White Supremacist Fliers Hit Fargo Streets

Alt White: The Siege of North Dakota. Part five in the series on racism in North Dakota. While Pioneer Little Europe and the Creativity Movement form hit lists of North Dakota small towns, a new white supremacist group surfaces in Fargo. 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– Three days after white supremacists advertised for a like-minded gathering at Lindenwood Park, posters depicting hate speech were posted on telephone poles along downtown back alleys.

FEHU BBQ Ad – online sources

The posters went up in time for the 27th day of Nisan on the Hebrew calendar, Monday, April 24, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The posters also went up shortly after the Fargo Human Relations Commission announced findings of a six-month study that showed refugees and immigrants in Fargo are good for the city. 

One of the posters signed by “The Flyovers” depicted the communist hammer and sickle, the Jewish star, a syringe, and a marijuana leaf as rain falling on a family under an umbrella emblazoned with a sign reminiscent of a swastika. Another poster featured a man wielding a sword on a horse in a battle scene. 

“This country is your birthright,” the poster said. “Don’t give it up.” 

A third poster found near the Downtown Fargo Fire Department, said “Trump was the first step. We’re the Next,” and supported by VDare, Counter-Currents, American Renaissance, The Right Stuff, Redice.TV, and The Occidental Observer, all of whom are listed as nationalistic and racial purist hate organizations. 

A fourth flier posted by AltRight.com in Roberts Street alley said, “White people have a right to exist.” 

White right poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

A fifth flier listing Bible verse John 2:13 pictures a whip and tells “Real Christians, drive out the parasite class.” 

Parasite poster – photo by Christopher A. Smith

Christopher A. Smith frequently walks through Downtown, and discovered some of the posters over the weekend and on Monday evening. 

“I thought, when I saw the posters, that it was interesting timing with the upcoming Black Lives Matter Banquet at Minnesota State University Moorhead and the Holocaust Remembrance,” Smith said. 

“My first impulse was to rip them down, but then I thought it would be better to document the signs and share them on social media to perhaps bring up awareness that such things are in the area.” 

Birthright poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

Unity-USA, a nonprofit local hate watch group, alerted netizens early Tuesday morning. 

“According to sources, several fliers have been posted by an unknown hate group in selected locations in downtown Fargo,” Unity-USA reported. While it is unknown which group is directly responsible, Unity-USA is conducting research and trying to track down suspected groups/group members.” 

VDare was established in 1999 as a nonprofit by the Center for American Unity in Virginia, and is “dedicated to preserving our historical unity as Americans into the 21st Century,” according to its website. 

Trump poster – photo provided by Christopher A. Smith

American Renaissance was founded in 1990 and promotes pseudo-scientific studies and research to show minorities in language that avoids open racial slurs, according to Unity-USA. It is best known for its American Renaissance magazine and website, which regularly feature eugenics and racist articles. 

The Right Stuff blog is a racist outlet hosting podcasts including The Daily Shoah, and popularizes the use of “echoes,” or Anti Semitic markers using triple parenthesis around names to identify people of the Jewish faith on social media, according to Unity-USA. 

Counter-Currents is a website popular among “hipster racists,” according to Unity-USA, and pushes fake news and memes that are considered popular to young adults. 

The Occidental Observer is a far-right online publication that covers politics and society from a nationalistic and Anti Semitic perspective, according to Unity-USA. 

Redice.TV is an online hate video service with a formal media infrastructure, Unity-USA reported. 

The Flyovers is a term designating “Red States” that voted for President Trump. “It is unclear if this is the term they are using to designate this particular group, but it seems that this might be the case,” Unity-USA reported. 

The First Annual FEHU BBQ was hosted by a person identifying himself as Chad Radkersburg at Lindenwood Park on Saturday. FEHU is a Futhark rune representing a new beginning. 

“It seems likely that the use of FEHU in this case means the start of a new supremacist group in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” Unity-USA reported. 

Reportedly twelve people attended the First Annual FEHU BBQ, according to netizens. Radkersburg was contacted for comment, but did not respond.

North Dakota’s Marijuana Gets The Puff-Puff Pass

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – A hesitant round of applause rippled across the Peace Garden State Tuesday when the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act became law. 

Governor Doug Burgum, voted the nation’s third most popular governor by the Morning Consult Governor Approval rankings, signed Senate Bill 2344 on Monday, making medical marijuana legal – to an extent – in North Dakota. The law began as an initiated measure and was passed by all state voting districts in 2016. 

The road to becoming law was bumpy, as it was postponed, and then immediately drafted into self-defeating Senate Bill 2154 after the legislative body received pressure from advocates and the media saying government was dragging its feet. The new bill, SB 2344, was then proposed, passing both House and Senate, and health officials promise the state will have medical marijuana on the market within a year.

On a scale of one to 10, some proponents gave the new law 7.5 points, while others no better than a five. 

“I just got a message that the governor just signed it,” Representative Pamela Anderson said. “It’s a good day. What the Senate sent over to the House was a bad bill, we amended it and and got it to 80 percent of the original measure.” 

Riley “Ray” Morgan, Measure 5’s initiator, gave the law an approximate 7.5 points. “Let’s not forget unless this didn’t get forced down their throats by the voters of North Dakota, we have seen the Republican-led legislature turn down medical cannabis this session as well,” Morgan said. Within a year, “If they don’t have it ready to go by then, there is going to be hell to pay.”

The fight for medical marijuana hasn’t been easy, Anderson said. 

“It’s been two years, and the volunteers and compassionate care committee went out and obtained those signatures,” Anderson said. “This is what North Dakota wanted, and they got it.” 

Although the law will not allow home growing, or edibles, and intoxicant THC-content will be lower than what the original measure proposed – no more than 2,000 milligrams of THC in a 30-day period – the law is “light years” ahead of the Senate’s first bill, Morgan said.

Allowed: plant flower – up to 2.5 ounces per month, patches, tinctures, topicals, and capsules. Clear legal protections are now given to patients, caregivers, and medical marijuana businesses and staff. Patient identification card prices have been lowered to $50. Users will need authorization by a doctor or a nurse practitioner and be certified by the state. 

Illegal: edibles, concentrates, and home growing. Seriously ill patients who live 40 or more miles away from a dispensary will have to travel. Written certifications by medical professionals still remain a problem. Minors, who are defined as anyone under the age of 19, will be limited to the use of pediatric medical marijuana oil, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. 

The law resembles half of what the original Measure 5 wanted, Jason Spiess, longtime researcher and writer on cannabis issues, said. 

“To me, the real story is that 65 percent of the voters can approve a measure and less than one percent of the state can literally cross it out and change it,” Spiess said. “That’s scary. This experience taught me that the people of North Dakota really have no power at all.”  

Spiess gave the new law five points – out of ten – and is concerned about the future price per ounce of medical marijuana. 

“Honestly, I think the people who want the medicine will drive to Colorado to get it,” Spiess said. “I have yet to see any projections from the state indicating what the price on an ounce will be under their model. I do not think anyone will pay $400 to $500 for an ounce. The poor cannot afford it and the rich will continue to use their black market sources they have had for years.

“I believe the new law will increase the black market.” 

As an owner of The Crude Life Media Network, and weekly energy columnist for the Bismarck Tribune, Spiess is also wondering who and how authorized growers will be selected. 

“The word in North Dakota is the circle of powers at the state capital have already pre-selected the growers,” Spiess said. No legislators will go on record saying as much, but “plenty of legislators are saying off the record.” 

The new law is not without its problems, Morgan said. 

“I know the House worked extremely hard on this, and they did make more than 40 changes to what the Senate did,” Morgan said. “The amount of cannabis purchased in a month by patients is troubling as is the amount of THC that is in medical cannabis,” Morgan said. “The legislature and Department of Health are not the patient’s doctor and shouldn’t be limiting amounts and THC content.” 

House Minority Leader Corey Mock D-ND, a co-sponsor of SB 2344, said the law will improve as it rolls out. 

“While not a perfect implementation of Measure 5, it is a good bill that makes medical marijuana, a federally illegal product, available to North Dakotans while complying with an official memo by US Department of Justice,” Mock said. “It decriminalizes medical marijuana and gives flexibility to the Department of Health to make necessary changes to enact the law quickly and effectively. 

“We’ve been assured that all rules will be in place and medical marijuana should be available by next summer, but we’re well positioned to have everything in place by early 2018.” 

Paul Armentano, deputy director for the NORML Foundation, a nonprofit organization seeking to eliminate penalties and legalize marijuana, said North Dakota is not alone with its issues passing the Compassionate Care Act. 

“We’re seeing very similar efforts in other states, meaning lawmakers are significantly amending language and intent of the initiatives voters passed,” Armentano said. “This is a very interesting situation, one that you tend not to see in politics, the will of the voters is sacrosanct, but in these particular instances the will of the voters is case aside.

“When it comes to marijuana legislature, they tend to over-legislate.” 

High dispensary fees, cracking down on home growing, and limiting the number of dispensaries will send marijuana prices skyrocketing, Armentano said. 

“The state wants it both ways,” Armentano said. “They want to cap the regulated market and maximize the profit, so their solution is to allow a very limited number of producers and dispensers, and then to exorbitantly charge fees to those producers and dispensaries.”

Currently, law stipulates a $5,000 non-refundable application fee, a $90,000 dispensary fee and a $110,000 manufacturing fee to be paid every two years, according to Kenan Bullinger, newly appointed director of medical marijuana division for the North Dakota Department of Health. 

“The price of cannabis is going to be a reflection of the level of regulation that is imposed,” Armentano said. “If those individuals are forced to pay exorbitant application fees, then those prices are going to be passed on to the consumer.”

Bullinger works out of a department of one, with no budget yet, he said. “And right now I’m getting tired of myself,” Bullinger joked. 

Some Department of Health employees thought the measure would not pass, but they prepared for it, Bullinger said. “There were a lot of commercials out there that tugged at the heartstrings of North Dakotans, and there is some benefit in this to people with these conditions. Why not give the people who have suffered a little bit of hope and relief? We thought it might not pass, but the people have spoken and we are going to listen.”

Now that medical marijuana is the state law, he’s preparing to hire staff, which will oversee application processes for the two companies that will be authorized to grow marijuana. Some of the stipulation and mandates will include: plans for growing without using chemicals, indoor growing, alarm systems, background checks for employees, and financial stability. 

“We want these places to survive,” Bullinger said. “And we really don’t know how many qualified patients we will have in North Dakota. It’s a crapshoot.” The Department of Health could have thousands of patients at the get-go, or only a handful, he said. 

“I know a lot of people have said we’re dragging our feet, but we’re not dragging our feet,” Bullinger said. “Medical marijuana has to be produced and sold in the state here. We will get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible and make sure the product that gets on the market is safe. We got a lot of work to do.” 

 

Global move toward decriminalization 
Every 37 seconds someone is arrested on marijuana charges, the American Civil Liberties Union reported. From 2001 until 2010, more than eight million people have found themselves on the wrong side of the law, costing law enforcers approximately $3.6 billion per year. Black people are also 3.73 times more likely to get arrested on possession charges than white people, the ACLU reported. 

Political hysteria about drugs led to draconian penalties, which have filled prisons across the nation. 

Since President Reagan’s crackdown on drugs, incarceration of users has skyrocketed, according to the Drug Policy Institute. In 1980, nonviolent drug offenders numbered 50,000 nationwide, and jumped to 400,000 in 1997. As the drug war began running out of steam, George W. Bush threw more money into the programs, which ended in more than 40,000 paramilitary-style SWAT raids on Americans every year, according to the Drug Policy Institute. 

Today, the pendulum has begun swinging the opposite direction, with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promising to legalize marijuana, and with Uruguay becoming the first country in the world to legally regulate marijuana in 2013. 

Countries including Portugal, Mexico, and Colombia, have decriminalized all types of drugs including weed, cocaine, even heroine, which are technically illegal, but those who are caught receive no jail time.

“Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one,” media outlet Independent reported in 2015. 

Since Portugal’s decriminalization, drug use and new HIV cases have fallen, according to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. Today, Portugal has one of the lowest overdose percentages in Europe, with three drug overdose deaths for every one million adult citizens, compared to 126.8 deaths per million in Estonia, or 44.6 per million in the UK, according to The Washington Post

In 2015 alone, the United States had more than 52,404 drug overdose deaths, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Opioids claimed 13 lives in Fargo in 2016, according to the Fargo Police Department. 

Although lower death rates cannot be attributed solely to drug decriminalization, at the very least the country has not seen the “severe consequences” opponents, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, predicted. To this day, the US FDA has not approved marijuana as a “safe and effective drug,” and proposes using synthetic versions instead.

In the USA, as of March 2017, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing marijuana, according to nonprofit debate organization ProCon. Eight states, including Washington DC, have adopted recreational use, according to media outlet the Cannabist. Some states, including California, allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow six plants in their homes. 

California was the first state to legalize marijuana in 1996, with Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Maine following soon after. North Dakota is the latest of three states to join more than half the nation in decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis. 

Politicians including President Clinton, who said he “didn’t inhale” in 1992, President Obama, who said he inhaled and enjoyed it in 2001, and Burgum, who recently stated he smoked marijuana while on a hitchhiking trip to Alaska, believe marijuana should be at the very least, decriminalized. 

While more than half of the 50 states have decriminalized or legalized marijuana, the federal government is reluctant to take a stance despite presidential announcements of support. Federal monies have not been shifted into funding health-based approaches, and the war on drugs continues, although to a lesser degree. Each year, more than 700,000 people are arrested for marijuana offenses, according to the Drug Policy Institute. 

“Progress is inevitably slow, but there is unprecedented momentum behind drug reform right now,” the Drug Policy Institute announced. “We look forward to a future where drug policies are shaped by science and compassion rather than political hysteria.” 

Armed DAPL Mercenary Arrested in Bismarck

Dakota Access LLC security guard disguised as water protector who tried to ram car into Standing Rock main camp in 2016 faces drug and gun concealment charges 

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK
– The disguised DAPL security guard set free by law enforcement last year after reportedly driving crazily toward the main No DAPL camp armed with a semi-automatic AR-15, was arrested Tuesday on unrelated charges, according to police. 

Kyle Thompson mugshot – Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department

Kyle James Thompson, 30, was arrested at 8:03 p.m. Tuesday for simple assault domestic violence, carrying a concealed weapon, and for possession of schedule I, II, and III drug paraphernalia, according to the Burleigh County arrest records. By Wednesday afternoon the domestic abuse charge was dropped, leaving two Class A misdemeanor charges: carrying a concealed firearm in his vehicle, and possessing drug paraphernalia, namely syringes and spoons, to consume methamphetamine, according to the Burleigh County Clerk of Court.

Bismarck Police Officer David Haswell stopped Thompson’s car on East Broadway Avenue in Bismarck for a welfare check, according to Clerk of Court records. “Police were notified by witnesses that a male subject was hitting a female subject in the car,” Haswell reported. “I made contact with the driver, Kyle Thompson, and asked him to exit the vehicle. While he exited the vehicle I noticed a handgun concealed between the driver seat and the center console.”

Thompson’s DAPL security badge taken from pickup truck – online sources

In the backseat, Thompson allegedly also had a rifle, Clerk of Court documents reported. Officers also located a small zipper case inside the vehicle with multiple syringes, spoons, a white residue, a grinder with residue, and a glass smoking device, Clerk of Court documents said. 

“The capped needles field tested positive for methamphetamines,” Haswell wrote. “Thompson does not have a concealed carry permit.” 

Nearly six months ago when law enforcement took over the Standing Rock’s Treaty Camp, pitched in the Dakota Access Pipeline’s route, Thompson was arrested by Bureau of Indian Affairs agents after activists slammed a vehicle into his pickup truck. He was disguised as a “water protector” in a t-shirt and bandana covering his face. A short foot pursuit ended in a pond near the camp where according to video reports and interviews with activists, Thompson fired his weapon twice. 

In November 2016, Thompson and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation found no evidence that Thompson fired his weapon. Documents linking Thompson to Thompson-Gray LLC, a security firm, were found inside the pickup truck. 

Brennon Nastacio and Kyle Thompson on October 27, 2016 – online sources

After BIA agents handed Thompson over to Morton County officials, he was released, and he was called a victim by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. 

“Three days ago on October 27th, I was in a situation in which myself and others were faced with the difficult decision to take another’s life or not,” Thompson said on his Facebook page shortly after the ordeal. “I drew out my rifle after my vehicle was disabled and over 300 protesters were rapidly approaching my location, a few had knives and were dead set on using those knives.” 

Brennon Nastacio – Facebook page

The man who stopped him, Brennon “BJ” Nastacio, a Pueblo Native American from Boulder, Colorado, was placed on Morton County Sheriff’s Department’s Most Wanted List. He turned himself in and now faces felony terrorizing charges. Nastacio has had a preliminary hearing where he said the judge already set a court date of October 5. 

“I found that to be fishy,” Nastacio said. “But I pray that he [Thompson] finds help that he needs while being incarcerated. People are so quick to wish bad and talk negative, I am not one of them. I think we endured enough bad and negativity and to add more just isn’t how I was raised. So I am hopeful that this is a wake up call for him to stop walking down that path of destruction.” 

Nastacio remains hopeful that his name will be cleared. “But I am aware that my case is in a county where 92 percent of the people there think that we are guilty. I can only be hopeful and pray for a good outcome.” 

Two others were charged with Class C felony crimes when activists stopped Thompson: Michael Fasig of Minnesota and Israel Hernandez of New York, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department. The two “committed reckless endangerment offenses when they rammed a truck driven by another individual,” a Morton County Sheriff’s Department press release reported.

Provided by Morton County Sheriff’s Department

Thompson-Gray LLC is listed under Silverton Consulting International, according to the Ohio Secretary of State. The company was not authorized to work in North Dakota, the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation reported. Rumors at the time when trained dogs attacked activists in September 2016 reported G4S, a U.K.-based security company that often goes by nickname the “Chaos Company,” was involved as the Dakota Access Pipeline’s private security firm are unfounded, and denied by G4S staff. 

G4S does have multiple companies established in North Dakota, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State. 

Charles Graham Clifton with horses in 2015 – photo provided by Joshua Franke-Hyland

Charles Graham Clifton is listed as the owner of Ohio-based Silverton Consulting International, a new company reported as “shady” in online reviews. Clifton is also the owner of AMGI Global, Ltd. Co., now dissolved for tax reasons in Texas, Knightsbridge Risk Management, now dissolved for noncompliance in Colorado. He has connections to the ISSE Foundation Inc., Red Rock Ordnance LLC, and Red Rock Armory, all dissolved for tax issues in Texas, the Lodestar Services International, dissolved in Colorado in 2011, and Humanitarian Defense, dissolved for tax reasons in Wyoming 2010. 

Joshua P. Franke-Hyland once worked with Clifton at AMGI Global, Ltd. Co., he said. “It was a 100 percent failure,” Franke-Hyland said. Clifton is “a scam artist with a very long history of scamming people of all types.” 

Barbara Marie Colliton – photo provided by Joshua Franke-Hyland

Clifton is on the run, Franke-Hyland said, from bench warrants for felony theft and civil lawsuits. Franke-Hyland believes the use of attack dogs was issued by Barbara Colliton, Clifton’s partner and frequent registered agent. Colliton was arrested in December 2016 but released in Taylor County, Texas after restitution was paid, Franke-Hyland said. 

Another company that used attack dogs on September 3 was the Ohio-based Frost Kennels, whose owner, Bob Frost, admitted to using the dogs on September 3, 2016. 

“We went out there to do a job and we did it,” Frost said in September 2016. “So we just said f*ck it, and got our dogs, and tried to make a bridge between them and the workers.” 

Morton County Sheriff’s Department said the companies involved as security firms for Dakota Access LLC on September 3 were not licensed to work in North Dakota, but did not file any charges against security personnel or companies involved. 

Franke-Hyland sued Clifton in Bexar County, and Clifton also is listed as being sued in Bastrop, Texas. 

“Clifton’s dream is to be G4S-AMGI, and was supposed to be Clifton’s answer to G4S,” Franke-Hyland said. “AMGI, like everything else Clifton touches, was complete sh*t. He is a risk in every sense in the word. His best day is as an incompetent short con that refuses to pay the bills.” 

Commission Study Shows Refugees Good for Fargo

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Recent attempts to curb the influx of refugees into Fargo fell flat Thursday when the Fargo Human Relations Commission announced its findings after a six-month study into the impacts of resettlement. 

“The nature of the question posed to us was in direct opposition to our existence as set by city ordinance,” Barry Nelson, member of the Fargo Human Relations Commission, said. The commission’s mission is to promote acceptance and respect for diversity and discourage all forms of discrimination and was tasked with determining the costs of immigrants and refugees in Fargo. 

The Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report was instigated by Fargo City Commissioner John Strand in October 2016 after City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn raised the issue one week after an approved budget was made. Piepkorn added the proposal into the city commission meeting questioning federal monies being used through Lutheran Social Services to settle refugees and immigrants in the Fargo area. Coincidentally, last October, reporters from Breitbart News, the “alt-right” online news forum formerly led by Steve Bannon, showed up at the meeting. 

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn – photo provided by City of Fargo

Despite a six-week notification, Piepkorn did not attend the meeting and was on vacation in Mexico, according to organizers of the Sponsoring Committee to Recall Dave Piepkorn. The petition to recall Piepkorn was approved recently by North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, and the committee is nearing the halfway mark for signatures needed to trigger a recall election.

“Piepkorn was the only commissioner absent from today’s meeting,” the Sponsoring Committee to Recall Dave Piepkorn said in a press release. “When we submitted our petition language for the recall, we specifically noted ‘his refusal to accept facts when presented to him’ as a major grievance. With his feet to the fire, Dave Piepkorn chose a vacation over accountability.”

One person opposed to the recall cursed a Sponsoring Committee to Recall Dave Piepkorn organizer on the way out from City Hall.

Fargo Human Relations Commission Barry Nelson – photo by C.S. Hagen

“The attempt to isolate residents in an attempt to identify costs is next to impossible and illegitimate without context,” Nelson said. “In the context and level of our community assessment it appears that the positive financial and cultural impact far outweigh any initial costs of investment.”

The issue of refugee resettlement is a political issue as much as it is a humanitarian one, Nelson said.

Although Piepkorn stated in October that he did not alert Breitbart News to the issue, and that his main concern was the city’s financial impact of refugees, he also believed refugees were taking jobs away from Fargo residents.

“I’ll get to the nut of it,” Piepkorn said in October 2016. “I believe the refugees that come here, they have health care, they have housing, they have transportation all provided for them. They are competing against the people who live here making 10 bucks an hour, but they have a huge advantage because refugees have all those advantages. We’re bringing in competition against the current residents and I believe that’s hurting our low income people who live here. It’s almost as if it would be better for them to apply as refugees and get benefits than to be an American citizen.”

The Fargo Human Relations Commission disagreed. 

Healthcare benefits are provided by medical assistance through federal government grants and administered through Lutheran Social Services, Dr. John Baird, M.D., public health officer for the Fargo Cass Public Health Resettlement Agency, reported. 

New Americans, or refugees and immigrants, make up approximately three percent of North Dakota’s population, according to the American Immigration Council. They are employers, taxpayers, and workers in fields few local citizens are willing to go, according to the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report. Foreign-born residents contributed $542.8 million to the city’s GDP in 2014, and have a spending power of $149.4 million, the report states. 

A first generation immigrant is cost positive in North Dakota by approximately $3,250, and long term benefits are incalculable, according to the report. 

During the meeting, testimonies were heard both on video and in person by business owners across the city, all who said refugees are helping local economy. Fargo has more jobs than the city can fill, according to city leaders and local business leaders. Some of the companies involved included the Holiday Inn, Sanford Health, Cardinal IG, the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, Rainbow International, and the Immigrant Development Center. 

Approximately 65 percent of Cardinal IG’s workforce are immigrants, Mike Arntson, plant manager, said. “They’re not refugees anymore,” Arntson said. “They’ve found a home. We hire the best qualified applicants that show up at our doorstep.” 

Arntson pointed to similarities between the fear mongering prior to World War II in Nazi Germany attributing high-crime rates and job losses to outsiders.  “And boy, how shortsighted does that look 80 years later? So 80 years from now what are people going to say about us when they read about… Mayor Mahoney in a book?” 

Mayor Tim Mahoney said more than 20 years ago Fargo couldn’t attract many people to stay. 

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney – photo by C.S. Hagen

“This is a great report, I’m very excited about this,” Mahoney said. “In the early 90s, Fargo was struggling as far as growth and development. We had a stagnant population. We weren’t bringing people in, people were leaving our state. So when the governor at that time said we needed to bring people into our state, we needed things to happen here, a lot of us thought that was a dream that we could never fulfill. 

“The reality is that in Fargo that dream has been fulfilled.” Now, the Fargo area has approximately 235,000 residents, and the city is still growing, Mahoney said.

“To me, the things I heard most from new Americans is getting jobs, getting interviews, getting into the workplace, and soccer,” Strand said. “Imagine if you come here and fill out an application for a job, and they ask you, ‘What’s your work record here?’ and you don’t have one. ‘What’s your history of residences here?’ and you don’t have one. ‘What’s your citizenship here, do you have it?’ and you don’t have it. How do you get a job? You might have high level degrees from other parts of the world, but you can’t even get that interview.” 

