volunteers Stephanie Walters, Brian Weidener, and Tonya Simonson, also stood outside the courthouse after the arraignment, expressing disdain that the two suspects were given bail at all.

“If it was my choice, they would not be getting a bond,” Walters said. She helped search Highland Park, County Road 22, and County Road 31, Memorial Cemetery and other places over the weekend.

Walter was still searching when she heard the news Greywind’s body had been found.

“I could just feel my heart break,” Walter said. “I was scared, shocked, relieved. I was like, oh my gosh, we were so close to her.”

Friends and family are asking Fargoans to display red light bulbs in front porches or landings, Buffalo said. If not red light bulbs, then a red dress by the front door is also acceptable.

“Red light bulbs to show honor to Savanna and all missing indigenous women,” Buffalo said.

GoodBulb, at 4211 12th Avenue North, Fargo, is selling red light bulbs all week, and will be contributing all proceeds to the family. Tom Enright will be representing his company Monday night starting at 8:30 at Mickelson Field to sell the bulbs during a candlelight vigil for Savanna.

“We hope to sell 1,000 of them this week,” Enright said.

Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick at press conference – photo by C.S. Hagen

Fetal abductions
Whispers around the city have filtered across the state, even to national media outlets that Greywind was the victim of a fetal abduction.

From 1974 until 2011 there have been at least 22 fetal abductions, attempted fetal abductions, or alleged fetal abductions in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

According to a 2012 masters of criminology case study by Kerry Arquette for Regis University,  research into the issue is difficult, as fetal abductions are not systematically reported at local, state, or at the federal levels.

The first recorded case of fetal abduction took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1974 when Winifred Ransom killed a pregnant mother of three using a handgun and a butcher knife to perform a Caesarian section on the victim. When the pregnant woman, Margaret Sweeney, who was eight months pregnant at the time, regained consciousness during the operation, Ransom fired two shots into her head, and then buried the dead woman beneath the floorboards of her kitchen shed, according to the Delaware County Daily Times. The baby girl survived, and was being raised by relatives.

Ransom was acquitted on grounds of insanity, committed to a mental hospital, and then released after 20 months.

A second case in Albuquerque, New Mexico followed in 1987, when Cindy Lyn Ray was kidnapped outside a prenatal clinic at Kirkland Air Force Base. Darci Pierce, who was 19 at the time, strangled Ray and used her car keys to open the pregnant woman’s womb, snatching the unharmed fetus, according to police reports. The baby survived.

Pierce was found guilty-but-mentally-ill of first degree murder and was sentenced to a life in prison.

A sharp increase in fetal abductions were reported in 1995 until 2011 with 19 fetal abductions or attempted fetal abductions.

Psychologists state that baby stealers are extreme examples of “maternal instinct run amok,” who have deep psychological desires, a fragile sense of self esteem, a disturbed family background, and dependency on others, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ashton Matheny and Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind picture posted on August 25, 2017 – Facebook

Haisley Jo
Greywind’s baby, who was found healthy and taken to a Sanford Hospital on August 24, is named Haisley Jo, and her name is the only US Bank official account people can donate to help the Greywind family. The family is not using or accepting any GoFundMe account donations.

Haisley Jo is currently under the protection of the Cass County Social Services. Calls were made for comment on the child’s condition, and when the infant may be given back to family, but no responses were received.

The official account’s name at the US Bank for donations is under Haisley Jo, and was coordinated with the Sacred Journey Lodge, a nonprofit organization, according to Breyanne Lafontaine-Enno.

“Thank you everyone who helped bring my sweet cousin Savanna home,” Lafontaine-Enno said. “Please respect that we are grieving… Our family appreciates all the love and support we continue to receive.”

Krissy Weber, listed from Fargo, is one of the people who set up a fake GoFundMe account, and was called out by netizens.

“This is not an account from the family,” a woman named Heather Fischer wrote in the comments section. “This is fake do not donate to this account. The family will have an account set up at US Bank in Savanna’s daughter’s name. You should be ashamed of yourself. This family has been through so much and now as do [to] deal with people like you.”

Others reported Weber’s GoFundMe as being a fake account. No donations have been made as of early Monday morning.

Another fake GoFundMe account was set up by Anna Miller Christenson, from Walcott, and raised $50 of a total goal of $2,000, and by Monday was no longer accepting donations.

