Author: CSHagen (page 1 of 9)

A forgotten veteran

Native man’s twisted trail into a court system that doesn’t seem to care

By C.S. Hagen
MOORHEAD – With fingers twisted by acute arthritis, Kevin “NeSe” Shores pushed the lever to propel his wheelchair into the Clay County Courthouse. His free hand clutched a large white banker box filled with documents. Folded in worn leather rested an iPhone, his digital eyes.

A driver and assistant followed, told him when to steer right, when to stop. At times, he had to push him through a doorway.  

“I’m literally going into court blind,” Shores, an Anishinaabe, enrolled in White Earth Reservation, said. “In the eyes of the court, I’m considered a vulnerable adult, and to cause me any harm is against the law.”

Since the day he received a compulsory cocktail of shots and vaccinations during Navy boot camp, a rheumatoid variant disease he claims is Gulf War illness has broken and bent his body until he can no longer walk and can no longer see. He served aboard the USS Fox, a guided missile cruiser and one of the first ships to arrive during the Gulf War.

Hands gnarled by an acute arthritic condition, an illness Kevin “NeSe” Shores says is Gulf War Syndrome, he relies on Apps and programs to be able to read – photograph by C.S. Hagen

“As a veteran who is in my wheelchair because I swore to uphold the Constitution, it’s sad that this system that I am allegedly dying for, this slow death, is failing me,” Shores said. “We are in a wrong place as a society. It’s disheartening. I know I’m not the only veteran that is going through this ridiculousness.”

He lost his first marriage due to his symptoms, and a second relationship, a binding ceremony with a Native woman, was recently annulled. Now, he’s defending himself in court for the rights to see his children, and for financial reasons. He says that Clay County Court has failed in notifying him properly, and has ignored his rights under the Americans with Disability Act.

“There is a lot of stress on relationships dealing with this condition,” Shores said. “I’m trying to rectify the situation with the sheriff’s department, and in the meantime I missed a preliminary hearing that I wasn’t aware of.”

Dressed in moccasins, a well-worn black cowboy hat, hair long and cleanly braided, Shores told Seventh Judicial District Judge Steven J. Cahill last week that he was not in court out of his own free will, and because of the court officials’ ineptitude, he missed a court date and lost his parental rights because of it. His computer is six years slow, and he was initially denied using the devices he requires to record.

Kevin “NeSe” Shores and his box of paperwork, none of which he can read due to what he says is Gulf War Syndrome – photograph by C.S. Hagen

“My challenge is I can only go by what I hear,” Shores said. “Since I couldn’t have any of my devices, I had to go back and go through the transcripts, which I had to pay for. I don’t know if you know what it’s like for a blind person to try and search the web. For some reason, I kept missing this one little click spot for the ADA request.”  

He can’t afford an attorney, he said, so he prepares everything himself.

“I’m just scrambling just trying to stay afloat.”

During one court visit, he claims a bailiff elbowed him in the face during courtroom drama after he attempted to describe his marriage was a Native binding ceremony, and not a sanctioned marriage.  

“How am I to take notes, how am I to prepare for this?” Shores said. “It’s like a domino effect, you have to absolutely stay on top of all of the stuff. Before, I was paying people out of my own pocket for scanning things, but the court is supposed to provide. I am trying to calculate now how much money I spent going back to the original separation.”

All paperwork takes Shores time to scan and listen to.

“As a blind person you cannot serve a blind person papers,” Shores told Judge Cahill in court. This court has trampled on my ADA rights. You have not given me due process of law. My biggest question is why am I here? Why were my children used as leverage when you suspended my rights?”

“Because you were ignoring us, sir,” Cahill said. Cahill was reprimanded in 2006 by the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards for at least 18 violations of the rules governing the conduct of judges.

“I have not been ignoring you,” Shores said. “I’ve been trying to be compliant.”

After a lengthy tit-for-tat, including Shores asking the judge to recuse himself from the case, Judge Cahill refused the request and ordered the case continued to give Shores more time to prepare. Cahill agreed to order the court to deliver documents to Shores in a manner in which he can scan, but treatments for his illness, and the case, which is against his second “wife,” has left him broke, he said.

“The judge stated that I am more likely going to try to use my disability to get out of court,” Shores said. “And nothing could be further from the truth. The last time I went to court, not only did I get whirly screwed, I had to pay somebody to gather papers, out of my own pocket I had to pay thousands of dollars just to assist me.

“The judge was lying from the get-go that he was well aware of the challenges that I have,” Shores said.

During the years that he did not fall under 100 percent disability, he paid more than $300,000 for care and services, he said. Settlement money for an accident he had in 2000 has been depleted, he said.  

Kevin “NeSe” Shores as he exits Clay County Courthouse, is completely blind due to what he says is Gulf War Syndrome – photograph by C.S. Hagen

Gulf War illness
Before Boot Camp, Shores weighed in more than 200 pounds, stood five-feet-eleven-inches, and was the former captain of a local swimming team. The first signs not all was right came shortly after receiving a cocktail of vaccinations. Days later, he was diagnosed with drop foot, a nerve disorder.

“That’s where, I am absolutely sure, I got it,” Shores said.

The military ran the gamut of excuses, Shores said. One explanation was that Middle Eastern sand was too fine for American lungs. They next rational was to blame conditions on mites, then that Saddam Hussein was using biological and chemical weapons, and finally, that they were given experimental inoculations before the war.

A 2008 study by the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses reports that Gulf War illness is a multisystem condition resulting from service during the 1990-1992 Gulf War, and is the most prominent health issues affecting veterans. The illness affects one fourth of 697,000 U.S. veterans who served. Symptoms include persistent memory and concentration problems, chronic headaches, widespread pain, gastrointestinal problems, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and other abnormalities not explained by well-established diagnoses.

Few veterans have recovered, and until now, there are no effective treatments, the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, reported. Two possible causes include the use of pills given to help effects of nerve agents, and the widespread use of pesticides during deployment.

In 1996, Shores accepted his first wheelchair.

In 1998, the same year Congress mandated the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses to study and advise the federal government, Shores lost sight in his left eye. At the time he was listed as 20 percent disabled, but received little assistance.

Two years later, while riding along Highway 10 at 3.4 miles per hour in his wheelchair from Moorhead to St. Paul to raise awareness about Gulf War illnesses, he was run over by a garbage truck, breaking his femur and elbow and guaranteeing him a hip replacement.

Kevin Shores posing for a picture while aboard the USS Fox in the late 1980s – provided by Kevin Shores

Not until 2005, however, nearly 15 years after Operation Desert Storm, did the Veterans Administration list Shores as 100 percent disabled. Since then, his symptoms have slowly broken his body down. His medications, including addictive synthetic opioids, serve to maintain, not to heal. His spirit , however, remains strong. He has run for the elected position of mayor three times, and has become known as the “megaphone man,” he said. He also does comedy and runs a conspiracy-based Internet radio news show.

“The ‘megaphone man’ because I voice my opinion for the underdogs,” Shores said.

Much like his Indigenous name, “NeSe,” pronounced nay-say, which means someone who speaks truth to power, or is a “maker of great noise, like the thunder,” Shores has never sat still for long, despite his handicaps. He uses an iPhone app as his mobile eyes, and has special scanning equipment at home to help him read.

“I consider myself a traditionalist as much as modern society will allow me,” Shores said. “Your name is your power, you don’t ever share your entire name, except with your mother or father. You only use a syllable of it.”

Because of the secretive and mysterious nature of the Gulf War illness, Shores’ efforts at raising awareness and at conducting research has led him to be labeled as a conspiracy theorist, he said.

“I never really wanted to be a conspiracy theorist, but because of the Gulf War illness, I was thrown into it.”

His online videos are lumped into Bigfoot, aliens, and secret society categories, he said. “Gulf War illness wasn’t talked about, and if you did you were considered crazy. But it’s basically the Agent Orange of 2000.”  

The shock from returning to America after three years of service, the inability to find meaningful work, and his slowly deteriorating illness, has left Shores wondering why the country he fought for doesn’t do a little more to help the hundreds of thousands of veterans.  

“How do you settle in?” Shores said. “There’s no transition from watching your buddy die one week, to coming to America and listening to a woman complain about choice.”

Shores was supposed to hear back from the Clay County Court’s IT department on Monday, but he didn’t receive a call. He has tried to submit necessary documents online, but keeps receiving errors.

“I have no clue why it wasn’t reading properly, finally I had to ask a person to look over my shoulder and see if I was doing something wrong, and they couldn’t see what I was doing wrong,” Shores said.

“It is absolutely a validation of where we stand in today’s society,” Shores said. “When the entities or individuals that swear an oath and some make the ultimate sacrifice in defending the American way of life in their service to the Armed Forces or other positions of great sacrifice, veterans should not have to continue fighting, not only for their dignity and respect, but for fairness of treatment due to those sacrifices such as disabilities that are a direct result of their service.

“When I joined the military and I said I would die for my country, I didn’t know they would take it literally. For a time I thought I would hate my country for what I am going through, but I love my country. It’s easier to love than to hate, hate just eats you up inside. I just need to survive, to survive, and to go on in this world being the best person I can be.”

Kevin Shores, middle, in the Navy circa 1988 – Facebook


High costs of addiction

The legal underworld of addiction, incarceration, and wasted resources

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Justin Lee Dietrich was an addict. A long rap sheet haunted him, barring him from joining a society that rejected him at every turn. Court documents show he had issues with sobriety, was ordered by Cass County District Court to attend sobriety programs, chemical dependency evaluations, and given two years supervised probation, after he pled guilty to terrorizing charges in 2016.

Before four Fargo Police SWAT shooters took the 32-year-old man’s life on March 12 for posing an “imminent deadly threat,” in West Fargo, he asked to live in F5 Project housing, but the nonprofit organization that coordinates services and living spaces for released felons had no beds available, a Facebook post by the organization’s founder, Adam Martin, stated.

His family tried to get Dietrich committed but he was turned down every time, as he didn’t meet the “danger to himself or others” standard.

“I think about all the times police were called, how the officers with Fargo PD were patient with him when it would have been far easier to do otherwise, but also how hiring the right defense attorney can repeatedly help a person avoid any real consequences,” Matthew Bring, Dietrich’s brother-in-law, wrote in a Facebook post.

Justin Dietrich and his dog, Harley Bell – Facebook

“I think about how he’s been on probation with little or no actual supervision or oversight, and about the arrest warrant that was issued more than three months ago but never served. It’s frustrating, thinking about this broken system in which his family try so hard to get help from the very institutions set up to do so, and are repeatedly told there’s nothing more that can be done.”

Dietrich’s sister, Alyson Jean Bring, emphasized that she and her family tried repeatedly to seek help for her brother.

“My family filed numerous civil commitments in an effort to get Justin help and every time we were told by Southeast Human Services that he didn’t meet the legal standard of being a danger to himself or others,” Bring said in an email. “At one point I was literally told that we wouldn’t be able to commit him unless he was found with a gun in his hand and threatening to take his own life.”

Southeast Human Services personnel took 15 minutes to interview her brother, but would not consider her family’s extensive knowledge of his usage history, she said.

Bring, a former attorney with the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office, said her brother was supposed to be supervised, but found little oversight. When the courts ordered Dietrich to go through treatment, the stays were too short. Counselors continuously had to justify treatment procedures to insurance companies, Bring said.

“In sum, the very institutions that are set up to help people are not working.”

Dietrich loved motorcycles and his pet, a Rottweiler named Harley. He had a beautiful singing voice, once sang at the North Dakota Adult and Teen Challenge approximately a decade ago. Friends and family said he was humorous, had an infectious smile, someone who went out of his way to make people feel important.

Once, he saved a neighbor from hanging himself. He cut down the rope, took the person to get food and groceries, and saved the person from suicide.

“It’s no secret that Justin was an addict and struggled with this disease for many years,” Bring wrote in her brother’s eulogy. “But I think it’s important to stress that each one of us has issues and our issues don’t define us. Addiction was merely part of his life.”

Bring also works as an attorney handling DUI cases, never before realizing how widespread addiction and alcoholism in the area are, affecting people from all walks of life.

“I don’t think the public at large realizes how big of an issue this is and that most of the people who enter the criminal justice system are either chemically dependent, mentally ill, or both,” Bring said.

Her brother was someone who helped whenever and however he could, Bring said, and she hopes to honor his memory by testifying at the next legislative session to try and implement positive changes for those struggling with addiction.

“I think the frustrating part for me is that, while everyone has issues, for some reason addiction is so incredibly stigmatized, and I think a big part of that is because, while it’s easy for people to hide most issues, typically addiction eventually can’t be hidden and becomes public,” Bring said in an email. “I think our society has made some strides in viewing addiction as a disease just like other mental health or physical problems, but I think we still have a long ways to go.”

Justin Dietrich’s dog, Harley Bell, and a Harley – Facebook

Adam Martin
The name, F5 Project, is a double entendre. It stands for the reset function key, but also because Adam Martin has five felonies on his record.

“I’m not a mental health professional, I’m just a guy who has a bunch of felonies who is an addict, that found a solution that works,” Martin, founder of the F5 Project, said from his office. Feet propped up on his desk, he’s the picture of calm in a turbulent world. His office is behind the only white frame among a dozen hard oak antique doors on the eighth floor of the Black Building.

Although the F5 Project is barely two years young, he’s grown the organization from nothing to seven houses that help put roofs over felons’ heads. His organization’s goal is to lower recidivism and homelessness rates through education. Martin calls his organization the “anti-disenfranchised movement” because he breaks all the social rules: answers the cell phone at 2am, is active with those under his care on social media, and goes to inmates before they’re released to find out what they want.

Adam Martin, founder of the F5 Project, describing the difficulties of the current justice system – photograph by C.S. Hagen

Martin knew Dietrich, called him a “super awesome dude.” Dietrich was someone that Martin enjoyed, and not the person the media has painted. Current Fargo city codes was one of the reasons why Dietrich was turned away shortly before he was gunned down after failing to comply with police demands.

In Fargo, a house or unit is allowed to hold three non-related people, no matter how many rooms are in the house.

“It’s an archaic code that robs many of opportunity,” Martin said. Because of a previous infraction of the city codes, city leaders and others have called him a slumlord. He’s facing potential fines. Some ask him why college students are able to get away with breaking the same city code, while he, housing felons, cannot.

“My argument for that or my belief on that is I’m not mad that the college students are getting away with it, I think they should,” Martin said. “I think there is a big problem with housing in this community and it affects people with backgrounds and it affects college students. What does that tell me? It affects people below the poverty line.”

A legislative incentive passed in 2017 offering landlords the chance to collect double security deposits for felons looking for a place to live, is about the only help the state has given. The law, introduced as House Bill 1220 by the House Political Subdivision Committee, overlooks a crucial factor.

“They totally missed the boat on what the real problem is,” Martin said. “It’s not just the felony background, the majority of people coming out of jails or prisons don’t have money. Again, we’re creating opportunity for people with money.”

Money is the largest contributing factor in attracting the help people really need, Martin said. Proper funding is also the dividing factor between nonprofits such as the F5 Project and others as they’re all chasing the same donations and grants.

Money – billions, if not trillions of taxpayer dollars – is also being wasted every year keeping felons in a rut from which they cannot climb out.

Frank Hunkler
Dressed in corduroys, armed with a Pilot G-2 fine-point pen and a thick notebook of data, Frank Hunkler paused before speaking about the day he decided to commit suicide.

He’s a decorated Vietnam War veteran, a felon, an addict, has had PTSD since childhood, suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, and has been a full-time volunteer peer mentor in the Fargo-Moorhead area for 37 years. He includes himself as one of the 256,934 reported civilian non-institutional people in America who were told they cannot work if they wanted access to health care including mental health. At a minimum of $10 an hour, that’s more than $5 billion in lost wages, and approximately $900 million in lost federal taxes every year.

He knows about addiction, started using drugs in high school and went to prison in 1979, back in the day when felons paid their dues, but were welcomed back to society after finishing their sentences.  

“It’s harder to get clean and stay clean today than it was in 1980 or 1990, much more difficult,” Hunkler said.


“Access and prejudice,” Hunkler said. “In 1980 we did our crimes we did our time, we did our crimes and did our time. In 1980, very few people went to jail for drugs, almost unheard of.”

Frank Hunkler describing his path as a veteran, an addict, a felon, to recovery – photograph by C.S. Hagen

The war on drugs and the war on terror are pieces to the puzzle behind mass incarceration, Hunkler believes. America has five percent of the world’s population with 25 percent of the world’s prison population, and the hours of lost work, lost taxpayer dollars, and lost productivity, add up.