“I want to thank the community for showing up today,” Strand said. “This is an opportunity for all of us and I want to acknowledge Commissioner Piepkorn for helping us decide to open this dialogue because it’s needed and it’s valuable. We’re all in this together and we’ll all be better for it in the long run.” 

“They should be commended for becoming active in our community,” Cass County Social Services Director Chip Ammerman stated.

Charlie Johnson, president of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau agreed saying that from a workforce perspective, refugees are paramount to the city’s betterment. Refugees go through extreme vetting before arriving in the United States, and local press has frequently not made the distinction between illegal immigrants and refugees, he said. 

“I wish that some people who have been here their whole lives could go through that kind of vetting,” Johnson said. 

Schools are the epicenter of the community, Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Schatz said, but refugees still need more assistance through ELL or English Learner Language programs. 

“Terminating or slowing down the refugee resettlement program would have a negative cycle of effects on the City of Fargo, both immediate and long term,” the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report stated. “Immediate effects would include further exacerbating the work force shortage, requiring more businesses to leave and/or outsource their operations. Long-term effects include economic slow-down due to a loss of business revenue and creating an inability to keep our younger generation in Fargo and/or attract new talent to the area.” 

Fowzia Adde (right) speaking, Ayat Ibrahim (left) – photo by C.S. Hagen

Ayat Ibrahim was born in Iraq, and life was good for her and her family until the wars began. She waited in Syria for five years before being accepted to come to Fargo. She couldn’t speak English, but now has only a slight accent. She encouraged Fargo residents not to be afraid, but to come and speak to them and learn what they’ve been through. 

Fowzia Adde, executive director of the Immigrant Development Center, helps immigrants with small loans to startup businesses. “There are refugees that are better than me,” she said. “New Americans don’t come with a lot of credit, or a house, so I help them.” She listed companies around town that started from nothing, such as the Fargo Halal Market and the city’s first minority taxi service. 

“They surprise us after two or three years,” Adde said. “They make more than what I am expecting in my mind. It’s a blessing to have new Americans, we just need to teach each other and learn from each other and heal this wound.”

Adde couldn’t imagine when the national controversy over immigration policies started that the conversation would start in Fargo. “We need to figure out how to make this community welcoming to everybody and not just new Americans.”

Precise statistics are difficult to find, but new Americans are less likely to commit crimes than long term residents, Vince Kempf, Liaison Officer for the Fargo Police Department, said. After 25 years of service, and according to information provided by the American Community Survey, male immigrants are nearly three times less more likely to commit crimes that domestically born males. 

“Everybody would feel more at ease with these issues if they would just go out and meet people,” Kempf said. 

Fargo City Commissioner John Strand – photo by C.S. Hagen

“This shows that the community is interested and engaged, and a really good reflection of who we are,” Nelson said.

“I’m not a big conspiracy theorist, I got thick skin,” Piepkorn said last October. “But I’m already getting criticized. I think this is an issue around the country, it’s not just only in Fargo.” At the time, he believed 80 percent of Fargoans were behind his concerns. 

“I really welcome us having this process no matter however uncomfortable it is at times,” Strand said last October. “It’s putting Fargo in a light that I’m just not real proud of. When I read in Breitbart.com that I’m the one with an agenda, and they’re quoting you [Piepkorn], that just startles me, frankly. The way we present our community is so important. I think the news will be good in the end, and i think that good news will prevail, and I think the good news will contribute to Fargo being perceived again as Fargo friendly, a welcoming, inclusive, diverse, forward moving, loving community.” 

North Dakota’s Body Hunter, Seeker of the Missing and the Dead

Human Trafficking Part 1: Missing persons posters are everywhere, stapled to telephone poles, taped to post office doors, fed through Facebook feeds and chats. They pop up every few days as desperate cries from family of loved ones who suddenly disappear. The posters are usually ignored, until the tragedy hits home, victims say. Sometimes, the missing are found, but most of the time their trails grow cold, police either don’t file reports or have no more leads, and that’s when Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase picks up the hunt. 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– A body hunter’s untiring enemy is spring, with all its melting snow. While the days lengthen and the sun thaws the prairie grasses, Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase enters what she calls panic mode. 

Ponds flood, potentially covering evidence. Prairie grasses can grow up to seven feet tall. There are cadaver dogs to arrange, volunteers to enlist. Preparations take money, which comes in the form of donations and from her own pocket book. On the Dakota plains, snakes stir, looking for warmth. Coyotes grow brave from from lean winter months and begin to scavenge.

“I got tracked by a mountain lion once, and chased by a few buffalo,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. Most summer weekends she spends searching for corpses in the North Dakota plains. “Almost got the snot slapped out of me by a badger. Adds character, my son told me.”

Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase taking video of suspected burial area – photo by C.S. Hagen

Formerly a bounty hunter, she’s now a body hunter, an independent “seeker for the missing.” who like the badger, never gives up the hunt. The dead leave clues, sometimes hidden within juniper bushes or a few feet under disturbed topsoil in the Bakken oil patch. Clues point to trails – linked piece by seemingly inconsequential piece – sometimes hundreds of miles long. 

Many missing persons’ cases delve deep into North Dakota’s underworld of drugs, human trafficking, and cash-hungry oil workers. Yellow Bird-Chase has worked cases where men have been buried alive, where women have been shot execution style, and cases fit for a television miniseries season of “Fargo,” such as the double homicide-for-hire case stretching from North Dakota to Washington. 

“I’ve always been good at scouting people out,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. She is a Fargoan, and the founder of the nonprofit group Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, a citizen-led organization dedicated since 2014 to finding missing people for their families. Sahnish means “the people” in Arikara. 

“If we knew there were dead somewhere, we would go and try and recover them,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. Her group started as a recovery team in the Bakken oil fields, and over time built a reputation. Her work attracted the attentions of the New York Times and Associated Press. Soon, the cries for help began pouring in. She has worked on dozens of missing persons’ cases over the years, and is currently focused on the case of Ron Johnson, who at 74 years of age went missing near Spirit Lake in 2011. 

She is also working the cases of: Kristopher “KC” Clarke, 29, Damon Boyd, 29, Edward Ashton Stubbs, 15, and Joseph Lee, 44, and her investigations take her to primarily four states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana. 

Yellow Bird-Chase, 49, is part Arikara, part Mandan, part Hidatsa, and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. She’s patient as a bullsnake, nimble as a Bighorn Sheep, leaping over “quick mud” and gullies. Deer, pheasants, and mountain bluebirds stop to watch. She calls to them. 

“Hey you, have you seen K.C.?” 

She’s been searching for Kristopher “K.C.” Clarke for nearly five years. The 29-year-old’s murderers are behind bars, but his body has never been found. 

Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase investigating a bone – photo by C.S. Hagen

Clarke was killed by a murderer-for-hire on February 22, 2012 after he left the overworked employment of his one-time Texas friend, James Terry Henrikson, “the boss,” an owner of the trucking company Blackstone, LLC. She began combing a part of the Badlands near Theodore Roosevelt National Park nearly two years before police caught the killers and obtained confessions. 

Shovels – photo by C.S. Hagen

She’s not psychic, she said; she simply has indescribable feelings, instincts, at times even forewarnings. Before police solved the case, she said she was threatened and her car wheel fell off on the interstate near Valley City. Not long after, the same thing happened to her daughter’s car, she said, which proved foul play. The murderers were trying to get rid of her, another on their growing hit list, she said.   

The searches intensified, and after five years she believes she is close to finding Clarke’s final resting place. She’s waiting on cadaver dogs, and even if the next massive search toward the end of April doesn’t succeed, she’s not giving up. 

“I’ll find him,” she said. Stratigraphic columns filled with layers of black coal, red fossil soils, and yellow paleosol fill her hunting ground behind her like a natural canvas, more precise and rugged than any Georgia O’Keeffe painting. 

Yellow Bird-Chase’ fingers are blackened from her day job as a welder, she works her “true calling” every summer weekend and most every other winter weekend. During the weekdays she works from her Fargo apartment, papers piled from dining room to office, an organized mess, she says, but still knows where everything is. 

During the years of searches, she experiments with the earth, sometimes filling holes with watermelons and then filling them in to see what happens to topography a year later; other times studying a corpse’s bone scatter by wild animals. 

Yellow Bird-Chase has three rules for everyone who helps on her searches: don’t fall behind, come prepared, and never lie. 

The Bakken – photo by C.S. Hagen

The oil murders 
Yellow Bird-Chase’s mission to find the missing and the dead began shortly after her release from prison on drug-related charges.

“About five years ago one of my aunt’s daughters called me and said, ‘Hey, there’s this white kid whose name is K.C. Clarke working in the oil fields and he went missing.’” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “He was white, and went missing on the rez.” 

She slipped into the gray area – the no man’s land between sovereign tribal law and US and state governments, she said. Native American communities fall under a combination of tribal, state, and federal laws. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting federal crimes such as murder and rape; misdemeanor cases are mostly prosecuted by tribal law enforcement, or the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who are typically first on any crime scene. 

Cattle, flaring, and oil on Fort Berthold Reservation- photo by C.S. Hagen

The law also differentiates Native American from the non-native, meaning BIA cannot investigate a crime committed by someone not belonging to the reservation, and federal or state police typically have legal troubles investigating a crime committed by a native who is on the reservation. Poor communication between tribal law enforcement, state, and federal authorities inadequate resources, and an increase in crime lead to a “maze of injustice” and loopholes those who know how to work the system can exacerbate. 

As a Native American and private citizen, Yellow Bird-Chase could help investigate both worlds, she said. 

“It was a jurisdictional conundrum, a big circle of jurisdictional denial,” she said. “At first, I was like, yeah, okay, whatever, but that started the big K.C. adventure.” 

Clarke’s murder led in part to the downfall of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation Chairman Tex Hall tight-fisted rule, and also to the arrests and later convictions of five men involved in two murders over Bakken oil money.

According to court documents of the United States District Court Eastern District of Washington, Henrikson hired Tim Suckow, 53, aka. “Donald Duck,” to kill his former friend for $20,000. 

James Terry Henrikson “the boss”

Clarke was a personable guy, according to Scott Travis Jones of the United States Attorney’s Office, who liked motorcycles. Yellow Bird-Chase agreed, but said the young man also had problems, like everyone else. Clarke became a salesman for Blackstone as he was constantly at customers’ job sites. He worked 24-hour-shifts, showered, and went out on another 24-hour shift repeatedly. He lived out of his pickup truck, and was not happy about it, Jones said. 

Clarke decided to jump the fence for Running Horse Trucking, a competitor of Blackstone due to the mistreatment. 

The decision “enraged” Henrikson, according to Jones, who said “He was going to kick K.C.’s ass, kill K.C., and that K.C. was stealing contracts from him.” His thoughts turned to murder, and he ordered Clarke to go on a mandatory vacation for two weeks. 

“The shop” where K.C. Clarke was killed – photo by C.S. Hagen

Hardly halfway through the vacation, Henrikson, through his wife at the time, Sarah Creveling, called Clarke back to “the shop,” a building the company worked out of and situated on Hall’s property. After Clarke placed a new handgun back into his pickup truck, Henrikson distracted Clarke with a new motorcycle while Suckow snuck up behind him and smashed him in the head with a floor jack, a tire-changing tool used for semi trucks. Four blows, and Clarke’s skull “went soft,” Suckow said. 

Clarke’s truck was first dumped outside of Watford City, and later moved to Williston, where the vehicle sat for four months along the side of a road, according to court documents. Clarke was put into a toilet box and buried in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. His handgun, a .45, was shredded by a Sawzall, and the barrel crushed.

For nearly two years, Clarke’s disappearance puzzled law enforcement and family, and not until DNA evidence found in a welding glove linked Suckow to a second murder of a Blackstone investor, Doug Carlile, did Clarke’s case break. Carlile was shot seven times in his Washington home over a plot of land supposedly rich with oil. Henrikson needed more investment, hundreds of millions to begin his own drilling operations, and potential investors didn’t like Carlile, court documents reported.

Yellow Bird-Chase said she learned about ill intentions toward Carlile and warned him twice. Both times, Carlile was more worried about his investments than to take the threat seriously. 

Once again, Henrikson turned to Suckow, who, along with accomplices Robby Wharer and Lazaro Pesina, later confessed to both murders, saying they were following Henrikson’s orders. 

Other Blackstone investors and a former business partner were targeted by Henrikson, according to court documents. One man on Henrikson’s hit list, Jed McClure, escaped unscathed after Todd Bates, hired Chicago hitman Martin Marvin “The Wiz” to kill McClure. McClure was also an original investor in Blackstone who claimed early on that Henrikson and former wife were fraudsters, and were complicit in Clarke’s disappearance.

Jay Wright, a former employee, and Tim Scott, to whom Henrikson owed money, were also on Henrikson’s hit list, according to court documents. 

Man camp – photo by C.S. Hagen

The entire ordeal began with rights to work on Native American lands. Henrikson obtained three Tier 1 “TERO” cards, which helped him obtain special preference for bidding on contracts, according to court documents. After being fired from two companies, Henrikson’s vehicle “conveniently broke down in front of Hall’s home.” He asked for help, and over time Henrikson and the chairman struck up a business partnership, according to court documents. Although Hall denied they had a relationship outside of business, Henrikson took Hall’s adopted daughter, Peyton Martin, as his mistress, and both men were photographed together while on vacation in Hawaii.

Henrikson is currently serving two life sentences plus thirty years in a high-security penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, according to the Bureau of Prisons. His right-hand hitman, Suckow has found religion and is serving a total of 30 years for both murders. Wharer is serving 10-year sentence for driving the getaway car, and Pesina a 12-year sentence for breaking into Carlile’s home. Others involved are also serving time behind bars. 

 

The hunt goes on
Before Clarke’s murder was solved, Yellow Bird-Chase posted more than 50,000 fliers, she said. She met with Homeland Security, sheriff’s deputies, and court officials regularly, trying to learn news of Clarke’s body. Clarke’s family and information off the Internet helped direct her searches, but she still searches. 

Not long from her release from prison, Yellow Bird-Chase said her initial involvement in hunting the missing and the dead changed her life. 

Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase comparing maps – photo by C.S. Hagen

“I always had that carrot in front of my head,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “Okay, I don’t have to worry about the dope, just have to wait until I get out of prison. Okay, I just got to wait until Im off parole, okay, I just got to wait until I am off probation. When I was getting off probation, I was like, ‘Oh, shit,’ I was doing good. My head was clear, but there were so many things. I felt guilty for what I did: helping people with their addictions, so I wanted to find a way to give back.”  

She missed the first years of North Dakota’s oil boom, and when she returned to the area to search for Clarke’s body, she experienced a type of culture shock, she said. 

“Buzzing traffic, oil workers, oil drills pumping up and down. I had to acclimate myself to this whole situation. There were a million people all over the place where before there wasn’t anybody.” 

Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase on the hunt in the Badlands – photo by C.S. Hagen

Her search for Clarke’s body so far has been comparable to “looking for teal-covered sand at the bottom of the ocean.” Clarke’s body was identified by both men who assisted in his death and ensuing coverup, but both men pinpointed the burial site with a difference of a quarter of a mile, according to court documents.

In those days, law enforcement rarely helped her, she said. “I’m kinda known as the fire under people’s asses,” she said. “I will call them out, I will go to jail for it, I don’t care. If someone has a missing family member, I will find them. I know what to do. If the police have a problem with that, how are you going to deny a family their loved one? It’s either you don’t care or you’re just lay. Or maybe you’re not educated and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do.”

She has distracted police while her volunteers fan out to search, once finding a body that had evaded police for hours within thirty minutes, she said. 

Blue bird – photo by C.S. Hagen

“Before I was met with, ‘You can’t be here, or you’re impeding an investigation,’” she said. “They used to see me as a threat, now they see me as a threat that won’t go away. Now we have the full cooperation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and we’ve even been offered assistance on any reservation in the United States from that department. 

“It’s been a long time coming, but it made a complete turn around.” She’s even had “anonymous tips” from law enforcement leading her in directions the police didn’t go, she said. 

Morton County Sheriff’s Department declined to comment on one case Yellow Bird-Chase is working in their jurisdiction, according to Morton County Public Information Officer Maxine Herr. 

Ground soaked with oil spills at unattended storage area near Fort Berthold Reservation- photo by C.S. Hagen

Official statistics aren’t accurate, she said. Rarely do families report missing people immediately, and police sometimes fail to file a report, which is crucial in order for discovering information on national databases on any potential victim. Many of the missing are victims of crime, but many more fall prey to human trafficking. 

NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, reports North Dakota currently has 31 open cases of missing people. 

Reports of human trafficking in North Dakota have been on the rise since 2012, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline Center. In 2016, a total of 66 calls were made, resulting in 19 active cases, compared to a total of six human trafficking cases in 2012. 

Director of the state’s human trafficking coalition FUSE (Force to End Human Sexual Exploitation), Christina Sambor, reported that the North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force assisted with 79 cases of human trafficking in 2016. A total of 66 victims were involved in sex trafficking, while 26 victims were children. 

Fargo’s most recent trafficking case ended on March 10, when nine people were arrested in a joint undercover operation, according to the Fargo Police Department. Among those arrested, five were from Fargo, one was from Bismarck, one from Grand Forks, and another from Halstad, Minnesota. All face felony arrests for Patronizing a Minor for Commercial Sexual Activity, a Class A felony punishable up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

One of the men arrested was Dan Kenneth Durr, 42, president and CEO of Don’s Car Washes, Inc. Don’s Car Wash began in 1958, and Durr took over the company as president after Duane Durr retired, he said in an interview on Fargo/Moorhead/West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. 

Although Native Americans in North Dakota comprise only five percent of the population, they are the hardest hit ethnic group from human trafficking, according to North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services or CAWS North Dakota.

“The rate of violent crime estimated against Native Americans is well above that of other U.S. racial or ethnic groups and more than two times the national average,” CAWS North Dakota reported.  

Senator Heidi Heitkamp D-N.D., is an avid fighter against human trafficking, and released a podcast earlier this year called “The Hotdish,” a platform for discussing issues to combat the traffic of abducted humans. 

“Human trafficking is a serious problem worldwide, and unfortunately North Dakota is no exception,” Heitkamp announced on her U.S. Senate website. “North Dakota is no stranger to this horrible crime. Places like Minot, where we rescued a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old when their mothers discovered them on Backpages,” Heitkamp stated in her podcast. “How in the world can we allow that to happen in our country?” 

She highlighted a website called Backpage, reportedly a major facilitator of human trafficking. A report released to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in early January cited Backpage on its role in trafficking, particularly with minors. 

Although Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer refused to comment during the hearing, the website shut down its adult section of its website, according to the U.S. Senate.

Yellow Bird-Chase said statistics don’t reflect reality. “For North Dakota, as big of denial as they’re in, it’s not so much that it has increased, for population, it’s probably the same. We have a new culture of sex workers here, and they’re not afraid or are inhibited by letting people know what they’re up to. It’s always been here.” 

Picture taken during a search – photo provided by Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase

Because of Yellow Bird-Chase’s past, she can’t become a private detective, she said. She loves her job as a welder, but her true calling always beckons. She is searching for a grant writer, and volunteers help with raising funds. 

“I would like to do this full time, but I’m not going to have an agency telling me what is a priority case.” 

Dozens of missing persons are listed on the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota Facebook page. Most are young, female; some are children. 

“When you don’t have any closure it’s hard to know how to grieve,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “Some people just write it off and don’t talk about it ever again. And there’s some people who talk about it nonstop night and day, and they die of a broken heart because they never find out what happened to their loved one.” 

All missing people should be reported immediately, and family or friends should obtain a report number, she said. 

“If that person is missing for five seconds, you can call it in and they have to take a report. Get that officer’s name and thee report number. Once you get that report number, call me.” 

To support Yellow Bird-Chase and the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota donations can be made to: https://www.youcaring.com/sahnishscoutsofnorthdakota-769883 

Into the Bakken sunset – photo by C.S. Hagen

Opium Wars: Fargo’s Cold Blanket of Death

From the west to China, China back to US, after more than a century the opium trade comes full circle; local addict reveals secrets behind the illicit trade 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– “Jackie” isn’t ready to come out with her real name yet. She’s a heroin addict, a Fargoan clean for nearly a year. In her 20s she overdosed three times, carried an overdose reversal drug in her purse, which saved her life. She shot “downs” or heroin, free based “ups” or methamphetamine. 

One of the main questions she used to ask was, “Does it have legs?” Heroin, sometimes laced with fentanyl and known north of the Mississippi River as “China White,” has “legs” long as a spring day, less than 12 hours. It comes as a white or silver grey powder known as “gunpowder,” as patches imported from China, or as black tar mostly from Mexico, and it claimed 13 lives in Fargo in 2016.

“It’s instant euphoria, like a warm blanket,” Jackie said. “Nothing else matters, the world just dissolves. At the same time music sounds better, colors look sharper and brighter, gives you a false sense of ‘swagger.’ I’m usually kind and gentle, but what I regret most is doing things that were against my values: stealing from stores, from friends and family to sell – dining and dashing – lying, pawning my guitars, amplifiers, and television for drug money.” 

Her plunge into the underworld began as a teenager, started with a little marijuana and a prescription. She never meant to become addicted to opioids, but the prescriptions for Xanax and Klonopin, an anti-epileptic medication also used to treat panic disorders, helped ease her into street drugs. 

“It [Klonopin] lowered my inhibitions, made me apathetic and ambivalent,” Jackie said. “It begins to kill a lot of your passions for things. I don’t blame it on that, but it made me care less, and put myself in risky situations.” 

At first she dabbled, shot heroin only on the weekends, but availability became easier from friends who called themselves bums sitting outside grocery stores waiting to sell or trade. Smart dealers and buyers hide in plain sight, she said, making drug transactions in daylight. She turned to heroin, snorted it, and eventually began shooting it into her arm. “For most people they say they will never use the needle, but the further you go down the ladder you use it because you need less of the drug to get you by.” Heroin’s effects are purer when shot into the vein. 

She spent more than $100 a day, sometimes traded her prescription pills for street drugs, which led to fentanyl, she said. The synthetic opioid pain killer can be 100 times more powerful than heroin, and is used in hospitals to treat extreme pain. 

Fentanyl was found once digging through trash bins at a retirement home. She heard it was sometimes stolen from family or off delivery trucks, and her friend ordered the drug from China off the dark web. Heroin costs $400 a gram in Fargo, far more for fentanyl. 

Unlike licensed pharmaceuticals, however, street drugs aren’t regulated. “It’s like walking into a bar and not knowing if you’re getting 100 proof or a beer,” she said. Trust, in an untrusting world, is hard to come by, and drug dealers in Fargo mix opiates with brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder. “Tons of different baby products, which is really dark.” 

She never got caught; her former boyfriend did. 

“I miss it, I miss the chaos,” she said. “It’s boring sometimes as hard as it is when you don’t have a steady hookup, someone getting raided, someone getting jacked, there’s so many factors, and the thrill of finding it.

“You make so many damn rationalizations. We would do as much as we could handle, which is eyeballing it. And now that I’m talking about it, I’m like ‘Oh my god, I was crazy.’ And it is crazy. You really just come up with excuses.” 

Dealers and users order products such as “pinky” U-47700, another synthetic opioid, and fentanyl over the dark web, and later mailed, as was the case with “Operation Denial” and “Operation Deadly Merchant,” 2015 drug busts led by the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force involving the overdose deaths of five people in North Dakota and North Carolina. A total of  five people were arrested and indicted from North Dakota alone during the operations.

Tens of thousands of people in the USA die from opioid overdoses every year, a fact Jackie says does not work as a deterrent for users, rather an incentive. Nationally, overdose deaths have surpassed traffic incidents and firearm-related accidents to become the leading cause for accidental deaths, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

“That whole scene of the underground, that artistic, dark allure that influenced me.” Idols she looked up to, such as Kurt Cobain, lead singer for the band Nirvana who shot himself in the head with a shotgun in 1994, used. “I was influenced by musicians and artists who I looked up to that did heroin.” 

Synthetic opioids have also sparked American government and drug enforcement pleas to China for stricter regulations. China has heard the cries for help, but some question if the recent crisis in Fargo and other cities in the USA are not reprisals for the 19th century Opium Wars.

 

The opium wars

Under the imperial auspices of free trade, Western powers instigated the Opium Wars in China more than a century ago. Today, while trade disputes foment once again, Chinese opium – though altered – has reached across the seas to haunt America’s small town streets. 

For generations, opium in China was the historical bankroller behind Britain’s power, and the dirty secret behind some of America’s most affluent families. Opium money was the fortune from which Boston’s Cabot family endowed Harvard, and the Russell family promoted Yale’s Skull and Bones Society. It was also the tight lipped secret behind why U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not work a regular job in his life, for his grandfather, Warren Delano, was one the America’s most buccaneer opium dealers in South China.

Now Fargo, incorporated a decade after the Second Opium War, is fighting desperately to stay one step ahead of the dealers. Nationally in 2015 opioid overdoses have taken the number one spot for accidental deaths with a total of 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The epidemic has been driven by opioid addiction through the prescription of pain relievers, and the importation of the synthetic opioids from abroad. 