Christenson later responded by saying she had good intentions, and was disheartened by the accusation.

Downstairs of the apartment, laundry room, also has back door access – photo by C.S. Hagen

 

Savanna’s Body Found Near Harwood

Eight days after a 22-year-old pregnant woman disappeared from a Fargo apartment, her body was found near Harwood

By C.S. Hagen
HARWOOD
– The body of Savanna Marie Lafontaine-Greywind was found near the Red River early Sunday evening by law enforcement. 

At 8:20 p.m. her body was found, and at 9:20 p.m. the body was identified, according to Fargo Police Chief David Todd. Greywind’s body will be brought to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner. Her family has been notified, Todd said.

Rural 90th Avenue Northwest was blocked off in Cass County and Clay County, making travel impossible along the road while police conducted their investigation. 

Greywind went missing eight days ago on August 19, and she was eight months pregnant when she went upstairs to model a dress for neighbor, Brooke Lynn Crews, in Apartment 5, 2825 Ninth Street North, Fargo. 

Three consent searches were made by police of the apartment complex in which Greywind’s family lived, but no information was forthcoming until Thursday, when police obtained a forensic warrant and discovered a healthy newborn infant inside apartment number five with Crews. 

Police believe the infant is Greywind’s baby girl, and are waiting on DNA test results.

Five days after Greywind disappeared, Fargo Police arrested Crews, 38, and William Henry Hoehn, 32, and say they believe they have the right suspects. Both were charged with Class A felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping by police. 

The Fargo Police Department reported receiving more than 150 tips during the week of investigation, and combed more than 35 areas of interest. Since police became involved, a total of 35 detectives, four sergeants, two lieutenants, cadaver dogs, K-9s, watercraft, aircraft, and a deputy chief have been working around the clock on this investigation, Todd said.

Police combed a cornfield and other areas in Dilworth, Moorhead, along the Red River banks, and other areas connected to suspects’ GPS information, while green-shirted volunteers led by Belcourt Rural Fire Department fanned out across multiple points of interest near Trollwood Park over the weekend. 

More than 400 people showed up for Fargo’s Native American Commission annual picnic, which after approval from Greywind’s family also became a march to Veteran’s Memorial Bridge on Saturday afternoon. 

No further information is available at this time. This is a breaking news story and updates will be posted when received.

Search for Savanna Continues

Two arrested, newborn infant found in Fargo apartment, volunteers flock to Trollwood Park to help search for missing Fargo woman

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Two Fargo residents were arrested Thursday afternoon in relation to the disappearance of Savanna Marie Greywind, but no charges have been filed by the Cass County State’s Attorney yet.

One of the suspects was found with a newborn infant in the apartment upstairs to where Greywind and family lived. Greywind, 22, was nearly eight months pregnant at the time of her disappearance last weekend, and police believe the baby is Greywind’s.

“The infant was alive and was immediately taken to a medical facility,” Todd said. “Detective interviews with the suspects indicate the baby girl is Savanna’s baby. We are doing DNA testing to confirm the identity of the baby, however, testing results can take several days.”

Police arrested 38 year-old Brooke Lynn Crews, who lived at Apartment 5, 2825 9th Street North, and arrested 32 year-old William Henry Hoehn at a traffic stop. They both lived at the North Fargo apartment, and they were charged by police with Class A felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

Brooke Lynn Crews and William Henry Hoehn – photo provided by the Fargo Police Department

Hoehn pled guilty of child neglect or abuse in Grand Forks County in 2012, according to North Dakota Supreme Courts Register of Actions. He was put on probation and ordered to attend psychological and domestic violence evaluations and parenting classes.

“We think we have the right people,” Fargo Police Chief David Todd said. “We’ve dedicated a lot of attention to this case, but until Wednesday, we had not established a criminal nexus to this case that would allow us to obtain warrants for residents and electronic devices.”

Since Greywind was reported missing last weekend, Fargo police, state and federal law enforcement agencies, have conducted constant surveillance, Todd said, investigating theories that Greywind was being held against her will, or that her unborn child had been removed or induced and was possibly alive.

In total, 35 detectives, four sergeants, two lieutenants, cadaver dogs, K-9s, watercraft, aircraft, and a deputy chief have been working around the clock on this investigation, Todd said.  

“Therefore, we were careful with what we were saying or releasing in fear that a suspect or suspects may panic and dispose of them in order to get rid of incriminating evidence,” Todd said.