Nationally, the number of people enrolled in drug treatment programs has halved in recent years, although the demand for mental health treatment continues to rise, according to the Bureau of Prisons. Budget cuts to support the war on drugs and the war on terror, coupled with widespread disregard and an automation of human services have left addicts, felons, and the needy, forgotten.

Among comparable countries, America has the highest rate of death from mental health and substance abuse disorders. The number is almost off the charts, according to the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker, with America double the rest of the world in death rates per 100,0000 people in 2015.

America’s death rates due to accidental poisonings or drug overdoses per 100,000 people is also twice as high as the worldwide average, numbering 12 people per 100,000 in 2013, compared to 4.9 per 100,000 in comparable countries.

Stress is the common denominator linking addiction, the current criminal justice system, recidivism, or the habitual relapse into crime or antisocial behavior patterns, Hunkler said.

“The process of seeking help, in preventive ways, is not in vogue,” Hunkler said. “The inhumane and failure-inducing requirements of seeking help in an emergency take a simple medical emergency to a personal catastrophe in which stress levels are exponentially raised.”

Although Hunkler has been clean for 37 years, his PTSD could bring him to suicide. Returning to drug use is not an option, he said. Suicide would be the only choice.

“With PTSD it could happen easily, not today, but over a period of months,” Hunkler said. “Right at that edge where life-or-death decisions are made every day by persons with use, abuse, mental health, addiction issues. I believe anyone who has even short-term struggles with mental health, use, abuse, and addiction issues has symptoms of PTSD. Often less from the struggles than from the lack of 24/7 access to emergency facilities and safety from themselves and others, forcing them to return to the situations that are killing them. Each refusal of care is another traumatizing event.”

His PTSD stems from childhood abuse, he said. He remembers little of his war experience, but has the medals to prove he fought with valor. As a gay man who lost 52 of his friends during the AIDS epidemic, his battle has been even more difficult than others, but he draws and writes almost every day to remind himself that people are basically good, and he must help them.

On social media, he begins all his posts with three simple words: “I love you.”

I am forgiven – by Frank Hunkler

Remembering the day in 2003 when he decided to commit suicide didn’t come easily. While walking home, and passing in front of the offices of Minnesota Legal Services, after the Fargo VA refused help one last time, the director came running toward him. Hunkler said the director must have noticed that all was not well with him at the time. He was trying to get help, but insurance premiums and deductibles were out of reach. Medical bills, lawyer bills, were eating up his income.

“I was not depressed, I was freaked out by the world,” Hunkler said. “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is progressive and fatal. I had been clean from drug use since 1980. Using was not an option.  Suicide held the only dignity I knew.”

The director of Minnesota Legal Services pulled him into the entry of the building and asked him why he was not on disability, Hunkler said.

“No one had ever asked me that. I said because I could not afford the expensive tests needed to find out if I had any real problems. I could not afford insurance and the VA had just told me they would not serve me under any circumstances. I had too many confrontations with staff over being refused help. I was a security risk to myself and the facility.

“She told me they would help me get help. I had to promise to quit work and promise to not work again ever, get completely destitute by a certain date to qualify for services, and 300 hours of their help later I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, PTSD, learning disabilities, and was given Social Security disability and a permanent VA disability pension.

Past has passed away – by Frank Hunkler

$1.015 trillion: a drop in the judicial bucket
“Since I got on disability I have 29,000 and some hours that are lost,” Hunkler said. “Taxpayers have paid me over $500,000 in 14 years in monthly checks. I get a check every month, but that doesn’t mean I got medical health. I was under this crazy notion that if you’re on social security disability you get medical help. I was given a disability pension and then told to go away. I assumed that meant I got psychiatric help, but there is no such connection.

“How do you describe this to people that not only are they paying me to leave the work force, just to get medical help, I don’t know if you know this but when veterans get a disability check – it was not created to give us medical help. It’s basically a lawsuit, where each veteran is expected to get a million bucks. Congress did not mean this to be like Social Security disability to keep us alive, it was meant to replace the money we would likely lose in our lifetime.”

Hunkler is a part of the aggregate economic burden of incarceration to taxpayers, which exceeds $1 trillion every year, according to Advancing Justice, a Los Angeles based nonprofit and civil rights organization, and the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation, at Washington University in St. Louis.

Costs to corrections are approximately $91 billion, and lost wages – calculated at minimum wage – add up to more than $70 billion every year.

Reduced life earnings of those behind bars total more than $230 billion, while costs of non-fatal injuries to the incarcerated total $28 billion.

The aggregate cost to society swells from there, which including other aspects already adds up to more than $490 billion. Felons have adverse health effects from incarceration and poor health care. Infant mortality rates increase. There are divorce complications. Children’s educational level decreases, thereby lowering wages when they become adults. Child welfare costs go up; homelessness increases. There are increased criminality issues with children of incarcerated parents. Property values in troublesome areas decrease. Divorce rates rise, and the interest on judicial debt inflates.

In total, the cost per year for the current criminal justice system backing the war on drugs, the war on terror, and the current judicial system is $1,015,000,000,000, most of which is taxpayer dollars, according to statistics released by Advancing Justice.

“Expenditures are not adding value to the economy and are not, for the most part, improving the productivity of the incarcerated person and their families or adding value to the quality of life in the community for generations to come,” Hunkler said.

The costs do not end there. In 2018, the federal and state budgets for incarceration, probation, and parole is $80.7 billion. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, declared more than $50 billion. The Department of Health and Human Services, or HSS, announced $80.03 billion, and the Department of Education needs $59 billion.

Although numbers have decreased slightly in recent years, an average of 2.2 million people are behind bars on any given day, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics. If 2.2 million people had minimum wage jobs at 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, at an hourly rate of $10, the federal government loses more than $4.2 billion in taxes every year.

Wages earned by America’s total population of approximately 138 million taxpayers every year to pay for incarcerating 2.2 million people totals at $9.03 trillion, of which a total of $1.2 trillion is used to pay for the current incarceration system, according to Advancing Justice.

Additional unintended costs extend to more than half a million prison guards, who suffer from PTSD at more than double the rate of soldiers, and with suicide rates twice as high as the general public, according to analysts.

Simple numbers show the fiscal burden of incarceration is far more expensive than offering help to the millions of addicts sent into jails across America. The national average for treating one person in detox is $1,500, with an inpatient cost of $20,000 a month, according to the Center for Disease Control. For a fraction of the annual price to taxpayers, more than 11 million addicts – which is also the approximate number of people who enter jails in the United States every year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation – could be treated for $375 billion.

Few jails offer addiction treatment services. At Cass County Jail, Captain Andrew Frobig is working toward alternatives to incarceration for low-bail offenders, but doesn’t have treatment services, yet, he said. Most help comes from the outside, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, the Sex Offender Program, the F5 Project, the group Hunkler works with, Narcotics Anonymous, or other nonprofit groups.   

“It is very difficult to find anyone who claims, in 2018, that prisons and jails are for rehabilitation,” Hunkler said. “The inmates are not getting mental health help, are not being financially productive, are not learning skills, and the prison guards are losing out too.”  

[Editor’s note: For more information pertaining to the criminal justice system in Fargo and North Dakota, a February 21 story pertaining to the “High costs of low bail” can be found here: link.]

I am in shape politically – by Frank Hunkler

Center for heroes and excellence
Frank Hunkler has a dream. His dream is to create a brick and mortar building, a one-stop 24/7 emergency center where anyone with a use, abuse, addiction, or mental health issue can go, keep safe from themselves and others, have all their emergency needs met, food to eat, a place to rest if needed, and given an advocate to get them connected to all the services they need.

“The community would guarantee to leave no one behind, get them the services they need, and find a way to pay for them,” Hunkler said. “Just like with heart disease, lung disease, type II Diabetes and other mostly preventable diseases. The commitment of the metropolitan area community would be to leave no one behind and provide the seamless services needed to return the person to maximum productivity as quickly as possible, no questions asked. To walk through the door and ask for help would make each person a community hero.

“By diverting funds, diverting facilities, ending the war on drugs, there is money enough, and the idea of this center in this town, number one, we need to have a campaign that encourages people to ask for help,” Hunkler said. “That’s the first problem, that’s probably 80 percent of the problem. Asking for help when they need it. That’s the heroism part.

“There’s no reason that anyone should have to use in this town, if we had access. There are enough treatment centers, homeless shelters, mutual aid agencies, if they had a central place where anyone could come to 24/7, I actually believe, right now as I know this community, there are days of the year where if we have that one center, existing facilities could serve every person who walks through that door without adding a bed.”

Fargo’s metropolitan area is smart enough and wealthy enough, Hunkler said, to become the first city in the world to help all our kids, felons, and addicts, and turn no one away.

Such a center would bring together all the agencies and services, voluntary and professional, Hunkler said.

“As each person is served, seamlessly and as a whole person, all agencies and services will benefit and maximize their potential,” Hunkler said. “At one time or another in our lives, we will likely all need those services unless we are wealthy enough or connected enough to get services we need when and where we want them. For now, only members of Congress and the very wealthiest have such access. A Medal of Honor winner cannot walk into a VA facility and demand services. A member of Congress can and does not have to demand them or stand in line for services.”  

Adam Martin, of the F5 Project, compares the judicial system to the educational system, and finds that many of today’s issues start in schools.

“We have a whole social structure built on helping those who are convenient, and I think about that all the time,” Martin said. “We have this idea of what is not normal, and when something is not normal, we involve the police. Police have become more about arresting to create a culture than arresting to create public safety.”

Martin said he was in learning disability classes when he was in school in Fargo. The system is based on automation, and doing what is convenient.

“Let’s be open and honest about it,” Martin said. “Are you doing the same thing the educational system has done, and you’re sending people to learning disability classes because they’re inconvenient, they’re not normal, they’re not like other kids? Are you identifying them with learning disabilities because you suck as a teacher and you’re not actual teachers you’re reading out of a book? Or are you actually trying to create an environment to learn for all people. I think that kind of mentality has gone into the justice system, it’s gotten into even the technology world.

“All the systems in America are based on low hanging fruit. Nobody really wants to work.”

Rules on top of laws is not the answer to solving the current criminal justice system, Martin said.

“We’ve turned into a very legalistic nation,” Martin said. “If you’re familiar with the Bible and Pharisees and legalism, they were putting rules on top of laws and then holding people accountable as if it were a law, so that they wouldn’t actually break the law.”

Joyful performance – by Frank Hunkler

Criminal justice reform is not ‘hug a thug’
While preparing for her nomination at the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Convention, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who is up for reelection this year, said she would support criminal justice reform.

“On one condition,” Heitkamp said. “That we have re-entry services. And I will tell you why. I think that if you take someone out and you say ‘Okay, you’re serving time for a drug offense that didn’t jeopardize anyone’s life, you weren’t caught with guns,’ whatever the line is, I would say that’s fine, but you need to make sure they stay in treatment and that they have opportunities that help them transition their life back.

“If we don’t do it with that, we will have re-offenses, in fact I know that’s already happening in North Dakota, and that will frustrate law enforcement, it will frustrate the public, and it’s the wrong way to do it.”

Heitkamp stated she wants to know what reentry plans would include.

“When they come out of prison, how do they come back? They come back to the exact same conditions, and friends and associates that basically led to their incarceration. We need a reentry program for federal prisoners. This is one of the things that I’ve been pushing and doing a lot of work on.”

Former North Dakota Attorney General Tim Purdon said the criminal justice system is a three-legged stool: one leg is enforcement – some people are dangerous and need to be kept from society – a definition both Martin and Hunkler also agree with.

The second leg is crime prevention, and the third is reentry, Purdon said.

“Criminal justice reform is an issue that over the last three or four years – setting aside the current Attorney General – is something that has had large bipartisan support,” Purdon said. “There’s been a recognition in this country that we cannot afford to continue our criminal justice system on the road we’re on because the cost of running prisons, federal and locally, is exceeding our ability as a society to pay for it.”

He is a part of the Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, and currently a partner with Robins Kaplan LLP, and said money can be redirected toward crime prevention and better delivery of mental health and addiction services.

“If you take the dollars that are being spent to warehouse people who have addiction and mental health problems, you take those dollars and redirect them at crime prevention programs that those people can get the chemical dependency treatment they need, they can get the mental health services they need,” Purdon said. “We are woefully behind a minimal constitutional standard for mental health care in the state of North Dakota.

“Look at the people coming out of prison and look at their recidivism rate. If you reduce that recidivism rate, give them a chance and integrate them back into society, you’ve reduced your crime rate.

“Reducing the recidivism rate isn’t hug a thug, this is making the community safer by making sure the folks coming back don’t reoffend.”

Concentrate on all three legs and incarceration rates will drop, he said.

Mandatory minimum sentences are one aspect of the current criminal justice system that needs change, Purdon said.

“Mandatory minimum sentences are a sledgehammer for every case, whether the case is an elephant or a gnat. We’ve got to get away from mandatory minimum sentences, particularly for people with addiction problems.”

The issue has become a hot topic today because the opioid crisis affects all levels of society, he said.

“The opioid crisis, unlike past drug crisis, hits populations in this country that have political power,” Purdon said. “Why are we talking about the opioid addiction as a national crisis as opposed to the crack epidemic? Why are we looking at it as a public safety issue instead of purely a criminal justice issue? It’s because its impacting communities that have some political power.

“It’s sad that that’s the case, but that is the case. There is a possibility that when you start to look at opioid addiction as a medical issue — and all addiction should be viewed as a medical issue, in my opinion — not necessarily a criminal justice issue but a health care medical issue, those folks need treatment, and hopefully that can support some of this recent bipartisan support for comprehensive criminal justice reform.”

Other states have begun taking dollars away from locking people up and putting funds toward treatment, and have reduced crime rates while reducing prison populations, Purdon said.

While mental health issues continue to be put on the political back burners, organizations like the F5 Project and volunteers like Frank Hunkler plan to continue struggling to find beds for the addicted, jobs for felons, words for the hurting.

“All that is lacking is people of goodwill putting partisan opinions and feelings aside and sitting as equals around a round table, with all stakeholders, and win this war on stigma and fear,” Hunkler said. “This fear of addiction and mental illness is based only in itself – fear.”

“It’s going to have to be a lot of awareness of the similarities between felons and non-felons, the similarities between the education system and the justice system, and how they’re treated, and the similarities between mom and dad approaches when it comes to people with felony backgrounds,” Adam Martin said. “When people see that and break the matrix in their minds, that’s when the help is really going to come.”

Andrew Gregerson, a drug addict, showing his scars and tattoos while in Cass County Jail – photograph by Logan Macrae


The high costs of low bail

Overcrowded jails and millions in costs to the taxpayer

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – To hundreds of Fargo’s inmates, a C-Note-sized bail might as well be a million dollars. Unaffordable.

On any given day the city’s law enforcement brings those who break the law to jail. It’s their job. Some offenders are violent. All are entitled to a phone call and an orange wardrobe. Some are drug abusers, addicted. Others are repeat offenders, and then there are those who don’t see jail as any kind of deterrent.

A February 8 snapshot of the Cass County Jail’s roster showed that 238 people were behind bars, 212 males, 36 females. A total of 68 people were in custody without bail, meaning they were deemed flight risks by the court, due to serious felony charges, prior criminal convictions.

HPR Magazine cover by Raul Gomez

Twenty-four people were locked up on less than $1,000 bail, according to Captain Andrew Frobig of Cass County Jail. Their bail amounts ranged from $100 to $750, with the majority hovering around $500, and they were arrested on drug charges, assault charges, parole violations, or disorderly conduct. A second snapshot, taken on February 15, showed 245 people were incarcerated, with 38 people under $1,000 bail.

With an approximate cost to taxpayers of $95 per day to keep a person in the local jail, those that could not afford bail – or did not pay bail – ran Cass County approximately $2,280 on February 8. On February 15, the costs increased to $3,610. While in jail, inmates’ health costs are covered; they have a bed and three squares. For those without homes – a desperate few – such ill-fated security may be a tempting offer.

“The reasons for not posting are also subject to individual circumstances,” Frobig said.

“I know there are cases where lack of access to funds is the issue. I know there are circumstances where the person would rather sit and accrue credit in hopes of an eventual plea bargain for time served. I know there are cases where they have burned bridges with all those they know who might help them, and I have spoken to parents in the past who have left them in jail because they felt it was the only remaining option to keep them alive – due to extreme drug or alcohol addictions.”