The Center for Disease Control said not only are the deaths alarming, but the financial cost due to a loss of productivity reached $20.4 billion in 2013. 

“The United States is in the midst of an alarming opioid overdose epidemic and U.S. employers are challenged by the epidemic’s toll on their workers,” the Center for Disease Control reported. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died from opiate overdoses, which is nearly quadruple from the year 2000.

In other places the powdery killer is known as “TNT,” “Murder 8,” and “Dance Fever,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  It is a schedule II drug, and while meticulously weighed when prescribed by pharmacists, a minuscule mistake by street dealers could mean death. 

Picture a raisin cut into 500 pieces. One microscopic sliver is the maximum dose of China White a person can ingest without overdosing, Fargo Police Lt. Shannon Ruziska said. He is the unit leader for the Metro Area Street Crimes Division. 

First Step Recovery Agency Director Michael Kaspari show the tip of a pen, any more could be a lethal dose for fentanyl abusers – photo by C.S. Hagen

A dose is smaller than a pen’s tip, First Step Recovery Agency Director Michael Kaspari said.

The opiate phenomenon in Fargo is now a crisis, Ruziska said, and the drug primarily comes from China and Mexico, he said.

The drug has torn apart families, friends, and life, according to local statistics. Out of the 69 overdose calls Fargo Police responded to in 2016, 15 died. Only two overdose deaths were not related to China White, according to Ruziska. 

“It surprises me that it’s not higher,” Kaspari, a registered nurse, said. “It’s such a powerful drug. You sit down to veg out on the couch, and you go to dead. And yet that’s still not a deterrent.” 

A user’s response is shocking, he said.

Drug dealer: “There’s a new form of heroin that will kill you.” 

Drug user: “Really? How do I get it?” 

Fargo is at the “tip of the spear” as two major highways intersect the city, Kaspari said. 

“It’s an easy death, you go to sleep and never wake up. And being dead is not the worst thing that can happen.” An overdose on fentanyl typically slows the circulatory system to one breath per minute, which naturally leads to death, or if saved, to a variety of permanent muscular or mental damage. 

“Thirteen deaths, in their mind that’s what the crisis is, it’s 13 deaths, which is tragic, unacceptable, 13 deaths. But I was in a meeting the other day with the state’s attorney… and he said ‘With respect, you guys have no idea what’s going on in the streets,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Geez, we’re up to our ass in alligators here and he’s telling me it’s worse out there?’” 

On Christmas Day 2016 alone, one police officer responded to five overdoses, Kaspari said. 

Although Fargo Police responded to 69 overdose calls in 2016, many more addicts, fearing criminal charges, were never called in, Ruziska said. 

Fargo Police Departemtn Lt. Shannon Ruziska

“I know there are a lot of overdoses that we don’t know about,” Ruziska said. Such as one instance where people administered Narcan – twice – before calling 911. Narcan is a nasal spray used for emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdoses. FM Ambulance and Fargo Fire Department carry Narcan on calls; police officers do not carry the nasal spray with them, but it is available in the evidence processing area, according to Fargo Police Crime Prevention Officer Jessica Schindeldecker.

The user who took Narcan twice survived, but the stigma relating to criminal charges for reporting dangerous drug abuse is something the police department wants the public to know has changed. In many cases, reporting an overdose will not lead to an arrest. 

Protected under the Overdose Prevention Immunity Law are those who report and cooperate with officials when an overdose occurs, according to the North Dakota Century Code. Up to three people are eligible for immunity for any one occurrence. In order to be immune, however, the reporting person must remain on scene, must cooperate with emergency medical services and law enforcement, and the overdosed individual must be in need of emergency medical services. 

“Some individuals think we are not trying to save lives by doing these investigations and showing up on scene,” Schindeldecker said, “but we can’t save lives without getting these drug dealers out of our community.”

From among 2016’s 69 incidents of drug overdose calls, police obtained eight search warrants to recover evidence, “so we can find out what happened,” according to Sgt. Matt Christianson, head of the narcotics division for the Fargo Police Department. Other investigations occurred in a public place or police received permission to search premises. 

“Several” federal indictments of people who sold or delivered drugs to victims, were issued, ten search warrants were obtained, leaving 45 cases where a few were arrested on open warrants, and one person was brought to jail for overdosing three times in four days, Christianson said. 

“This is exactly why people don’t call the police,” Frankie said. 

“Of the remaining incidents, we didn’t arrest anybody or bring charges against anybody on scene, because it either fell under the immunity law or there wasn’t enough evidence or anything to charge them with a crime,” Christianson said. 

The Fargo Police Department wants to save lives, and arrest drug dealers, Christianson said. “To me, getting drug dealers off the street does save lives. In today’s culture it is very easy to criticize law enforcement, however… none of us want to see anybody else die before their time from a drug overdose or anything else for that matter. It is very important for us to get in there and get these dealers off the streets.”

Jackie said the fear from getting arrested in an overdose situation has not been alleviated in Fargo. 

“Why are we just arresting people?” Jackie said. “It is true, the law and the books are there, it’s called the Good Samaritan Law, or the Good Sam Law. It’s been around in other states for many years. People have said that within the last few months that people have called for help from an overdose, but days later they were raided.”

It’s a trick, she said. “It’s failed, the war on drugs has failed. Incarceration costs society more than rehabilitation. Why are we arresting people when they call for 911 because of an overdose? The Fargo Police Department can’t be trusted because they have shown that they care more about arresting people than saving lives They’re not violating the immunity law, they’re searching people days after they called 911.”  

Most people don’t deal, they’re middlemen, she said. In Fargo, it’s who you know, which is different from larger cities like Minneapolis where a white girl in a known neighborhood will draw attention, including ready-to-sell dealers. “In Fargo, you have to know a direct person, and even so people are really scared, where in a big city people would just walk up to my window and say ‘Hey, you look like a junkie, do you want some?’  It was faster than McDonalds.” 

Dealers primarily come in from outside North Dakota, Christianson said. “They bring it in here, and honestly they don’t care what happens to the people they give the drugs to, all they care about is getting their money.” 

Dealers are also hard to pin down. They move from place to place and sell to every layer of society, the poor and the rich. “It really covers all the demographics, it really doesn’t discriminate,” Ruziska said. 

While the epidemic is ongoing, and police see little light at end of this “fentanyl tunnel,” Ruziska hopes anyone suspected of overdosing is reported immediately. “Call us right away, you won’t get in trouble. You really are immune, except for those delivering the drug.” 

China’s chemical factory scene – photo provided by media outlet People’s Network

The China connection

The Free Asian Radio Mandarin, a government media outlet, reports China has known of the fentanyl problem, and began restrictions on the sale of fentanyl and the even more potent carfentanil throughout drugstores and websites nationwide less than a year ago. In 2016, the China National Narcotics Control Commission announced new regulations pertaining to fentanyl and 18 ingredients involved in manufacturing the drug, called fen tai ni (芬太尼) in Chinese, but added that nine months were needed to see any effects coming from stricter policies. 

Many companies in China manufacture the ingredients and the actual drug. China is a major producer and exporter of fentanyl, according to a 2017 International Drug Control Strategy Report released by the US State Department.

One company that distributes fentanyl in China is the Hotai Pharmacy Co., Ltd. in rural Hubei Province. The company has sales offices in Guangdong, Shanghai, Henan, Jiangxi, and Shandong, and is listed by the Hubei Provincial Administration for Industry and Commerce as a limited liability company owned solely by Wang Jinyu. It has a registered capital of ¥1 million, which is a comparably low amount for a pharmaceutical company. 

A company called Kinbester Trading Co., Ltd. located in the port city of Xiamen, is also listed by media outlet Epoch Times as a distributor of a raw ingredient called NPP used in making fentanyl. The company sold 10 kilograms worth $2,500 to Mexico, and employees stated they did not produce the ingredient, they simply sold it. The company has a registered capital of ¥500,000, was established in 2002 as a limited liability company, and is not authorized to sell dangerous chemical goods, according to Zhejiang Provincial Administration for Industry and Commerce. 

Another company in Shanghai, China Pharmaceutical (Group) Shanghai Chemical Reagent Company, is one of China’s largest producers and distributors of chemical reagents including fentanyl. The company has a registered capital of ¥45 million and is owned in part by the Sinopharm Group, the largest state-owned pharmaceutical enterprise in China. The Sinopharm Group is riddled with red flags and corruption allegations including the 2014 and 2011 arrests on bribery charges of former vice president Shi Jinming, and Zhao Chuanyao, a former general manager for a subsidiary of the group. 

A Chinese chemical reagent laboratory – photo provided by online sources

China began cracking down on illegal fentanyl distribution as early as June 2015, according to government media outlet People’s Network, when custom agents seized 46.8 kilograms of smuggled fentanyl in a Guangdong port. The drug was found inside six boxes containing shoes, clothing, and other personal items, and four smugglers including a customs broker involved with the case were arrested, according to the People’s Network. In February 2016, a fentanyl trafficking ring was broken up in Hunan Province resulting in the arrests and convictions of three people. 

The China National Narcotics Control Commission accedes that Chinese companies do manufacture the drug, but that only one-third of China’s products reaches American streets, while the remaining two-thirds are smuggled in from Mexico. 

On March 2, 2017, the US Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement said during a conference that the United States and China have had a joint liaison group for law enforcement since 1999, and that a resolution will soon be issued under the United Nations Subcommittee on Narcotic Drugs to help curb the fentanyl crisis.

Additionally, the State Food & Drug Administration reported negotiations are underway for US law enforcement officials to help train Chinese drug agencies with investigation techniques into money laundering in relation to the fentanyl and synthetic opium trade, and the Narcotics Control and Public Security Bureau agreed to share information, when possible, pertaining to smuggling secrets. 

The Voice of America cited China’s chemical industry’s lack of regulation issues in September 2016, saying that despite China’s efforts to curb illicit sales of fentanyl, the “smuggling of such drugs and their raw materials between China and Mexico still flourish.”

Since Xi Jinping’s rise to the presidency and the secretary general of China’s Communist Party, China’s propaganda machine has been spinning anti-Japanese, anti-colonialist rhetoric, and has angrily pointed toward China’s embarrassing defeats from the two Opium Wars fought in the 19th century as fodder to incite nationalism. As a trade war looms between China and the Trump Administration, some think America’s fentanyl problem may be retaliation for the Opium Wars, little-known conflicts nearly forgotten by the West. 

“I’m not necessarily espousing this but when you think about it, it makes sense,” Kaspari said. “I have heard people primarily in law enforcement talking about bio-terrorism, that one of the reasons this is being pumped out of China and into our country is with a bio-terroristic intent. Can I point to it and say there’s any hard evidence? No. But if it looks like a skunk and smells like a skunk…” 

Authorities in America can do little but watch, Kaspari said. “We can see when a shipment of carfentanil hits Chicago, they have to read the papers and we can see it move across the county and then it hits Minneapolis/St. Paul, and then we know it’s on the way because there’s a spike in overdose deaths.

“And then it hits Fargo and, boom,” Kaspari snaps his fingers. “We have three overdose deaths. It’s coming into the country in bucket loads. A kilo of it is worth I think $1,200, and has tens of thousands of doses. It’s like a wave coming across the country when a new shipment comes in.”

 

Angel in disguise

“Fentanyl is not the devil, it’s a miracle drug for severe pain management,” Kaspari said. “It’s a beautiful thing.” Longtime use of it builds a tolerance, however, and could be addictive if hospital personnel are not trained properly. 

In the past, police have not known how to deal with addicts, leaving two choices: the emergency room or jail. The single biggest complaint is that suffering people do not know who to call. 

Fentanyl bust in China – photo published by media outlet People’s Network

Fargo Cass Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator, Robyn Litke Sall, said in a Facebook speech that Fargo has a “social detox” center, a place where someone can sit and be monitored until ready to be brought home. Across the state border, however, the Clay County Detox Center has doctors, nurses, and medication, and differs from Cass County’s “drunk tank.” Historically, Fargo has shuffled addicts across the Red River for help, Kaspari said.

“That’s one very big roadblock to people who want to enter treatment because they have to go through detox in order to get into treatment and participate in that project and unfortunately there isn’t really anything here that can help them go through that difficult process that would get them ready to go to treatment,” Sall said 

The Treatment and Recovery Group is working on expansion of facilities, Sall said. Emergency room detox is also currently not available, and such services are not reimbursed through insurance companies.

“The main problem in Fargo is that we do not know how to help people coming off heroin,” Jackie said. “We don’t offer methadone or suboxone for detoxes, which help alleviates withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.” 

Addicts are welcome at the First Step Recovery, for starters, Kaspari said. First Step Recovery is a nonprofit organization and a part of The Village Family Service Center established in 1891. The center treats alcoholism and addictions as a disease, like diabetes or some forms of heart disease.

Under the Mayors Blue Ribbon Commission, politicians and authorities from Fargo, West Fargo, Moorhead, Dilworth, and Horace are pooling resources to battle the crisis. A cocktail of medications is already available to ease the symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction, but additional services are forthcoming – within weeks, Kaspari said. 

“A lot of our perceived holes in our system are just that, perceived,” he said. 

“I’ve been to a lot of these types of workgroups, and all they’ve ever done is talk about the problems,” Kaspari said. “The first meeting when I saw who was attending, you could have knocked me over with a feather.” Everyone at the table was asking what their roles were, he said. 

Substance Use Disorder Vouchers are also available to help those dealing with addiction, according to the Fargo Police Department. Year-long treatment programs focused on accountability and are known as Drug Court, and if successful can erase charges off a drug offender’s record. 

“It often takes several attempts of treatment to try and make it work, that’s not lost on us, we do our best to try and help people get down that road,” Christianson said. “We are a starting point for people to get help… we’ve had people call us and say ‘Hey, thanks for arresting me, I know I wasn’t nice to you at that time it happened, that really turned my life around.’ That doesn’t always happen, but there are certainly cases where that is the case.” 

Jackie accepts her addiction is life long, and is using non-traditional methods to keep herself clean. 

“The statistics are extremely abysmal,”Jackie said. “I don’t even like to look into that too much because most people end up dying or going to jail.” 

Under 10 percent succeed, she said, which is a hard statistic to prove, but it’s the number stuck in her head. 

“I’m just starting to deal with all the bullshit of life, again.” The daily grind is what can wear down resistance. “I detoxed for a few days in the hospital, but I left, or I would have gone insane. For me, I had to cut out toxic people and active users from my life, focus on healthy things like exercise, have music as an outlet, and reconnect with family and friends. The main thing is build a life worth living, build things that build your community, part of it for me is giving back.”

White Supremacist’s Church Burns In Nome

Investigators suspect arson, white supremacists question an “Act of God”

Alt White: The Siege of North Dakota. Part four in the series on racism in North Dakota. Pioneer Little Europe and the Creativity Movement plow ahead with plans in making an Aryan enclave in Nome, ND, but an old Lutheran church bought by Craig Cobb burns to the ground. 

By C.S. Hagen
NOME
– Either arson or “an act of God” left the Zion Lutheran Church in ashes Wednesday, according to law enforcement and one of the building’s owners, white supremacist Craig Cobb. 

Welcome to Nome – photo by C.S. Hagen

Residents of the tiny town of Nome, population 62, alerted authorities to the fire Wednesday afternoon at 295 3rd Avenue. Firefighters from the neighboring town of Fingal, Nome’s volunteer firefighters, and the Barnes County Sheriff’s Office responded after the fire was reported. The first pictures of the blaze were published online in Facebook shortly after 3 p.m. Strong winds helped engulf the 110-year-old church in flames, and within an hour only the chimney and foundation remained. 

Nome is on a hit list including 11 other towns by Pioneer Little Europe North Dakota as one of the places marked for “takeover.” Pioneer Little Europe is a white supremacist operation welcoming Nazis, members of the Creativity Movement, Ku Klux Klan, militants, white nationalists, and racialists to build “arks of survival,” or Aryan enclaves. Previously, Cobb attempted to establish white enclaves in Leith and in Antler. He is currently serving four years probation for terrorizing and menacing residents in Leith in 2013. 

Barnes County Sheriff’s deputies, the state fire marshal, and ATF agents began investigating the fire as arson Thursday morning, Barnes County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Don Fiebiger said. 

“There is no power in the building, there is power up to the building, and it is being investigated as arson,” Fiebiger said. 

Liz Brocker, the public information officer with the Attorney General’s office refused to comment except to say, “Information is confidential.” 

Charred remains of Zion Lutheran Church in Nome – photo by C.S. Hagen

The church was sold for $8,000 by Anthony Cibelli of Florida to Alexis L. Wolf and Kevin A. Richman on September 26, 2013, and then for $8,000 on January 14, 2017 to Cobb with a listed address of 208 E. 3rd Street, Sherwood, according to Barnes County Recorder.

“Quiet enjoyment and peaceable possession of the premises” was guaranteed by the grantor, Richman, according to the property deed. Back taxes and specials of $875.80 were paid by Richman, who is listed as the only owner on the new deed before the handover to Cobb.

Investigators on site – photo by C.S. Hagen

Next-door neighbor, Linda Henrickson, has lived in Nome for 49 years. She was preparing to bury her husband who recently died of cancer, and said she hadn’t seen Cobb in months.

“I didn’t even know about it,” Henrickson said. “I heard a noise earlier, but it was so windy.” When she heard the news she ran to the dining room window and saw the church she attended for decades engulfed in flames. 

 A large 1923 painting of “Jesus welcoming the children,” hangs on her wall. She bought if at the church auction in 2012 and said it used to hang above the church’s altar. Across the room a pencil sketch of the church as it used to look was also purchased at the same auction. Her husband was born in Nome, across the street. Her daughter was once the organist. Her late husband, Bruce, was once the town’s mayor who brought running water into the area, Henrickson said. 

“This used to be a nice little community,” she said. “But it’s becoming a tourist attraction lately.” 

Typically, the town is quiet. Henrickson never talked to Cobb, but saw him once carrying a table, chairs, and a propane tank into the church. 

Abandoned building in Nome – photo by C.S. Hagen

Abandoned houses line Nome’s streets. On Main Street, a skeleton of a building sits on one side, a grocery store named Ruud’s Market has the inside lights on, but the front door is locked and the shelves are empty. A half-boarded up post office sits next door. Main Street is a dirt road, as all the other streets in town. 

At the end of one street, slightly apart from the rest of the town, Kenny Ussatis said he had heard about Cobb, but didn’t pay him much attention. 

“Nobody’s really said anything about him,” Ussatis said. “I’m sure some feel they didn’t like it, but to me it does not make a whole lot of difference.” He attended the church all his life until it shut down due to “running out of people.” The town once had up to 400 residents, he said. 

The loss of the church was not a hard blow for Ussatis, he said. “It was time,” he said. 

The only noticeable business in town, Inter-Community Telephone Co., stands close to a cleanly kept park with swings, an aluminum slide, and an old merry go round. Mary Peterson, a town council member since 1990, used to be the church secretary, treasurer, and custodian. She echoed the sentiment that Cobb keeps to himself, and wasn’t making a stir. 

Nome’s playground – photo by C.S. Hagen

“Whatever happens, happens,” Peterson said. “If he did something wrong then we would deal with it, but so far, he minds his own business.” 

Rumors are circulating as to the actual cause of the fire, Peterson said, but would not elaborate. 

Cobb is one of the best known white supremacists in North America, according to nonprofit hate group tracker Southern Poverty Law Center. He had a falling out with white supremacists after a DNA diagnostics test in 2013, which proved Cobb was 14 percent Sub-Saharan African. He is also a professed member of the Creativity Movement, which believes race, not religion, is absolute truth and that the white race is the highest expression of culture and civilization. The movement also believes that a “holy racial war” is eminent. 

Members of Stormfront, a website started by hate-web guru Don Black, congratulated Cobb on the purchase of the church, saying at least Cobb was active. 

Nome’s Main Street – photo by C.S. Hagen

“If it was arson, that reflects very poorly on the townspeople of Nome,” a sustaining member named Richie wrote. 

“Perhaps put it down to an Act of God, presumably him punishing an atheist for buying a church,” a sustaining member named Lord Flints Volunteer wrote. 

“Whatever anyone’s opinion he is not all talk,” Richie wrote. “He gets off his backside and makes an effort.” 

“How has all the crap targeted at Craig not been considered a violation of the Fair Housing Act?” another sustaining member named WhiteNationhood wrote. 

Cobb claims arson, and is offering a $2,000 reward for any information related to the incident,” according to media outlet MyNDNow. 

Investigators on site at former Zion Lutheran Church – photo by C.S. Hagen

The sleepy town air is tinged sweetly with burning wood fires. Wind whispers through tall pines, and returning geese call out noisily. The former town school, an impressive brick structure now shadowed by trees, is used as a storage space. Like many North Dakota small towns, it is dying, and is a perfect target for white supremacists linked with Pioneer Little Europe. 

The final hymn sung at the church’s closing ceremony June 24, 2012 was “The Church’s One Foundation,” which, excluding a cracked chimney and local memory, are all that remains. 

Residents don’t want another Leith, they said, but also don’t appreciate the recent attention. 

“We don’t need all the publicity,” Ussatis said. 

Nome’s dirt roads – photo by C.S. Hagen

FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force Targets Standing Rock Activist

Senators, lawyers, activists speak out against FBI, citing misguided attempts to link free speech to domestic terrorism

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL
– Joint Terrorism Task Force agents contacted an Indiana activist days after he returned home from Standing Rock’s fight in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Aaron Pollitt, 28, from Indiana, was charged on October 22, 2016 by Morton County Police with engaging in a riot and criminal trespass, according to Morton County Clerk of Court. His trial is pending. 

Aaron Pollitt – from Facebook page

After three weeks of direct action and living in the Standing Rock camps, Pollitt, listed as a water protector by Unity-Bloomington, said he left the fight to go home and vote in November 2016 when he was contacted by law enforcement who identified themselves as the Indiana State Police Intelligence Division. They stopped by his house – twice – called, and left messages, according to Pollitt. According to Indiana State Government website publication of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy Basic Courses, one of the agents involved is connected to JTTF, or the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. 

HPR Magazine chose to withhold the name of one of the agents identified for potential endangerment reasons. 

“First time it happened I did not know why a police officer came out to my house,” Pollitt said. “They wanted to talk to me, wanted to take me out for a Coca Cola, and they also said it didn’t have anything to do with my arrest.

“I told him I didn’t want to talk about it, but they came out again about a month later. I told them I had a lawyer to talk to, so I was a little more clear.”

Pollitt is a carpenter, worked as a stagehand at Indiana University, and is applying to be a ranger in the Forestry Bureau, he said. He is also a musician, a flutist, practicing a type of music called Kirtan, or Vedic chanting. According to a 2010 letter Pollitt is also an adventurist, and an environmentalist who aided in the development of a documentary called “Spirit of the Orca.”

“Strange times we live in,” Pollitt wrote in a Facebook post pertaining to Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Al Franken’s request about an explanation why at least three U.S. citizens opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline are being investigated by JTTF. 

“I am concerned that the reported questioning of political activists by one of the FBI’s terrorism task forces threatens to chill constitutionally protected conduct and speech,” Franken, a Democrat and a member of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Indian Affairs, wrote in a letter on March 1, 2017 to FBI Director James Comey.

The Guardian reported in February that investigations into three activists at Standing Rock is being construed by the FBI as acts of terrorism. FBI personnel could not be reached for comment. 

Pollitt will be defended in court by Valley City Attorney Russell Myhre. Myhre condemned his client’s targeting by JTTF agents. 

“This type of contact, and I have been subjected to it in the past, has a chilling effect upon free speech,” Myhre said. “It appears to be an attempt to tamp down any further attempt to exercise free speech by water protectors.”

“It was really eerie, it is really concerning to be investigated by a terrorism task force or state police, but I am not too concerned,” Pollitt said. “I feel like I am pretty safe.” 

JTTF is America’s front line on terrorism, according to the FBI, and work as small cells of highly trained, locally based, investigators, analysts, linguists, SWAT experts, and other specialists from dozens of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“By assigning JTTF agents and officers to investigate Standing Rock protesters, I am concerned that the FBI has opted to view civil rights activism through a national security lens,” Franken wrote. “Embracing such tactics risks chilling the exercise of constitutional rights and further undermining trust between federal law enforcement and our tribal nations.” 

First page of Senator Al Franken’s letter to FBI concerning its investigations into No DAPL activists

While at the camps outside Standing Rock Pollitt said evidence of racism and hatred were everywhere. He was “cussed out” by Bismarck residents, he said, because as a white person he resembled a protester. He joined the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline because he sees North Dakota government as corrupt, bought by big oil money, and does not truly care for the environment or for the state’s Native American population. 

“I feel personally this is a critical time to make changes so we do not destroy our planet,” Pollitt said. “That voice needs to be loud and clear, but it is continually met with violence.”

His three-week experience at the camps showed him that Standing Rock and supporters were peaceful and nonviolent, he said.

“This is an assault on the rights of people to be scaring us away from our right to protest and to free speech,” Pollitt said. “To be assaulting people with crowd control weapons I think it is an attempt to oppress a certain portion of the population, and a lot of money is being poured into that part of the system by the new administration.

“We need to have the freedom to really express ourselves, especially if it’s a tremendous portion of the population that wants this change. This militarized police force is trying to suppress that voice.” 