Search volunteers line up to write down names – photo by C.S. Hagen

Before making the arrests, police performed three consent searches on the suspects’ apartment. The first search was allowed by Crews, and police did not find Savanna. Police went back later and did a second consent search, and still did not discover anything. A third search was conducted by a detective, which also came up empty.

“There is the possibility that the infant was not in the apartment, and may have been moved to a different location,” Todd said.

After a fourth complete forensics search was conducted on Thursday after warrants were obtained, police discovered the baby girl.

Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said his office has not officially filed charges against Hoehn and Crews yet.

Tarita Silk, Savanna Greywind’s aunt, talks to volunteers – photo by C.S. Hagen

“There are two people who are in jail right now, and we have been, in my office, in close communication with the police department on this matter,” Burdick said. “We are reviewing all the information that is available right now and determining what is appropriate as charges. At this point we have not filed any charges.”

Suspects may be held up to 48 hours without official charges being filed, Burdick said, which in this case will expire during the weekend.

“What we do in those situations is we obtain through the jail information from the arresting agency why they’re arrested and brought to jail,” Burdick said. “And that information is provided to the judge over the weekend, and then the judge will make a probable cause determination.

“The idea is to make sure within 48 hours a neutral magistrate has had an opportunity to determine whether it is appropriate for that person to be detained.”

Six days after Greywind disappeared, she remains missing, and the suspects are refusing to speak.  

“In the interviews when it comes to the topic of what happened to Savanna, neither Hoehn or Crews will cooperate with our investigation,” Todd said. “Both Hoehn and Crews have invoked their right to counsel and refuse to answer any more questions.”

“We don’t know what the condition of her well being is, I wish we did,” Todd said. “We’re exploring every option, chasing down every lead.”

One lead led to the old Trollwood Park Friday afternoon, where more than 85 people gathered to begin searching areas south of the park. Belcourt Rural Fire Department Chief Larry Mason and chaplain MJ Krogh supervised the search, sectioning off areas surrounded the nearby golf course and trailer park.

“We will continue until we have something,” Krogh said.

Some volunteers organized snacks and water bottles while others listed names and phone numbers on sheets of paper.

Belcourt Fire Chief Larry Mason begins designating search quadrants – photo by C.S. Hagen

Just before setting off, Mason warned everyone to be careful of poison ivy, and gave out additional instructions including not to touch anything suspect, but to take a picture, and report. He handed out maps, sectioning out search quadrants.

“This is the main area right here that they want us to search,” Mason said.

Tarita Silk, Greywind’s aunt, drove up from Rapid City, South Dakota yesterday. She swayed a baby back and forth while giving encouragement to the volunteers.

“I want to thank everyone who is helping, it really means alot to us,” Silk said. “Let’s find Savanna and bring her home.”

“Our number one goal here and all of our dedicated resources are going to find Savanna and bring her home hopefully safely,” Todd said.

 

Police are asking for the public’s help throughout the city to check garages, backyards, vacant apartments, and dumpsters, Todd said.

Authorities are also looking for a brownish 1996 Grand Jeep Cherokee with a Minnesota license plate number 876 EPR. Any information can be called into the police tip line at (701) 235-7335.

Brownish 1996 Grand Jeep Cherokee with a Minnesota license plate number 876 EPR

 

Former Drayton Foods Employee Claims She was Fired Unfairly, Sexually Harassed After Injuries

New American vows to take case to court, saying company abuses its immigrant workers

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– A former Drayton Foods, LLC employee filed a complaint against the frozen pizza and bread dough company claiming she was fired unjustly and sexually harassed after repeated injuries.

Halima Kwcrwb holds up her Drayton work tag – photo by C.S. Hagen

Halima Kwcrwb, 49, of Fargo, who worked for Drayton Foods, LLC for five years, claimed she was hurt twice while on the job, and filed twice for workers’ compensation with North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance, but was denied for wage loss benefits.

Similar petitions for assistance to Job Service North Dakota were also denied, because doctors said she was fit for general work, employment paperwork Kwcrwb provided stated.

Drayton Foods, LLC personnel records given by Kwcrwb indicate she quit, citing “self resignation due to job abandonment,” after a Last Chance Agreement was signed, and she had two consecutive no shows on December 15 and December 16, 2016.