The “jail churn” is difficult to predict, because of the numbers, that change daily, even hourly, and the sheer volume of those cycled through the system on their way to trial. If the jail’s snapshot list is used as an average, however, the taxpayers’ costs add up quickly. Every month more than $680,000 is used in taking care of inmates who cannot or won’t make low bail amounts. Annually, the financial costs could rocket to more than $800,000, about an eighth of Cass County Jail’s total inmate expenditures.

One inmate, jailed on heroin charges, has been incarcerated for more than a month on $150 bail. Another person has spent approximately 44 days in jail on terrorizing charges with a $500 bail. A third inmate arrested on December 4 for disorderly conduct and contact with bodily fluids has been under a $750 bail, while another arrested on December 16 for assaulting a peace officer is on $560 bail.

Total bail amounts: $1,960.

Costs to taxpayers for all four inmates: $23,160, and growing.

Excluding the first six months of 2017, when inmate intakes were higher, the daily average headcount at Cass County Jail is 241, with nearly $23,000 spent every day. Monthly, the costs run approximately $686,850, making an annual total of up to $8.3 million.

With less than a month left until the jail’s annual budget year ends, Cass County Jail has spent $9,602,901 for inmate care in 2017, which includes federal funds of $2,005,439 — also taxpayer money.

“Our budget doesn’t include things like light, and heat, and water. Those are county facilities,” Frobig said. “I take into account our itemized budget on what we can spend on things. You are absolutely correct from a fiscal standpoint that we spend far more than the actual bails cost, which is exacerbated when you add in medical expenses on a case by case basis.”

Jails have fixed costs which cannot be reduced, and incremental costs when the jail is full and more people are in need of individual care, Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said. At capacity, Cass County Jail has 348 beds.

“A lot of those costs are fixed costs, so it takes a certain amount to run that jail whether you’ve got 200 people in it, or 250, or 230, it’s all going to be the same amount,” Burdick said. “We still have to keep the heat on, we still have to keep the power on, and we still have to keep the jail staffed, so it’s a difficult number, I would think, to try to get a handle on, although I have not tried.”

Although a precise cost for low-bail detainees is difficult to calculate, the sheer number of cases has recently raised eyebrows, from the legislature to government-appointed committees, to study the issue.

“As far as what to do about it, the state is actually starting to take a look at this very issue,” Frobig said. Captain Frobig has been asked to join a subcommittee of the Justice Reinvestment Committee, Burdick said, that is charged with reexamining the current bail process and find alternatives to incarceration.

Andrew Gregerson showing the scar on his neck left after a suicide attempt – photograph by Logan Macrae

King pain
Since he turned 11, Andrew Gregerson, 31, has spent five years and two months a free man. He grew up as a ward of the state, inside juvenile centers, jails, and prisons.

“I’ve been in almost every single juvenile facility in North Dakota,” Gregerson said. “I didn’t have a solid guidance into adulthood, and unfortunately right after I turned 18, I went to prison.”

He’s well spoken, a registered member of the Crow Agency in Montana’s Little Big Horn Reservation. Prison tattoos and scars across his body tell a tale no 31-year-old should have to experience. His rap sheet fills a letter-sized page, filled with assault, terrorizing, shoplifting, burglary, and criminal mischief charges. Today, he’s in Cass County Jail on $750 cash bond on his first drug charges: attempting to manufacture methamphetamines, a felony, and other misdemeanor charges, some drug-related.

“I knew what right and wrong was, but I was ignorant,” Gregerson said. “I was rebellious. Over the years, I had a drug problem, and I really didn’t care where my actions led for quite a few years.”

While sitting in Cass County Jail during a year-long stint, he slit both wrists and his throat on his 20th birthday. Less than inch below the scar on his wrist is a tattoo he gave himself – a dotted line and the words “Cut here.” Another tattoo on his forearm, with a single needle, reads “Pure Evil.” Crude and faded ink across his left knuckles says: “King.” Across his right: “Pain.” King Pain.

With a repetitive history of getting clean, then  turning back to drugs, then getting clean again, every time tragedy struck he turned to drugs, he said. Before his last arrest he was smoking meth to the point where he lost 35 pounds in 17 days.

He was arrested more than a month ago, but has only a cellphone to offer up for bail.

“I would bail out if I could,” Gregerson said. After his last stint in prison, he found a fulltime job in Bismarck making $17 an hour, but lost the job when he was arrested in a Fargo hotel room. Life wasn’t going the way he wanted, he said, and like other times when tragedy struck he turned back to his old friends: cocaine, heroin, meth, marijuana, acid, crack, magic mushrooms. He’s tried them all, but preferred acid. Rarely drinks, doesn’t like cigarettes.

He lifts up his prison-orange shirt to show a scar where someone stabbed him in 2007 in West Fargo. The wound went through his liver and into his kidney, and he nearly died from the assault after he chased the attacker with the 13-inch knife still protruding from his chest.

Andrew Gregerson, a drug addict, showing his scars and tattoos – photograph by Logan Macrae

In 2012, he also tried to commit suicide, but failed.

“I tried hanging myself in my garage, and when I jumped off my toolbox the rope broke,” Gregerson said. “I’m lucky to be alive for several different reasons.”

Since his last arrest, his cash bail has been reduced from 10 percent of $10,000 to $750, but he still can’t afford the payment. He can sell his cellphone for $300, but it’s still not enough. He said his life changed when his daughter, usually stoic, broke down in tears before him.

“My daughter needs me. As sad as it is, it took me many years…the day she came and saw me and she started crying and told me how much of a disappointment I was and that I had broke her trust, it’s like I woke up after years of being asleep.

“I couldn’t believe what I did to her. That’s my fault. Her tears, her in counseling, it’s all on me. Never up to this point did I realize that, so no, I don’t want to be in here.”

Gregerson realizes his story may fall on deaf ears. “I’m sure a lot of people say ‘Oh, I’m done with drugs,’ and I hate to sing the same tune, but to see my daughter cry like that and to realize it’s all my fault, I’ve never seen that before. As soon as I get out, I’m going to go, I want to get treatment. I want to change. Never again will I put tears on my daughter’s face. Never. I will not be responsible for that.”

He holds up two cards from the North Dakota Department of Human Services and presses them against the prison glass.

“I had to face not only losing her, I had to sit there in my cell and think about all the things I lost, like my personal possessions, and also sit there, burned in my brain now, my daughter’s face, crying on the phone behind the glass sitting there telling me those things.

“I need drug treatment. Sitting here is wasting my time.”

Andrew Gregerson lifts his shirt to show where he was stabbed and nearly killed – photograph by Logan Macrae

‘Huge paradigm shift’
Captain Andrew Frobig didn’t grow up wanting to be a peace officer. He became licensed out of necessity. With a degree in political science, he tried law school, but decided on social work and criminal justice. He started “on the line” at the Cass County Jail around 2004, and climbed the ladder to his current position.

He understands jail, the judicial system, and the partisan politics behind criminal laws. When new inmates come in, he jokes with them. Frobig also understands the current system isn’t working, and the laws are keeping some behind bars that shouldn’t be there.

“If you think about jail, that’s all we’re doing: food, clothing, shelter,” Frobig said. “We’re trying to do more than that here, but that’s basically what jail is. We’ve solved that problem, so now we can start working at these other things over here.”

In 2017, Frobig received funding to experiment on alternatives, and he has begun forming a small group of social watchdogs called the Community Supervision Unit. After the county flirted with work release programs and failed due to an uptick in drug smuggling, Frobig believes he has now found a possible way to lower costs, help ensure court appearances, and keep the area safe.

“I think I’ve got something better,” Frobig said. “The idea is we are going to take the people that would otherwise have qualified for work release, and use the new GPS technology, state-of-the-art tracking systems, so those that are sentenced to our custody, which are the people that would have been on work release before.”

Qualifying arrestees will live at home and wear GPS monitors, so personnel can track them. Such tactics have already been experimented with and were successful, Frobig said.

“For the money they spend per day here, I know we can have things in the community attacking those problems, and far cheaper.”

Two of the most frequent charges Frobig notices are: failure to appear, and failure to pay fines or fees. Currently, Cass County has more than 2,000 bench warrants for people who failed to appear in court.

“Whatever alternatives we discover, we have to address that failure-to-appear rate, at least not make it any worse,” Frobig said. “My point is that we identified that this was an issue that a lot of folks were languishing in jail over the course of any given time, the bail amounts suggested judges expected them to get out, but for one reason or another they didn’t.

“I operate with that assumption: the judges don’t have an issue with them getting out so why is there a need for any bail at all?”

The Community Supervision Unit will be comprised of four police officers acting as social workers with arresting powers, Frobig said. He’s looking for officers who may have had problems in the past, those who understand addictions; community providers who will perform case by case care. They will track inmates, drive them to court appearances if needed, help with rehabilitation — including drug treatment — and with assistance after release.

Jobs and apartments for former convicts are difficult to find, and if not for organizations like the F-M Dorothy Day House, Cooper House Apartments, and Adam Martin’s F5 Project, many ex-convicts may take to the streets, Frobig said. Despite the limited options they do have, some still end up back in jail.

“Their job now is to find solutions,” Frobig said. “Creative cops are something that sometimes we’re wary of creating, but I want them to have a wide discretion to be able solve the immediate problems at hand, and not keep score.

“It’s a huge paradigm shift. Let’s make progress in solving these problems of people assigned to them to make them less likely to reoffend. Paying for services based on results rather than services delivered, which is a remarkable shift.”

Instead of working general algorithms or massive analysis techniques, Frobig wants evidence-based programs for individualized assessment and care.

“If three out of four are making progress, then what we’re doing is working, and let’s continue to pay for it,” Frobig said. “We have a tendency to keep score by arrests and convictions. This is going to flip that on its head. We will try to do whatever it takes to help them succeed.”

Federal and state monies could be better spent on community-based drug treatment and job training, according to analysis. Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick agreed, saying new technologies could be of assistance while the state reassess its incarceration regulations.

“In addition to studies and analysis tools, new and better technologies may help us get there as well,” Burdick said. “Being able to track and monitor people on pretrial release, so we know they are doing the right thing, or can do something about it if they’re doing the wrong thing, may be helpful here.

“There are ways out there I think, I am not sure of the prices yet or how best to utilize them, but to keep track of people in a meaningful way that may help reduce the need to have as many people in jail, and how you blend those new technologies with the algorithms or analysis techniques, I don’t know yet, but hopefully that is where our inquiries will take us.”  

Jerry Yonkedeh talking about his bail issues – photograph by Logan Macrae

Me, myself, and God
Jerry Yonkedeh, 25, has spent nearly 50 days in Cass County Jail since his arrest on January 1. He’s charged with terrorizing with a dangerous weapon; he said the claims are lies. His wallet containing his last $200 was stolen during a New Years Eve hotel party, and he can’t make cash bail of $500.

Before incarceration, he was making enough for a single man to live, about $800 a month working for a local flaxseed company. He shared a North Fargo efficiency apartment, split the rent with a roommate, and has a car, a 2003 Hyundai Sonata, which he can’t drive because his license was revoked for a DUI in 2015.

“Now, I’m stuck,” Yonkedeh said. “Me sitting here is not benefiting me. I have no family here, no contact, it’s just me, myself, and God, that’s about it. I’m willing to appear in court, because I know I am innocent. I’m willing to sell my car, right now, for $500, or $600, just sell my car and bond me out.”

Yonkedeh was born in Liberia, and moved to Minnesota with family when he was 10 years old.

He doesn’t want to be in jail, but doesn’t know who to call. Can’t remember his father’s telephone number. Doesn’t know if he’s lost his job of nearly three years. After his DUI sometimes he walked miles to work or rode a bicycle; sometimes his boss would arrange to pick him up.

One lesson he has learned is “trust nobody,” Yonkedeh said. Jail food is bland, and he trades it for noodles when he can’t stand the taste. He grew up poor, and is still poor, too poor to pay bail, and so he is waiting in Cass County Jail for his April trial date.

“I want to get out and get back on my feet,” Yonkedeh said. Daily, he watches an hour of television, does pushups, and reads the Bible. “I’ve got to learn from this, I have no excuses not to go to work and not to go to school. That was my New Year’s resolution: work and go to school. But the devil, you know. God has a plan.”

The social costs
Two of the most frequent charges Captain Andrew Frobig notices are failure to appear, and failure to pay fines or fees. Currently, Cass County has more than 2,000 bench warrants for people who failed to appear in court.

“Cash bail is typically intended, in part, to provide incentive to appear and also to go towards satisfying imposed fees and fines, so any alternatives that are considered will need to take those issues into account,” Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said.

The legal process begins with an arraignment, where a public defender may be assigned to a defendant, and based on information including criminal record, place of residence, and job sustainability, bail is set. Defense attorneys can petition a judge for lower bail at any time, Burdick said.

“What that bail amount should be is discretionary with the court,” Burdick said. “We are as a judicial system interested in trying to focus on what is sometimes referred to as evidence-based practices. If you look around the country, you’ll find that there are different communities or states that have different approaches to setting up bail, and different approaches to try and get more information on what somebody is, so they can make a knowledgeable decision with regard to pretrial release.”

In the past, algorithms, or statistical counting, are used to predict if a defendant will return to court or is a risk to the public.

“It’s not my intent, I don’t think it’s anyone’s intent, to try and just keep people in jail because we feel like it,” Burdick said. “That’s what convictions are for and sentences are the result of convictions, but we do want people to return.”

But even Burdick, with his years of experience, realizes the current bail system may need an adjustment. “If I was to say that I think we doing things perfectly, and we have no room to improve, I would be an idiot,” Burdick said.

“Here’s my general take on life. My job as a prosecutor is to hold people accountable for doing wrong things, but to do it in a fair way. Having said that, I recognize that people when in pretrial custody, the pretrial custody may have a negative impact on their lives, by causing them to lose their jobs and by causing additional strain to their family relationships and the like, and while it is true that that should have been a consideration in their own mind before committing an act, I still want to try and do things in the right way. We are using the best tools that we have right now, I think those tools could certainly be sharpened.”

Frobig couldn’t comment on the social costs of an inmate failing to make bail, such as losing a job, property, a car towed from a public street, even rejection by family, friends, or loss of status, but said that historically, jail administrations have tended to approach crime problems by determining trends or averages.

“The approach we are just now beginning to transition to, in partnerships between government and private providers, is to recognize that each individual situation is unique, as are the priorities or primary needs of each individual, and it is more cost-effective to identify and target those primary needs with specific and targeted services.”

Sometimes, people want to go back to jail because life on the outside is simply too difficult.

“I’ve seen it in the past where someone who was avoiding an old warrant ended up turning themselves in – out of the blue – which happened to coincide with a serious medical condition that was previously untreated,” Frobig said.

Other reasons could include homelessness. Some people have shoplifted in order to get arrested to quit smoking, or committed a crime to accompany a friend in jail.

Bench warrants for not paying court-mandated fines and fees can quickly escalate and land a struggling ex-convict back in jail. Typically, such cases are reduced to civil orders, or they choose to pay off their debt $20 a day while sitting in jail.

Such a strategy makes no sense to Frobig.

“Wait, you’re going to pay me $75 a day to hold this person so they work off the $20?” Frobig said. “It’s silly for me to keep them in jail. Whatever the barriers to helping people find jobs, or perform community service, those obstacles should be overcome. This unit is going to be tasked with trying to come up with ideas. I’m not going to spoon feed them. If we show we’re not willing to try these things, then people will spoon feed us, or force feed us.”

No matter the reason, intentional or not, the costs of taking care of inmates are a heavy burden on the taxpayer.

“On the one hand you think about, ‘Shouldn’t we be letting people out so that they can continue to keep their job and maintain their family contacts?’” Burdick said. “And I would agree that’s an important criterium. On the other hand, ‘Are they going to return to future proceedings, are they representing safety concerns to the public?’ These are balancing issues.”

The jail churn
The purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant will appear for his or her day in court. A closer look shows that the money bail system is set up to fail. Too many people in America today cannot make their bail bonds, perpetuating an endless cycle of poverty.

America, the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, can also claim the statistic that one in five people are detained for drug offenses, according to statistics released by the Prison Policy Initiative.

If every U.S. state were compared to countries, North Dakota, population 757,952, would rank number 41 in the world with 521 people jailed per 100,000 in 2015, which is eight ranks higher than Russia, population 144 million, and 105 spots worse than China, population 1.3 billion, according to information published by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

North Dakota is listed as one of two non-reporting states in 2016 for the National Prisoner Statistics program managed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  The numbers provided do reflect that the state’s jailed decreased slightly, but nationally, the numbers of those who found themselves behind bars increased by three percent, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Taking the top spots for incarceration per 100,000 people across the world are: District of Columbia, with 1,196 people incarcerated, Louisiana, with 1,143, and the state of Georgia with 1,004.