Franken and The Guardian reported three people have been targeted in the United States by JTTF, and it is unclear if Pollitt was one of the three or a fourth US citizen targeted, Myhre said. 

In Morton County, Highway 1806 is now open to the public, but law enforcement ask for all travelers to pay close attention to traffic signs as the road will continue to be watched. 

On Monday, Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, LLC, said in court documents that there have been “recent coordinated physical attacks along the pipeline that pose threats to life, physical safety and the environment.” No mention was made of who was responsible for the alleged attacks, and the company plans to have oil running through the 1,172-mile long pipeline early as March 28.

Valley City’s Troubles, a Microcosm of the Nation

Despite nearly a dozen city officials pushed from office, Valley City’s 15-year-old infighting is far from over

By C.S. Hagen
VALLEY CITY
– Russell Myhre lit a second cigarette, pulled his wool coat closer against the February chill after proudly revealing a red heart tattoo on his chest. He waved to Fred Thompson, former Valley City Police Chief, from across the parking lot behind his law office. 

“Hey, Mr. Thompson, come on over here, my friend,” Myhre said.  “You just wandering around?” 

“Nope,” Thompson said. No mistaking the man was law enforcement. Large framed, shoulders slightly stooped, he eyed the area before shaking Myhre’s hand. “Taking care of shit.” 

Two survivors of Valley City’s past decade of political turmoil, a verifiable “Game of Thrones,” Myhre described the contention between politicians and a local citizen’s group. One former police chief, retired in late 2016 after months of investigations, now looking for work; one attorney, nearing 70, tired of the fight and on his way out of Valley City’s political arena. Both “moping with intent to lurk” they say jokingly while discussing the city’s fierce struggles. 

Russell Myhre and blood brother Isaac Dog Eagle, Jr., fifth generation direct descendant of Sitting Bull – photo provided by Russeel Myhre

Stories roll from Myhre’s tongue easily, voice purring in English or Lakota like a finely-tuned Harley Davidson engine. He doesn’t fit the stereotype for any city attorney, describes himself at times as a city enforcer. A Harley clock, pictures of years gone by – Isaac Dog Eagle, Jr., a Standing Rock Sioux medicine man who adopted him as a brother, Myhre as a lobbyist for ABATE of North Dakota – hang from his office’s windowless walls.

No windows because in his line of work, he needs to eliminate routes for attacks. He once carried a pistol in his waistband, used to hide another in a desk drawer. Myhre has been shot at, stabbed, beaten and left for dead while busting drug dealers, brushed the fear from his sinewy shoulders and kept cruising. 

“And I’m still alive,” Myhre said. “People who know me say I’ve lived several lives.” One life he led started before 1982 when he became involved in Native American causes, and later met his wife, a model and “aspiring starlet” Benedicta “Bennie” Frances Callousleg, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who passed away in 2009. They had two children, Amanda and Joshua. 

Six years of near-constant conflict with the Citizens for Community Involvement, however, and he’s finally following nearly a dozen others’ routes to leave government work in Valley City. He’s rearranging his career, “easing” his law practice to another city, plans to rebuild his former practice, but will not sever ties with Valley City.

Russell J. Myhre, Valley City Attorney in his office – photo by C.S. Hagen

Citizens for Community Involvement, or CCI, is a grassroots organization in Valley City, Keith Colville’s brainchild, former president Robert “Bob” Drake said. The group’s mission for the past 15 years has been to fight city hall on decisions and personnel they don’t agree with. Among other issues, CCI’s goals include abolishing property taxes, opposing real estate assessments, and eliminating the Valley City Police Department,. They’ve called for armed citizen patrols when brawls went viral outside city bars, and they’ve investigated, frequently petitioned, for the dismissals of many city and county leaders they deem corrupt. 

Heroes, some call CCI; others curse the name. 

At least 11 city leaders and employees have left or will be leaving their posts in nearly as many years in Valley City, due in part to the ongoing conflict. Despite the exodus of politicians, CCI’s “duty” isn’t finished. Most recently, after Mayor Dave Carlsrud, a former high school wrestling, basketball, and football referee, made a public plea to residents to recognize rules of order during city commission meetings, CCI member and Valley City resident Lloyd A. Nelson took the podium and refused to leave until police approached him, according to Myhre. 

“I would have to say that virtually all of the appointed officials have had various threats, false charges of corruption and criminal acts, and informal smear campaigns against them,” Myhre said.

CCI members have run for political office; most, so far, have failed. They had a friend with former Mayor Bob Werkhoven, who resigned shortly into his second term due to “health issues,” but only after an investigation and grievance claims that he created a hostile work environment, according to city records. Myhre, Thompson, and current City Administrator David Schelkoph filed grievances against the former mayor, receiving settlements: Myhre received approximately $212,000, Thompson received $110,000, and Schelkoph’s settlement amounted to a three-year extension of contract, legal fee payments, and a “golden parachute” guaranteeing him six-months severance regardless of whether he voluntarily resigns or is involuntarily terminated. 

Today, many people are reluctant to run for government, Myhre said. Many, including him and his daughter Amanda, most of his staff at Myhre Law Office, are moving away. 

“I cannot get other attorneys to come here and take over and you know what?” Myhre said. “They say, ‘Why would I want to move to Valley City?’” Applicants for the police chief position after Thompson stepped down were also few and far between, Myhre said.

“Are the citizens of Valley City going to stand up?” 

So far, mostly at night, in local restaurants and sometimes deep in their cups, Valley City residents sidle close to share their disdain for city politics, whispering support to Myhre, he said. 

“Not many can withstand the constant attacks.”

Myhre says CCI’s actions to replace law enforcement with an elected sheriff’s department is a tactic of the Posse Comitatus, an early anti-Semitic, white supremacist organization that in 1983 found a champion in Gordon Wendell Kahl. After refusing to pay taxes and garnering some local support, Kahl shot and killed two federal marshals at a roadblock outside of Medina, North Dakota, then led federal investigators on a four-month-long manhunt, which ended with the death of a sheriff and Kahl’s own life in Arkansas. 

“Giving all police powers to a locally elected sheriff, of course, is a page right out of the Posse Comitatus playbook,” Myhre said. “Such groups’ goals are to bring a whole bunch of people in and overwhelm a community.” A tactic white supremacist groups also use under the Pioneer Little Europe campaign to buy out properties and infiltrate a small, dying town, and then insert their followers into positions of power. Valley City has been targeted as one of twelve North Dakota towns for takeover, according to Pioneer Little Europe North Dakota. 

“Another goal is to destabilize the existing government, and I think that’s what they’re following here in Valley City. They have gone seriatim against virtually every elected or appointed official in the city and have made accusations against them. Either they have dug up really old stuff that goes far beyond the memory of man, or they make something up out of nothing.” 

“No one has the right to bully or intimidate this question into existence,” Schelkoph said in an email. 

Others aren’t sure about a racist connection, but say CCI’s methods resemble the John Birch Society, a conservative and influential conspiracist group supporting anti-communism and limited government, and is described as being radically far-right in its philosophies, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit hate watch firm. 

CCI members reportedly called the first city administrator, Dave Johnson’s adopted Chinese daughter, a “gook,” which may have been part of the reason Johnson created the 2006 website portraying CCI members as Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members. Myhre’s daughter, Amanda, said she has been called a “prairie n***er” by CCI members while waiting in town for automobile repairs. 

In 2013, when the local Pizza Corner began hiring immigrants and African Americans to expand its business, some of the mostly-white residents of Valley City didn’t like to see their city changing, Myhre said. Fights began breaking out on weekends outside of bars during smoke breaks, and CCI proposed setting up a civilian armed patrol. 

“Especially if non-whites were involved, it soon became very racially tinged,” Myhre said. “It set the city on edge, and that was the first indication of what he [Drake] wanted to do.” CCI’s motion to establish the armed civilian patrol was denied. 

“I think white supremacy is one of the underlying themes we have going here,” Myhre said. The overall theme is about the taxes, the sovereign citizens, some of these concepts that they got, and they have been attempting to disrupt city government. It’s not just the city attorney, or the city administrator, they go after all of them.” 

The connection to CCI’s white supremacist tactics lie with facts, Myhre said, and the groups’ repeated attempts to create havoc in city government. 

CCI members deny having anything to do with racist or white supremacist agendas. 

Wes Anderson, the curator for Barnes County Museum, said racist roots in Valley City date to the 1920s, when the city had a covenant banning all black people from living in Victory Park. The museum holds newspapers and books dating to a time when blatant racism was not only allowed, but accepted. Tucked safely away in back offices and boxes he has a Ku Klux Klan sword discovered in the floorboards of a local home, and Nazi armbands brought home from World War II as souvenirs. 

Wes Anderson, curator of Barnes County Museum – photo by C.S. Hagen

“Dark history,” Anderson said. The items have come out for display before, but Anderson says it’s uncomfortable and awkward. “Not a proud part of our history. There are better stories to tell. I keep the Nazi stuff off display as it is hard to maintain good security on them as there is indeed a value to them.” 

As a historian, Anderson said Valley City struggles can be examined and possibly understood under the Strauss-Howe generational theory. 

“There’s a school of thought that history is on a four cycle pattern of generations,” Anderson said. “There’s a generation of builders, and a generation of users, and a generation that tears down, then a generation that suffers, followed again by a the generation of builders. The World War II generation were the builders, and you can see that, they’re the ones that were in these communities and they created all these groups, the Eagles, the Elks, the Legion, they religiously protected all these groups. 

KKK sword at Barnes County Museum – photo by C.S. Hagen

Each group potentially clashes with the next, and today the theoretical circle lands on Millennials  – or the builders – who have returned with a renewed interest in community involvement and politics.

If the theory is true, it would help explain, at least in part, some of the city’s tensions over the years. 

Citizens for Community Involvement 

A few blocks from City Hall, seated in a semi circle in a back room of Iron Stallion Cycles, a motorcycle dealership, six members of CCI gathered to discuss their 15-year-long fight. None appear tired or ready to give up; they’re energized, preparing for the next battle. 

Their eyes are set on Mayor Carlsrud, who is a “milk toast guy” never listening to the real issues, they said. 

Long time CCI leader Drake, one of the group’s most prominent members, leans his large frame into an office chair, chuckles when asked if CCI is in league with white supremacists. 

“I know all these guys in CCI, and there’s not one of them who is bigoted,” Drake said. “All they want is to make Valley City a better place to live.” 

Nelson, a former command sergeant major who fought in the Gulf War, agreed. He’s elderly, enjoys playing the piano, and is a lifelong Valley City resident who recalled days when he didn’t have to lock his car. Now, he bolts his front door for a short walk to the garage, he said. He is angered by the recent resurrection on Blogpost of a “spoof” website originally created by Johnson in 2006, which depicts Nelson as a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and Drake to Adolf Hitler. The website was last updated on January 27, 2017 from Mountain View, California. 

“They just made a few changes and posted it again,” Nelson said. The website ruined his race for mayor in 2006, he said. “It’s a huge mental disturbance for me. The people who hate the Ku Klux Klan are going to hate me.”

Garbage has been dumped in his yard; swastikas have been painted on his sidewalk, he said. He’s been repeatedly kicked from city commissioners’ meetings. 

“I’m fearful,” Nelson said. “That is a hateful website and people are suffering because of this. People are afraid something is going to happen to them, and I am.”

CCI members (left to right) Lloyd Nelson, Cole Mindt, Robert Drake, and Brian Mindt – photo by C.S. Hagen

“Its unbelievable what they did,” CCI member Jack Ertelt said. He’s tall, wears a cowboy hat, and is a lifelong resident of Barnes County. “Look at what they did? Thirty years in the military and Bob a prominent businessman, and smear them like that? Once they go to that level there is no end to it.” 

They say an arrest on a terrorism charge brought against Drake on September 18, 2016 for threatening former City Commissioner Richard Ross, also ruined his bid for county commissioner. The felony charge was lessened to a misdemeanor, but Drake had a criminal judgment ordered against him stipulating an “evaluation” and requiring that he complete “anger-management” classes, according to court documents. 

At times, the group acts as a godfather for the community, settling issues residents don’t feel comfortable taking to the the authorities. Tips are told to the group’s members sparking many of their investigations and petitions. 

“We’ve had people come to us with an issue, because they’re scared to go to the city for fear of retaliation, so we bring their issues up for them,” Brian Mindt, Iron Stallion Cycles proprietor said. “Either they don’t know the channels, or they’re scared.” 

City officials call their group toxic, Mindt said. A small copy of the US Constitution protrudes from his breast pocket. Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” plays over the store’s speaker system. Besides motorcycles and parts, Mindt also has a mini museum of handguns that his son Cole describes. German rifles converted into shotguns after World War II, Confederate and Yankee led bullets from the Civil War. An axe with the word “ISIS” handwritten onto the head hangs from a wall. Above the store’s main counter a sign: “Trump That Bitch 2016.” 

Mindt supports President Trump with a “Make America Great Again” hat. He turned to his computer and opened a picture of a friend he has, a Mexican, who plans to move to Valley City. “It’s all a part of the smear campaign,” he said. “It’s not that we are against government, we just want them to be held accountable for what they do.” 

CCI believes City Hall’s “crimes” have gone mostly unpunished. With nearly a dozen “notches” in their war clubs of former city leaders and employees who have either stepped down or quit because of their pressure, there are more that need to go, they said. 

“Corruption draws corruption,” Ertelt said. “There’s going to be characters forever until we take care of what’s going on at City Hall. Their house of cards could come falling down on them. The exposure is widespread, it’s one article after another.” 

They speak about favoritism shown to city leaders’ children after committing crimes, crooked commissioners who took advantage of the 2009 flood control programs to fatten their wallets through real estate deals. Worse than shady deals they hint at murder by police – unproven – and a case that will probably never see the light through their eyes. 

“I don’t think there is another group like this in the state of North Dakota,” Ertelt said. “A watchdog group that pays attention to their local government whether it’s local or county, and they’ve never had to deal with organized opposition, although it is a loosely-knit opposition, the fact remains it’s here, and it’s staying here, and for how many years before I came on board.” 

Although CCI’s inception dates back further than any of the current members remember, they say it became active in 2003 during controversies surrounding real estate assessments and a 911 emergency telephone center the city and the county both wanted. 

Last week, Drake’s son, Tony, was attacked inside CH Carpenter Lumber Co. building. “They laid in wait for us, or somebody, to walk into the back area where I usually hang out, when Tony went to the bathroom they hit him in the back of the head and knocked him out.

“Whoever it was ran out the front door, and we don’t know who he was.” Drake is following leads, video footage to find the attacker, and doubts the reason for the attack was burglary. “They didn’t leave when they knew we were there, if it was a burglar ready to steal something, he would have run out the front door while we were in the back for five or six minutes.” 

He doesn’t think the attack had anything to do with CCI’s fight against City Hall, but, “I’m not ruling it out.

“He got hit hard, but he was okay by the time police investigated and everything.” He refused hospital treatment, but friends and family are watching him for any signs of concussion. 

Drake described himself as a “bull in a china store,” while his son inherited his more diplomatic genes. 

“I’m more kill people with kindness, he’s more run over them with a truck,” Tony said. Although he and his father do not agree on many issues, their platform is the same.  

Despite Mindt’s gruff appearance, long, greying beard, he’s speaks softly, used to be a Mason and an assistant Boy Scouts leader. Once, with his daughter, he drove more than 400 stuffed animals to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Minneapolis. 

“And I’m still this mean hateful guy,” Mindt said. He recently lost a Supreme Court case involving a district judge, a Hispanic FedEx driver named Sergio Hidalgo Jr., racial slurs including the “N” word, and a secret knock. 

Shave and a haircut, get lost. Mindt taps out the secret knock on his desk. He tells all delivery companies to use the secret knock at the back door to stave potential robberies. Mindt was charged with a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct in October 2015. He filed an appeal in the North Dakota Supreme Court in June 2016, citing District Court Judge Jay Schmitz should have recused himself as he is married to an American citizen from Puerto Rico, and racial slurs including the “N” word were used during the argument.

“There was this FedEx guy, I tried to explain something to and he just went off,” Mindt said. He attempted to appeal the judgment against him in Supreme Court arguing that “Jay Schmitz did not use reasonable judgment in handing down his decision.

“With Judge Schmitz being in an interracial marriage with a black person that is bias and prejudice. He should have recused himself right from the start.” 

“So you would have us say that a white person could not judge a black person?” Justice Lisa Fair McEvers said. 

“Probably not fairly if you are married to one, and your criminal complaint contains alleged racial slurs in there,” Mindt said. “Any reasonable man would say that ‘No, you probably would not.’”

Six other judges could have heard Mindt’s case at the southeast judicial district level, Mindt, who defended his own case, said.  

“So you would have us perpetuate your racial stereotypes by entering that kind of judgment?” McEvers said. 

“…It’s human nature to be at least somewhat biased,” Mindt said. 

“Why should we assume bias?” 

“Because he is in an interracial marriage.” 

“You have pointed to nothing in the transcript that shows bias,” McEvers said. 

“Not in the transcript, no,” Mindt said. “But he is in an interracial marriage. When he goes home he has to answer to that. That is always in the back of your mind.” 

“You are guilty of the crime you are charged with,” McEvers said. 

“No, ma’am, I am not.” 

During the investigation, Mindt hired Darrell Graf as a private investigator, Myhre said. Graf, the former chief of police in Medina during Kahl’s shootout with US Marshals in 1983, has been alleged to be a  Posse Comitatus sympathizer, according to History Commons.

During Mindt’s FedEx trial, Graf came into Myhre’s office. The Kahl shootout in Medina became a 1991 film entitled In the Line of Duty: Manhunt in the Dakotas, and it alleged that Graf warned the Posse Comitatus about federal marshals imminent arrival. Myhre believes that Graf was simpatico with those people, and is partly responsible for deaths of the two US Marshals: Kenny Muir and Bob Cheshire, a personal friend of Myhre’s. 

“Here I am, 30 some odd years later, and I’m talking to the guy I think was responsible for killing my close personal friend sitting across from me,” Myhre said.  

Graf came into his office to complain about not being able to interview police officers involved in Mindt’s case, Myhre said.

The future
Valley City isn’t all infighting and tension, it is the 13th largest city in North Dakota with approximately 6,500 residents. It has an active college, Valley City State University, and is nestled between high hills cozied up to the Sheyenne River.  

Myhre’s last day as city attorney approaches, and he’s glad to be leaving town. He said he has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the conflict, and allegations against him that he gave alcohol to a minor, a charge that was investigated and dismissed by the Bureau of Criminal Investigations. He plans for a fresh start, in a new city.

Thompson is thinking about applying for police work again, possibly “throw his name in the hat” for the recent vacancy in West Fargo. 

He will be sad to leave Valley City, he said, despite his four-year and eight-month term as Valley City’s police chief facing sexual misconduct allegations and an investigation about him drawing his sidearm on a father playing war games with children in a yard, he has fallen for the city. 

But he still harbors ill feelings for the troubles he went through, he said. 

“They didn’t want the guy from the big city, that’s been a continual thing all along.” Thompson was a former captain in the Henderson Police Department in Nevada. “They have no idea what they did when they made me leave. The biggest supporter of this town, and they threw it away. The chances of them finding someone with experience is somewhere between slim and none.” 

If CCI gets their way, for instance by combining the city police with the county sheriff’s department, Thompson said corruption will run rampant. 

“It gives you the opportunity to have corruption in the police department,” he said. “If you control the purse, and control things like housing, it would be pretty easy to make it so certain people don’t live here.” 

“Someone once told me that the nicest thing about North Dakotans is that they leave you alone,” Myhre said. “The bad thing about North Dakotans is that they leave you alone, and that’s part of what this is. No one wants to confront these bad actors, these miscreants and malefactors, who cause all this disruption, because they think it’s not my problem. If I say something then they’ll turn their attention on me, and I don’t want that. That’s why I think they’ve managed to buffalo this city for over a decade.” 

“If you look at this city we have a lot of good things happening here” Thompson said. “This is one of the most beautiful places in North Dakota, we have so many people who are good, honest people, and yet we have this small contingent that has bullied and buffaloed the people, making them afraid to speak.” 

Drake was not born in Valley City, but doesn’t plan on leaving. He owns businesses such as Budget Burger, and other properties, but he’s currently not planning on running for political office again, admitting the fire in his belly has simmered due to aging.

“People in Valley City are the greatest people I’ve ever met,” Drake said. “It’s just the few who happen to rise to the top that basically get in-between a rock and a hard place and say I’m just going to go along with it.”

Once Myhre steps down as city attorney, Drake said their relationship, once at a friendship level, cannot be repaired. 

“It’s all really crooked, and it all stems around incompetent and very vindictive city attorney.” He filed the same complaint that Myhre gave alcohol to underaged girls to the North Dakota Bar Association Disciplinary Board. “And at this moment they’re looking into admonishing him or filing charges of their own,” Drake said. 

“The complaint by Drake to the state bar association’s inquiry committee, while not resolved at this time, appears to be dismissed summarily,” Myhre said. “This is an indication that it lacks merit.” 

Drake is also hoping Schelkoph soon steps down. In a letter written to City Hall, Drake wrote to Schelkoph: “You said if the people don’t want you, you would leave. I think it is past time. I think you should seek employment in another state. Leave.”

When asked if they retaliate against people who disagree with them, CCI members laughed. 

“How am I going to retaliate?” Drake said. “I don’t have authority, I don’t retaliate. All I do is hear an allegation like the chief of police sexually harassing a female officer, and look into it. They’re throwing stones at everyone but themselves. If you go in and put it in writing, they say, ‘Oh, it’s just an allegation we aren’t going to investigate that.’ Well, everything is an allegation until it’s investigated.” 

While Nelson was in Iraq, he once received a report that the leader of the Alabama group under his care was mistreating black people. “I wrote him up, and when he came back to the United States, he was out of the National Guard immediately. So that makes me a racist? They have no idea of the background or what goes on with any of us. You know what the hell they do with white supremacists? Look at that Craig Cobb.” 

As to disbanding city police, that fight isn’t over yet either, Mindt said. “The theory behind that is all we’d be doing is changing these men in blue into brown. We got too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” he said. “They would be held accountable, because in four years we could vote them out.” 

“There are a lot of different people in this country now,” Nelson said. “And there is no more punishment any more. Things have changed, it’s the teacher’s fault, or you shot somebody and it’s the gun’s fault.” 

“We’re a constant nemesis for the city that won’t go away,” Ertelt said. “Every time they mess up it gets exposed, and comes right back to CCI.” 

“If we just gave up, and folded, and quit, things would get so much worse so much faster,” Mindt said. “I want Valley City to be the town of roses and everything they say it is.” 

“They already think we’re a hateful group and that we’re going to bring out the militia and take over the city,” Tony said.

“You’re never popular in your own city,” Nelson said.

“That’s biblical, Lloyd,” Drake said.

Scooting closer, hands folded almost prayer like, Drake said what Valley City needs. 

“Valley City needs an honest newspaper. That would take care of the entire problem.” 

“I see what has taken place here as a microcosm of what is happening on a macro scale, both in terms of local and state political science, but what is occurring in terms of an emerging shift in the political narrative,” Myhre said.

To an extent, CCI agrees on that point. “If you want to know what Valley City is, it is a microcosm of what’s going on in Washington D.C.,” Tony said. “Every person has their kryptonite, and this city’s kryptonite is the truth. And you can quote me on that.”

United Nations Denounces North Dakota State Government

Sweet crude oil preparing to flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline as work finishes, a look at the financials and Russian steel origins behind the pipeline

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL
– Bakken oil could be flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline within a week, but Standing Rock still hopes for a legal miracle as the United Nations condemns what it calls widespread discrimination and North Dakota’s militarized responses.  

As Standing Rock’s legal options diminish, an injunction filed by the Cheyenne River Tribe, part of the Great Sioux Nation, was once again turned down  by federal judges on Tuesday. Previous injunctions filed by the tribe to stop pipeline construction have also been denied by US District Judge James E. Boasberg, citing the the tribe waited too long to bring up the claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz stated on Monday that Native Americans have the right to defy undue pressures by extractive projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline. In a scathing report, Tauli-Corpuz said the United Nations is concerned about the safety of indigenous peoples, their cultures, their sacred sites, and their human rights issues in the United States. 

During her human rights mission for the United Nations, Tauli-Corpuz said she discovered widespread discrimination at local and national levels. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was not consulted as a sovereign nation. 

“In the context of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the potentially affected tribes were denied access to information and excluded from consultations at the planning stage of the project,” Tauli-Corpuz said. “Furthermore, in a show of disregard for treaties in the federal cross responsibility, the Army Corps approved a draft environmental assessment regarding the pipeline that ignored the interests of the tribe. 

“The draft made no attempt of proximity to the reservation or the fact that the pipeline would cross historic treaty lands of a number of tribal nations. In doing so the draft environmental assessment treated the tribe’s interest as nonexistent, demonstrating the flawed current process.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continually dismissed risks and did not conduct an adequate cultural assessment before authorizing the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe or authorized the dumping of materials and waste into waters on Indian reservations, Tauli-Corpuz said. The Army Corps utilized a loophole in environmental assessment laws by fast tracking permits, and after the agency approved an environmental assessment study earlier this year, it backtracked and issued the final easement permit. 

Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak has stated that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was contacted from the beginning of the pipeline planning stages.

The problem is not contained only to Standing Rock, but widespread throughout the USA, Rauli-Corpuz said.

In addition to local and federal government dismissiveness, Native Americans face the full force of negative health impacts from extraction, with rising levels of heavy metals in water and contamination in livestock from spills, faulty well construction, and the effects of frakking, or toxic and non-biodegradable discharges into surface waters. The oil boom has also enticed thousands of oil and gas workers creating an “incredible increase” of human trafficking, drugs, and sex crimes, Tauli-Corpuz said. 

Highway 1806 – photo by C.S. Hagen

“The trauma accumulated as a result of a the largely discriminatory policies of the government toward Indian tribes and individuals since first contact and today, still results in distrust of government initiatives and poor health outcomes for Indian individuals,” Tauli-Corpuz said.  

Her research showed that government, rather than people, have the final say in matters related to Native Americans, and “it is imperative the federal government properly consult before encroaching on indigenous lands,” Tauli-Corpuz said.

With few legal options left to halt Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, LLC, Standing Rock and supporters are preparing to march in Washington DC on March 10 at the Native Nations Rise campaign. 

Activists preparing to leave pause on the Cannon Ball Bridge on Highway 1806 – photo by C.S. Hagen

“They want us to believe that the fight is over,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a press release. “But we can still win this. We can unite in peaceful, prayerful resistance against this illegal pipeline.” 

Officials plan to reopen the tribe’s main artery, Highway 1806, by March 13 if there is “no identifiable threat from protesters to block the highway,” the North Dakota Joint Information Center reported. 

Boom 

The North Dakota political machine has been repeatedly rated one of the worst in the United States for transparency by political watchdogs such as The Center for Public Integrity, and its reactions toward the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy have been scrutinized by press from around the world. 

Before pipeline construction began, a 78-page assessment report was compiled by Iowa-based Strategic Economics Group, Inc., written by Harvey Siegelman, Mike Lipsman, and Dan Otto, for Energy Transfer Partners. 

The pipeline companies promised jobs, growth, and stability, according to the November 12, 2014 report entitled Assessment of the Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.

The report states that the pipeline project would create approximately 32,721 job-years – amount of work done by one person for one year. An average salary per worker was listed as $57,000 a year. “The increase in employment will generate a $1.9 billion increase in labor income, and a nearly $5 billion increase in production and sales in the region,” the report stated. 

After the pipeline is finished, 160 ongoing jobs will be added to the economy in North Dakota, generating $11 million in labor income and more than $23 million in new production and sales per year, the report promised. 

The pipeline was planned to cost Dakota Access, LLC $1.4 billion in North Dakota, of that amount an estimated $655.9 million, or 47 percent totaling $397 million, was planned to result in direct and indirect purchases in North Dakota. 

The total impact of the pipeline project in North Dakota was expected to add nearly 7,700 job-years of employment, generate more than $450 million in labor income, and add about $1.05 billion to the production and sales within the state, according to the report. Additionally, the state was to benefit by receiving revenues of approximately $32.9 million in taxes, of which $1.7 was for local governments, and $5.9 million from individual income taxes. During the first year of operation the state is slated to receive $13.1 million in new property taxes for local governments. 

The construction state of the pipeline was expected to generate $9.6 billion in total output nationally, but only half of that, $4.96 billion in output, or production and sales, would be captured in the four-state area. “That is because many of the manufacturers of products that will ultimately be purchased for this project are located outside of this region,” the report states. 

More than two years after the report was written, one of the authors, Lipsman, said he felt that the report will prove accurate, but that at least two more years were needed for government agencies to compile all the necessary information. 

“Obviously there’s been a lot more spent by Dakota Access because of all the slowdown,” Lipsman said. “Initially, we thought the construction would take two years, and then we came back and they said it would take one year, but with all the delays it’s now in the second year.”

Crews moved from state to state, Lipsman said, and although the actual number of people on the job might be less than what Strategic Economics Group, Inc. reported, he calculated job hours, and not actual personnel numbers.

“Especially since they were doing this so fast a lot of people got significant overtime, Lipsman said. “When we did ours in job years, the actual number of people who were on the project might be less than what we forecasted, but that was because we assume a 40-hour week, but if someone is working 15 to 20 hours of overtime you have less bodies but still as much labor going in.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline used less than 57 percent American-made steel, according to the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, an industry group lobbying for completion of the pipeline. Despite President Trump’s executive order demanding pipes to be made from American-manufactured steel, most if not all of the steel pipes planned for the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL projects have already been purchased. Piles of steel tubes are scattered throughout the Midwest. 

Dakota Access, LLC pipes – online sources

“Much of the steel for the Dakota Access project appears to have been manufactured in Canada by EVRAZ North America, a subsidiary of the Russian steel giant Evraz,” according to DeSmog, a news outlet focused on global warming misinformation campaigns. 

EVRAZ is owned in part by Roman Abramovich, a Russian multi-billionaire who assisted President Vladimir Putin into office in the late 1990s, according to DeSmog. The company’s management team is nearly all Russian nationals and former government workers, which should send red flags up with all American companies. 

For the 2013-2014 fiscal year, Abramovich reported a record profit of £18 million, according to media outlet Journal Star.  

Bakken oil production saw its “largest decline ever in North Dakota production” in September 2016, pumping out 895,330 barrels per day, according to media outlet Oil Price. Production of oil rebounded to 942,455 barrels in December 2016. The price of North Dakota sweet crude was up slightly in January to $40.75, and in February up again to $42.50 per barrel, which is a far cry from the all-time high in 2008 of $136.29 per barrel, according to Oil Price.

Winona LaDuke, a longtime activist and founder of Honor the Earth, disagrees with the math behind Bakken oil. She was part of the fight that shut down Enbridge’s Keystone Pipeline, and says that since Enbridge is an approximately 28 percent investor in the Dakota Access Pipeline, or as she says the Dakota Excess Pipeline, Enbridge should also be responsible for 28 percent of the injuries that occurred outside of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. 

LaDuke says the Bakken oil patch is busted, and the state should be focused more on infrastructure on people rather than for companies. More people today are employed in solar energy facilities than in oil patches, LaDuke said, and the future does not rest with fossil fuels. 

Government projections estimate 900,000 barrels of oil will be hauled out of the Bakken per day until 2019. “What I’m trying to figure out is where’s the oil for the 570,000 barrels a day pipeline you are shoving down our throats? All the oil going out of there now, is the same that will be going out of there in two years.” 

 

The workforce and mineral rights

On the ground reporting, live streaming videos, and reports from activists in the field rarely reported seeing local license plates on Dakota Access Pipeline vehicles, semis, or trucks. And while the state has been quite content bringing in outside companies, supplies, and an out-of-state workforce for the project, its response has shown contempt against all outside activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The North Dakota Joint Information Center frequently posts updates on arrests, identifying repeatedly that out of the 761 people arrested, 94 percent were not from North Dakota. 

Former main entrance to Oceti Sakowin blockaded against police advance – photo by C.S. Hagen

On the construction side of the pipeline, Pam Link, director of governmental relations and new business development for the Laborer’s International Union of North America Local #563, said business couldn’t be better. In 2016, Local #563 had from 400 to 600 union members working on the Dakota Access Pipeline.  

“A vast majority of them were North Dakotans,” Link said. Most of the jobs were short term, but members are already back at work across the state, she said. Her union currently has approximately a dozen workers involved at the drill pad crossing the Missouri River. “We have massive work going on, starting right now, it’s unbelievable, how busy we will be, it’s unbelievable how much work we have.”

Link wouldn’t say if the work load increase was due to changes made by Trump’s Administration, but said in 2016 her union was focused primarily on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Local #49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, Laborer’s International Union of North America Local 300, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, among others, also had members working on the pipeline, according Link. None replied to telephone calls for comment. 

“A larger percentage of positions in the earlier phases of oil development are shorter term or transient in nature, but as more wells are added, more people will be needed to service and maintain those wells,” Tessa Sandstrom, the director of communications for the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said.  

Not including transportation and construction jobs, the Bakken workforce has increased from 5,000 jobs in 2005 to 81,500 in 2013, Sandstrom reported. Numbers began to decline in 2015, but “they will still be a pretty big chunk of North Dakota’s total workforce,” Sandstorm said. 

“The petroleum industry will continue to provide economic, tax, employment, and energy security benefits well into the future of North Dakota,” Sandstorm said. “The Dakota Access Pipeline will play a large part in that because it will make transporting North Dakota crude more economic which means we will get a better price for the barrel.”

Pipeline oil will decrease the cost of transportation per barrel, allowing the state to accumulate at least $100 million or more per year if total oil prices do not sink lower than $50 per barrel, Sandstrom said. While the pipeline controversy cost the state more than $38.2 million taxpayer dollars, according to information released Tuesday by the North Dakota Joint Information Center, the state could easily see its investment paid back through pipeline taxes. 

“It’s easy for detractors to immediately jump to this as being only a benefit for the oil companies, but it, in fact, is a boon to the state and mineral owners as well. Mineral owners would stand to gain between $100 to $120 million per year because of this pipeline”

“In terms of businesses benefitting from oil and gas development, it is not a few local drillers who benefit from the work here,” Sandstorm said. 

North Dakota has more than 400 individuals and 115 companies or independent contractors who are involved in the drilling and well production processes in the Bakken, Sandstorm said. There are also 117 certified native-owned companies that provide oil and gas development services. According to a 2014 study made public by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, more than 876 business in North Dakota are part of the larger oil and natural gas supply chain. 

“These aren’t just the stereotypical roughnecks or roustabouts either,” Sandstorm said. “These positions, businesses, and contractors range from the skilled trades, such as electricians, to engineers and from human resources professionals to legal and environmental consultants.”

Exact numbers of people employed or those who are benefitting from the Dakota Access Pipeline, such as mineral rights owners,  are at best difficult to pin down. At the height of the state’s most recent oil “boom” from 2010 until 2014, the state’s population increased by 66,000, according to the North Dakota Census Office. 

Gary Preszler, chairman for National Host Production Deduction Committee and former commissioner for North Dakota Land Management, also owns a large mineral interest in Billings County, from  which he said the royalty payments have put his children through college.

“The average mineral owner is not going to get wealthy from their checks, because wells deplete and start producing less and less,” Preszler said. “The average mineral owner is not going to have any life-changing windfall. They might improve their lifestyle a little bit.”

The average mineral rights owner is a retired elderly person receiving $50 a month, he said. 

The history of mineral rights in North Dakota is confusing even to oil company accountants, and many mistakes have been made in the past, Preszler said. The puzzle dates back to the 1930s Great Depression when many farmers and ranchers sold their mineral rights to survive. 

At the beginning, the state kept five percent of the mineral rights giving 95 percent to purchasers, then in the late 1940s, the state began keeping 50 percent, then 100 percent in the 1960s, Meszler said. Farm credit service banks and the state-owned Bank of North Dakota also own mineral rights in western North Dakota’s oil-rich lands from foreclosures, and typically keep 50 percent mineral rights when land is resold. Professional oil workers and oil companies also have purchased mineral rights directly from landowners. 

Today, third generation cousins scattered across the United States and oblivious to their ownership titles also are heirs to mineral rights, Preszler said. 

“When you’re a mineral owner, it’s not all the sudden the money pours in,” he said. Oil price swings, production tapering, and mechanical failures fluctuate royalty checks. Sometimes, “You go that mailbox for the month and there’s nothing there,” Preszler said.

The Minerals Management Division of the Department of North Dakota Trust Lands manages 2.567 million mineral acres throughout the state, of which 1.215 million mineral acres are in the oil and gas producing counties, and another 1.352 million acres are in non-producing counties. Schools and other trusts own 1.84 million acres, and foreclosed properties formerly managed by the Bank of North Dakota and Sovereign Lands make up the remaining 728,000 mineral acres.

The state of North Dakota covers 45,250,560 acres, according to North Dakota Studies, of which, including some acreage in South Dakota, 4,689,920 acres are on Native American reservations. The Bakken oil patch, in its entirety, spans approximately 15,360,000 acres.

While some in the Peace Garden State may be profiting from Bakken oil and the Dakota Access Pipeline, few think about the long term environmental and sociological effects, the reason behind Standing Rock’s resistance against the pipeline. Additionally, the United Nations wants the state to pay more attention to those who are to a large degree not profiting from the oil “boom.” 

“The United States government should fully realize the rights of indigenous peoples as enshrined in the UN declaration and the rights of indigenous peoples, and i strongly recommend that the United States government continue to improve on its policies to develop stronger government and government relations with the tribes,” Tauli-Corpuz said.

“Two Worlds Collided” 

Native American Commission holds hearing on the sweat lodge incident, propose mandatory native history classes for Fargo public schools, sensitivity classes for Fargo Police 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– Lamar Heidersheid brought his 15-year-old daughter Angelina to the Fargo Community Sweat Lodge for the first time last week. 

He wanted the experience to be special for her, and to bring their Cherokee culture one step closer to heart. Instead, nearing the end of their fourth round in the sweat lodge, they were raided by Fargo Police. A fellow Native American, Zebedia Gartner, was arrested, and the group spent at least 45 minutes in the cold, wearing little clothing and covered in sweat, witnesses told members of the Native American Commission, the Fargo School Board, City Commissioners, and members of the Fargo Police Department on Thursday. 

Lamar Heidersheid looks on as his daughter, Angelina, speaks before the Native Amerian Commission – photo by C.S. Hagen

“When I saw the flashlight that night it was a shock to me,” Heidersheid said. “I had just gone through four rounds of sweat lodge so my mind was in a different place, like going to church. It took me a few minutes to realize what was going on until I saw the officer take Zeb to the ground.” 

Gartner, 20, an Anishinaabe from Fargo, tried to rationalize with police who were ordering them out into the cold and wind, but his pleas were ignored. Gartner became angry, witnesses said, and police threw him to the ground, kneed his back, and forced him to walk across half frozen ground in bare feet. Gartner wasn’t released from Cass County Jail for nearly 17 hours, and was forced to pay a fine of $400 for an extra piece of chicken taken from Cashwise Foods on January 24. 

Native American Commission – photo by C.S. Hagen

Angelina was forced outside the sweat lodge in spandex shorts and a wet T-shirt. “I was freezing and nobody asked me if I was okay,” she said. “Zeb was handcuffed really hard, his hands were turning colors.” 

When asked if the police raid was daunting enough to keep her from attending a second sweat ceremony, she said no. “I’m used to disappointment and pretty negative things,” she said. 

Heidersheid and others refused to believe police did not know the area was the Native American equivalent to a Western church. 

“It’s just lies,” Heidersheid said. “How could he not know? He [arresting officer J. Rued] needs to go. This had to have been inspired by the pipeline raids.” 

The same day as the sweat lodge incident hundreds of police finished evicting most of the former Oceti Sakowin camps pitted against the Dakota Access Pipeline near Standing Rock. 

Native American Commissioner Sharon White Bear asked the same question. “We’ve been trying to educate people, but we get road blocked,” she said during the meeting. “The things that happened with that young man, I wonder if it didn’t have any follow up to Standing Rock.” 

Others who were at the sweat ceremony during the incident said they could not believe officers involved did not know of the sweat lodge when it has been at the same site for years. Another person was worried about the women who stood out in the cold, fearful of possible hyperthermia setting in. 

Chairman of the Native American Commission, Guy Fox, said he attempted to tell police on February 23 that the sweat lodge was approved for use and on land donated by the city, but police officers did not listen. 

Fargo Police Deputy Ross Renner speaking to the Native American Commission – photo by C.S. Hagen

“We have to mark the line right now,” Fox said. “This was not that an officer saw a fire, but that he did not see a sweat lodge.” Fox made the suggestion that everyone involved during the sweat lodge incident – participants and law enforcement – get together for a sweat ceremony. Fargo Police Deputy Chief Ross Renner nearly agreed. 

“There’s value in the suggestion and I think we can commit to doing that,” Renner said. “Now I understand it more because of what you’ve shown me here tonight. I do think there is some room for us to really move forward… hopefully it will prevent some of these things similar to this from happening in the future. I understand why that occurred and how we ended up were we are today.”

Renner said he now understands the interruption would have been like police raiding a funeral or a wedding ceremony. 

“Had I not been here tonight, I probably would have responded very similarly to how that officer responded… Those two worlds collided, and it’s because of a lack of understanding.”

Renner and Fox then shook hands. 

Native American Commissioner Maylynn Warne lectured the audience about Native American history, going back to before the 19th century. She described how Native Americans numbered nearly 45 million before Europeans arrived, and then their numbers fell from war, disease, and persecution to 250,000 by 1900. 

Today, there are 5.2 million Native Americans and 566 tribes in the USA. Sweat lodges, among other traditions such as sun dances, war dances, even clothing and hairstyles were illegal when she was three years old. The freedom of religion did not apply to her or other Native Americans until 1978 when the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed under President Carter. 

“Today, we still face a lot of discrimination,” Warne said. “We still contend with racism and bigotry. We fight for clean water for everybody and when we bring up this whole painful history, we don’t forget because we’ve had to fight for so many years.” 

Proposed new sweat lodge three dimensional design – photo by C.S. Hagen

“Some in our community think there is a scar, there is a fresh wound that hasn’t healed yet,” Native American Commissioner Clifton Alexander said. He wants accountability on all levels in order for healing to take place. “

The Native American Commission displayed a three dimensional design for a renovated sweat lodge area to be constructed from cedar. The Fargo Police Department was asked to consider long term cultural sensitivity classes for all law enforcement personnel, and the Fargo Public School Board was asked to to accept mandatory education on Native American history for all students. 

“If people aren’t willing to learn and change, then more occurrences will continue,” Alexander said. He made the proposal to work with the city to improve the area. 

“Fargo has it within itself to do this. We can do this.” 

License to Hate

North Dakota’s rash of political knee-jerking, and local hate toward No-DAPL activists needs “sunlight,” human rights advocates say 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– Militarized police armed with emergency declarations, beanbags and bullets, zip ties and presidential orders, have scattered most of the camps pitted against the Dakota Access Pipeline to the four winds, but local hatred against the movement remains. 

And it’s being promoted across the state, from rural farmer to urban politician. 

As the activists’ camps consolidate to its last bastion – Sacred Stone Camp, where the movement originally began – no one has been killed. Many have been injured, and more than 750 have been arrested in what was once North Dakota’s tenth largest community. 

“What this past year has exposed is the ugly underbelly of North Dakota,” Tom Asbridge, former democratic candidate for the House of Representatives in North Dakota, said. “We are as much or more racist and authoritarian than the Old South. It is inescapable. Our Christian values have not stood the scrutiny of our actions. I have been ashamed of my state in ways I never imagined I could be. Certainly our entire religious community must be challenged.”

The tide of hatred reads like a fast-moving news ticker.

Photos by Rob Wilson, C.S. Hagen, and online video sources

Now, North Dakota political leaders, bolstered by the Trump Administration, are more concerned with falling oil prices and returning to a “whiter” America by toughening its stances on protesters and immigration policies. North Dakota State Legislature has proposed and recently passed an unholy trinity of draconian bills targeting protests – a fundamental right protected by the First Amendment.

After passing the House, the Senate voted 33-12 in favor of a measure to criminalize adults wearing masks, and increasing penalties for “rioting” and trespassing were passed with wider margins. The bills were amended by the Senate and will return to the House for a final vote. 

If the bills become law, those participating in a riot involving 100 or more people could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, which is double the current penalties. Protesters involved in smaller “riots” would be charged with a felony and possibly serve up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

A bill that would have essentially legalized murder by car against protesters was killed mid February. In essence, the state is saying wit these propositions that protesters are nothing more than racketeering thugs, and have already called them and those helping activist camps “terrorists” and “paid protesters.” 

Other politicians and local media stations have targeted refugees, saying they carry tuberculosis, and they’re proposing laws meant to say – they’re not welcome in the Peace Garden State.  

“You know what we’re sick and tired of?” Scott P. Garman of Unity-USA said in an editorial. “People who think minorities can be guilty of racism in the same way that members of our dominant society often can be. 

“Racism is prejudice plus power. I know this stark reality may sound harsh, but keep in mind that this fact is not up for debate, it is a clear and real definition.”

Morton County’s militarized police force was something that Jennifer Cook of the ACLU of North Dakota is concerned about. 

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cook said. Using binoculars, she watched as police moved into the camps on February 22 and 23. “For a movement that has been largely nonviolent, it raises a lot of red flags.”

Behind the scenes, the ACLU pushed “very hard” throughout January to have law enforcement adopt different rules for engagement, she said. Cook believes that the ACLU, and many other organizations involved in the controversy, played an important role in curbing Morton County’s apparent appetite for “less-lethal force.” 

“It’s a marked change from what it was before. I think the pressure from a lawsuit involved from us, a lawsuit from the Water Protector Legal Collective/National Lawyers Guild, I hope had an impact on that. And that was part of our goal was to have that change, because we certainly don’t think less-lethal weapons should be used in the manner that they had been used out at Standing Rock.” 

The public outlash comes from fear, according to Shiyé Bidzííl, a Standing Rock Sioux activist, who has spent many of the winter months at the Oceti camps. Fear of the unknown, fear of the things not understood, fear of change, which leaves few options on how to react: learn or reject. On the day before the main camps were evicted, he took a moment to share his personal experiences during the long months since April 2016. 

“There is a difference in me, I have gained a more spiritual knowledge of myself, and what I got to do,” Bidzííl said. “I found my purpose.”

He conquered his fears after two masked white men threatened to attack him outside a Bismarck hotel, he said; repression leads only to resistance.

“As long as a person can believe in the good and in the bad, it’s what empowers us to do greater in this life, to see all the evil in this world, and in a way this is evil and this is bad.” Bidzííl  pointed to the police waiting along Highway 1806 overlooking the former Oceti Sakowin. “Again, invading our treaty territories, and not respecting our treaty laws and our rights as indigenous people here.”

Garman said privilege is the power to be ignorant of one’s privilege, and it is the enemy of truth.

“The truth is this, in our 21st century, multicultural world, many people have a subconscious fear of losing their privileged status,” Garman said. “They usually don’t realize that this is the case, but deep down, somewhere in their heart of hearts, they know that the world is not fair, but this unfairness is especially true for minorities.”

And when such narratives are supported by those in power, the truth is lost, Bidzííl said. 

“They try to come in and portray it as something different, and they think that is the story. The real stories are people like me, all these live streamers here, and all these warriors, and the true story is we’re here to protect the mother and her waters to flow freely for all the people to be free and to drink, to quench our thirst of what we want to do in this life.”

Dozens of police cars lined both sides of Highway 1806, closed off months before to the north. Some police are silent, leaving piles of sunflower seed shells on the pavement. Bureau of Indian Affairs agents cracked jokes about “DAPL Juice,” or “Warrior Juice,” a methamphetamine and Gatorade mix they say activists are known to drink. Police from cities like Fargo, Kenmare, and sheriff’s department across the state sat bored, watched dashboard clocks as the 2 p.m. deadline approached. Behind the rows of sedans and SUVs, the North Dakota National Guard in their Humvees and Bearcats approached. 

 

Police and journalists waiting by serpentine before closing of the former Oceti Sakowin camps – photo by C.S. Hagen

“There’s so much militarized force here, but that’s how much fear they have in them,” Bidzííl said. “They have to show their superior force to make them feel okay with themselves. In that way, we already won.”

Before signing off on a live feed on Sunday from an undisclosed location, Bidzííl thanked all the haters who “stalk” him online. “A message to all my haters, to all my trolls, I want to thank you. If it wasn’t for all the trolls out there we wouldn’t know all the pain and the hate.”

The camps may be mostly emptied, but according to activists, the fight is not over.

In early February, a masked activist released a video to senior justice writer for the New York Daily News Shaun King.

“They call us militant, they say we are violent, that we are not here in prayer… but there is prayer in our actions… and for the next seven generations we will be here for the water. We will not stop until the black snake is defeated. We shall remain until we are free in this world, or free from this world.”

Cook believes that the hatred in North Dakota doesn’t have to be permanent. 

“It can change,” Cook said. “Tensions are high right now on both sides and that much is very obvious. Is there some trickle over in some communities that aren’t near Bismarck, or events that are happening near Bismarck? That very well may be.”

As the policy director for the ACLU of North Dakota, Cook is familiar with most of the incidents that have occurred lately in North Dakota. The best tool to combat hatred is through education, she said. 

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Cook said. 

“It is essential to our democracy, even speech that we abhor, unless it is an imminent threat, like fighting words to someone, we need to be able to protect them. If you push that type of speech underground you won’t be able to see it. How do you know that it’s happening then? How do you know those feelings of racial tension are there?

“We want to bring it to light. We want to talk about it.”

Cultural competency training, community outreach programs, social cultural events, and advocacy to state and law enforcement leaders must occur in order help define what appropriate behavior is. When all else fails, the ACLU turns to litigation to help bring change to state and federal regulations. 

“We need to address issues as they pop up,” Cook said. “One of the best ways to handle these things is to not sweep it under the rug, bring it to light, and do it in a way that is educational to others. 

“That’s one of the great things about the Standing Rock movement; it has given us an opportunity to talk about this.” 