“She was told by the doctor she was able to work,” company personnel paperwork stated. “Did not show up.”

“I was fired,” Kwcrwb said. Her first injury, which occurred after boxes of breadsticks fell on her left arm in August 2016, never truly healed, she said, and disagreements between company-appointed doctors and a doctor she saw on her own dime differ. She worked as a line operator and was paid $10.30 an hour.

“I loved my job, but my first injury happened in August, and I work with broken arm,” Kwcrwb said. “Even doctor gave me restriction to go to work, which I did. My world turned upside down when I was injured, not once, but twice at this company.”

The pain after her first injury became intolerable, but she said she continued to work as best she could with her arm in a sling. Hospital reports she provided report her arm was sprained. Some days the pain, which shot into her back and neck, was too much for her to go to work.

According to company paperwork provided by Kwcrwb, she was warned and then signed a Last Chance Agreement on October 25, 2016. Kwcrwb, who is originally from Sudan, speaks limited English, and has difficulty reading and writing. She said she did not understand what she signed, and that company personnel tricked her.

“You don’t sign it we’re sending you home,” Kwcrwb said.

Hospital records provided by Kwcrwb from September 8, 2016 reveal she was still in pain, but could return to general work and be “active as tolerated.”

Three months later on December 13, 2016, around 9:45 p.m., Kwcrwb fell while climbing a step at work, injuring her back and pelvic region. She said she lay flat, bleeding from a cut she received on her hip on the company floor for three hours before being taken to the emergency room.

Hospital records provided by Kwcrwb show that Kwcrwb was later prescribed Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen, a highly addictive pain reliever, Ondansetron, a nausea preventative medicine, Prednisone, an anti-inflammation drug, and Topiramate, which helps prevent seizures, among other medicines and heat wraps.

Paperwork follow up examinations on December 15 and December 20, 2016, indicate Kwcrwb was to be put on restricted duty, limiting her movement and workload to lifting 10 pounds or less, due to a contusion to her lower back and pelvis.

Kwcrwb continued therapy until just before the New Years, according to hospital records provided by Kwcrwb.

Additional mistreatment included managerial staff allegedly asking her to trade sexual favors for lighter workload while recuperating, Kwcrwb claimed. Both times she was injured managerial staff told her to come back to work, and she was fired after her second injury on January 6, which she also claimed was a direct result of the first mishap.

“The manager asked if I would have boom-boom with him, or sex, and he would give me an easy job,” Kwcrwb said. “And I said, ‘I will never have sex with you.’”

“This accident was a direct result of not being able to properly perform my job due to my previous injury,” Kwcrwb said. “This company knows how to manipulate everything to find you at fault. When my doctor recommended further restrictions, my fear of losing my job was realized. Drayton wanted me to come back to work the day after being released from an overnight stay at the hospital following my second injury. When I refused, they told me I was fired.”

“There is a claim and it is open and active,” Clare Carlson, deputy director of WSI, or the North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance, said.

North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance is an employer financed insurance state fund covering workplace injuries and deaths, and is the sole provider and administrator of workers’ compensation including wage loss and medical benefits for injuries in the state.

Drayton Foods, LLC is listed as a foreign limited liability company in good standing registered in Delaware in December 1995, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State. The company has approximately 220 employees, according to business directory Buzzfile. 

Schwan’s Co. acquired Drayton Foods, LLC in July in order to increase its US pizza market capabilities, according to media outlet Food Business News. Drayton Foods, LLC has estimated annual revenue of $ 10 million, and primarily makes pizza crusts, dough balls, breadsticks, and dinner rolls, according to media outlet The Business Journals.

Kwcrwb is the mother of eight children, five of whom are either in college or have joined the Army. Today, she is a citizen of the United States – a New American – after escaping a war zone in her homeland nearly two decades ago. She said she never had issues at the company before, and rarely took a day off, working seven days a week while at Drayton Foods, LLC.

After a company manager suggested trading sex for a lighter workload, friends interceded with the manager on her behalf, and she was offered a raise, which she didn’t take, Kwcrwb said. Drayton Foods, LLC hired Kwcrwb on September 26, 2011, according to employment paperwork provided by Kwcrwb.

Kwcrwb made several reports to the company’s human resources department, but nothing was done, she said.

“In this company 90 percent of the employees are New Americans, most of whom cannot speak or write English well, which makes it difficult for them to understand the regulations. Drayton Foods takes advantage of this and abuses their employees.”