The state’s southern neighbor, South Dakota, ranked number six across the world in 2016, with 904 people jailed per 100,000.

Peter Wagner, executive director of the Prison Policy Initiative, said the current bail system is inefficient, and taxpayer money is being spent in inefficient ways.

“Cash bail has little to do with showing up for court, it has to do with how much money you have,” Wagner said.  “And it can change the future of their lives. Some people plead guilty because they can’t make bail. The numbers that you are seeing because they can’t make low bail, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those are people being detained today because they don’t have a couple hundred bucks.”

The damage done not only to taxpayers, or to an arrestee’s pocketbook, is nearly impossible to come back from, Wagner said.

“When you unnecessarily detain people you unnecessarily make them lose their lives, lose their jobs, lose their apartment. You make them these ‘things’ in their kids’ lives. This is pretty darn disruptive to their success. People are pretty resilient; the bad news is that there are a whole lot of things our society does to people with criminal records to make them not succeed.

“Don’t kick them when they’re down if you want them to stand up.”

The main reason why unnecessary detention is on the rise is because “it’s easy,” Wagner said. “It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theory. I got a bug bite, so I scratch it.”

There are three types of bonds in North Dakota: a cash bond, which facilitates a fairly quick release from jail, a surety bond, where a bail bondsman or qualified individual pays 10 percent and guarantees the remaining bail money, or a property bond.

When someone accused of a crime places bail, a magistrate or judge also has the right to tack on stipulations, such as maintaining employment, beginning an educational program, imposing travel restrictions or curfews, requiring the person not to contact an alleged victim and refraining from possessing a firearm, according to the North Dakota Century Code. Sometimes, a judge may also require a person to refrain from alcohol or drugs, or undergo medical treatment in conjunction with a bond.

Every year, more than 11 million people are processed through the jail churn in the United States, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported nearly 11 million arrested in 2015, that’s 3,363 arrests per 100,000 inhabitants. Approximately 1.6 million of those arrested were incarcerated in 2016, according to the Department of Justice Statistics.

During the last 17 years, 99 percent of total jail growth came from incarcerating people who are legally innocent, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics series Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear and Correctional Population in the United States.

A 2016 article published by Prison Policy Initiative, reported in addition to the 1.6 million people incarcerated in federal and state prisons, 646,000 people are behind bars in 3,283 jails across the United States. Of that number, 70 percent are being held pretrial, or on bond.

“While the jail population in the U.S. has grown substantially since the 1980s, the number of convicted people in jails has been flat for the last 15 years,” the article stated. “Detention of the legally innocent has been consistently driving jail growth, and the criminal justice reform discussion must included a discussion of local jails and the need for pretrial detention reform.”

Researchers discovered that those who are unable to meet bail fall into society’s poorest category, and recent trends show that nearly 44 percent of American adults could not afford bail under $1,000, according to the Federal Reserve System’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2016.

An emergency expense costing $400 would even be too much, the report stated. Most of the people questioned said they would have to sell something or borrow money to pay the debt. Nearly 25 percent of all adults in the U.S. also cannot afford to pay current month’s bills in full, and 24 million Americans are carrying debt from medical expenses.

Nearly 65 percent of incarcerated black men making $11,275 per year, 37 percent of Hispanic men making $17,449 a year, and 58 percent of white men making $18,283 per year, are unable to post bond, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

The jail churn draws in black and Latino Americans. Despite the fact that 64 percent of America is populated by white people, and 13 percent by blacks, 40 percent of the total jail population is white, while 39 percent of the population is black, according to 2010 statistics. Native Americans represent 0.9 percent of the national population, and one percent of the total prison population, while Latinos represent 16 percent of America, and 19 percent of the prison population.

“Although, on paper, it is illegal to detain people for their poverty, such detention is the reality in too many of our local jails,” the Prison Policy Initiative reported.

“To truly make our local communities safer and ensure that bail decisions are based on more than how much money one has, states, local governments, and sheriffs should: eliminate the use of money bail, stop locking people up for failure to pay fines and fees, reduce the number of arrests that lead to jail bookings through increased use of citations and diversion programs, increase funding of indigent criminal defense, eliminate all pay-to-stay programs, reduce the high costs of phone calls home from prisons and jails and stop replacing in-person jail visits with expensive video visitation.”

Captain Andrew Frobig looks forward to the day when jail staff can help people get on the road to drug treatment.

“I do believe that we are holding people in jail longer than intended when bail is set ‘low,’” Frobig said. “I think there is a disconnect in that judges set bail low with the expectation that people will be able to get out, but for various reasons they do not. There has been, to this point, a lack of viable alternatives and I am eager to explore new options.”

The nefarious side of the drug trade is always going to be one step ahead of law enforcement, Frobig said, which makes many low-bail inmates a community issue, not a law enforcement problem.

“If someday, and this is never going to happen, but if someday the jail is not necessary, that would be an ideal to reach toward,” Frobig said. “Realistically, we’re always going to have some sort of criminal element out there.”

[Editors note: since writing this story, Andrew Gregerson was released and sentenced to 30 months probation.]


Infiltrated: No-DAPL activist hoodwinked by paid FBI informant, defense says

A web of informants, lies, and seduction led to Red Fawn Fallis’s arrest; defense files motions to compel discovery while motions for continuance denied in federal court

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Events leading up to the arrest of one of the Dakota Access Pipeline’s most prominent defendants played out like a game of bughouse chess. Little did an isolated pawn, Red Fawn Fallis, know of an apparent trap set for her near Standing Rock on October 27, 2016, the day police took over the northern 1851 Treaty Camp, according to her defense attorneys.

Red Fawn Fallis – online sources

The state’s side, heavily armed, bolstered by a governor’s emergency declaration and taxpayers dollars, were short on time; the pipeline had a schedule to keep. Law enforcement targeted potential leaders of the pipeline resistance. Early morning meetings began every Tuesday “so that battle rhythm should be protected with our state team,” according to emails from the Office of the Governor of North Dakota Communications Director Mike Nowatzki.

Battle rhythm is a military term, meant to describe the maintenance of synchronized activity and process among distributed “warfighters,” according to the Defense Technical Information Center.

Before Energy Transfer Partners hired the international private security firm TigerSwan, local law enforcement repeatedly retreated from the front lines. Pressure from politicians financially supported by big oil lobbyists mounted, and the state requested federal help.

After TigerSwan’s arrival, however, the tempo shifted, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent one known infiltrator into the camps.

Heath Harmon – Facebook post

The infiltrator, Heath Harmon, a 46-year-old Fort Berthold Reservation member, befriended and seduced Fallis, according to a December 29, 2017 Motion to Compel Discovery filed by defense attorneys. The relationship continued for an unspecified time after Fallis was arrested for allegedly shooting a handgun – a weapon that did not belong to her, but to the infiltrator, who will be paid $40 per day to testify against his former lover on and after January 29, when Fallis’s case goes to trial at Fargo’s Quentin N. Burdick U.S. Courthouse.

Fallis was considered a potential leader by law enforcement in the resistance camps against the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to the defense’s Motion to Compel Discovery, and her identity was placed into a “link chart” prepared by the North Dakota and Local Intelligence Center.

Out of the hundreds that begrudgingly gave way before the law enforcement blitz on the northern Treaty Camp, she was targeted and tackled by a deputy named Thadius Schmit. Two shots rang out, according to affidavits; other video reports state three. One bullet struck the ground near an officer’s knee, and the authorities say a handgun was pried from her hand.

Checkmate, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota is preparing to argue.

Not so fast, Fallis’ defense attorneys say. The 37-year-old Oglala Sioux woman was caught up in a scheme to take her off the playing field, and the prosecution is attempting to prove she was someone who could cause serious disadvantages to DAPL’s agenda.

She was arrested with the informant’s loaded handgun. Fallis’s defense team has asked the federal government for all information related to the informant for nearly a year, but the federal government dallied, waiting months before handing some information over, according to the defense.

Police drone footage still shot of the moment Red Fawn Fallis was tackled – The Intercept files

Due to the lateness of incoming information, Fallis’ defense team also asked four times for a continuance, but was denied.

In the United State’s Response to Defendant’s Motion to Compel Discovery, filed on December 20, 2017, prosecutors believe they have given over enough information, and they were not compelled to turn over surveillance gathered by TigerSwan or other private security firms because “Private security contractors have not participated in the criminal investigation of this matter.”

Defense attorneys fired back with a Defendant’s Reply to Government’s Response to Motion to Compel Discovery.

“The FBI recruited, supervised, and paid a specific informant to infiltrate the camps of protesters near Standing Rock,” the motion, which was compiled by Fallis’s attorneys, Bruce Ellison, Jessie A. Cook, and Molly Armour, stated. “During his employment by the FBI, this particular informant seduced Ms. Fallis and initiated an intimate, albeit duplicitous relationship with her. He spent the majority of the 48-hour period prior to Ms. Fallis’s arrest with her and had access to her and her belongings… He used their romantic relationship to rely upon her as an unwitting source of information for informant activities.”

Harmon regularly reported to the FBI, according to unclassified FBI documents revealed by the defense.

“He was instructed to collect information on potential violence, weapons, and criminal activity. This informant’s work was considered so valuable that his FBI handlers recommended additional compensation for him to be ‘motivated for future tasking.’”

Harmon was ordered to spy on specific people in the camps, but never uncovered plans for violence, including firearms, explosives, or fireworks, and insisted that activists involved in the resistance were nonviolent, according to a defense’s motion.

Harmon, however, may not have been the only infiltrator; he’s simply the only person known by name, so far. Others were embedded in the camps, according to the testimony. Informants gave briefings to law enforcement about what they had witnessed.

Bird’s eye view of Backwater Bridge – photograph by C.S. Hagen

A November 5, 2016 TigerSwan situational report also stated in an executive summary that documents obtained at a resistance camp showed activists were evolving, getting training from within and outside North Dakota, and that Earth First magazines had been discovered, which TigerSwan stated promoted violent activities.

The situational report added that documents obtained at a resistance camp showed activists were evolving, getting training from within and outside North Dakota, and that Earth First magazines had been discovered, which TigerSwan stated promoted violent activities.

From the onset, one of TigerSwan’s goals was to create dissension within the camps, according to emails and information obtained by The Intercept. TigerSwan analysts described a sense of urgency in attempting to obtain information, which was at best difficult, according to a September 22, 2016 informational report from TigerSwan.

“DAPL security workers were present amongst protesters, participated in arrests, and in at least one case, possessed liquid accelerant and a firearm while dressed as a protester,” according to a defense motion. “The identity and reports of other undercover security operatives, possibly including the informant boyfriend, have not been disclosed.”

The defense attorneys maintain that Harmon continued his relationship with Fallis until shortly after her arrest.

“He was present and witnessed her seizure. The ammunition and the firearm she is accused of possessing and discharging following that seizure are the property of the same informant who, admittedly, made a series of false statements regarding his knowledge and involvement in the incident to various law enforcement agencies.”

An activist dowsed with Milk of Magnesia to ward off effects of pepper spray – photograph by C.S. Hagen

“Fishing expedition”
TigerSwan operatives may not be participating in criminal investigations today, but they did work closely and help organize law enforcement responses, according to Cass County Sheriff’s Department information obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The private security firm was also paid to gather information for what would become a “sprawling conspiracy lawsuit accusing environmentalist groups of inciting the anti-pipeline protests in an effort to increase donations,” according to leaked documents and FOIA information obtained by The Intercept.

“Law enforcement agencies certainly communicated with private security agencies during the DAPL protests,” the federal government replied. “However, much of the defendant’s overbroad discovery requests are fishing expeditions.”

The defense argues that videos and documents they have received from the prosecution, namely United States Attorney Christopher C. Myers and Assistant United States Attorney David D. Hagler, are vastly incomplete, and that some videos from body cams and GoPros have had sections deleted or have been tampered with.

Hundreds of videos exist from the months-long controversy, but only one – taken from a distant drone – was taken during Fallis’s arrest, according to prosecutors.

“Due to the high volume of videos on October 27, 2016, law enforcement officials did not create a record of which officer created the particular videos,” the federal government said in their response. “Also, most of the videos do not contain a timestamp reflecting the time they were recorded.

“After, an exhaustive review of all the videos, no law enforcement videos (other than the drone video offered by the United States) has been located that depict the defendant’s conduct preceding the shooting incident.”

Law enforcement began setting up the barricade at Backwater Bridge the day after the Treaty Camp eviction – photograph by C.S. Hagen

The defense responded with another motion nine days later, arguing that all pertinent information from all the agencies, public and private, involved in intelligence gathering should be handed over, as per U.S. Supreme Court precedent under the Brady motion.

A Brady motion is a defendant’s request for evidence concerning a material witness, which is favorable to the defense and to which the defense may be entitled, according to US Legal Definitions. Favorable evidence includes not only evidence that tends to exculpate the accused, but also evidence that may impeach the credibility of a government witness.

“The government acknowledges communication between law enforcement and private security entities, but asserts that DAPL security contractors are not part of the prosecution team, and that the prosecution does not possess records of any private security contractors.

One of the burned out DAPL trucks – photograph by C.S. Hagen

Assuming DAPL security contractors are not members of the prosecution team, the government ignores that many of the requests for DAPL security-related information are in the possession of cooperating law enforcement agents.”

As at the Wounded Knee trials in the 1970s, the federal government has also failed to prove that officers involved were “lawfully engaged in the lawful performance” of their duties, the defense argued.

“Prosecutors have a general duty to learn and disclose evidence known by investigating police officers,” the defense’s motion stated. “The defendant is entitled to argue to the jury that law enforcement’s relationship to illegally operating DAPL security entities rendered their October 27, 2016 operation unlawful, or at the very least, not lawful beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In an October 17, 2016 corporate-sensitive DAPL security report, which includes TigerSwan, the Russell Group of Texas, SRC, Leighton Security Services, and 10Code LLC, all videographers and photographers were to provide “immediate playback to further the LEO [law enforcement officers] investigation.”

“The purpose is to collect evidentiary photographic and video evidence,” the report stated. “Purpose: collect information that is relative and timely to tactical situation on the ground and supports the pipeline effort and supports law enforcement efforts for prosecution of violations of right-of-way and equipment sanctity, as well as any assaults on pipeline personnel.”

As early as September 7, 2016, days after TigerSwan had arrived, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and Bureau of Criminal Investigation officials received requests from the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board (NDPISB) to “investigate possible criminal activity in the form of unlicensed individuals providing security services at the Dakota Access construction site,” the defense argued.

Police gather for a photo opportunity before a roadblock setup by activists reports differ on who set the debris on fire – photo provided by online sources

In June of last year, the NDPISB sued TigerSwan as the “fusion leader” of private security organizations also named in the civil suit; and the company’s founder, James Reese, for operating illegally in North Dakota.

“The board is in the process of a civil action against TigerSwan, and that I believe is out for service. The board does have civil authority to initiate either administrative actions or civil actions under the Century Code,” Monte Rogneby, attorney for Vogel Law Firm and the NDPISB, said in June. The civil suit is still pending.

TigerSwan was hired by Energy Transfer Partners because the “Dakota Access Pipeline has been halted as a result of active protests against construction of the pipeline,” the NDPISB civil suit against TigerSwan and others stated. “On information and belief, these protests resulted in the hiring of TigerSwan.”

But instead of policing the “criminal operation of TigerSwan and other unlicensed private security entities, law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office collaborated with TigerSwan,” Fallis’s defense attorneys stated.

Among other investigative and intelligence gathering tactics, “TigerSwan placed or attempted to place undercover private security agents within the protest group to carry out investigative and surveillance activities against these groups on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners and others,” the NDPISB civil suit stated.

In addition, TigerSwan hired Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser as the DAPL operations local deputy unified commander, according to defense motions.

National security Intelligence Specialist Terry W. Van Horn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office used DAPL security footage to identify people for arrests later, according to the defense’s motion.

“For DAPL criminal investigations, Mr. Van Horn is involved in precisely the type of ‘joint investigation’ and ‘sharing] [of] labor and resources,” the defense argued. “Mr. Van Horn at times directed DAPL-related intelligence gathering by state officials; was a part of a sustained joint investigative effort involving numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies; and had ready access to law enforcement-generated materials as well as real-time evidence generated by private security entities.”

DAPL security’s relationship to law enforcement embodies joint activity, the defense argued.