Former Oceti Sakowin main stage burning – by C.S. Hagen

Threats Directed At Native American Arrested From Sweat Lodge

Attempts to refurbish area as far back as 2010 were fruitless, area Native Americans fear retaliation 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– Barking dogs don’t bite, but they’re noisy and excitable. The day Zebediah Gartner, an Anishinaabe from Fargo, was released from Cass County Jail after being pulled from a sweat lodge by Fargo police, the “dogs” began to bark. He received threats and derogatory statements from Fargo-Moorhead residents. 

“A couple people talking nonsense but I didn’t give them the time of the day,” Gartner said.  “They’re just talking crap about my mom, and talking about how stupid we are.” 

Gartner, 20, is a traditional singer and drummer, performing around the Fargo-Moorhead area. The threats and derogatory statements didn’t phase him. 

Zebediah Gartner, 20, a traditional singer and drummer – photo from Facebook page

“I’m kind of a big guy, so it doesn’t matter to me too much. People are going to say what they’re going to say.”

Support from the community, however, has been overwhelming.  

“I’ve got a lot of support, and a lot of prayers from people all over the city, a lot of people standing behind me, or next to me, and trying to help get this done in a good way, and hopefully something good will come out of this.” 

The Fargo City Community Sweat Lodge – photo by C.S. Hagen

People who frequent the sweat lodge, or an Inipi in the Lakota language, say they don’t feel safe anymore, and they’re hesitant to speak out from fear of retaliation, Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase, founder at Sahnish Scouts of ND, a missing persons advocate, said. She is from Standing Rock, and enrolled in the Three Affiliated Tribes Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa.

“Retaliation stems from what people have witnessed at the Standing Rock Camps and then now this incident at the lodge,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “People do not trust the law.  It has trickled into our communities. We feel it.”

The sweat lodge, known as Fargo City Community Sweat Lodge, is located on city-owned property in South Fargo donated to the Native American Commission. Known as the closest native structure resembling a Christian church, it has been in use as a site of healing since before 2010. A grant that was applied for at that time to spruce the area up was denied due to zoning laws and HUD restrictions, according to Native American Commission meeting minutes on March 13, 2010. 

Another hurdle the Native American Commission faced in 2010 was that spirituality to Native Americans was a way of life, and not strictly a religion. Willard Yellow Bird, cultural planner for Fargo, also made public his intention of applying for grants in October 2010 for improvements. 

“The Native American Commission used to have a sign designating that area,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “When they moved the road it disappeared, we brought this to the attention of the commission, nothing was ever done. This could maybe have been prevented if they had followed through.” 

Gartner was pulled from the sweat lodge Thursday night in nothing but his undershorts, he said, approximately seven hours after militarized police cleared the main camps fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Gartner alleges police grabbed him, kneed him, and walked him barefoot and still sweaty in sub-freezing temperatures to awaiting police cars. A friend brought him his shoes before he spent the night at Cass County Jail, he said. 

Ground Zebediah Gartner was forced to walk across barefoot in sub-freezing temperatures – photo by C.S. Hagen

Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said the arresting officer, J. Rued, was new to the force, and that those involved responded to an unattended fire in a field. 

“It was a misunderstanding,” Mahoney said. The Fargo Police Department and area fire departments will begin cultural training courses pertaining to Native American traditions. 

The area is muddy, split wood and stones for heating are piled up awaiting use. The Inipi is covered in colored blankets. Stones and a deer antler point to the opening. Two porta-potties and a white shed stand nearby the sweat lodge; the area does not resemble a hastily-made camping site, rather a place of cultural significance. 

“Every time we have a sweat, they [police] drive by,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. Sometimes when police pass by they initiate their siren, but rarely leave their vehicles, she said. Some officers stop and ask how things are going, and non-native locals occasionally stand across the street to stare, calling it an eco village.

“Part of the protocol is that one of the commission members will call it in and let them know that we’re out there,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. Typically, 48-hour notice is given, she said. Yellow Bird-Chase encourages anyone to join in a sweat. “Most people are white who show up and that’s totally cool.” 

In the winter, sweat ceremonies are held at most once a week, while  during the warmer months sweats could occur up to several times a week. Women usually wear dresses, and the men wear swimming trunks or undershorts.

News that the city plans to shut the Inipi down for several weeks to make upgrades to the area was good news to Gartner. 

“It’s good news,” Gartner said. “It’s about time the city steps in and helps out more than what they did with the little chunk of land.”

“We have been promised change before, lots of lip service,” Yellow Bird-Chase, formerly on the Sweat Lodge Committee, said. “Hopefully something good comes of this, maybe more action and not so much lip service.”

Fargo Police Arrest Native American From Sweat Lodge

Fined $400 for an extra piece of chicken from local grocery store

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Fargo Police pulled Native Americans out of a sweat lodge during a spiritual ceremony Thursday night, and took one to jail wearing nothing but undershorts for resisting arrest. 

The resisting arrest charge was dropped for insufficient evidence by the city early Friday, but Zebediah Gartner, an Anishinaabe, pled guilty to a class B misdemeanor for theft of property, which stemmed from a January 24 incident involving a disputed two or three pieces of chicken taken from Cashwise Foods, according to court proceedings. 

He pled guilty to the charge in Fargo City Municipal Court, and was fined $400. 

“Four hundred dollars for a piece of chicken,” Gartner’s mother, Monica Gartner said. 

“I did take the chicken but I didn’t eat it, I threw it away because the guy told me I could only have one, so I threw it away and walked out of the store,” Gartner said during televised court proceedings. “So I guess I plead guilty, your Honor.” 

The city recommended a deferred sentence of 11 months, which means Gartner must steer clear of the law in order for the guilty plea to be withdrawn and the file to be sealed.  Gartner has no criminal record or prior convictions, according to the city prosecutor. 

Monica was visibly relieved when the judge announced the charges had been dropped in court, but couldn’t believe two pieces, or as the city states, three pieces of chicken could be worth $400.

For police to drag people from a Native American sweat lodge is the same as dragging people away from church, Monica said. 

“They were in the sacred lodge, they heard yelling, and opened up the door,” Monica said. “There were more than five police cars and a fire truck.” 

Gartner was released from Cass County Jail at 2:45 p.m. He said the incident was traumatizing. 

“We were in the sweat lodge, basically a Native American church, and we were just finishing up,” Gartner said. “I opened the door and a cop flashed a light on us.” 

The police officer asked for identification, to which Gartner replied he didn’t have to comply as he had not committed any crime. 

“He grabbed my arm, and kneed me,” Gartner said. Then he was pushed to the ground and handcuffed. 

Zebediah Gartner released from jail Friday afternoon after Fargo police pulled him from a spiritual ceremony in a Native American sweat lodge  – photo by C.S. Hagen

Wet with sweat from the lodge, police led him over frozen ground and snow in sub-freezing temperatures toward police vehicles, without shoes, and nothing but trunks on, Gartner said.

“The handcuffs were so tight that my fingers were swelling up,” he said. He revealed minor injuries around his wrists from where the handcuffs were clamped. 

Native American Commissioner Maylynn Warne said Gartner’s arrest was disrespectful of Native American traditions and unwarranted. The sweat lodge located off 38th Street in South Fargo has been used for many years. 

Sweat lodges are a place where people can go to re-purify themselves and find their path back to traditional ways. Traditionally, the lodges are circular, and are formed from saplings. The sweat ceremony includes the chanunpa or the peace pipe, prayers, offerings of tobacco, sage, cedar, or sweetgrass in a sacred fire. Red hot stones are later brought into the lodge and placed into a pit. Much like saunas, water is poured over the stones to induce steam and heat. 

“This is like a church, a sacred ceremony,” Warne said. “If something like this happened at a church, it wouldn’t be this way. This shows how they’re treating American Indians here, and what’s happening out in Standing Rock is playing itself out here.” 

Law enforcement from across the state and Wisconsin finished evicting the main camps outside of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Thursday afternoon, the North Dakota Joint Information Center reported. Since August, law enforcement has spent more than $32 million and have arrested nearly 750 people during Standing Rock’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tensions were high this week at the former Oceti Sakowin camps as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ deadline to empty the camps was resisted by more than 100 people. 

“He was dragged out in his undershorts, into the cold, and marched to waiting police cars,” Monica said. “He tried to reason with them, and Zeb is really outspoken, he was standing up for our culture.” 

Photograph of  police Thursday night at the sweat lodge – photographer wishes to remain anonymous

In a post on Facebook related to the incident, Ashley Maye said she was at the sweat lodge when police arrived. 

“It was ridiculous,” Maye wrote. “They tried saying they’ve been patrolling this area for a few years and they weren’t aware of it. I said that’s hard to believe as it’s been operating and running for years. They also tried to allege that it was illegal to burn the fire. The arresting officer was being rude, sarcastic, and snide, and purposely was trying to rile Zeb up. Six squad cars showed up as backup.” 

“Being removed, and thrown on the ground when you are fresh out of lodge and have nothing on but trunks and its cold out, poor discretion to say the least,” Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase, founder at Sahnish Scouts of ND, a missing persons advocate, said in a Facebook post. “I have been told before there has been questionable behavior on police’s part, just another example of North Dakota not so nice.”’

Fargo Police Officer J. Rued is listed as the arresting officer. Fargo Police Officer Cultural Liaison Vince Kempf visited Gartner while in jail, asking him if he needed a ride home, Gartner said.

Warne said the Fargo Police Department does far too little to educate its officers on Native American traditions, and Thursday night’s arrest was little more than institutional racism. 

“We just didn’t show up here, we’ve been here,” Warne said. “The only way to solve this is through education.” 

Mayor Tim Mahoney said the incident was a misunderstanding. Police officers saw an unattended fire in a field, and because of a lack of training, and because the arresting officer was new to the force, made a mistake.

The area also needs fixing up, which Mahoney said will occur during the upcoming weeks. In the meantime he said the sweat lodge will have to be closed until the repairs can be made. Additionally, cultural training courses pertaining to Native American traditions will begin soon for the Fargo Police Department and fire departments, Mahoney said. 

“The police department wants to work with Native American Commission on cultural competency training for all their officers so this doesn’t happen again,” Willard Yellow Bird, cultural planner for Fargo, said in a Facebook post. 

Gartner plans to look into filing a lawsuit against the Fargo Police Department he said, but is unsure how to begin. 

The Final Standing Rock

 Former Oceti Sakowin Camp cleared, 47 arrested, some flee across river to Sacred Stone Camp

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL – Twenty hours before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ deadline to evacuate the Oceti camps, the thunder beings arrived. 

And geese returned home a month or more early. 

Signs, activists say, like the the herded buffalo that charged near law enforcement in November 2016, or the golden eagle who perched for hours on a nearby fence, that nature is listening. 

On the final day for the Standing Rock camps’ fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, native songs and flames filled the air. No tears, many smiles, for their cause – to protect water and indigenous rights – had just begun, activists said. 

First structures set ablaze at the Oceti camps February 22 – photo by C.S. Hagen

“People on the ground are doing the right thing,” long time activist and attorney Chase Iron Eyes said. Lightning streaked in the horizon as he spoke. 

“They are surrounding us on all sides, not only by the United States military the Army Corps, but by the National Guard, by Morton County Law Enforcement, by every small town and county in North Dakota, and by private DAPL mercenaries. But add to that there are federal Indian police that answer to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which answers to the Department of the Interior, and used to answer to the Department of War, and now those federal Indian police answer to President Trump.” 

Shiyé Bidzííl, a Standing Rock Sioux activist, has spent many of the winter months at the Oceti camps. He experienced difficulty live feeding one hour before the Army Corps deadline of 2 p.m. Wednesday, and climbed out of the floodplain onto Highway 1806 – where law enforcement kept journalists and legal observers at bay – to get better reception.

“All this stuff we’re doing to Mother Earth here is very wrong,” Bidzííl said. “And in the end, it’s not DAPL, it’s not Morton County, it’s not the water protectors who will have the last say so. All these beings are signs, we’re talking about the thunder beings, the eagles, it’s here. It’s right before our eyes.”

Shiyé Bidzííl, a Standing Rock Sioux, prepares to leave an hour before deadline – photo by C.S. Hagen

Behind Bidzííl, another tipi burst into flames. In all, more than 20 structures including tipis, tents, and makeshift homes were burned to ash. Each flame burst was preceded by an explosion. Two people, a seven-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl were burned, and had to be transported by the Standing Rock ambulances to local hospitals, according to the North Dakota Joint Information Center. 

“This camp might be burning down, but this is just the beginning of it,” Bidzííl said.

Camp structures were burned not for vengeance, Bidzííl said, but for cleansing. 

“It’s a way of leaving a place that we’ve held so long here, and burning down a structure is a part of that ceremony of leaving things. Burning. Burning all the prayers, all the traditions, all our fights, courage, bravery, strength, all going up in flames. Everything we do here means something.”

Burning their tents activists have called home for months, is also their way of giving back to nature. 

“Burning your camp, burning your tipi, burning a place you’ve called home, because the enemy is coming in to attack you, and we don’t want them touching anything. We don’t want them coming into our tipi and our home. So what do we do? We burnt it. And for us we’re burning it back, let it go back to its natural state of being.”

Guardhouse of the Oceti camps ablaze – photo by C.S. Hagen

South on Highway 1806, across the Cannon Ball Bridge, busses and state-sponsored travel-assistance packages worth $300 were waiting for anyone who wanted to leave. 

Activists at Oceti entrance while fires rage behind them – photo by C.S. Hagen

No one volunteered, Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Iverson said. The services, which included a hot shower, food, taxi money, and a bus ticket home, were going to be available until 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the North Dakota Joint Information Center. 

Jennifer Cook, a legal observer from the North Dakota ACLU was worried about being stuck behind cement barricades, hundreds of meters away from the camps. 

“We are only here to observe actions, we’re not here to protest, we’re only here to record what we see and what we hear,” Cook said. She has seen an improvement in police responses since Governor Doug Burgum took office.

“Our hope is our access will continue, and that we will be able to ensure that this is a peaceful and safe removal of any water protectors that choose to stay in the camp past the two o’clock deadline.” 

Shortly before 2 p.m. deadline, a group of at least 60 activists paraded from Oceti’s front entrance to where a United Nations College bus waited to escort them away. Many were covered in mud, their possessions were meager. Some wore plastic bags to protect themselves from stinging snowflakes. Burning sage and hugs accompanied drumbeats as water protectors – now friends – said their farewells. 

Old Glory and the “shroud-like” image in the flag, activists marching out of the Oceti camps – photo by C.S. Hagen

Across the Cannon Ball River, however, a handful of up to 100 activists refused to leave. Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported 10 people were arrested on Wednesday. Law enforcement did not infiltrate the camps as sundown approached. International journalists from the New York Times, Fox New, CBS, ABC, and local reporters from the Bismarck Tribune, and the Grand Forks Herald lined up like Civil War gentry awaiting a spectacle behind a serpentine wall as the clock struck 2 o’clock. 

More than 100 police officers from counties and cities – Fargo to Kenmare – including the Wisconsin Sheriff’s Department, planned to “ceremoniously arrest” activists, Iverson said. A ceremonious arrest is a staged event meant to show law enforcement’s restraint, but the arrests accompanied real trespassing charges, Iverson said. 

“It’s not going to end today,” Iverson said. “There are multiple camps.” 

Law enforcement also wanted to inspect every dwelling in search of possible crime scenes including missing persons or drugs, Iverson said. Setting fire to structures was hindering police investigations.

“It’s hypocritical to say it’s about clean water when things are on fire and things are exploding,” Iverson said. 

Early morning Backwater Bridge and snow – photo by C.S. Hagen

Earlier on Wednesday, Burgum’s policy advisor, Levi Bachmeier, asked camp wellness director Johnny Aseron for permission to allow armed police with cleanup crews into the camps before the deadline. 

“Armed or unarmed?” Aseron said. “While we are in a cleanup day we’re going to have armed officers in the camp?” 

The offer was refused. The cleanup crews were turned away, according to Iverson. Early Thursday morning the North Dakota Joint Information Center reported no major movements from either law enforcement or the activists remaining in the camps. Law enforcement plans to raid all camps on Army Corps lands, but not the private land at the Sacred Stone Camp. 

Camp leaders also requested a “Geneva space” at the southern end of the Oceti camp for those who wanted to peacefully resist. Their offer was accepted by the governor’s office until 2 p.m. Wednesday. 

Activists said law enforcement were fearful, they, however, were not. 

“Fear,” Bidzííl said. “A wonderful, beautiful, chaotic way of explaining everything. We can use fear to fight fear. I allowed myself to be put into that situation in order to rid the fear in me.

“We got people heading out, we got people with prior felony warrants who are making that choice today to stay here or get out of camp and protect the knowledge and keep it going.” 

Bidzííl planned to leave by the 2 p.m. deadline, and head to Iowa to continue the fight against pipelines. Last December, he recalled being threatened by locals in Bismarck while trying to check into a hotel. 

Tipis and structures burned for a reason – photo by C.S. Hagen

“They terrorized me a lot, but little did they know… all my fear came out of me. I’m not scared to go and do anything or say anything, because it is my right.” He was threatened by locals in Bismarck last December while trying to check into a hotel. 

Since President Trump’s executive orders to expedite the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Army Corps’ sudden issuance of the final easement under the Missouri River under Lake Oahe, less than one mile from the Standing Rock Reservation’s border, Bidzííl has frequently heard the DAPL equipment digging. 

“There’ more power in ourselves when we show we can stand up to the fear, the racism, and the terrorizing.” His experience at the camps, which have stood in resistance to big oil interests since April 2016, have united hundreds or tribes across the world, and was at one time North Dakota’s tenth largest community, has changed him, he said. 

Activists salute at the front entrance of Oceti camps – photo by C.S. Hagen

“There’s so much militarized force here, but that’s how much fear they have in them,” Bidzííl said. “They have to show their superior force to make them feel okay with themselves.” 

He knows all about the indigenous struggles, and how Native Americans have been given more than a “bad shake” since the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie. 

“You know what’s different about it this time? They created something that creates fear in their eyes so much, and that’s called water protectors. We’re here to protect water, but at the same time we’re here to protect what’s right in this world.” 

Law enforcement cleared the former Oceti Sakowin Camp by 2:09 p.m Thursday, arresting 46 activists who refused to leave the main camp area, according to the North Dakota Joint Information Center. 

“The past two days have gone very smoothly in a challenging environment and complex effort to clear the camp,” Burgum said in a press release. “Dozens of local, state, and federal agencies showed tremendous coordination to ensure the prices was conducted safely and securely.”

No less than lethal force was used during the overtaking of the former Oceti Sakowin, the North Dakota Joint Information Center reported. A group of veterans occupying a tent refused to leave voluntarily, but would exercise passive resistance resulting in law enforcement carrying them out. 

One activist waited for police on a rooftop. Approximately 60 activists fled to the frozen Cannon Ball River, and many others escaped to Sacred Stone Camp, which is on private land and was not to be cleared, according to government spokespeople. 

As of February 21, the North Dakota National Guard accounted for 35,412 man hours spent guarding road blocks and assisting police, and 1,421 guard members were called for duty throughout the controversy, according to the North Dakota National Guard. The North Dakota National Guard spent a total of $8,752,232 during the months after former Governor Jack Dalrymple called a state of emergency in August 2016. 

 

Veteran who spoke to police on behalf of an elderly woman in the camp being arrested – photo provided by North Dakota Joint Information Center

Activist being arrested – photo provided by North Dakota Joint Information Center

Well armed police prepare to clear an area – photo provided by North Dakota Joint Information Center

Law enforcement entering former Oceti Sakowin Camp – photo provided by North Dakota Joint Information Center

The State’s Siege of Standing Rock

The state’s stranglehold on the anti-DAPL movement squeezes shut, veterans speak out

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL – Standing Rock’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline has all the ingredients of legend, with only the ending remaining be be told. Centuries past, bards would be tuning their lutes, preparing lyrics, in fact, modern singers such as Neil Young, Dave Matthews, the Black Eyed Peas, Trevor Hall, and many Native American talents have already immortalized Standing Rock’s resistance. 

“If you are a rock, stand up like a mountain,” Hall sang about Standing Rock

Two months ago, the story promised a happy ending for activists: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted the pipeline, ordered an environmental impact statement, and thousands of veterans converged into the camps. The caravan stretched for miles, cars – bumper to bumper – for a full day and a night. 

Activists offering thanks of sage, fir nettles, and tobacco to the former Oceti Sakowin sacred fire – photo by C.S. Hagen

Proponents of the pipeline however, bided their time, waited on a savior. Bending to pressure from President Trump’s Administration, the Army Corps has issued the easement needed for Dakota Access, LLC to complete the pipeline, and have said nothing about the continuation of its promised environmental impact statement. The Peace Garden State’s tactics against the Standing Rock camps – pitted for an ongoing 190 days against the 1,172-mile pipeline – were nothing more than a slowly-squeezing siege, activists and veterans say, calculated and methodical. Like a medieval siege. 

Activist at Highway 1806 barricade – photo by C.S. Hagen

“It started with the roadblock, which brought economic sanctions against Standing Rock,” attorney and long time activist Chase Iron Eyes said. “It was a genius move, but now the walls are definitely closing in.” 

Once North Dakota’s tenth largest community with more than 10,000 people living in the floodplain along the Cannonball River, the remaining activists now number only 400, Iron Eyes said. Calls have gone out to return; some, including veterans, are heeding the cry for help. 

“Numerous law enforcement and federal agencies have severely limited access to the camps at Standing Rock,” Mark Sanderson, executive director for VeteransRespond said. “They run propaganda and psy-ops against any group going to help. You can’t make it to camp without going through roadblocks or checkpoints. The situation on camp is that many necessities are very limited. Clean drinking water for one is hard to get, fuel for generators, food.”

 

Siege (n.) early 13th century, from Vulgar Latin ‘sedicum’ meaning ‘seat’

Militarized law enforcement began its siege by closing down Highway 1806, and then erecting a blockade on Backwater Bridge to rival Korea’s Demilitarized Zone. One of the first rules of a siege is to isolate the target, like the Arabs did against Constantinople in 717 CE, or Nazis 872-day siege against St. Petersburg in 1941, or the 1,425-day siege of Bosnian Serb’s against Sarajevo in 1992.

Law enforcement and the North Dakota National Guard toyed with closing the road down for nearly three months before making the blockade official in late October 2016.

Former Governor Jack Dalrymple set the stage. In August 2016, he declared a state of emergency. Two months later he issued an emergency evacuation order, further declaring anyone caught supplying Standing Rock with goods or equipment could face a fine of up to $1,000.

DAPL Front lines in January 2016 – photo provided by Johnny Dangers

Besieging forces are not allowed to target civilians, according to the U.S. Army field manual’s Additional Protocols of 1977, and relief agencies are authorized to provide aid to people in need. A day after the threat was issued by Dalrymple, he backtracked, saying police would not target people or close down additional roads.

Backwater Bridge is the site where Morton County Sheriff’s Department hosed activists in below freezing weather; the site where Sophia Wilanksy nearly lost her arm; the site where trucks were burned, where disguised infiltrators attempted to gain access to the main camp, and the site where dozens were maced, injured, and arrested. Instead of using trebuchets and crossbows, law enforcement used its “non-lethal” arsenal of pepper spray, water cannons, and percussion grenades.

It was also the site of prayers, burning sage, traditional dances, and colorful banners. 

 

Surrounded on all sides

The state’s next move was to encircle the Standing Rock camps. A second rule for laying siege is to completely surround the target, preventing food, water, and supplies from assisting the besieged. Activists at Standing Rock soon found themselves trapped behind razor wire, mace, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades. The only route in or out was to take Highway 6, which easily added 40 minutes driving time. 

When activists attempted to reach the DAPL drill pad in November, hundreds of police waited along Cantapeta Creek, showering activists in frigid water with pepper spray. When they marched on Backwater Bridge, they were hit with water cannons, percussion grenades, mace, and pepper spray. When activists plowed through snow and across a frozen Cannon Ball River in January, they were met, once again, with razor wire and more mace. 

Activists nearing DAPL drill pad – photo provided by Johnny Dangers

Many of the actions taken by activists occurred on reserved lands the Sioux Nation agreed to during the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and have never relinquished, according to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II. Lands north of the Cannon Ball River were taken from the Standing Rock Tribe after massive devastation from damning the Missouri River during the Pick-Sloan legislation. 

Police sprayed mace and pepper spray intermittently at activists in Cantapeta Creek – photo by C.S. Hagen

“They’ve also encouraged the local economies to participate in the siege by denying support to those trying to secure goods for camp,” Sanderson said. Sanderson retired from the US Army in 2015 as a Sergeant First Class. He was a designated marksmen and was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in Baghdad, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Riot police spray activists at Backwater Bridge – photo by Rob Wilson Photography

“They make it seem like we’re all coming with intentions of building bombs and getting into confrontations, they’ve successfully turned a large group of Americans against veterans.”

 

Psychological warfare 

Next came psychological and according to some, biological warfare. Although Morton County denied the use of chemicals against activists near Standing Rock, more than 40,000 pounds of Rozol Prairie Dog Bait, an anticoagulant rodenticide, were purchased by a nearby rancher, David Meyer, of Flasher, according to the United State Environmental Protection Agency. A portion was spread across more than 5,408 acres of nearby pasturelands in the spring of 2016, the same time activists began gathering at Sacred Stone Camp. Investigators said the chances any of the more the 20,000 people who traveled through Standing Rock being poisoned were remote, nearly impossible, but many activists retain their doubts. Questions have arisen as to whether humans now suffering what is known as the “DAPL cough” might not have been affected. 