A coworker who spoke on the condition of anonymity said he approached the manager after Kwcrwb told him what happened. “She told me that the manager came to her and say, ‘Hey if you need an easy job at least you can sleep with me,’” the coworker said.

“I said ‘Okay, calm down,’ and I went to talk to the manager, but didn’t talk to the president.”  The manager denied the accusation, the coworker said. “He said he never did that to her. Sometimes they joke around with women, and if you are one of the employees and you do that you can be terminated immediately.”

The coworker also believes Kwcrwb was fired unfairly, adding that now she is having a difficult time paying bills.

“And that’s how they’ve been doing, as long as you’re injured they don’t consider you employed to them, you are nothing to them,” the coworker, who is from Moorhead, said.

In addition to her claims of being unjustly fired and sexually harassed, she said a company manager tried to intimidate her into working her normal job along as a line operator.

“He told me since I was hurt I would not last three days at the company,” Kwcrwb said. “He told me that no one would do anything about it because this is North Dakota law. He told me Job Service, WSI, and North Dakota labor enforcement would never do anything about it.”

Now, Kwcrwb said she is in danger of losing her home.

“I’m sharing my story now, because I know there are many others who have gone through what I’ve gone through,” Kwcrwb said. “I know my rights have been violated. I will take this case to court for everything Drayton has put me through.”

Halima Kwcrwb shuffles through a mound of paperwork regarding her employment and injuries – photo by C.S. Hagen

According to laws stipulated in the North Dakota Century Code, all employers, with limited exceptions, must cover workers – full-time, part-time, seasonal, or occasional – against injuries with WSI. Failure to comply could result in penalties and workers can sue an uninsured employer for damages caused. General liability, health, and accident insurance are not substitutes for workers’ compensation insurance, and employers must file applications with the WSI.

When an employer hires in the Peace Garden State, however, a bargain is legally struck with the employee, stipulating that an employee cannot sue an employer for injuries incurred on the job if the company has filed with WSI, a Fargo attorney said.

If, however, an employee is fired because the employer discovered he or she was seeking workers’ compensation benefits, such actions would be illegal and could be considered improper retaliation, the attorney said.

Additionally, if someone is hurt at work, an employer cannot simply fire the employee, rather the employer must interact with the employee in good faith, allowing the employee to maintain employment.

Multiple attempts to contact Drayton Foods, LLC management were made, but no one returned telephone calls for a response to the allegations.

“One Person Can Change The World”

An in depth look into why valve turners, called eco terrorists by some, feel forced to commit crimes to halt global warming

By C.S. Hagen
CAVALIER
– He kept the plans secret for months. Not even family knew he planned to shut down North Dakota’s Keystone Pipeline in October 2016. Chilled, early morning air stabbed his lungs as he stepped from the rental car and into a beet field, bolt cutters in one hand, yellow chrysanthemums in the other.

The pipeline’s emergency shut-off valve, a secluded area wrapped by a wire-link fence, was only a stone’s throw away from where he parked along a dirt road. He’d already scouted the area, had done his homework, but Michael Foster’s pulse quickened.

Finally, I get to do something real, shut down the Keystone 1 Pipeline. How quickly can law enforcement arrive? Can I get through the locks in time? Will the valve be difficult to turn?

Michael Foster faces up to 23 years inprisonment for stopping the Keystone Pipeline in North Dakota – photo by C.S. Hagen

He had traveled grudgingly by plane nearly 1,500 miles from Seattle, Washington, to become what is known as a valve turner. Foster had a vivid daydream that sheriff’s deputies would be waiting for him. Militarized police videos he’d seen from the standoff at Standing Rock were chilling enough. Surely his little group of environmental activists – white, middle class, middle-aged, and suburban – had committed mistakes, triggering algorithms.

Only the night before on October 10, 2016, in a hotel pub, eating a plate of fries and ketchup, Foster couldn’t speak with comrades of his intentions for fear of being overheard, but now a live streamer and a filmmaker followed his every move, revealing to the world as he committed felonies. Internet signal was intermittent, keeping Sam Jessup’s live stream from broadcasting Foster’s initial moments.

I challenge this oil going through this pipeline. It’s illegal, and I have to stop it. Follow protocol.

The pipeline companies were notified – twice – before Foster stepped up to the first barrier. Cameras were in place.