“DAPL security agents assisted with arrests, provided contemporaneous information in the form of live feeds and other intelligence gathered to ‘aid in prosecution,’ received information in return, procured military-grade equipment for October 27, and even employed a sheriff prominent in law enforcement’s DAPL-related command structure…”

When TigerSwan began operations in North Dakota, it first denied its role as a fusion leader on or before September 23, 2016. Later, multiple requests for cooperation and information were mostly ignored, according to the NDPISB civil suit. More than two months after TigerSwan’s arrival, it submitted an application for working in North Dakota, but the application was denied because if failed to provide positive criminal history for its founder, Reese.

In January 2017, TigerSwan’s application was rejected again, but the security firm never stopped working in North Dakota, the NDPISB reported.

“Morton County, BCI, and other law enforcement agencies ignored an explicit request made by the NDPISB to ensure private security operators were operating legally and instead initiated a sustained relationship of collaboration with these illegally-operating security companies,” Fallis’s defense attorneys stated in the Motion to Compel Discovery.  

Under North Dakota law, officers who collaborated with TigerSwan may be accomplices to the misdemeanor violation of unlicensed operation, the defense stated.

Red Fawn Fallis (in back) and her mother (center front) – Facebook

Red Fawn’s arrest
Fallis was assumed guilty by many before the ink dried on her arrest report. She spent a year in jail without bond. Morton County Sheriff’s Department press releases were sent far and wide, with more than 140 reportedly arrested on October 27, 2016. Many pipeline supporters pointed to the incident to ridicule the entire resistance movement outside of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which at one time became the tenth largest community in the state.

An October 28, 2016 affidavit conducted by Special Agent Joseph Arenz of the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation stated that Pennington County deputies Thaddeus Schmit and Rusty Schmidt were moving activists, known as water protectors, south along Highway 1806, when they identified Fallis as an instigator.

Free Red Fawn banner outside of main entryway to Oceti Sakowin – photograph by C.S. Hagen

“On October 27, 2016 deputies with the Pennington County, South Dakota Sheriff’s Department were in Morton County, North Dakota assisting with law enforcement functions for the Dakota Access Pipeline protest,” the affidavit stated. “An operational plan had been made which was going to consist of law enforcement removing individuals who had set up a camp on private land owned by DAPL, on the east side of Highway 1806 where the pipeline was supposed to be laid.”

When Fallis walked away from the crowd that day, Schmit and Schmidt “took her to the ground” and attempted to flex handcuff her. Lying face down, two heavily armed deputies manhandling her, Schmit heard two quick gunshots,  and Schmidt noticed the ground near his knee “explode,” the affidavit stated.

Schmit then lunged towards Fallis’ left hand and with the help of other officers, pulled the handgun away before handcuffing her.

Standing at five feet three inches tall, and weighing approximately 125 pounds, Fallis would have been an easy tackle for two well-trained sheriff deputies.

Neither deputy saw a gun when they took Fallis to the ground, and believe she was able to retrieve the weapon when Schmit stopped pulling on her left arm, the affidavit stated.

“Once Red Fawn Fallis was in custody, officers found a small amount of what they believed to be marijuana in Red Fawn Fallis’ left and right pants pockets and also metal knuckles in the backpack that Red Fawn Fallis was carrying,” the affidavit stated.

While being transported to the Morton County Detention Center, police said Fallis told them she was trying to pull the gun out of her pocket and was jumped, making the gun go off.

“Red Fawn Fallis also made the statement to Probation and Parole that they are lucky she didn’t shoot ‘all of you f*ckers,’” according to the affidavit.

A Facebook page supporting Fallis called Free Red Fawn stated that Fallis was retreating from the front lines when she was tackled.

“Police reports allege that one of the officers pulled his weapon and placed it against her back,” the post stated. “While she was pinned to the ground, shots were fired. She is accused of firing a weapon. Eyewitness accounts and video show otherwise.”

Originally, Fallis was charged with attempted murder, preventing arrest, carrying a concealed firearm, and possession of marijuana. The charges were dropped by the state a month later, but were moved to federal court. On January 29, Fallis will begin court proceedings charged with engaging in civil disorder, discharging a firearm in relation to a felony crime of violence, possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, which if found guilty carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and the potential of life imprisonment.

Law enforcement against activists in water – photograph by C.S. Hagen

Red Fawn
Today, Fallis resides in a halfway house in Fargo. She has access to a mobile phone and can chat online, but heeding caution from her lawyers, refused interview requests.

Fallis, and her supporters, say she is a political prisoner of a war that has lasted more than 500 years.

“The U.S. government is engaged in tactics of lies, and rumor, and paid informants in an attempt to put our sister, daughter, auntie, water protector, and friend in prison,” a post from the Free Red Fawn Facebook page stated.

“But she can’t wait to get her story out,” Cempoali Twenny, an activist who stayed at the Standing Rock camps and is Fallis’ friend said. “They’ve already convicted her, and painted her as someone who is violent. She is a good-hearted person, she’s been in this whole thing for a year now, and she’s been having a hard time, but she’s operating from the truth, and she has nothing to hide.”

While at the camps, Fallis worked primarily as a medic, pulling injured people from the front lines, dowsing faces burning from pepper spray with milk of magnesia, and easing the pain of those hit with rubber bullets.

“People are holding her up as a hero, because she is one of the water protectors that has been targeted, and they’re using her as an excuse to prove to themselves, to make sure something goes through. We don’t want that to happen to her.”

Fallis also worked with youth, as an older sister, Twenny said.

“There were no leaders there, there were never any leaders there,” Twenny said. “Our leader was the water, and the fire that kept us in peace and in harmony.”

Red Fawn Fallis with her mother Troylynn YellowWood – Facebook

Fallis is the daughter of Troylynn YellowWood, an activist who helped block the Columbus Day Parade in Denver, Colorado in 2004, according to the American Indian Genocide Museum. YellowWood was also a member of the American Indian Movement, and in the 1970s gave safe house to Annie Mae Aquash in her Denver home, according to February 2004 testimony in the trial of Arlo Looking Cloud.

YellowWood passed away in June 2016, four months before her daughter was arrested.  

Fallis has a prior record from 14 years ago, and served 30 months of probation in Denver after pleading guilty. She is the only woman and one of six Native Americans facing charges in federal court from the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective. Federal charges against five men stemmed from information obtained by Energy Transfer Partners’ security teams, according to an affidavit filed by ATF Special Agent Derek Hill.

Michael Giron, known as Little Feather, is from the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation and was raised in Santa Barbara, California. He has been incarcerated without bond since March 9, 2017 on two federal charges of civil disorder and using fire to commit a federal felony offense arising from October 27, 2016. His trial is set for April 10, 2018, in Bismarck. Little Feather faces up to 15 years in prison if proven guilty.

Dion Ortiz, 21, was being held at the Sandoval County Detention Center in New Mexico on federal charges of civil disorder and the use of fire to commit a federal crime. His request to be released to a halfway house was granted on December 7, 2017.

Brennon J. Nastacio, 36, commonly known as “Bravo One,” is a Pueblo Native American, and was indicted on February 8, 2017 for civil disorder and the use of fire to commit a federal crime on October 27, 2016. Nastacio was also charged by the state with felony terrorism after he helped disarm Kyle Thompson, a former employee of Leighton Security Services under the TigerSwan fusion lead. The state’s charges were dropped in July 2017.

Michael “Rattler” Markus, from Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation, is on supervised release after being held for nearly two months at the Heart of America Correction Center in Rugby, North Dakota.

James “Angry Bird” White, 52, a veteran and from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, worked security in the Standing Rock camps. He too faces federal charges and was arrested in January 2017.

On December 4, 2017, Fallis made a public statement on the Red Fawn Facebook page.

“I remember the last time I had the opportunity to go with my Ina (mom) to express our support and solidarity for our Cheyenne relatives whose families were murdered in the Sand Creek Massacre,” Fallis wrote. “We went to the Capitol in downtown Denver and on our way there she reminded me that no matter what we are doing in our own lives, we must always take time and make an effort to go to gatherings like this to show support because no matter how much time has passed, the importance of honoring and remembrance is crucial to the healing process and as Lakota people we must always remember our relatives.”

Her mother was an influence in her life, she stated.

“We all share the same history in one way or another so we must open our hearts in order to love and encourage each other and continue to help each other heal. I added a picture of us at the Capitol that day and even though my Ina was very ill and battling cancer she was there, smiling and offering her heart and love to our relatives who were there to honor the memory of so many who died at the hands of hate, racism, greed, and the American government.

“I am grateful for the lessons and teachings she handed down to myself and so many others because at camp I was able to go to the youth and build a great bond with them as I admired the work they started in a prayerful way to Protect Mni Sosa from the Dakota Access Pipeline and the big oil companies. I love them and my heart feels good when I remember the times we spent and the talks we had. I also remember the strength in their hearts and their prayers and the fire in their eyes, I am thankful for each and every one of them.”

A lone activist starts the day with singing as a building burns (upper right) on the day of eviction from Oceti Sakowin – photograph by C.S. Hagen


One state rep. badmouths constituents, another throws white power hand signals

State elected officials caught using ‘alt-right’ lingo may be impeached

By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK – While a state representative from Minot faces criticism and an impeachment petition for repeatedly using offensive language in online posts, other elected officials in the state have also come under scrutiny.

On Twitter, Representative Roscoe Streyle, a Republican from District 3, which includes Minot, has been calling out those who disagree with him as “libtards,” and has used the name “Pocahontas” three times in a derogatory way, as responses to tweets, since November 2017.

Jake Blum throwing the “Okay” sign – Instagram photo

A frequent “liker” of Streyle’s posts, House Representative Jake G. Blum, a Republican of District 42, which includes Grand Forks, is also on the Justice Reinvestment Committee. Not only has he liked Streyle’s posts, he was photographed giving an “alt-right” hand sign, “the air pinch with thumb and forefinger,” or the “okay” signal, which has recently been adopted by white power groups.

Representative Roscoe Streyle – Facebook picture

Streyle used the word “libtard” at least 17 times from October until December 2017, and also used other insults, including calling people “pure scum,” “libtard looney liberals,” “arrogant prick,” “idiot,” and “moron.” The name-calling has raised the call for his impeachment, initiated by Linden Stave from Rolette, North Dakota on January 2, which quickly recruited 432 out of 500 supporters by Wednesday afternoon.

“This is not a politically motivated petition,” Stave said. “This is a petition created because I am sick of seeing North Dakota tainted by divisive and childish partisan politics.”

Stave came across Streyle’s abusive language while browsing Twitter, he said.

“I started it to really bring attention to the words Representative Streyle used toward his constituents,” Stave said. “That language represents a mindset that he does not respect his constituents or the office he holds in any way, shape, or form.”

Stave has seen the word used by “trolls on Twitter,” but he “had never seen it used by a state representative,” Stave said.

“On Twitter, he [Streyle] has constantly attacked and bullied North Dakotans for not agreeing with him politically, repeatedly using the word ‘libtard’ (an amalgamation of the words ‘liberal’ and ‘retard.’”

“Go Pound Sand Libtard” post by Roscoe Streyle on Twitter

Libtard, a noun, is a “contemptuous term for a person with left-wing political views” created in the early 21st century, a blend of liberal and retard, according to the Oxford Dictionary. Wiktionary agrees, adding that the word means a “stupid liberal or progressive,” and the Online Slang Library repeats the meaning, describing it as a new word.

Some online right-wing Quora users define the term as useful, and when said makes a speaker lose credibility. The word’s antonym is “repug,” indicating Republicans are repugnant. Such recent words like libtard, cuck, and snowflake, are intrinsic to the “alt-right’s” rise, according to The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Libtard is an outdated term, recently resurrected, and used to insult liberals, according to the Los Angeles Times.  

The word libtard is primarily used on alt-right and racist platforms, and can frequently be seen on the online neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer.

Democratic-NPL Chairwoman Kylie Oversen said Streyle’s insults were primarily aimed at his constituents.

“The fact that Representative Streyle has repeatedly used this insult – nearly a dozen or more times in the last few months – and continues to defend its use on social media, is unacceptable. We deserve better than offensive insults from those who represent us. If we wouldn’t accept our children using this kind of hurtful, immature language, we shouldn’t accept it from our elected officials either.”

Streyle is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, and introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 4017 against the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which effectively put the federal government on notice by stating it is the “first law of nature” for North Dakota residents to bear arms.

He’s also the introducer of a House Concurrent Resolution 3037 allowing the state to forward public moneys to individuals and nonpublic entities and institutions, including elementary and secondary educational institutions.

Streyle is an introducer of House Bill 1151 in its original form, that would have stopped the reporting of oil-produced water spills of 10 barrels or less.

One of the Minot residents Streyle argued with was Matthew Bieri. 

“The other night, I saw the original tweet from Rep. Streyle that stated: ‘go pound sand libtard,'” Bieri said. “This was a reply to someone that I follow on Twitter. I don’t know Roscoe Streyle on any level whatsoever other than my awareness that he is a representative for the Minot community. I usually won’t get too involved in Twitter back and forths, but I hate the use of that word. Not as someone that is liberal or a Democrat, but that it’s just genuinely offensive. There is no way that anyone can use the word ‘libtard’ and not know the direct connection to the term ‘tard’ or ‘retarded.’ To deny that is nonsense.”

The tweeting started off with Bieri sending a series of Tweets, asking Streyle not to add ‘tard’ to any word.  

Tweet 1 – “Roscoe,” Bieri wrote. “It’s just about 2018. How about you make a resolution to not add ‘tard’ to any word. I’m not saying this because I’m a liberal snowflake or a Hillarybot or a devotee of Soros that chokes on my liberal tears (all expressions you could have used).” 

“From there, things only went off the rails,” Bieri said. “I don’t know if I would call it an argument, I have taken no personal issue with Roscoe Streyle, but it was clear through his replies that this wasn’t a discussion as much as it was an ‘I’m right/you’re wrong’ discussion – which isn’t a discussion. One of the things that he tweeted was something to the extent that the only people he dislikes are liberals. Now, that seems so completely against everything I have ever believed the North Dakota way is. Civility. An open an honest discourse. The ability to disagree with your neighbor but to love them as well.

“Through his social media presence, it appears that Roscoe Streyle has been emboldened by the election of President Trump. That he can say whatever he wants, that it’s winner take all. That the politics of destruction – of total annihilation of the opposition – is what the tone for an ND State Rep. should be. To me, as a North Dakotan, as a member of the Minot community, I think that set of beliefs is garbage. We are better than that.”

Another recent alt-right expression, a simple hand gesture, is the age-old “okay” sign. Historically, the okay hand signal is a metaphor for precision in the USA. In Naples, Italy, for example, the gesture symbolizes truth or authority, and in other countries it connotes a negative or vulgar symbol, according to information from the Center for Gesture and Speech Research at the University of Chicago. The okay sign’s most recent meaning however can be traced to “Smug Pepe,” a meme in which the alt-right’s green frog caricature, the god of chaos and darkness drawn as a cartoon-like deity, throws the okay sign.

The meme first began to appear on 4chan’s politics boards while depicting Trump-like depictions of Pepe in 2015. Since then, Trump himself has repeatedly thrown the hand signal, as well as White House interns, Hollywood movie stars, “internet supervillain” Milo Yiannopoulos; and white supremacy icon Richard Spencer, who has also thrown Nazi salutes — and now, seemingly, Representative Jake G. Blum.

The okay hand signal was also used in “Operation O-KKK” in 2014 by the hacking group Anonymous against the Ku Klux Klan, in an effort to “flood Twitter and other social media websites” with posts claiming the signal was a “symbol of white supremacy.” The three upturned fingers were meant as a symbol for W and the thumb-and-forefinger circle as a symbol for P, which together stand for white power.

White Power hand signal

The Ku Klux Klan historically has a similar symbol with the thumb and pinkie tucked into the belt with three fingers protruding.

Both Streyle and Blum did not reply to requests for comment.

Blum is listed as an introducer for such bills, including the legislature’s congratulations of the Red River Valley’s commitment to rebuilding after the flood of 1997, and for congratulating the University of North Dakota hockey team in 2016. Among other House and Senate bills, Blum also was behind reenacting police jurisdiction boundaries, conducting a raffle using a random number generator, and for allowing restaurants that serve alcohol to hire staff of 18 years of age.

Representative Jake G. Blum – North Dakota Legislative Branch

On Facebook, Blum has joined the group UND Young Americans for Liberty, which lists 11 members. Young Americans for Liberty is a group that rose from the ashes of Young Americans for Freedom and declared a hate group in 2006 by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Young Americans for Liberty is listed as a hate group because of its sponsorship of right-wing extremist lectures, on the “perils of multiculturalism.”