Frozen water at Backwater Bridge – photo by Rob Wilson Photography

“There have been no substantiated clinical cases of Rozol poisoning traced back to camp exposure,” NDResponse.gov, a state information delivery platform said. “Wood-burning stoves, kerosene heaters, and other temporary forms of heat have been known to cause lung, nose, and eye irritation. An ongoing cough is not consistent with Rozol exposure.” 

Sound cannons, attack dogs, and tactics causing hyperthermia, were also used against activists admittedly trespassing during their repeated marches on the pipeline. 

Airplanes and helicopters surveyed the camps daily. Cyber warfare ensued, including reports of mass data seizures, electronic bugs, stolen files, according to the Lawyer’s Guild Mass Defense Committee and nonprofit Geeks Without Bounds. 

Coldness of river, evident by discoloration on activist’s back – photo by C.S. Hagen

Medics battle hypothermia and hurry to warm activist – photo by C.S. Hagen

And then came Standing Rock’s victory on December 4, celebrated as joyous news to many activists. Standing Rock Tribal Council asked everyone to return home, winter was coming, and the camps’ numbers dwindled. 

Some, including Iron Eyes, stayed. The December victory was an ingenious stall of time, he said. A besieging army would never dare attack a force with far superior numbers. 

“December 4 was no victory at all,” Iron Eyes said. “We didn’t win. They told us to go home because ‘we won,’ ‘our prayers were answered.’”

State tactics were seemingly pulled straight from a page of Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War.’ 

“It turned the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, under economic duress, against the same people they were supposed to protect.” He is currently in Canada, but plans to return to Standing Rock later this week. He faces a Class C felony charge of inciting a riot, and he’s also planning lawsuits against Morton County. 

“Morton County is trying to throw me back in prison,” Iron Eyes said. In addition to being the founder of media outlet Last Real Indians, Iron Eyes ran for a congressional seat in 2016. “It seems ludicrous to me.” 

Iron Eyes is worried that the Army Corps’ deadline for all camps to be evacuated by February 22 will be the government’s final assault. 

“I’m afraid it will look like the Siege on Fallujah,” Iron Eyes said. 

Activists hugging each other as law enforcement issue final warning to move – photo by C.S. Hagen

VeteransRespond

When pipeline proponents’ savior, President Donald Trump, ascended to the White House in January, political attacks intensified. In addition to Morton County Sheriff’s Department propaganda program entitled “Know the Truth,” which includes short videos from the law enforcement side of the controversy, the state kickstarted a website called NDResponse.gov, a “a single source of accurate and timely information.”

Veterans for Standing Rock before the former Oceti Sakowin Camp sacred fire on December 4 at – photo by C.S. Hagen

Politicians, including Representative Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, and Morton County Commissioner Cody Schulz called activists paid protesters, and blamed missing livestock in the area on activists while the case is still ongoing by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. 

“As many as 14 dead or missing animals have been reported in the vicinity of the encampments,” NDResponse.gov reported. “Whether any of those animals were consumed illegally is part of an ongoing investigation.”

The state is further attempting to sway public opinion by depicting activists as careless by disseminating video of trash being compiled at the former Oceti Sakowin Camp. The state’s official stance is that activists are trucking garbage to one camp location and dumping it for a consolidated pick up, but at the same time report officers are digging through the trash looking for dead bodies. 

“The veteran community is being targeted as they would a minority,” Sanderson said. “We feel like the supporters of the civil rights movement.”

Although more than 700 people have been arrested, Morton County Sheriff’s Department broadcasted a case on Monday saying “Leader of VeteransRespond Cited for Drug Possession.” Matthew Crane, VeteransRespond chief operations officer, who uses medical cannabis to treat PTSD, and three others were cited after they traveled beyond the road closure sign on Highway 1806 near Fort Rice. 

Matthew Crane – Facebook page picture

“One of the occupants turned over a smoking device identified as a pipe used to ingest marijuana,” the North Dakota Joint Information Center reported. “At that point, all occupants and their luggage were removed from the vehicle and searched by the K-9. A bag of marijuana was located with Crane’s name on it.” 

Medical Marijuana was legalized by every state district in North Dakota last November. The bill, known as the North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative, is currently under review after being postponed and rewritten by state legislature. 

Posted on the VeteransRespond’s Facebook page, volunteers have begun to arrive at the Standing Rock camps. They’ve been chopping wood, setting up kitchens, and helping with the trash situation. 

Fueled by a national wave led by “alternative facts” and President Trump’s big oil agenda, Pro DAPL supporters have stepped up their attacks – verbal and physical – against anti DAPL supporters lately, Sanderson said. Verbal attacks are hitting online, and law enforcement is hunting veterans on the roads. Some media outlets have reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s terrorism task force is aggressively monitoring people affiliated with the No DAPL movement. 

“Much of this negative energy is a result of two encounters with law enforcement, one in North Dakota and another in South Dakota,” Sanderson said. “Our Chief Operations Officer, Matthew Crane, was cited for having less than a gram of medicinal cannabis on him, he took ownership that it was his and received a ticket. He was not arrested. The Morton County Sheriff’s department felt necessary to issue a press release about this citation calling our organization out by name and inaccurately attributing an arrest in South Dakota to our organization.” 

Travis Biolette was traveling through Sough Dakota and was arrested for possession of hash oil, Sanderson said. Biolette is not a member of VeteransRespond, but the group picked him up when he was released from jail. 

“While we respect state and federal laws we also respect the right to a veteran’s safe access to his or her medicine,” Sanderson said. “Many of our core members suffered from opioid and amphetamine addiction upon leaving the service and have found a better way forward with the help of medicinal cannabis.”

Biolette is in good spirits, and currently at the camps, he said on his Facebook page. 

“As soon as the police found out I was going to Sacred Stone Camp I was placed in the police car and searched,” Biolette said. “I am currently free and have to go to court on February 27th. I am looking at five years in a state penitentiary of South Dakota for medical marijuana that the state of Michigan has determined I need. I am currently looking for legal representation to prevent that prison time.”

“It’s hard to imagine a time in America when police officers would target a veterans group for trying to help a community and support our fellow vets,” Sanderson said. “They certainly do all they can to deny support to the camp and use disinformation and propaganda against anyone who tries to help, even those like us that come in peace.”

Sanderson previously joined the December veterans at Standing Rock, and said at that time 300 cots provided by the American Red Cross were denied entry to Standing Rock by Morton County Sheriff’s Department. 

In total, 705 people have been arrested since August 2016, with 92 percent of those arrested from out of state, 212 people arrested had prior criminal records, 33 arrested had a history of violence, 40 with a history of theft, robbery, or burglary, and 41 previously cited or arrested for drug possession, according to the North Dakota Joint Information Center. 

The total cost to taxpayers in North Dakota so far is $32.9 million, with $25 million going to salaries, $3.6 million going toward personnel support, including travel and lodging, and $4.3 million going toward equipment and supplies to survive the winter, according to the North Dakota Joint Information Center. 

The North Dakota Department of Transportation announced on Monday that Highway 1806 closure point was changed from south of Mandan to County Road 135, north of Fort Rice, allowing eight more miles of open highway. 

 

North Dakota Legislature

The Peace Garden State’s political siege against those who openly differ in opinion has taken the frontline in the forms of proposed bills to strike fear into activists and future protesters. One of the bills hit activists in the pocketbooks, another tried to legalize the “unintentional” killing of protesters. 

North Dakota Legislative ‘scoreboard’ on HB 1203 – photo provided by North Dakota Human Rights Coalition

House Bill 1203, the proposal that attempted to legalize the unintentional running down of protesters blocking public roadways died in the house on Monday. Other bills created as direct responses to the DAPL controversy have passed the house and will soon be voted on in the senate: House Bill 1304, the law that would outlaw wearing ski masks and face coverings in public, House Bill 1293, the bill that would essentially legalize shooting to death trespassers even if there was space to retreat, House Bill 1426, which stiffens laws against protesters, and House Bill 1193, which prohibits “economic harm” due to disorderly conduct.  

Senate Bill 2337, a bipartisan bill that would have enacted cultural competency training for legislators was killed 26 to 20 on Tuesday. 

“A ‘disease of the mind’ has set in world leaders and many members of our global community,” Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Arvol Looking Horse said. “With their belief that a solution of retaliation and destruction of peoples will bring peace. We need to understand how all these decisions affect the global nation; we will not be immune to its repercussions.”

North Dakota’s 100-Year War 

A mirror image of racial tensions from the 1920s and today in the Peace Garden State

Alt-White: The Siege of North Dakota. Part Three in the series on racism in North Dakota. Inescapable comparisons between the political, racial, and economic sectors of the 1920s and 2010s. Local resident hunts Fargo’s Nazis, posts alert advertisements around Fargo. 

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – The day North Dakota women marched on Bismarck, a lone vehicle flying a Confederate flag cruised down Broadway, according to Fargo emergency dispatch. The pickup truck was stopped at Fourth Avenue when a middle-aged man jumped onto the back and attempted to take the Stars and Bars away. 

A fight between three white males ensued. Police responded, but late; all parties had already fled, according to Fargo Police Department Deputy Chief Jospeh Anderson.

“A car drove by and a male took the flag off the car and tried to run, comp [Pete Tefft] confronted him about it and he tried to fight him,” dispatch personnel reported. 

Tefft, who has been anonymously identified as a Fargo Nazi in alert posters stapled to telephone poles around the Downtown area, decided to stop the flag-stealing assailant, according to dispatch personnel reports. Tefft called 911 at 12:13 p.m., January 21, 2017. 

The Fargo Nazi alert poster printed and posted by Luke Safely-photo by C.S. Hagen

Tefft made reference to the incident in a letter he wrote pertaining to the Women’s March on the InForum on January 30. He explained the women’s march was more of an anti-Trump march, and anyone with differing ideologies was shunned. “From muttering curse words and insults like ‘white-supremacist’ at anyone holding even a subtle pro-life banner to a deranged middle-aged man stealing a confederate flag from three jovial teenage counter-protesters, participants did nothing and sometimes were complacent to the point of accessory to what could be categorized as terrorism.

“Stealing someone’s property, a child’s, because they have an opposing political ideology is not an argument but an admission you lost the argument. Everybody that stood by, watched, or attempted to thwart actions to stop the theft, participants and store owners alike, should be ashamed of themselves.”

In Facebook posts Tefft’s political views were made clearer. “I’d oppress anyone that wants to stop me from preserving my race and culture, wouldn’t you?” Tefft wrote in a January 29 Facebook debate. 

Soon after the Confederate flag incident, Moorhead resident Luke Safely started putting up alert posters throughout town naming Tefft a Nazi. He found out about the incident on Broadway, and began research, which led to him naming Tefft a “super Nazi racist. 

“I told Tefft if you want to go out and practice your culture, then go out and practice your culture,” Safely said. “But don’t oppress other cultures. I hope that when people see all this information, and see Pete Tefft for who he is, they can see other people in the community.” 

Luke Safely talking about his decision to publicize what he says is a Fargo Nazi – photo by C.S. Hagen

He first shared the information online, but the “liberal bubble” was not enough. “I thought maybe the community should know.” He alerted Tefft to his intentions, to which Tefft said he defended himself by saying he was merely pro-white. 

Some of Safely’s friends say that the exposure is simply spreading Nazi rhetoric, which will help the likeminded solidify. “But right now, that rhetoric is mainstream,” Safely said. “Look at Breitbart, look at Steve Bannon, the rhetoric is already out there, and the funny thing is we don’t admit that it has spread. 

“That’s willful ignorance, and it’s North Dakota nice.”

Other friends think that since no physical violence has been initiated by white supremacists, he should wait. 

Racism, Safely said, creates emotional and social violence, which leads to physical violence. 

“By not telling someone what they’re doing is wrong, you’re pretty much telling them that what they’re doing is right.” 

There are other verbose white supremacists in the Fargo Moorhead area, Safely said. So far, he’s watching three who claim to be Nazis and have online presences. He’s also not afraid of a civil lawsuit, Safely said, because the evidence behind his claim is overwhelming. 

“I get that people are scared,” Safely said. “The Christians are scared, the Muslims are scared, everyone is scared. I get that the Muslim ban makes people feel safe, but it’s only replying to our fear with more hatred.” 

Tefft refused to comment saying only, “I’ve been consulted by my church elders to not speak with you.” 

Pete Tefft and Nazi salute – online sources

Safely has been threatened by one person online, he said. “I realize that by doing this and by putting my face on it that I was totally going to put myself in a situation of danger, because outing a Nazi like that a lot of other Nazis are going to be scared about it. The thing I realized is that a lot of the direct action against Nazis these days are done anonymously. We need to start putting our faces to it. These “alt-rights,” these neo-Nazis are starting to publicly come out and say ‘look it, hey, I’m brave I’m proud of this’ and we’re sitting here doing this anonymously because we’re scared of them.”

Broadway’s altercation resembles a similar era in North Dakota’s history; a time of national tumult, fear mongering, intensifying racism, purity laws, and the threats of wars. Deep in Fargo Public Library’s microfilm vaults, still available after nearly a hundred years, newspaper stories at the time reflect a mirror image of the 21st century’s second decade. 

The Roaring 20s were an age of plenty for the growing middle class, and of sorrow for many agrarian workers. Newspaper advertisements displayed diamond rings for $12.50, society shirts – mostly with collars attached – for $1.29. Ostrich plumes were back in style. Dances at Island Park featuring Harry Smith and his Red Jackets were the bee’s knees on weekends for drugstore cowboys. A brand new Hudson Coach automobile went for $1,250 on the open market.

Skip past the advertising sections and the headlines are striking. Stories frequently feature the “Chinese problem,” as the Chinese people were banned from immigrating to the United States by the Chinese Exclusion Act. “Aliens blamed for liquor violations,” was another common headline. In January 1923 one story took the front page of the Fargo Forum announcing “Blacks Run Out of Indiana Town” after an anonymous attack on an 11-year-old white girl. 

North Dakota wheat prices were slashed in half. Farmers placed blame with outsiders claiming carpetbagger-types rigged elections from Minnesota hotel rooms. Conspiracy theories alleging grain operators shorted scales, inspectors rigging the system with unfair regulations, became truth. 

Political parties polarized. Corruption ran rampant. Farmers began losing lands and profits. 

Rising urbanization, the influx of immigrants, stirred angst in Fargo and elsewhere, prompted fraternal organizations like the Elks Lodge, the Oddfellows, and the Sons of Norway for like-minded people to oppose big business. 

Isolated. Desperate. Fearful. Deemed an ugly stepchild by Washington D.C.’s politicians, North Dakotans split into two powerful camps: the left’s Nonpartisan League (NPL) and the right’s Independent Voters Association (IVA). The differences between the two parties increasingly left a widening gap, into which walked the Ku Klux Klan. 

On January 26, 1923, one of the first headlines referring to the Klan was splayed above the Fargo Forum’s masthead: “K.K.K. Operating in Cass County, Say Witnesses in Fargo Courtroom.” 

“America First” became their rally cry, and within two years the Klan was buying ads in the paper. 

“The Klan capitalized on isolationist trends, times of increasing hostility to foreign institutions and influences,” Trevor M. Magel wrote in his 2011 “The Ku Klux Klan in North Dakota” dissertation for the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. The Klan brought nationalism, Prohibition and purity laws, the “Red Scare” portraying their enemies as communists, anti-Catholicism; they also supported high tariffs and legislated unceasingly for immigration restriction.

“People felt uneasy about the direction the nation was going.”

Some of the Klan’s meetings were known at the time to be the largest in the nation, attracting thousands as they burned crosses and marched in their white robes, without hoods. North Dakota politicians at times fought the Klan, banning masks in 1923. In 1925 Arthur Sorley, accused of being a Klan member, won the race for the 14th governor by a wide margin. Any allegiance the Klan felt toward Sorley soon broke, however, as his stances softened.  

The Klan eventually had enough of niceties, and launched what the Forum called a “Reign of Terror,” bringing baseball bats to marches, beating those thought to be socialists, kidnapped a Casselton man. A meat market vendor in Minot received death threats and K.K.K. signs were pasted onto his shop windows. 

Although Fargo lacked a charismatic leader for the Klan’s cause, they found a Presbyterian minister in Grand Forks named Rev. F. Halsey Ambrose to preach the Klan’s rhetoric. 

On February 27, 1926, the Kass County No. 57 Klavern Finance Committee in Fargo, Chairman Harry J. Divine, initiated a $10,000 fund drive to purchase the Elks Hall as a meeting place.  In a letter currently at the North Dakota Historical Society, Divine raised $3,700 in one night, and up to 400 more members pledged an additional $6,000. 

“This is a real He Man’s Organization,” Divine stated of the Ku Klux Klan. “Standing for everything that is good, namely our Flag, public schools, Protestant churches, sanctity of the home and respect for law and order. 

“The Kass County Klan No. 5 now has a splendid organization, we have made a nice growth, and we are just rounding into a position where from now on, the organization should be of vital interest to each one of us with so many big things confronting the Real Americans of today.” 

By the end of 1927, the Klan in Fargo and most of North Dakota, fizzled into obscurity. Its demise was brought about by its decision to use violence, which came in the forms of kidnapping, sexual assault, corruption, cross burnings in New Rockford and Fargo, and anti-Catholic rhetoric. Its lack of agreement on a political agenda left followers confused. Infighting followed. The Klan threw a final parade during its 1927 Konklave, complete with a cross with red electric lights attached to an airplane, but only about 1,000 people attended. 

“It tried to be both a secretive and public organization at the same time,” Magel said. “It tried to be both open and exclusive.” 

Some of the Klan’s tenants had a lasting impact in North Dakota. Morality campaigns incited fear and normalized hatred of minorities, which continued long after the Klan was gone. Dueling parties, IVA and the NPL, adopted parts of the Klan’s doctrine they agreed with, such as the IVA adopted the Klan’s reverence for free market capitalism, while the NPL adopted the Klan’s rhetoric about social benevolence, according to Magel.

In time, the IVA merged with the North Dakota Republican Party, and the NPL would go on to become the basis for the contemporary North Dakota Democratic Party. 

Grainy photograph of Klansmen in North Dakota – provided by Wes Anderson, director at the Barnes County Museum

Today, the “Tumultuous Teens” in the Peace Garden State have undergone similar upheaval. Prices for oil has been slashed in half. City, state, and national politicians are vying for immigration restrictions. Local news stations claim immigrants carry tuberculosis and encourage long-term residents – naturally primarily white – to steer clear. A new scare has swept the nation, although this time not directed at Soviets but at Muslims, and more recently potential nuclear war with China. 

North Dakota legislature proposed new laws in January to target refugees and outsiders – primarily activists involved with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. They’re attempting to ban ski masks, authorize the running over of pedestrians on public highways, and the killing of people running away or resisting arrest for violent crimes. Recently, “purity” legislation laws were introduced to turn Internet routers into “pornographic vending machines,” a service the state would charge $20 per device to use. Legislators also debated the blue laws, some saying Sunday mornings should be spent at home, with a wife serving breakfast in bed.  

The 65th Legislative Assembly of North Dakota further proposed House Bill 1427, which effectively states that the Peace Garden State would abide by President Trump’s executive orders and not allow refugees into the state. To disregard the President’s executive order would have an “adverse impact to existing residents of the state,” the house bill stated. Due to hours of testimony against the bill, HB 1427 was slated on February 3 for further research.

After fire debate and hours of testimony last week, the bill was not passed, but an issuance to study the matter further is on the menu. If passed, local governments could impose temporary moratoriums on refugee resettlement and Governor Doug Burgum would have the authority to impose moratorium across the state through executive order. It is a bill that would give communities the ability to evaluate and determine how many refugees it can take in, and stipulates strict requirements for refugee resettlement organizations. 

In Grand Forks, Jamie Kelso, director and membership coordinator for the American Freedom Party – formerly known as the American Third Position, a political party initially established by skinheads, is a well-known figure with political ambitions.

Kelso is a bullhorn for white supremacy ideals. He claims he is not a racist, but a “red-blooded American,” and he hosts “The Jamie Kelso Show” for the American Freedom Party. He was once the personal assistant for Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and served as a moderator for hate-web guru Don Black’s forum Stormfront, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit hate crime watchdog.

People today, as in the 1920s, are afraid about the direction the nation is going. 

Nationally, President Trump has signed more than 14 executive orders pertaining in part to immigration restrictions, penalizing protesters, halting communication of federal agencies. He has also recruited known fascists into the White House’s inner circles, and is cutting trade relations across the world. 

“America first,” Trump said during his inauguration speech. “America first. America first.” 

Trump – POTUS Revealed with Kevin R Tengesdal – photograph for a wet plate series by Shane Balkowitsch

Last week, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, was discovered to have been leader of a student group called the “Fascism Forever Club” in elite high school Georgetown Preparatory, according to the Daily Mail. Trump’s top advisor and chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, is a known white supremacist and former executive chairman of Breitbart News, the main news site for America’s “alt-right” movement. 

On February 2, Trump’s Administration reportedly changed the name of the Countering Violent Extremism initiative to Countering Radical Islamic Extremism, effectively reclassifying the initiative’s goals, which according to analysts would remove national attention away from neo-Nazis and white supremacists and focus solely on Islamic terrorism.

“Donald Trump wants to remove us from undue federal scrutiny by removing ‘white supremacists’ from the definition of ‘extremism,’” the largest neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer reported. “Yes, this is real life. Donald Trump is setting us free.” 

Today’s white supremacists are not dressed in sheets, but in suits and ties. They are eyeballing North Dakota’s small and seemingly forgotten towns as big oil funds line political pockets. Known as Pioneer Little Europe, a hit list of eleven towns are being targeted by white supremacists, according to the group’s Facebook page.

Supporters of the Pioneer Little Europe come from all the corners of the white supremacist world, and have been threatening takeovers of small towns since 2015. 

The towns of Leith and Antler are permanently marked for takeover under the self-titled Honey Badger Principle. “The Honey Badger Principle states that once an area is marked as PLE-friendly, we will pursue it until we get it no matter what,” page organizers for Pioneer Little Europe North Dakota said on the group’s Facebook page. “In other words: Once we bite, we will never let go.”

President Trump’s use of the phrase drain the swamp, is not a new slogan, Safely said. The phrase was used by Benito Mussolini, Italy’s dictator and leader of the country’s fascist party during World War II. Safely studies World War II history, frequently mentioning similarities between the 1940s and today. He’s never called out a Nazi before, and he took a few days to think about the possible repercussions of his decision. 

Symbols used to create the word Coexist

“‘We all need to be talking about this, and thinking about this, hopefully one day we will say enough is enough and put our foot down,” Safely said. “I would much rather be scared of a Nazi hurting me than being scared of a Nazi controlling me.”

“Trump – POTUS Revealed” with Kevin R Tengesdal – wet plate by Shane Balkowitsch

DAPL Easement Issued, Pipeline Work Will Soon Begin

Army Corps ignores EIS commitments, President Trump has heard no complaints about pipelines

By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the final easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline Wednesday afternoon, sparking fierce criticism from tribal leaders and opened the doors to intensifying condemnation from Peace Garden State political leaders against the Standing Rock Sioux.

“On February 8, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement to Dakota Access, LLC allowing the installation of a thirty-inch diameter light crude oil pipeline under federal lands managed by the Corps at Oahe Reservoir,” Capt. Ryan Hignight reported in the Army Corps’ press release.

“The granting of this easement follows the February 7 Secretary of the Army decision to terminate the Notice of Intent to Perform an Environmental Impact Statement and notification to Congress of the Army’s intent to grant an easement to Dakota Access for the Lake Oahe crossing.”

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II was on a flight to Washington D.C. when he first heard President Trump’s remarks about hearing ‘no complaints’ from anyone regarding the continuation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Facebook page. He learned that the easement had been issued after he landed.

Archambault responded to Trump by cancelling the meeting saying, “Trump’s complete disregard for Native Nations and our treaty rights is disrespectful.”

Monthly, more than 12 million people are engaged in online discussions pertaining to the Dakota Access Pipeline, more than 590,000 petition signatures and environmental impact study statements have been submitted, and more than 15,000 calls have been made to the White House and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a tribal press release.

“And Trump says nobody spoke up.”

The news didn’t come as a surprise to the Standing Rock Sioux or to the tribe’s supporters, as the Department of the Army issued an intent to issue the easement a day earlier. Legal actions are already underway.

“We sent a letter directly to Trump, have filed a legal challenge and we stand with more than 360 Native Nations and millions of Americans who have voiced their opposition to the project,” Archambault said. “The media has widely reported the President’s brazen conflict of interest to the pipeline. His complete disregard for Native Nations and our treaty rights is disrespectful.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers advertised earlier this week that testimonies would be accepted pertaining to the environmental impact statement until February 20. Additional telephone calls and emails were placed to Hignight for comment, but the captain did not reply by press time.