“We called the pipeline companies about 10 to 15 minutes before, to give them the opportunity to shut down remotely or do whatever they wanted to do,” Foster said. “The point wasn’t to do anything risky, the point was to do it procedurally, and respectfully, and stop the flow. Kind of the opposite of terrorism.”

The first lock snapped easily as a bicycle’s chain, he said. So did the second, which secured the valve, a four-foot wide iron wheel.

“From then on I was in this euphoric moment, and was like ‘damn, I’m in the right moment at this right place in history,’” Foster said. “And there was fear, just because any time you are dealing with heavy machinery you have to be humble.” 

The valve slid easily, righty tighty lefty loosey. Foster spun – fast – wanting to complete his mission before law enforcement arrived.

“At first it was easy,” Foster said. “And then it wasn’t. It started to get really tough by the time I was thinking I was done. I had been at it for a while. I thought they had turned it down remotely.”

He gave the valve one more turn, then another for good measure. Then another, and then another. The wheel kept turning.

“He is the only one of us who actually turned off manually the pipeline,” Leonard Higgins, another valve turner who shut down a Montana pipeline the same day, said. Higgins’ target was automated, and he had more difficulty cutting the locks than he did with the valve. “Michael turned this huge wheel like a hundred times.” 

Eventually, the valve could move no more. Foster locked it down with his own chain, placed the flowers as a symbolic statement for the world to move to alternate energy. Job finished, he had time to think before law enforcement arrived. He was going to jail.

In a way, his trip to North Dakota had brought his environmental activism life full circle: he grew up where the pipelines end in the Gulf of Mexico, and now he was waiting for arrest where the crude oil from Canada entered the United States. His awareness to environmental issues and global warming has taken their tolls, and then some. His insistence on reducing the family’s carbon footprint recently cost him his marriage. He rarely is able to see his two daughters.

As a child, he barely knew his parents. His mother left, and his father was gunned down outside a Houston bar; mostly his grandparents, “mom and pop,” raised him. Foster, 52, spent 20 years as a mental health therapist before he volunteered to become a valve turner.

His thoughts turned to his children, and how much he loves them, despite the fact that becoming a valve turner rewrote his family history. Although he was educating youth across Puget Sound, his own children were no longer by his side.

“I was about to break the law to stop fossil fuels, something I told them not to do because it alienates people.” Foster remembered thinking. “Plus, I would never want them to go get arrested, but we’re out of time now. I needed to do something to stop the flow and burning of oil right away, or they’re toast.”

Currently, Foster is involved with Climate Direct Action and Al Gore’s initiative, Climate Reality project. In the last five years, Foster has spoken to more than 13,000 people from behind pulpits to rallies about global warming issues. He is also a kayaktivist with the Mosquito Fleet Rapid Response Team, trying to delay oil rigs, ships, and pipelines, what he refers to as “monster death stars” for as long as possible. 

The morning on October 11, 2016 was cloudy, cold. Shivers followed the euphoria of shutting down the pipeline.

“That wind was blowing. It was cold, I was glad when he showed up.” 

Still amazed that the plan worked, Foster greeted the sheriff’s deputy when he arrived. The deputy nonchalantly rolled down the window, and asked what was going on.

I guess we looked like what he expected to find,” Foster said. “We were white, and we were not doing anything when they arrived. We weren’t defending, we were just standing there, bolt cutters in hand, waiting. Kinda like in my dream, we came here to shut off the pipeline.”

Foster told him, showed him everything, retraced his steps, handing over the bolt cutters.

“We agreed ahead of time that we were going to share exactly what we had done and why,” Higgins said.

Handcuffs followed, and he was later charged and arraigned with crimes that could lead to 81 years imprisonment. Jessup, and documentary filmmaker Deia Scholsberg were arrested in Walhalla, North Dakota for shutting down Transcanada’s Keystone pipeline.  Schlosberg was to spend 48 hours in solitary confinement because no other women were in lockup, Foster said.

“The state was pretty heavy handed,” Foster said. “There were FBI agents there to just chat with me while I was sitting there in jail. But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do this,” Foster recently returned to North Dakota for court proceedings.

“If I can think of something that can be done, and I don’t do it, I couldn’t live with myself. Whatever inconvenience I might face is nothing compared to the suffering or the vibrancy of the living world to come. There’s a world calling being made, there are voices, and creatures, and animals and plants, and people, I know they’re coming, just as sure as we have ancestors we have never met, just as we will have descendants we will never meet. I cannot be an observer.”