UND’s Young Americans for Liberty Facebook page declares itself as a libertarian and conservative association that believes in the Second Amendment, pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-limited government, among other beliefs. Blum also supports President Donald Trump, and is a member of Facebook’s “The Deplorables Army,” a group only for “those of you supporting Donald J. Trump’s Presidency.”

Linden Stave created the petition to oust Streyle because “It seems more and more that actions and words like these by people in power are becoming a trend.” Quoting an article in the Fargo Forum, Stave said Streyle’s response was “Donald Trump does it, he’s president.”

“I created this petition because I have a hope that we, as a nation, can stand up to this toxic attitude and demand more from our leaders,” Stave said. “I hope North Dakota can be a leader in that. I believe North Dakota can point to this moment and make the right decision and we will be able to say that we as a state do not tolerate this in our legislature.

“We can have rational discourse and not lean on disrespect and childish name calling.”

More of Representative Roscoe Streyle Twitter and Facebook posts: 

Roscoe Streyle Twitter post November 26, 2017

Roscoe Streyle post about the House being required to vote again on tax reform bill December 19, 2017

Roscoe Streyle Facebook comment

Jake Blum and Roscoe Streyle



The Laney Files: September 2016

The partnership between state law enforcement and private security firm TigerSwan begins

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Internal documents obtained by the High Plains Reader from the Cass County Sheriff’s Department reveal a disturbing familiarity between state police chiefs and sheriffs with TigerSwan’s analysts and upper echelon.

In early September 2016, oil magnates, private security personnel, and law enforcement cooperated in creating a “rhythm” for moving the Dakota Access Pipeline forward – together.

Four days after security dogs were brought to the front line on September 3, 2016, TigerSwan’s first situation report, on September 7, 2016, made public by The Intercept, stated the private security firm’s initial intentions: to create a clear SOW, or scope of work, to empower a PAO, or strategic command public affairs officer to tell the world that “we [DAPL] are the good guys,” and establish rules for the “Use of Force” for all security elements involved.

“Giddy up”
TigerSwan, a security firm with an extensive background in counterterrorism operations in the Middle East, worked quickly. The day of the attack dogs had attracted too much criticism from media outlets around the world, which echoed 1960s civil rights abuses in Birmingham, Alabama. The elusive security firm had much ground to cover and an agenda to solidify: protect the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

By September 10, 2016, Michael Futch, manager of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction project, currently working with Energy Transfer Partners, began contacting sheriffs around the state, including Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen, in emails entitled “Operations Planning.”

The plan was moving forward, according to an email forwarded by Danzeisen. On September 12, 2016, another TigerSwan situation report stated that the firm had met with Danzeisen, and had agreed to the “sharing of information.”

“Tomorrow evening you are authorized to release Precision to continue working towards Highway 6 just south of St. Anthony under three conditions,” TigerSwan’s Gary Winkler wrote to Danzeisen later that same day.

Winkler’s conditions in the email stipulated police needed to share written information and scatter sheets with Sweeney on a daily basis. “We need them every evening to plan the next day’s kickoff (starting tonight).

“Using those plans, Shawn Sweeney is able to communicate effectively and timely with law enforcement on a daily and hourly basis. We will avoid any confrontations with protestors, and no dogs are to be used.

Danzeisen, using a private Gmail account, forwarded the demands on to sheriffs and one police chief:

  • Williams County Sheriff Scott Busching, who oversaw county law through the Bakken’s most recent oil boom, resigned his post in April 2017 after 18 years.
  • McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger, colloquially known as the “terrorist sheriff,” who was suspended from office due to “misconduct, malfeasance, crime in office, neglect of duty or gross incompetence,” along with harassment and intimidation for fostering a “quasi-military environment.” North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum reinstated Schwartzenberger in August 2017, which sparked controversy. Six officers of the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Department left, three in one day, and another officer was fired, according to media reports.
  • Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, a former Marine who ran point on the ground during much of the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. Laney, president of the North Dakota Sheriffs and Deputies Association, also serves on the board of directors for the North Dakota Association of Counties. He is currently in his third term as an elected peacekeeper, but decided recently that he will not run again.
  • Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, who was the head of law enforcement operations during the Dakota Access Pipeline, coordinated hundreds of law enforcement officials from dozens of agencies across the United States.
  • Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser feared for his life when he claimed the helicopter he was in was attacked by arrows and buzzed by a drone, according to media reports.
  • Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler, a former Marine who served in the Gulf War, became Mandan’s police chief in 2015.  

Danzeisen is the author of an October 2016 letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and others, claiming Standing Rock activists were armed, hostile, and engaging in training exercises for conducting violence.

“Fall to pieces”
The morning of September 14, 2016 started off with a picture from TigerSwan’s senior vice president, Shawn Sweeney, to Danzeisen. It was a photograph of a Native American holding a drum in one hand and speaking into a handheld radio with the other. The picture was taken at 8:58am, and was sent to Danzeisen seven minutes later through Sweeney’s smartphone, according to email time logs.

Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen

The fusion between TigerSwan and local law enforcement agencies began before September 12, 2017, according to TigerSwan’s internal situation reports. The timing is confirmed by an email entitled “Protesters in your county,” from Laney on September 14, 2016, to sheriffs involved in the controversy.

“Hello gents,” the email began. “I was asked by DAPL security to drop you a quick line to let you know that earlier today their security personnel in each of your counties were approached by people who identified themselves as protesters of the pipeline, and they wanted to know where they could find the pipeline in your counties.”

DAPL security in North Dakota included companies such as Leighton Security Services, LLC, established in 2011 in Honey Grove, Texas, and 10 Code Security, established in 2010 in Bismarck, and TigerSwan, hired by Energy Transfer Partners as the “fusion leader.”

Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser

“The protesters that have been doing this aren’t the typical protesters on Standing Rock,” Laney’s email continued. “These protesters, while having some natives mixed in with them, are mostly white hippies. They are the more radical of the groups here and have been the ones attaching themselves to equipment.

“I was told that DAPL security in your area was going to reach out to you directly, but I wanted to give you a heads up in advance.”

From the onset, one goal of TigerSwan was to create dissension within the camps. TigerSwan analysts described a sense of urgency in attempting to obtain information, which was at best difficult, a September 22, 2016 informational report stated.

“As the protester security gains additional knowledge of security tactics and operations, the ability to gather information about planned protests will diminish,” the summary portion of the report stated. “Information control within the camp, despite causing dissension, makes any internal-source information difficult to acquire.”

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier

TigerSwan personnel have years of experience working in counter-terrorism in MENA, or the Middle East and North Africa, West Africa, and other places, according to its website, and the arrival of a small group of Palestinians at the camps disturbed the security firm’s analysts.

“Furthermore, the presence of additional Palestinians in the camp, and the movement’s involvement with Islamic individuals is a dynamic that requires further examination. Currently there is no information to suggest terrorist-type tactics or operations; however, with the current limitation on information flow out of the camp, it cannot be ruled out.”

The cooperation extended beyond DAPL security and law enforcement, according to an email from Michael Futch. Instructions at times originated from Energy Transfer Partners and were sent to TigerSwan personnel, which were then forwarded to law enforcement.

Futch spoke for Energy Transfer Partners in an email on September 14, 2016. In the email, he rained praise on Billy Lambeth, construction manager for “Spread 09,” the pipeline route near Williston, and warned law enforcement of upcoming threats.

McKenzie County Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger

“Protesters are organizing right now based on what intel Billy has picked up,” Futch wrote in the email entitled “Security in Spread 09.” “Right now he has a security lead on site, and as far as I know we do not have a risk assessment from security and with today’s intel we are now in a rapid response mode.”

Futch continued the email, saying that so far, Spread 09 had been lucky, flying “under the radar,” but Lambeth needed assistance.

“Now that we see a threat, I’m requesting that you make an attempt to work directly with Billy to make sure that safety of workers and continuity of work can be maintained,” Futch wrote. “Billy has a wealth of experience working in dangerous environments, both domestic and international.”

Futch made two requests of law enforcement: first, that threats identified by DAPL security be communicated through Lambeth’s chain of command, and second, to know locations of all law enforcement and security and develop a plan for handling protest activity and evacuation.

Roads needed closing as well, Futch wrote, an idea he mentioned 40 days before Highway 1806 was shut down by law enforcement.

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney

Under a different email group entitled “Operations Planning,” Futch wrote to Danzeisen, carbon copying Leighton Security Services, TigerSwan personnel, and another DAPL construction manager, asking for police escorts for “unusual loading needs.”

Danzeisen acknowledged 50 minutes after Futch’s email was sent, saying the QRT, or Quick Response Team leader, and himself, needed to be present in order to coordinate staffing and give the “tribe notice so we don’t have a repeat of interference by protester groups.”

Futch agreed. “Make sure to write it up in an email and I will forward to law enforcement and to Precision management to reinforce the expectation. One of the reasons I chose Tuesday. No last minute changes until we are all together.”

“Mike, it is imperative upon the development of the plan that Rick and PPL follow the plan,” Danzeisen responded. “Otherwise it will fall to pieces.”

Precision Pipeline, LLC, or PPL, is a company headquartered in Wisconsin, and was one of the companies awarded contracts to lay pipe by Dakota Access Pipeline, LLC, according to the Pipeline & Gas Journal.

Police gather for a photo opp before a roadblock setup by activists, reports differ on who set the debris on fire – photo provided by online sources

Hit lists
Activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline – also known as water protectors – had hit lists, and doxxed police officers, officials report.

The North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center, or NDSLIC, reported 10 incidents of surveillance tactics used against law enforcement officials from August 21, 2016 until September 4, 2016.

On September 29, 2016, a surveyor on DAPL Spread 6 named Luther Body was also threatened through Facebook messaging services, according to an email sent to Energy Transfer Partners by Dan Junk, of Wood Group Mustang, an energy engineering company in Canada, and then forwarded to authorities.

Law enforcement also made their own list entitled “Groups of Interest.”

Early intelligence was based primarily on Morton County tips from social media, and sighting of individuals of interest including libertarian Nathan Seim, Gabriel Black Elk, and Winona LaDuke, according to an unclassified report compiled by the NDSLIC.

The NDSLIC is the states government’s eyes and mouthpiece, whose mandate is to gather, store, analyze, and disseminate information on crimes, both real and suspected, to law enforcement, government, the community, and private industry regarding drugs, fraud, organized crime, terrorism, and other criminal activity.

The NDSLIC listed media outlet Unicorn Riot, in top place, Native Lives Matter, United Urban Warrior Society, Urban Native Era, Gavin Seim for Liberty, American Indian Movement, Rez Riders, Indigenous Environmental Network. Analysts pointed out Winona LaDuke, founder of Honor the Earth, and Gabriel Black Elk of Native Lives Matter, among others.

“NLM is very similar to Black Lives Matter,” the NDSLIC report stated. “They are often seen mixed in at Black Lives Matter events. NLM is many times more vocal about violence by law enforcement on social media… Many of the issues that NLM focus on pertain to custody deaths and police use of force up to deadly force on Natives.”

LaDuke, an environmentalist, economist, and writer, who ran for Vice President of the United States as the Green Party candidate, stood in the NDSLIC’s crosshairs because she was well known and frequently addressed the needs of the Native environmental movement, desiring to break up the geographical and political isolation of Native communities, and to increase their financial resources.

The NDSLIC also listed Canada’s Idle No More, and the Nation of Islam, under “Groups of Interest.”

“Critical infrastructure” needing protection in the state included the Northern Border Natural Gas Pipeline, which runs adjacent to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Basin Electric transmission line, North Dakota Highway 1806, Cannon Ball River Bridge, or Backwater Bridge, and the South Central Regional Water District Intake and Treatment Plant.

Law enforcement echoed Energy Transfer Partners’ intent to block off Highway 1806, declaring it a vital access to the “flow of commerce and emergency responders to and from Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

“There is potential for barricades to be setup on or near the bridges to prevent travel of either law enforcement/emergency responders (by protestors) or protesters (by law enforcement),” analysts reported.

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

FW: ***URGENT PRIORITY: Threat of Upcoming Violence this Weekend***
On September 29, 2016, at 11:59am, TigerSwan issued an “urgent priority” report claiming upcoming violence for the following weekend. The threat assessment came from Ashley L. Parsons, a former analyst in TigerSwan’s Houston office, and was sent to TigerSwan personnel in North Dakota, including Kyle Thompson, according to emails.

Thompson is the former Leighton Security Services employee who was carrying an AR-15 automatic assault rifle, the kind used in most mass murders, and was disarmed by activists after reportedly driving a pickup truck at high speed toward the main camp on October 27, 2016, the day the North Treaty Camp was overrun by law enforcement.

Ashley Parsons, the former TigerSwan analyst, switched jobs in April 2017, and began working for National Oilwell Varco, Primerica, according to her LinkedIn profile. She reported seven years active duty military experience in various fields including providing intelligence to private industry, global security, and the oil and gas industries, according to her LinkedIn profile. She has functional knowledge of crisis management and response, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and strategies to counter a “broad range of threats.”

Parsons also self-reported she has active Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance.

Sweeney sent Parsons’ information to Danzeisen, who forwarded the email to the group of sheriffs. From there, the scare gained credence; the digital trail led to Lynn Woodall, a captain in the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

“DAPL Security Intel has passed along the following information,” Woodall wrote to 28 recipients.

The next morning at 7:19, Morton County’s Emergency Manager Tom Doering forwarded the same information to 116 others involved in law enforcement, and game wardens, postal service agents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, NDSU police, U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Intelligence Specialist Terry Van Horn, and other organizations in North and South Dakotas, and Montana.

“Team,” Woodall wrote. The rest of the email was the same content as TigerSwan’s original email. “We have just received information concerning violent protesting that will occur this weekend against DAPL employees. This information was conveyed to us as an imminent threat. Source did not authorize disclosure of identity. Please push this out as urgent to your external networks, i.e. FBI, Homeland Security, even friends of those networks, etc. and really anyone else you feel would be instrumental for rapid-fire collections.”

Sixteen days before the threat assessment was disseminated, Morton County reported 60 activists, including former Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault, had been arrested. By October 13, the numbers arrested slowly swelled to 123, and ten days later arrests skyrocketed to 269.

Nothing, however, happened during the weekend TigerSwan was worried about.

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

A court meeting
Officials made a careful list of all who attended a meeting between Standing Rock and law enforcement representatives at the Morton County Courthouse. Archambault requested the meeting, but was unable to attend, and sent Greta Baker, Virgil Taken Alive, John Eagle Shield, and Lee Plenty Wolf in his stead.

The representatives were worried about security dogs used by DAPL security teams. Law enforcement, represented by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, US Marshal Paul Ward, Major General Alan Dohrmann, and Jake O’Connell of the FBI, said the dogs had no connection to law enforcement, and belonged to DAPL’s private security.

When asked why police did not interfere with private security, Kirchmeier responded, saying law enforcement lacked the manpower to do anything, but monitored the situation to “make sure it did not escalate.”

Morton County Sheriff press releases at the time reported DAPL security personnel were injured, but made no mention of activists being bitten. Dogs, according to Angela Bibbens, the camp attorney at that time, bit at least six activists.

Law enforcement denied any knowledge of yellow helicopters flying around the camps, saying they must belong to DAPL’s private security, according to court paperwork.

Direct answers were rarely given during the meeting. Law enforcement asked why children were placed close to front lines, to which Standing Rock representatives answered, saying children, as direct stakeholders, had a right to participate.

Among other topics discussed during the meeting, cultural differences became one Standing Rock representatives attempted to clarify.

“The Representatives claimed that certain statements to the press were inaccurate and asked that LE [law enforcement] verify claims before passing them along to the media,” the court paperwork reported. “The Representatives also explained that carrying a small knife to use as a tool was culturally expected behavior for males among many Indigenous peoples, and should not be assumed to be threatening. Further, among some, a male would be considered less of a man if he was not carrying a knife to use as a tool.”

DAPL Front lines – photo provided by Johnny Dangers

Don’t tell the Indian
Included in documents obtained from Cass County Sheriff’s Department is a Dakota Access Pipeline Project plan for unanticipated discoveries along the pipeline route. Discoveries included cultural resources, human remains, paleontological resources, and contaminated media.

The plan was to be implemented across all lands in North Dakota, regardless of ownership, but not one mention is made throughout the five-page instructional of the request to notify Indigenous cultural liaisons or qualified personnel of culturally relevant findings. If such items as charred spots, arrowheads, stone artifacts, human remains, or paleontological resources were discovered, the sightings were to be reported to archaeologists affiliated with the Secretary of Interior’s Qualification and Standards, or the State Historical Society of North Dakota, within 48 hours.