“We have asked for a fair, balanced and lawful environmental impact statement directly to President Trump and through the courts,” Archambault said. “The Governor, North Dakota congressional delegation, and the entire world are keenly aware of the immense opposition to this project. We encourage our allies to exercise their First Amendment rights to remind President Trump where we stand on DAPL.

“Rise with Standing Rock.”

Unity within the activists gathered has come under question after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council ordered campers away. Questions also have risen pertaining to how the tribe has been spending funds donated to the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Some activists are determined to stay, but the long winter months have depleted the activist numbers on site to a few hundred, according to activist reports.

Former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell told The Washington Post that the Army Corps was “reneging” on its commitment to other federal agencies and tribal leaders.

“So the decision to not do any of that is reneging on a commitment they made [in December] and I think it’s fair to say that I’m profoundly disappointed with the Corps’ reversal of its decision to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement and consider alternative routes,” Jewell told The Washington Post. “This is a clear reversal of a commitment on the part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on something they gave thoughtful consideration to when they decided to do an environmental review.”

The Army Corps further stated in its press release that it will “ensure the portion of the pipeline that crosses Lake Oahe complies with the conditions of the easement.”

Additionally, the Army Corps is also working with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and local law enforcement to restore the area to its pre-protest state and dealing with trash and untreated waste.

Structures at former Oceti Sakowin Camp – photo by Kirsta Anderson

“The safety of those located on Corps-managed land remains our top priority, in addition to preventing contaminants from entering the waterway,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District Commander, Col. John Henderson said.

Since August 2016, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has stated repeatedly that his department and other police departments who assisted during Standing Rock’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, were concerned only with the rule of law, and not whether the pipeline was built or not.

“Today’s decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a step toward the closure necessary for pipeline construction,” Kirchmeier said. “If protestors continue to take unlawful actions in response to the Corps’ decision, law enforcement will be forced to continue to put themselves in harm’s way to enforce the rule of law. Our hope is that the new administration in Washington will now provide North Dakota law enforcement the necessary resources to bring closure to the protests. ”

A garbage pile at the former Oceti Sakowin – photo by Kirsta Anderson

Morton County Commissioner Cody Schulz fired a shot at former President Obama before condemning activists without proof for at least one crime that hasn’t been proven they committed.

“The last administration in Washington decided against granting an easement to DAPL even through the career experts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended approval and a federal court denied a request to stop it. And they refused to give North Dakota law enforcement the much needed resources to deal with professional protestors who have assaulted police officers, bullied residents, killed livestock, and angered the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for treating their land with disrespect.”

Schulz’s claim that activists slaughtered livestock refers to an incident late autumn when local bison and cattle were reported missing. State politicians, including Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. propagandized the incident, which was perpetuated by many, including the Chairman of the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council Russel Stabler

The case of missing livestock is still under investigation by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. No one has been charged with any crime related to missing livestock.

“Today’s decision from the Corps shows that this new administration will not politically meddle in a thorough review of a project that will have an enormous positive effect on the economy and public safety in our area,” Schulz said. “With professional protestors continuing to engage in criminal activities, we have new hope that we didn’t have before: an administration that will help law enforcement provide public safety for the citizens of Morton County instead of turning their backs on them.”

The conspiracy theory behind “paid protesters,” reported by Kirchmeier, Schulz, and other state politicians, stems from a news story published by the Fargo Forum and by Valley News Live on November 16, 2016. The story pertained to an anonymous Craigslist advertisement that offered to pay people cash to help shut down Fargo’s West Acres Mall. No actual protest was reported to have occurred. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department cited the Craigslist advertisement as a “vetted source.”

Since August 2016, the state has spent more than $25 million protecting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access, LLC’s interests in the 1,172-mile long pipeline, and Morton County has solicited assistance from nearly 1,300 officers from 25 North Dakota counties, 20 cities, and nine states. Nearly 700 arrests have been made.

As of January 25, 2017, more than 300 GoFundMe accounts raised a total of $8,061,614 for activists and the camps defending Standing Rock, according to Morton County officials. A total of 360 Native Nations from around the world have come together at Standing Rock since August 2016, a feat history has never seen before.

“Once again the federal government is putting oil industry profits ahead of the rights of Native American communities, clean water and combatting climate change,” Senator Bernie Sanders said on his Facebook page. “We must stop this pipeline, uphold our commitment to Native Americans and protect our planet for future generations.”

“The Wiindigo Comes in the Winter”

Rumors threaten Standing Rock and activist unity against the Dakota Access Pipeline

By C.S. Hagen 
CANNON BALL – Rumors, like the Wiindigo, are never full. They prey on the weak, devouring their kill, always hungry, gluttonous yet emaciated. 

The legendary, cannibalistic being strikes mainly during lonely winters. According to Algonquian lore it stalks the northern forests around the Great Lakes. Like rumors, the Wiindigo is difficult to kill, as its powers rise with every victim it devours. 

The rumors surrounding Standing Rock’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline are not unlike the Wiindigo legends, Winona Laduke, a long time activist said. Laduke is an economist, and two-time vice presidential candidate for Ralph Nader’s Green Party. She is also the executive director for Honor the Earth, a non-profit advocate for indigenous environmental support.

“The winter of the North Country is unforgiving, and here on my own Round Lake, the Winndigo once came and ate a man and his family,” Laduke said. “That man became the Wiindigo. That is the time now, crazy actions occur. A man on my reservation starves his three horses to death, despite many friends. At the Oceti Sakowin Camp, a woman ties her dementia plagued mother onto a chair, and leaves her, without help. It is a time when we do things we regret.” 

No excuses for such strange behaviors, Laduke said, but part of being human is to be weak. 

“In the midst of this there is no question that there is chaos, there is no question that some people are infiltrators and some are profiting off the backs of this on the front line. And who is best served by all this? The answer: North Dakota’s energy empire, the Trump Administration, and, of course, Energy Transfer Partners.”

“Not afraid to look” sculpture overlooking Oceti Sakowin by Charles Rencountre (with Charles Rencountre and LaDonna Allard)- photo provided by Winona Laduke

From the beginning of Standing Rock’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, much emphasis has been given to remaining peaceful. Those arrested for civil disobedience such as disobeying police orders or trespassing, are forms of free speech, activists say. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault encouraged civil disobedience from the beginning, and was himself arrested after trespassing on August 12, 2016. 

While the majority of activists have been peacefully protesting, even while under constant threat from Morton County’s militarized police force armed with pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, some have fought back using taunts, razor wire, stones, and fire, according to authorities. Supporters attribute violent actions to agitators and federal infiltrators; the authorities use the violence as propaganda and make more arrests.

“When you are standing up against a billion dollar corporation, this is how they work,” LaDonna Tamakawastewin Allard, who owns land the Sacred Stone Camp is on, said in an interview with The Young Turks. “They go into the communities and spread gossip and rumor. That’s what I am worried about. For me I will stand with anybody who stands with the water.”

Since early August, tens of thousands of people from across the world have travelled to Standing Rock, and a total of 696 arrests have been made. 

Some of the rumors include monies donated to Standing Rock’s fight. Others have used isolated actions by people inside the camps, such as the case of Kathleen Bennett, who allegedly restrained and abused her 82-year-old mother at Oceti Sakowin, as a reflection on the movement and the tribe as a whole. 

“For years, the dearth of infrastructure and poverty of Standing Rock have made it a poster child for what’s messed up in the US,” Laduke said. More than 80 percent of people in Standing Rock live below the poverty level, she said. 

“Every year it seems, people freeze to death on Standing Rock, and frankly no one noticed until now.” 

As of January 25, 2017, more than 300 GoFundMe accounts raised a total of $8,061,614 for activists and the camps. Suspicions have been raised by Morton County Sheriff’s Department on how the monies have been spent. State and county officials have made threats in the past saying those donating funds are supporting terrorist causes. 

Standing Rock issued a statement late December 2016 saying that monies it received have gone toward funding legal fees, camp infrastructure, waste management, and outdoor restrooms. 

Standing Rock supporters point to approximately $6 million donated to the tribe that is unaccountable, and are demanding that all expenditures need to be documented and made public so not to tarnish the movement. 

“The stench of malfeasance doesn’t smell any better just because it emanates from an ally,” activist Joshua Smith, from Iowa, said. “I do have to say they are still on the forefront of the legal battle challenging DAPL in court. Lateral violence is when two different factions within a given movement criticize the other in a manner which creates division and also provides those opposed to the movement reasoning to criticize us.” 

Monies have been used to bail people out, and with nearly 700 arrested, “that’s a lot of cash bail,” Laduke said. “There were drones purchased, each time the police shot down a drone, we purchased another one because someone has to keep an eye from the air. 

“A lot of people had to be fed.” 

Unity

Competing narratives exist now at what remains of the camps at Standing Rock. Archambault has asked activists to leave since shortly after December 4, 2016, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ordered Energy Transfer Partners to halt work on the Dakota Access Pipeline, concurrently ordering an environmental impact statement to be done along parts of the pipeline’s route. 

Some say the Standing Rock Tribal Council sold the activists, or water protectors, out. Others say Archambault is looking out for the safety of his tribe. Either way, Archambault’s tone has changed since the warmer, summer months. The fight is no longer at Standing Rock, but in Washington D.C., he says.

“This pipeline is not going to kill our nation, this pipeline is not going to destroy America,” Archambault said recently on The Rock Report. “This one pipeline where people refuse to leave is not going to be detrimental to our nation.”

Water protectors’ job at Standing Rock is done, he said. The tribe has stopped supporting activists camped near the reservation, along the north side of the Cannon Ball River near to the Missouri River where the Dakota Access Pipeline plans to dig under Lake Oahe. 

“I’m not asking it to end, I’m saying that the fight is not here.” 

On February 2, Archambault posted to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Facebook page, saying that he had met with Governor Doug Burgum, whose stance against the tribe is much different than his predecessor, Jack Dalrymple. 

“There is great contrast to the previous state leaderships, these visits show that he is willing to work for all citizens of North Dakota, including tribal communities. I commend the governor for his efforts and look forward to finding solutions with him.” 

“You are a betrayer of your people,” a netizen said said on the tribe’s Facebook page. “Hang your head low. We all know you sold yourself out for money. May the demise of clean water haunt your conscience.” 

The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline is just one of many fights across the nation and Canada, Archambault said. The DAPL controversy became high profile for a simple reason. 

“Standing Rock. Water is Life. Taglines. It’s easy. We can have all the water in the world and we’re not creating a better future for our kids. Water is a source of life. It is not life.” 

Allard feels betrayed, she said on her Facebook page. She said that she is not a leader, but began her fight against the pipeline because her son, Philip Levon, is buried near the Dakota Access Pipeline. 

“It has been a hard night. All I can say is we must pray hard. How do we find that unity again? How do we stand together against the Black Snake? We must stand together. I don’t have the answers. All I have is prayer.” 

Allard has been suffering from ill health, and on the day police officers and agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs entered her land at the Sacred Stone Camp, along the south side of Cannon Ball River, she was en route to a hospital with her husband, also in poor health. 

News that agents entered her land on February 2, after she denied them entry, surprised her, she said in an interview with The Young Turks. Allard and family own more than 300 acres on the south side of Cannon Ball River, where her Sacred Stone Camp is still set up. She heard rumors that Archambault authorized the federal incursion onto her lands because he said he also is a land owner there. 

“At no time did Chairman Archambault own any portion of this land,” Allard said. “What are they talking about, the Archambaults own land here? They do not.” Archambault’s wife, Nicole, is Allard’s cousin, who owns land to graze horses nearby, but not on the Sacred Stone Camp.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe disagreed. “There are two tracts of land: Army Corps of Engineers holds title to one, and the Tribe holds majority ownership of the other. Sacred Stone Camp leaders were made aware of the need for an assessment earlier this week and agreed to a site visit.” 

Allard went home and rifled through land leases, of which she personally owns three acres. The rest of the land is owned by family members, and a tribal trust – held in trust by the United States government. 

“The Archambaults hold no trust here. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe holds trust here, that does not mean the Archambaults hold land here.” Without warrants, Archambault had no right to authorize the “raid” into Sacred Stone Camp, she said. 

“The chairman did not become Trump, and Trump still does not understand his position. I am still trying to figure out how to make peace with this. There should have never been the tribe against the water protectors. We should be standing together in a unified front. What we have is gossip and rumor dividing the people. It’s like when the fur traders were here, and the fur traders again started to gossip and rumor to divide the people. And that is where we are again.” 

She sleeps little at night, stays up worrying and praying.

Another rumor circulating around Sacred Stone Camp include a pending threat of forced removal by federal officers.

The fight is growing, Allard said, and it is not only about water or sacred lands any longer. North Dakota politicians have submitted legislation to give state government more control over reservation land and mineral rights, to run over protesters on public roads, to lessen the responsibilities of corporations to report oil spills, and to criminalize ski masks in public places. 

“I will stand, and I will not back down.” 

This summer, Allard plans to start a summer camp for youth to teach history, how to live responsibly, and how to heal. 

“I don’t need any people to come and defend me, I need people to come and defend the water. I also need people to support the tribe hoping the tribe makes better decisions, and that the tribe will stand in a unified fashion with the people.

“I must stand because my son stands with me. I have no choice.” 

Last Child’s Camp 

When attorney Chase Iron Eyes moved with approximately 80 people to a western hill forming Last Child’s Camp, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Morton County condemned the group as rogue. He was arrested along with 76 others, and was released on February 3. 

He was charged with a Class C felony, inciting a riot, and his legal team is looking into the validity of the charge. Iron Eyes came out of the Morton County Correctional Facility looking tired; months at the camps and it’s apparent he has lost weight. 

“It’s no secret that Morton County, that the North Dakota law enforcement, National Guard, North Dakota media, even the governor of North Dakota, going back to Mr. Dalrymple to Burgum, and the North Dakota legislature, are colluding to villainize, dehumanize, and present the narrative that the water protectors are unlawfully camped in the area north of the Cannon Ball River, and that we are violent, that we are unruly, and indeed they are charging me with inciting a riot. But it’s clear to America, I feel, that Donald Trump is inciting a riot.” 

“Last night, a group of campers moved materials onto private land,” the Standing Rock Tribal Council said. “This group’s actions do not represent the tribe nor the original intent of the water protectors.” 

The tribe still leads the fight, but their opposition has widened to include water rights, hunting, land rights, treaty rights, not just for Standing Rock, but for all tribes, the council said. 

“It is this tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux, whose land is most at risk,” Archambault said. “It is also our court case at risk, but in reality, all our treaty rights are at risk. If we want to be treated as nations then we must behave as such. In the past few weeks at camp, I see no reflection of our earlier unity, and without unity we lose.” 

Last Child’s Camp was cleared; its tipis handed over to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. 

“We will fight these charges,” Iron Eyes said. “We will hold accountable Morton County and all who have brutally violated our rights. This is an SOS. Vets, warriors, and others who can stand with us in peace and dignity to exercise our inherent, treaty, constitutional, and other birthrights. Come stand with us.” 

Veterans, once again, are hearing the call. VeteransRespond, an organizer and advocator of healing to communities impacted by social injustice, is planning to return to Standing Rock. 

“VeteransRespond is in the process of organizing a return mission to Standing Rock at the wishes of LaDonna Brave Bull Allard,” the group’s GoFundMe page said. “All funds will go directly towards a rental van to transport Texas and Colorado veterans to Standing Rock to help with cleanup efforts as well as serve as a de-escalation and medical response force if needed.” 

VeteransStand also created a second GoFundMe account, and plans to return. 

“In the past two weeks the turmoil and uncertainty at Standing Rock has increased significantly,” the group said on its Facebook page. “We have had thousands of volunteers reconfirm their dedication to the cause, and readiness to help. The success of our fundraising campaign will ultimately dictate our overall potential for a boots-on-the-ground presence, but our learnings from the first mission in December have allowed us to create the right infrastructure to move quickly.” 

The time of the Wiindigo creates confusion, difficult to keep eyes on the more important issues of Native American treaty rights and stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, Laduke said. 

Signs in the snow outside of the Standing Rock camps – photo by C.S. Hagen

“In the time of the Wiindigo, confusion, and fear prey on us all,” Laduke said. “We forget who are the enemies and who are our friends and families. Let us pray for clear minds. I plan to live through the time of the Wiindigo, and when I look back at the time of Standing Rock, I want to remember the unity, the courage, the outpouring of love for our Mother Earth, our Mni Wiconi, and how we faced the enemy.” 

Critics: Legislators Attempt To Rewrite Measure 5 is “Abomination”

 Measure 5 postponed with Senate Bill 2154, then altered with Senate Bill 2344

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Days after North Dakota Legislation declared an emergency measure postponing Measure 5, or the North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative, a new bill was proposed.

Measure 5 is gutted, the bill’s initiator Rilie Ray Morgan said. More than 80 percent of the bill has been changed. Testimonies will go before the Senate Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

“It’s an abomination,” Morgan said. “Like I said it’s a punch in the gut to the patients of North Dakota, and a slap in the face to the voters of North Dakota. The state legislature has an agenda where they are totally opposed to cannabis in any form. They’re not going to let people have it unless they are willing to pay for it.”

Morgan initiated the measure, also known as the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act, to offer those suffering from seizures, chronic pain from cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C, Crohn’s Disease and other illnesses an alternative to big pharmaceutical prescription painkillers.

The former Senate Bill 2154, now known as Senate Bill 2344, was a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Rich Wardner, R-N.D., and Senate Dem-NPL Leader Joan Heckaman, and approved by the Delayed Bills Committee.

“I think it was in the making, they were contemplating, they were working on this bill for a while,” Representative Pamela Anderson, D-N.D., said. “The people have spoken. And we are not stupid or ill-informed voters in North Dakota.”

Since the day after the measure was voted in, telephones inside the North Dakota Department of Health have been ringing off the hook, Wardner said. The bill he co-introduced was to ease the pressure off the health department.

“People need to back off,” Wardner said of the people calling the health department. “They’re upset they can’t grow it. They’re upset because they can’t smoke it. But the health department has to have some money to go out and regulate it.”

Regulation is needed, Anderson said, but the differences between state and federal laws shouldn’t be an obstacle the Peace Garden State, which has a long history of suing the federal government, can’t get over.

“We have smart people in the health department, smart people who can help implement this. If we have to spend some money, then I guess we do. At some point it will be self sustaining.”

Thirty states across the Union have passed medical marijuana laws. Critics point to how closely  SB 2344 resembles Minnesota’s laws pertaining to medical marijuana, and that Minnesota is already undergoing and discussing changes and expansion after only two years of implementation.

“There isn’t a state who has passed medical marijuana who has undone it. What are we afraid of?”

Wardner is against putting the financial burden on the taxpayers, he said. His bill would create four manufacturing compassionate care centers, eight dispensaries with a possibility for more, but take the ability for designated people to grow up to five plants at home away. Users would also be limited to marijuana oil and pills; no cannabis leaf would be available under SB 2344.

“Manageable regulation and enforcement,” Wardner said is the reasoning for the new bill.

“If that’s the case, why are they eliminating pediatrics?” Anderson said.

“Are we listening to the people? We do have a legislative process down here, and we will have a hearing tomorrow and they can make their case for it.”

Much of the first few pages of the original bill are crossed out. Some of the changes the Senate Bill 2344 include:

  • Limit the types of usable marijuana to medical marijuana oil and pills, whereas the original bill voted in by every voting district in the state chose dried leaves, flowers of the marijuana plant, any mixture or preparation of those dried leaves and flowers, tinctures, and ointments.
  • Raise the non-refundable application fee from $125 for the first year and $25 for subsequent years as stated in original bill to an amount not to exceed $300 in Senate Bill 2344.
  • Raise the Compassionate Care Centers’ renewal fee from $25,000 a year to an amount not to exceed $100,000.
  • The new bill was intended to assist people with low incomes; the new wording would keep money in state hands.
  • State would limit the number of dispensaries instead of allowing the free market to decide how many dispensaries are needed.
  • New bill would deplete the original nine-member advisory board to four members.
  • New regulations, if passed, would reduce the amount of medicine a patient can receive by half.
  • The new bill would limit the options parents have for their children down to one type: pediatric medical marijuana oil, and would also limit the number of physicians who would be authorized to prescribe marijuana.
  • SB 2344 would disqualify anyone with a misdemeanor offense on record in past five years from being a caregiver; the original bill stated those convicted of a felony offense are prohibited from serving as a designated caregiver.

“The lawmaker’s decision to disregard the will and words of their constituents is both arrogant and troubling,” Jason Spiess, a longtime researcher and writer on the cannabis issue, said. “Voters should be very concerned at the rewriting and the handling of this measure, especially when nearly 64 percent of the public voted for it. Whether or not one supports marijuana law reform, the legislators’ attitudes and actions are an affront to the democratic process.”

Anderson has been busy studying the new senate bill, and has been talking to legislators about the bill’s ramifications. Under the new bill, only seven doctors in the state, five in Fargo, and two in Bismarck, would be authorized to certify prescriptions for marijuana to patients, Anderson said.

Under the new bill, children in need of marijuana would be restricted to the the types of doctors they could see; young 20-year-old veterans from foreign wars suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome would still have to seek parental permission to use marijuana.  

“State laws shouldn’t state how much it is,” Anderson said. “It makes no sense when they can prescribe mind-altering pharmaceutical drugs with no issue. “I think people voted for medical marijuana and with this Senate bill they’re not going to get it.

“Basically I’m saying it’s not medical marijuana for our kids at this point.”

Spiess has been alerting legislators as well, he said, and has heard that at least ten people from Fargo will give testimony in Bismarck before the Senate Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

Morgan’s wife is taking a carload of people to the testimony, he said.

“I firmly believe that the legislature put this out there to find out how bad the pushback is going to be,” Morgan said. “They’re going to see how much they can get away with. I wonder if they did any surveys to determine if the voters really knew what they were voting for? Did they talk to voters? I’ve never seen that.”

 

Civil disobedience

While on his way to tee time in Bismarck in 2011, Mark Krein, 42, a Fargo resident, was pulled over for making a “California stop” at a stop sign, he said. The arresting officer suspected marijuana, and discovered less than the ounce in Krein’s pocket.

He spent three days in jail, because he refused to talk, he said. The story of Andrew Sadek, a college student in Wahpeton, who was arrested for pot possession, turned informant, and later found with a gunshot wound in his head in the Red River came to mind.

“Bite your tongue,” Krein said. “Take your pain. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.”

Police records show that he was initially arrested on a felony, which was plea-bargained down to a Class A misdemeanor.

“They were so pissed off at me because I wouldn’t talk to them,” Krein said. “They were threatening me, and threw me in jail for three days, and made up how much weed I had.”

He refused to answer questions from police on where he obtained the marijuana, and pled guilty to possessing less than one ounce.

State prosecutors eventually offered him a plea bargain. In the meantime, Krein said his lawyers took issue with police procedure weighing the marijuana in two batches, sending half to the crime lab.

“How come they didn’t send it all there?” Krein said. “They didn’t have an ounce so they tried fudging it. So they threw me in jail over the Fourth of July weekend, when I should have been released on my own cognizance.”

Krein ended up paying more than $9,000 in court fees, fines, and drug tests. He wonders how much the state had to pay for his initial arrest and confinement, a police raid of his home by seven officers who discovered less than a gram of recreational marijuana, a 100-watt light bulb, and a High Times Magazine.

He waited nearly a year before being charged again, but this time with manufacturing marijuana and possession, he said.

“After they came to my house, they waited 363 days to come charge me,” Krein said. “Can you believe that? A few days before the statute of limitations took effect and they could no longer charge me. Imagine being at work and waiting for the cops to come and arrest you. I knew it was coming.”

The state’s plea bargain initially included 15 days in jail, a $500 dollar fine, and years of supervision. He said no. He wanted trial by jury.

On the day of the trial, the prosecuting attorneys did not show in court. The judge levied a $200 fine, and told him to go home.

Although he did not sign the recreational marijuana bill last year, he did sign the medical marijuana measure.

“They could be using it as a revenue stream,” Krein said. “SB 2344 needs to just get killed.”

Last year, Krein also battled oral cancer. “Now I have even more invested interest in this than before.” Reasons why the legislature wants to ban smoking or vaping is because marijuana in the leaf form is instant medicine, he said. Oils, however, take approximately an hour to take affect.

The people have voted on what they want, Krein said, anything less won’t be acceptable. The way the bill is written now will become a further burden to taxpayers by increasing police and court workloads, and exacerbating already full jails.

“People are going to do civil disobedience,” Krein said. “That’s what I’m gonna do. If they say you can’t grow your own plants, well, you wanna bet? If they come and bust me, arrest me for growing my own medicine, then I’m going to go for a jury nullification because you guys didn’t keep up your part of the bargain and apparently 64 percent of the people in this state say so, so I’m going to take a jury trial and they’re going to let me go.”

Potential civil disobedience against SB 2344 didn’t faze Wardner.

“They will have to take that up with the judge,” Wardner said. “I’m not a lawyer or a judge.”

He didn’t sound optimistic about Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Human Services Committee.

“I probably won’t have a rear end after tomorrow,” Wardner said. “I think it’s going to go through the Senate, but I don’t know what is going to happen in the House.”

Heckaman, also listed as an introducer of the SB 2344, didn’t answer telephone calls or reply to emails by press time.

 

« Older posts

© 2017 C.S.News

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

close
Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow buttonVisit Our GoodReads