Foster later learned that the collective act of climate disobedience halted 15 percent of US oil consumption for the day. On October 13, 2016, oil stock prices dipped. The White House brought up oil pipeline infrastructure issues the next day. Keystone employees called him and his comrades terrorists. The five activists were involved in the “most expansive, coordinated, takeover of fossil fuel infrastructure ever attempted in the USA,” according to Reuters.

“There’s years and years of living with this despair and being aware of these issues,” Foster said. “Whatever it is, there’s that sense of we have to do something.” 

“And so we stopped all the tar sands from Canada to the US. I still look at my hands sometimes and say, ‘wow, I turned off the Keystone Pipeline.’”

Michael Foster hanging yellow chrysnathemums along his own chain securing the Keystone Pipeline valve – photo provided by Michael Foster

Big oil and the state’s response
While sitting in the lunchroom at Balkowitsch Enterprises, Inc., a medical product line distributor in Bismarck, Foster and Higgins recalled some of their greatest fears of shutting down the Keystone Pipeline.

With thousands of hot crude pouring through the pipeline every minute, what if something went wrong? What if they couldn’t finish their missions before police arrived?

“When Transcanda called the Sheriff, they called it a terrorist attack,” Foster said. “But they did not shut off the valve remotely. If that was your pipeline carrying 590,000 barrels of bitumen at 150 degrees F across the continent and you thought there was a terroristic attack on your pipeline, you should shut it down.”

“We were thinking that maybe they wouldn’t believe it, and that’s why we had people to live stream,” Higgins said. 

Nothing did go wrong, however, except that nearly 2.3 million barrels of bitumen were stopped, for a time.

All five pipes, two in Minnesota, one in Montana, one in North Dakota, and one in Washington, were shut down simultaneously. In Pembina County’s seat, Cavalier, Foster originally faced seven charges, which have been dropped to five, with a potential 23 years in prison, he said. Cavalier had its 15 minutes of fame when a YouTube video was posted of an “alien abduction” on the city’s webcam. 

“I feel like I have already gotten 50 percent off,” Foster said. “We planned for the necessity of defense, and the whole plan included staying out there until law enforcement arrived.” 

A necessity defense is used to shield people who must break the law in order to prevent greater harm.

The five valve turners include Foster, Ken Ward, 59, of Corbette, Oregon, who was recently found technically guilty, but received no additional jail time in Skagit County Superior Court in Washington State. Foster’s day is coming on October 2, in Cavalier, North Dakota.  

Other valve turners, Emily Johnston, 50, of Seattle, Washington, Annette Klapstein, 64, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and Higgins, 64, of Eugene, Oregon, are still waiting their court dates. 

If the State’s Attorney throws the book at Foster, he’s ready, he said.

“Let them, I don’t get to choose that,” Foster said. “I got to choose whether to cut the chains whether to turn off the flow of this poison. The court has to decide what justice looks like for me. But I am going to have the ability to tell them why I did what I did.” 

Foster is no spy, he’s not a hero, he is just a middle-aged man trying to warn people about the future. After spending two days in jail, he’s grateful he has the chance to tell his story.

“I get to walk around telling this story, like I am some James Bond or Indiana Jones. I didn’t do squat, comparatively speaking, and the people who are paying the price is not me. I get all the benefits even when I mess up and draw down the wrath of the oil companies and the oil state, and they all want a piece of me, I still got all the benefits.”

He believes his chances of a not guilty verdict on October 2 aren’t good. Michael Hoffman, a Bismarck trial lawyer, is defending Foster. The nonprofit Climate Defense Project, three Harvard trained attorneys, the Civil Liberties Defense Center, and the Climate Disobedience Center, are providing support.

“I’m going to try to prove to a jury of my farmer piers that what I did was not a crime because I was protecting their crops, was protecting their fields, and I was protecting their kids,” Foster said during a speech earlier this year. “I probably won’t win, but I’m going to do a heck of a job trying to convince them to opening up that conversation, opening up that door.”

Some call him an eco terrorist, but the title doesn’t faze him or Higgins.

“Really, for me my case is about proving the crime that took place that day, October 11, was when the oil company came and cut the lock off the valve that I put there and turned that oil back on,” Foster said. “That was a crime against humanity and nature.”