“Flag the buffer zone around the find spot,” the instructional compiled by Dakota Access Pipeline reported. “Keep workers, press, and curiosity seekers away from the find spot. Tarp the find spot. Have an individual stay at the location to prevent further disturbance until a qualified archaeologist has arrived.”

Other findings, such as contamination including buried drums, discolored soil, chemical or hydrocarbon odors, oily residues, were to be reported to DAPL Project Environmental Manager Monica Howard.

Dakota Access Pipeline retained Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc. and Matthew J. Landt, as the company’s archaeologist, and listed Paul Picha, chief archaeologist with the North Dakota State Historical Society, as another option.

In September this year, Energy Transfer Partners wired $15 million to the state-owned Bank of North Dakota to help with the $43 million the state borrowed to end the resistance camps against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Dakota Access Pipeline personnel also returned to the state earlier this year to hand out paychecks worth hundreds of thousands to first responders in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.

Citing pending litigation issues, law enforcement agencies refused to comment on questions pertaining to their involvement with TigerSwan.


In the mind of Brooke Lynn Crews

A look into the life and secret thoughts of the main suspect

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – While the debate in court may turn to the sanity of Brooke Lynn Crews, a rare glimpse into her personal history suggests she was precise, methodical, and studying for a doctorate in psychology.

Crews, maiden name Doolin, was arrested in August and charged with conspiracy to murder Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, then kidnap her unborn baby.

Her live-in boyfriend, William Henry Hoehn, 32, faces identical charges, and has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to begin early March. They lived in what is now a fairly clean apartment on 9th Street North in Fargo. For a few days, a dumpster one block away held what remained of their lives.

Crews isn’t troubled any more than the average divorcee; she was meticulous with her records and personal information, religiously kept a journal. She thought herself something of an Amazonian, but had a string of lovers. Every relationship noted in her calendars and journals started off with smiley-faced notes along the edges, but within weeks, soured.  

Beneath a cat-clawed recliner, stained mattresses, the broken front door, kitchen utensils, receipts, and identification cards, a five feet four inch stack of hard cover psychology books, ranging from clinical, criminal, forensic, and legal psychology to midwifery, was discovered.

In one of her final journal entries in a notebook entitled “Just Some Thoughts,” Crews penned a list: “homebirth,” including a “childbirth kit,” an “emergency plan,” and “emergency supplies, including CPR bag for infants or neonates medication for excess bleeding.”

The “midwife”
Crews was no midwife but she kept a list of all the items she would need: gloves, stethoscope, scissors, two blades, eight clamps, IV port, saline solution, Pitocin – brand name for Oxytocin, a hormone that can cause or strengthen labor contractions during labor, and can induce abortion.

One of Brooke Lynn Crews’ journals

She also listed 16 washcloths, eight large towels, heating pads, electric suction, oxygen tanks, nitros, or a laughing gas, and that she could do it all in 12 hours. She needed a calm environment with dim lighting, natural sounds, hushed tones, while checking vitals every 15 minutes and careful of heart rate during surgery.

Aside from the actual procedure, she planned to set aside a basket, four towels, eight washcloths, a cap and gown, care box, and a nutrition kit. She took notes on abdominal pregnancy, writing that she needed to look for health and age, and “location of attachment.” “If all seems well greater than 33 weeks, take conservative approach, if nothing is well, deliver immediately. If pregnancy failing, hold off until at least 30 weeks, but anything less than 28 weeks needs full efforts to live.”

She was looking into a “new hobby,” or in vitro fertilization, trying to plan birthdates, according to a short stack of notes stuffed inside one simple binder. She preferred birthdays in April and May, October and November. She researched drugs used before and after implantation, and the machinery that was needed.

“Egg/sperm, independent living cells?” Crews wrote. “So, provided they maintain proper conditions, they live?” Later on the same page she wrote “Black market IVF? Hahahaha,” and then a smiley face.

Fetal abductions
Many documented cases involving fetal or Caesarean abductions since 1974 have ended with the killer, usually a female, guilty, but declared legally insane. Since 1965, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has documented 323 cases of infant abduction, with only 17 fetal abductions worldwide.

Official numbers vary by definition or location, sometimes rising to as many as 26 by 2015, but if the state declares the case to be a fetal abduction, Savanna Greywind’s murder will be the 18th documented incident in what authorities describe as a rising crime trend.

Savanna Lafontaine-Greywind – Facebook

At 22 years old, Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, was eight months pregnant when she was killed, and her baby, Haisley Jo, survived. Police discovered the baby and the accused killer in Crews’ apartment five days after Greywind went missing on August 19. Kayakers on the Red River discovered Greywind’s body, wrapped in plastic, nine days later.

Most infant abductions occur near the home, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Police say Greywind was lured 24 steps up to Crews’ apartment for a sewing project. The majority of abductors impersonate health care workers; Crews was licensed in First Aid procedures, and had formerly worked at nursing centers.

Only two cases of fetal abduction involved men, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“The abductor befriends the pregnant victim, all the while planning to kill her and extract the baby,” Dr. Marlene Dalley of the Royal Canadian Mountain Police said in an article she wrote. “Unlike infant abductions, the fetus abductor is so determined to impersonate a woman who has given birth, that she may even take the child to a hospital, after cutting herself internally to make it look as if she has given birth to a child, first through use of weight gain, then the use of prosthesis to fake a pregnant womb.”

“These abductors carried out such crimes because they felt a desire to form or strengthen a partner relationship and to live out a fantasy of their own of delivering a child.”

Crews repeatedly attempted to set up communication systems with the men she dated, but according to journal records, failed as many times as she started. “Things I’ve ‘Tried’ (to make relationship better)” started off with a backrub night every week, improving and adjusting her attitude, not speaking when upset, begging for truce, and ending relationships.

Concerned citizens in front of Cass County Courthouse demanding justice for Savanna Greywind – photo by C.S. Hagen

Run, Crews, run
Natural mother of at least three children, Crews, now 38, grew up in Florida, where according to Christmas cards, her mother, Paula Nelson, still lives. Crews, under her maiden name Doolin, had a troubled childhood she tried hard to forget in her journal entries. At 23, she was jailed and put on probation in Missouri for passing bad checks, according to the State of Missouri Department of Corrections, and was jailed again in Hidalgo County, Texas on August 31, 2002, for a parole violation.

Brooke Lynn Crews, while still with maiden name Doolin

From 2000 until 2003, she was a waitress at the Chinese Dragon, and was a sales representative and animal technician for Petland Pet Store in Bradenton, Florida. She listed herself as a high school graduate of Dixie Hollins High School.

Crews owed child support to Aaron Bradford Edwards of Otter Tail County, Minnesota, in the amount of $13,599.72 as of June 19, 2014, according to the State of North Dakota Unified Judicial System. On March 24, 2012, she was ordered by the state to pay $317 every month, and by June 2014, Crews had failed to pay. Crews and Edwards had a child born in Pinellas County, Florida, in 1995.

She married Carl Crews in 2006, gave birth to two children, and was an administrative assistant for her former husband with Carl Crews’ Carpentry. The marriage lasted three years, but she returned to her ex-husband’s house to continue her education and because “he was unable to pay both his child support and mortgage,” Crews wrote. Their marriage was dissolved on June 8, 2009, and the father became the custodian of the children, according to court documents.

Although the relationship was strained, Crews had no further incidents with the law until January 2012, when she attacked her former husband with a knife, according to court documents.

Written inside a 2012 calendar on January 21, Crews wrote: “got arrested.”

“I am seeking emergency relief for my children because they are at risk of significant emotional and mental harm,” Carl Crews wrote in the affidavit for a custody battle. “It is important to understand, the Respondent’s [Crews] decision to leave the children in my care and run from her problems is a reoccurring issue. She previously abandoned the children in my care in 2009 when she left for California. When she left at that time, it was complete surprise. She also left the children in my care in 2011 when she left for Australia for 30 days. On February 1, 2012, she abandoned the children, and [a] third time when she left for Australia a second time.”

Crews had multiple partners, while Carl had none, he said in the affidavit, to which Crews made no reply in her notes along the paperwork edges.

“Carl seems to agree with my decisions regarding kids and doesn’t find me lacking; yet whenever it’s a choice he doesn’t like, then all of a sudden I’m a knife-wielding child abandoner with a penchant for promiscuity,” Crews wrote. “This apparent contradiction has caused me a great deal of emotional trauma over the years.”

In a different journal, Crews denied she ever attacked her former husband before fleeing to Australia to marry Andrew Murray, a chef in Katoomba, New South Wales. She made her decision to leave her home two days before Christmas 2011, 35 days before the altercation took place, and wrote: “my vote is Drew, but this is a double-edged sword. I can better provide for the family stateside. At the same time, neither of us wants to be in the U.S.”

She also denied brandishing a knife.

“Children did not witness me attack their father with a knife because an attack never occurred,” Crews wrote. Crews had two children with Carl, who was also the father of one other child.

After signing a promise to appear in court for a pending criminal case, Crews fled to Australia, according to court documents.

In the back of a calendar she kept while in Australia, she wrote: “I love Andrew,” with an exclamation point and a heart, and mentioned on May 24, 2012 that they were planning a honeymoon trip to Fiji.

The Australian marriage lasted six days, according to separation paperwork. She was denied a work visa, and returned to the USA in the fall of 2012. On September 22, 2012, she made a journal entry saying that she had changed for the better.

A page in Brooke Lynn Crews’ journal

“I never finish anything that I start (one of many flaws). The time is fast approaching for me to take leave of Oz and head back to the States for a bit. I think back to the time I’ve spent here and I’m amazed at how different I am now compared to when I first arrived… I realize how hard my life is about to become, and surprisingly, I’m ready to face it all. Yeah, I’m scared, but not scared enough to run. Sometimes, I find myself judging me by someone else’s scales, and I can’t do that anymore.”

On December 23, 2014, Crews was diagnosed with anxiety reaction at Essentia’s 32nd Avenue Hospital Emergency Department, according to hospital records. She said she had PTSD.

A lengthy custody battle over her two children and her former husband’s child ensued after her return from Australia. Nathaniel Welte of Welte Law, PLLC, the Detroit Lakes, Minnesota law firm who defended Carl Crews in the custody proceedings, said he couldn’t comment on any aspect of the lawsuit or what he knew about Crews.

Crews defended herself in court.

A few days before Thanksgiving 2012, Crews arranged to have her children visit her in Fargo, but according to court documents tricked her former husband and refused to let them go, enrolling her eldest at Ben Franklin Middle School in North Fargo.

“I attempted to obtain the return of my children without court involvement, but all of my attempts have been unsuccessful,” Carl said in an affidavit.

Crews refuted her former husband’s claim saying that she told him to come pick the children up, as she was having transportation issues. “He angrily refused so when I said they might as well stay the week (holiday). He then said he was on his way at which point I let him know his kids were ready for bed and if he showed up at my door he better have a court order and a policeman.”

Later, in her journal, Crews expressed her relief of having the children with her.

“Kids have stayed… Since I made a ‘sound’ decision prior to now, it can be reasonably assumed that my decision this time is ‘sound’ as well as based on rational logic and consideration of all factors involved… At any rate, the babes are in, clean and sleeping well this morning. I am happy.”

Her happiness didn’t last long; she fled to Australia.

“I’m not sure how much damage my children can take, all in a malicious bid for control,” Crews wrote on March 24, 2015. “I’m not sure what’s been more difficult; having to go through this trauma again or finally admitting to myself how afraid I am of my ex-husband… He’s lucky that I am who I am. He got away with bullying me for years. Like a fool, I allowed it to happen.”

She began her relationship with William Henry Hoehn soon after leaving Australia. Hoehn was convicted of child neglect and abuse in Grand Forks County the same year he began dating Crews, which became an issue during court proceedings.

Later that same year, Crews planned on declaring her two children as dependents on tax returns, according to documents mailed to her by the North Dakota Department of Human Services. When she applied for SNAP benefits in December 2014, she made $280 a month, and she declared that her children were living with her. She listed herself as unemployed, stayed at the YWCA, had $100 cash in hand. Monthly bills added up to approximately $565 per month.

On December 23, 2014, Judge Waldemar B. Senyk of the Otter Tail County Courthouse, granted temporary sole physical and sole legal custody of the children to their father, Carl.

By 2015, Crews was given visitation rights every other weekend from Friday at 5 p.m. until Sunday at 5 p.m., and one extra week during the summer months. A stack of homemade Christmas and birthday cards made by her children are now trash.

Supporting her children – alone – would have been difficult, as Crews frequently jumped jobs, at one time working at Perham Living, the Frazee Nursing Home, the Dollar Store, St. Mary’s Elder Home, and Prairie St. Johns, according to her resume.

Brooke Lynn Crews, after marrying into the Murray family, in Australia

“Love coins”
Journal entries made mention of at least three lovers since her marriage to Carl ended, and nobody was ever good enough. Every one of her lovers played mind games with her, she said, made her feel like she wasn’t good enough, she wasn’t smart enough.

Crews was born in Sparta, Illinois, daughter to David Lawrence Crews and Paula Marie Green, which is apparently a lie.  Little is known about her childhood, but she mentioned a troubled upbringing in journal entries.

When Hoehn, from Detroit Lakes, and Crews began dating, he was making approximately $2,062 a month, according to Otter Tail Court documents.

Court records show Hoehn had a child in 2003, and was later sued by a Ryananne Hunsberger, a Philadelphia woman, for child support. In 2010, he became a father again with a Grand Forks woman named Angela Nelson. Hoehn kept records of when he fell behind financially, was pursued by debt collectors in 2014, but was making child support payments in 2015. He owed approximately $650 a month in child support, according to income withholding paperwork.

During 2015 and 2014, Hoehn’s paychecks were sent through Aerotek Commercial, a recruitment company, and he was working for Cardinal IG. He was paying child support, approximately $290 to $400 a month.

Hoehn’s relationship with Crews wasn’t bleak; he was a man in love.

“I want to make you feel as loved as you are,” Hoehn wrote in a love letter to Crews. “To be fulfilling your emotional and physical needs. There are a ton of things that I don’t know or don’t know very well. And I do get lazy. That’s not acceptable. I need to be more considerate and thoughtful. I do think the world of you. You’re beautiful and so smart. You make me laugh, not just laugh but smile on the inside.

“And I’ve been letting you down. I don’t want to let you down, I want to lift you up and give you that feeling of fulfillment and happiness. We are very important to me. You are my best friend, my partner, and a lot of time my mentor and example of ‘how to be.’ I want to be the better man, for you, for us, and our family. Not the guy that leaves you to eat more pork today. Not the guy that’s too drunk every night to do anything… You are better than I deserve, and I can’t imagine what I’ve ever done to have you in my life… I will slow down and be more thoughtful. Give you more time. I’m sorry I haven’t. It kills me to imagine our lives without us. I can and will be a better William for my beloved Brooke Lynn.”

William Henry Hoehn mugshot

On January 1, 2015, Crews responded, to herself.

“This man has earned his place in my life,” Crews wrote. “He, like myself, had a truly rough start in life. He made a terrible mistake and nobody is as hard on him as he is on himself. I’ve known Will for a few years and he’s spent that time taking classes, working, and paying his child support (no deadbeat). He has accomplished this as far as I’m concerned. He and I have the kind of relationship that is good for the children to see. We are loving. We don’t scream (only occasionally disagreeing) at one another. We are affectionate and kind.”

As with other men Crews wrote about, her tune soon changed. She appeared restless when not physically running, frequently turning her thoughts toward writing fiction. On one day she would write how much she loved someone in the margins of a calendar, and follow the entry up with a long negative journal entry about the same person weeks later. In a personal statement Crews wrote about her relationship problems with Hoehn.

“I feel like I started this relationship with my purse chock full of love coins and slowly but surely that purse has become empty, and I’ve simply nothing left to give… Our intimacy isn’t so intimate anymore. Maybe once a week he makes time for me during sex. Otherwise, lasts approximately seven to 15 minutes with absolutely zero regard for my pleasure/satisfaction.”

In her lower moments Crews wrote that her boyfriend wanted to appear intelligent but lacked substance. He rarely helped with chores, waited for her to make the Kool-Aid or a pot of coffee then put his cup first in line.

Crews also wrote fondly of a man named Liam, last name denoted by the letter H, but like her other relationships, it also ended when she expressed he was “extremely dishonest, zero boundaries, unreliable, backstabbing, manipulative, irresponsible, emotionally distant, abusive, highly unmotivated.”