“The real terrorists are the people that are perpetrating this violence to the earth,” Higgins said. 

The five valve turners – Climate Direct Action photo

August 16, 2017
The life of activism is full of dizzyingly short victories, and long dry spells of defeats. When defeat hits home, Foster sleeps. 

“Really, I sleep,” Foster said. “So what do I do about that? I just carry it with me, it fills my head. It distracts me. It keeps me awake. I try and write something, sometimes I manage something, sometimes I don’t. Call somebody, just in conversation find some friends and allies, and see if I can help them see things my way, that’s all I can do.” 

Tension revolving around climate change issues is only worsening now with President Donald Trump in office. 

“More people are joining the fight,” Higgins said. “That’s the opposite side of the same coin.” 

“We’re working on a lot of false solutions,” Foster said. “And I’m having a tough time speaking out against it. A lot of people in the environmental movement put in a lot of time and hours into something that will be just a dead end. It’s a dead end. 

“But I’m pretty far out there as far as policies and solutions, because I really am focused on getting the planet back to a stable climate.”

Shutting down the Canadian Keystone pipelines was the brainchild of Climate Direct Action, a nonprofit activist group founded by Foster, Higgins, and other likeminded people. 

The decision stemmed from a question asked in the spring of 2016 of people involved with Climate Direct Action — would you be interested in having a conversation that would put you in danger of arrest?

“Everyone who got involved in this conversation was already 100 percent in, and once we got into the conversation there were different levels – how much do you want to be involved? There were wonderful, long conversations where people could share their feelings and fears. Everyone was free to decide on how much they felt good about.”

“There was a larger discussion that was theoretical and then that discussion finished and the core group went forward,” Higgins said. “When the core group went forward, the others were involved in some way.” 

For months, Foster feared that their little group of middle-aged men and women had somehow alerted authorities, and that their mission was doomed.

“There were some messages that were sent, some calls that were made that made us go, ‘Oops.’ I had a pretty strong feeling that the sheriffs were going to be waiting for us, here in North Dakota and everywhere. Somebody, somewhere, we tripped some algorithm and they’ll be waiting for us to show up.” 

Foster has only one regret about shutting down the Keystone Pipeline.

“We wrestled with the idea that shutting off the pipeline is good because it stops X barrels of bitumen, then shutting off the pipeline X times would be that many more times better,” Foster said.

“I only wish I could have stopped more oil. This system is wrong, it’s a crime, it has to stop, and I’m here to stop it.

At times, Foster’s eyes water, his voice cracks not with sadness, but with conviction. Despite the upcoming trial he jokes. “I just wish I could have locked it with some kind of radioactive, kryptonite lock.

“When they removed my padlock to reopen the flow of tar sands oil to heat the planet, they committed a crime against humanity and nature as deadly as any gas chamber,” Foster said. “Every gallon of gasoline burned to drive our kids to school traps 40 million times more heat energy over the centuries. It’s a crime with a distinct fingerprint.

“Reopening that valve legally pulled the trigger on our kids 30 years from now.”

In states where the temperatures easily dip well below zero during the winter months, changing to alternative energy is not a simple matter, Foster said. “But if we can’t live the solution, we really have no right to talk,” he said.

“That’s a question I want all of us to wrestle with every single day,” Foster said. “If burning fossil fuels is a crime against humanity, why are we still doing this? Why should I be contributing to the demise of those I love in 2017? We need to resist this system.”

Downsizing, installing rocket stoves that burn wood, solar panels, and wind power are all viable options, he said. The earth needs one trillion trees, that’s 150 new trees planted by every person on earth.

While the planet begins to cook, some people say it’s over, we blew it, now let’s party, Foster said. Others turn a blind eye, kicking the problem for future generations.

“What does it mean to be alive on a planet that is dead man walking?” Foster said. “I don’t know how bad it has to get to force change. We need everybody doing everything all the time. It’s criminal not to take action today.”

Civilization has existed for 10,000 years, Foster said, the next 10,000 years depend on the human race today.

“One person cannot change the world.” Foster’s eyes twinkle. He folds his hands and leans closer. “But one person can change the world.”

Michael Foster and Leonard Higgins, both valve turners, discuss a wet plat photograph event with Bismarck native Shane Balkowitsch – photo by C.S. Hagen

 

 

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