A 2015 calendar meticulously filled out by Crews included events such as cancer walks, NDSU lectures, horse shows, her children’s birthdays, due dates for bills, even the exact days her menstrual cycles began. Sticky notes attached seem to include her attempts at self-diagnosing symptoms she was having. She recorded days when her children became angry with their father.

She kept precise journals filled with inner thoughts, class notes, forgotten letters to a boyfriend or her mother. Crews used white-out over incorrectly spelled words. Envelopes were opened carefully, most likely with a letter opener or knife. Plastic cases containing notes, letters, tax returns, were clearly and properly labeled. Notebooks and calendars were earmarked for efficiency.

In June 2015, she received a doctor’s report about a growth in her gallbladder, prompting a meticulous record of events for the following year. She went out less and less, having lost a taste for “lovers of the status quo.”

The Amazonian, the psychiatrist
“Perhaps: there are two distinct ‘personalities’ within each of us (darkness and light),” one of Crews’ journal entries began. “One of them is socially obliterated fairly early or are we born with the one (I believe, we’re predetermined with two distinct thought processes that manifest as personalities).

“Is it normal for humans to have this ‘dark’ side? Seems so.”

Crews studied psychology at Minnesota State University, both at Detroit Lakes and in Moorhead. She reported on her resume that she held a bachelor’s degree in psychology, minored in sociology, and was studying for her doctorate.

While at MSUM, Crews maintained a 3.5 GPA, and had taken 18 hours of credit by October 2014. Crews’ grades were good enough to qualify her for the International Dean’s List Society in 2013, the Spring Semester Dean’s List at MSUM, and the list for a select group of Minnesota State University-Moorhead exchange program in 2015.

In 2013, she was enrolled at Minnesota State University Moorhead, taking classes such as social behavior, physiological psychology, theory of knowledge, abnormal psychology, and directed research, ramping up charges in excess of $4,038.

She received financial aid, $4,500 in November 2014, and declared a proposed $3,500 in January 2015.

Crews had plans to rewrite DSM 5, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

“Change psychology for forever,” Crews wrote.  “Should eliminate the need for co-morbidity. Also individualizes future treatment. The term mental disorder should firmly mean a marked disorder in all major areas of life. All of these should be addressed individually and on the whole. Too much diagnosing these days. Labeling.”

She was also interested in parapsychology, the psychology of paranormal phenomenon, especially precognition, telepathy, and interacting with dead people.

“Need to work on personal ‘manifesto,’” Crews wrote in the back of one notebook. “What do I believe? Why do I believe it? What needs to change? Everything. Why does it need to change? Cause we’re doomed if we don’t.”

Crews was a constantly quitting smoker, tried to live healthily but had to remind herself through her journals.

“Topics that fascinate me,” Crews wrote. “The stupid choices humanity keeps making, serial killers, the making of a society, religion, aliens, the ‘dark side’ of social movements, zombies, evolution.”

One serial killer she took particular fascination with was Theodore R. Bundy, for the serial killer’s “perfect double life,” she wrote in a research project for a criminology class. She profiled Bundy with narcissistic personality disorder, and stated if someone similar to Bundy approached her for help, she would have assisted.

“When comparing him to other serial killers it [is] his ability to not stand out and to be so charming that sets him apart from the others and highlights some common misconceptions that many people have about these sick individuals,” Crews wrote.

She received full marks on the paper.

She also received 47 marks out of 50 on a research paper on the Dacotah Foundation for an industrial and organizational psychology class. A paper she completed on her own health profile for a health psychology class received high marks.  She considered herself physically and mentally healthy, with a few weaknesses such as lack of exercise, stress management, and too much social drinking.

Crews was also interested in Amazonians, and according to her notes, considered herself similar. Amazonian women bred once a year, killed male children, sometimes held men as slaves.

“Decided to start a section on these mysterious females because I think, for whatever reason, that I’m being pulled or led this way. I’m really after an expose of sorts that delves into the obstacles femininity has faced.”

Crews also listened to radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and took notes during a March 20, 2017 podcast underlining CIA pervasive illegal surveillance, thought Democrats were being hypocritical, and that mainstream media were not trustworthy.

A former reference listed on a work application, who wished to remain anonymous, said Crews was a “nasty woman, who destroyed her family’s lives, including her children.”

No knife attack entry in Brooke Lynn Crews’ journal

The antagonist
“Death snuck in quietly when nobody was watching.” The sentence was penned in cursive, part of a rough draft for a short story.

Crews considered herself a writer, dabbled in fiction, played with working titles such as “The Breakdown Diaries,” “Demon Lands,” and “Mangani.” Her antagonist suffered from a mental disorder, while her 17-year-old protagonist was unique, intelligent, “A young woman living in a dysfunctional family encounters evil and overcomes.”

“The Breakdown Diaries” was to deal with another young woman who records in her journal a zombie-like sickness that spreads throughout the world.

Horror and the supernatural were both themes that she expressed a desire to write about. “I think readers want to experience their darkness, fears, (through literature medium), and so tastes will be as varied as the individuals themselves. For myself, I really [enjoy] reading about horror that carries equal probabilities of happening.”

She also thought about a reworking of George Orwell’s “1984.” She tried making money with technical research papers and dissertations.

Her ex husband, Carl, was not religious, Crews wrote, but she taught her children about all religions, belief systems, and encouraged personal choice while “stressing spirituality’s significance in the human experience.”

None of the paperwork from Crews’ meticulous collections make any note of mental illness, besides anxiety and stress, and her own diagnosis of PTSD. At times, she did take medication, but she aspired to be an author, a psychiatrist, and to work with children and adults with developmental disabilities.

She stretched, meditated regularly on issues such as letting go, being positive, humility, coming to terms with the past, and being afraid, she wrote.

“Stop being victim to circumstance or reacting to the opinions of others,” Crews wrote in a journal. “Learn to become the initiators or the inspirers of worthy endeavors.”

Her morning routine included: make bed, meditate for 30 minutes, stretches for 20 minutes, do hair for day, dress for day, and compose an entry for her health journal.

In her journals, she included the happiness formula: H = S + C + V, with H standing for the enduring level of happiness, S, the set range for happiness, C, the circumstances of life, and V, the factors under voluntary control.

“I’m definitely not interested in taking any other sort of medication…meds are dangerous. At any rate, having this condition does not make me evil…My mistakes are many and I will forever be haunted by regrets, but I’m not a bad person, and I never will be…I’m a good person underneath…Everything is about intention. The reasoning behind an action speaks loudly about someone…I want to do good things with my life and I’m more than willing to fight for that right.”

On Monday, December 11, Crews is expected to change her not guilty plea in Cass County District Court. She faces charges of class A conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder, and conspiracy to give false information to police. Hoehn faces identical charges, and has pleaded not guilty.

Attempts were made to interview Crews and Hoehn, their lawyers and family members. One man who spent time with Hoehn in Cass County Jail said in October that they became friends, and described in detail Hoehn’s account of what happened, but his information was considered second hand, and could not be verified.

Other items that were left behind in the apartment included cutlery, a flat screen television, toiletries, clothes, furniture, and a police report stating what was taken, including a piece of carpet from a closet.

Wishing for the city to forget the gruesome events that occurred at the apartment complex at 2825 9th Street North, the landlord, Christopher Owens, refused to comment or allow photographs to be taken.

New tenants said they know the apartment’s history but don’t care. They walked into a room filled knee-high with trash and papers. A well-worn couch sat in the middle of the living room, and the restroom was out of sight down a small hallway. A framed painting with the Chinese character for love hung on the east wall.

Piece by piece, the new tenants are emptying the apartment, and preparing to move in.  

Brooke Lynn Crews mugshot


‘Hard-charging Democrat’ stands up to Cramer

Former Democrat Caucus chair talks about his campaign for Congress

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Ben Hanson is young, but politically, he’s already made a name for himself. He’s the “hard-charging Democrat opponent” running for the state’s only position in Congress.

He’s running against Kevin Cramer, bestower of the title and the congressman “too many in North Dakota know little about.” Hanson plans to represent North Dakota in Washington D.C.

Ben Hanson – phorgraph taken by Logan Macrae

“Come 2018, I was not going to let this seat go unchallenged,” Hanson said. “Congressman Cramer, I think, is derelict in his duties. One thing I hear constantly across the state is, ‘I called Congressman Cramer’s office and he never got back to me.’”

Hanson leaned back in his chair, took a sip of his coffee – black. He appears to be a bundle of energy, a lone knight in a red state eager to take on a muscly dragon. Silly legislative bills proposed while he was the ND House of Representatives Democratic Caucus chair roll quickly and easily from his tongue. Politics is his passion, there’s little he doesn’t love about the role of a public servant.

“Politics is what we do instead of war,” Hanson said. “You shouldn’t do this job without having a future vision for this country and your state,” Hanson said. “I find this is a huge problem with Kevin Cramer as well, he basically says more government is bad, and I don’t think that’s productive.”

Although the election is still a year away, Hanson, 31, is running a grassroots campaign, with more than 500 unique individual donors, 75 percent of whom are from North Dakota, and believes he has a fighting chance. Instead of filling a large campaign purse with $50,000 for a video producer, and another $40,000 to place a television ad, he’s hitting the Internet: Hulu, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and soon, his campaign website.

With modern technology and using social media programs, he can get his message to a wider, younger audience for $4,000, Hanson said.

Hanson sees the Republican Party, historically at North Dakota’s helm, as an “abject failure.” The state needs to enter the modern world, there’s streamlining to be done, websites to be made, and a statewide population of nearly 800,000 people that need a more transparent government.

“There is so much potential this state,” Hanson said. “Did you know that we have 53 counties and only 20 of them have listed their property taxes online? Seven of them don’t even have websites.”

People he’s met while traveling to eight cities in two weeks have proven to him government and the media are far from transparent. Some people hardly know when the legislature is in session; one woman asked him if he went to St. Paul for his job.

He takes aim at Cramer’s voting record, and the current congressman’s claims of calling AM radio shows “Town Halls.” The two real Town Halls Cramer hosted, called “Coffee with Cramer,” both turned into heated shouting matches, with one irate man shoving money into Cramer’s collar.

“He also doesn’t raise the flag when individual parts of a bill are problematic, there is  so much I could say about the tax reform bill,” Hanson said.  

Or a bill called Section 199, which raises taxes on co-ops, to which Cramer didn’t raise any alarm or offer an amendment to try and stop it, Hanson said.

“Wouldn’t you want to protect your own state? He doesn’t bother. He doesn’t even have the courage to stand up for his convictions. Why is he even running for office?”

Despite Hanson’s young age, he’s experienced, and while working in the state legislature from 2012 until 2016, became aware of the games being played by many elected politicians. Politicians basically follow the agendas of their main supporters, and rarely their own constituents.

“In North Dakota it’s unlimited the amount of money we can take from anybody, you could buy a vote, you could buy whatever,” Hanson said. “There are 141 people sitting in the House and Senate who want to be in the governor’s seat. There’s a saying that every one of them look in the mirror every morning and see the face of a governor.”

Hanson isn’t planning on beating Cramer’s campaign wallet, which so far has raised $650,384. Cramer’s largest contributor is Energy Transfer Partners, the oil company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, with a donation of $31,050. Hanson wants his donations to come from North Dakotans.

“I’m not bought and paid for,” Hanson said. “There is no need to do that in the modern era, but you need to fire Kevin Cramer first, before you can hire me.”

Politicians within the majority party cannot cross the aisle and support bills made by state Democrats, Hanson said.

“After I was gone the Republicans took my bill, nearly word for word, and passed it. I had seven bills that passed with someone else’s name on them. It’s a pattern.”

Raised in Fargo, Hanson comes from a farming family, with a history in politics. His grandfather, Erwin “Bud” Hanson, from Crosby, served as a state senator. His mother’s side came from Casselton and Amenia, and helped form the first sugar beet co-op in America, which later became Crystal Sugar.

After graduating from MSUM, Hanson was elected to Fargo’s District 16, where he served two sessions. He also worked finance for Tim Mathern D-N.D., in his run for governor in 2008, and worked with Senator Kent Conrad D-N.D., where he fell in love with politics after helping a suffering North Dakota resident save his eye through reexamining state policies.

When Hanson isn’t on the road, two hours every morning are used for raising funds for his campaign, and then on to his day job as a commercial real estate broker for Archer Real Estate Services.

Hanson’s platform is easy to understand. He is for net neutrality. He is against arbitrarily raising property taxes, says current strategy is more like “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” He’s for getting a farm bill renewed that works for North Dakota farmers, including crop insurance remaining intact. Finding a national solution for cyber security is high on Hanson’s political bucket list.

Health Care: For Hanson, workers need raises, and only by ensuring economic security for the middle class can that be achieved. He wants to ensure more than 300,000 North Dakotans who struggle with preexisting conditions are not neglected, and that their essential health care benefits are protected. More than 90,000 North Dakotans are also on Medicaid, and as the nation tackles the opioid epidemic, Medicaid is the most important tool at the federal government’s disposal for saving lives, Hanson said.

Additionally, more than half of Native American children in the state also depend on Medicaid for basic health needs. Medicare, according to an article written by Hanson, is a promise to the elderly that paid into the program with a lifetime of work.

“We cannot abandon those who rely on this critical program,” Hanson said. On October 5, Hanson wrote an article explaining his position on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, criticizing the Senate Finance Committee of procrastination, and putting the health of millions of low-income children at risk.

Retirement security: While reducing the national deficit, it’s also vital that Social Security and Medicare programs are not reduced, but strengthened.

Consumer protection: “At a time when consumer protections should be strengthened, Congress is instead doing everything in their power to slash those protections,” Hanson said. “Lobbyists have been getting their way writing big checks to members of Congress, so it’s time for North Dakota to have a congressman that puts people over profits.”

Recently, massive cyber attacks targeting Target, Home Depot, the SEC, and Equifax, which more than 140 million Americans, including 200,000 North Dakotans, had their person information exposed.

“This is a crisis that is not getting talked about,” Hanson said. “It should be viewed as an existential threat, it should be the easiest bipartisan win you could ever come up with. Fortune 500 America is begging for this.”

Hanson also supports overturning a law recently passed by Congress to authorize Internet Service Providers to sell personal data for profit.

Infrastructure: Rebuilding the country in ways that will compete with Asia’s light rail, and bringing America back into the modern era.

“We’re losing and there’s a simple answer to can’t, can’t, can’t do anything,” Hanson said.  “We’re losing that edge because there’s a populist way of running for government, which says government is bad, and setting up approval once you get there. I think Democrats have been jumping on that bandwagon a little bit too much. I think we need public service to take pride in their work – not to say that government is the solution to everything – it’s not. I don’t want the government building our flat-screen TVs, but to take pride in your work, and realize there is a real role for the public sector.”

‘We are here, and are not afraid’

The pipeline fighter who nearly lost an arm is still wrestling the FBI

By C.S. Hagen
Sophia Wilansky says she’s lucky she’s right handed. Since nearly losing her left arm from an exploding projectile on Backwater Bridge one year ago, cooking has become a tedious art. She can no longer be involved in circus acrobatics.

Sophia Wilansky self portrait

Daily chores like carrying a purse by its strap, or lifting a grocery bag, aren’t possible. The injuries are permanent; she will carry the scars all her life.

“Makes it harder to do a lot of physical things, can’t even do a downward dog properly in yoga,” Wilansky, 22, said during a video interview. “Everything takes a little more energy, even reading a book, with two hands.”

Was it worth it? Wilansky smiles, hugs her injured arm closer.

“Yes. Definitely,” Wilansky said. “One of the most fulfilling things you can do in life is to act with integrity, for the things you believe in, and make the world the place it’s supposed to be, and once was. It’s fulfilling. It’s worth it from even a personal perspective.”

Since her injury outside of Standing Rock during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation have hounded her.

“We have yet to determine why or what their basis of information was,” Wilansky’s attorney, Lauren Regan said. She is the founder and executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Oregon. “Since then, they say she blew herself up, accidentally, and that water protectors were responsible for this percussion grenade that hit her in the arm.”

FBI agents also took the shrapnel taken by surgeons from Wilansky’s arm, and Regan will be filing a federal lawsuit called a suit of equity within a week to demand the FBI turn over evidence.

A year has passed since Wilansky’s injury on Backwater Bridge, and Regan admits she’s worried evidence could have been tampered with. But surgeons took pictures of the shrapnel and Wilansky has not been indicted, which is a good sign the government has no case.

“It does seem preposterous with all this time and resources the government has, that they have not had the time to test this fragment,” Regan said.

She’s already filed a notice of claims against the State of North Dakota and law enforcement divisions involved. If the FBI is hiding something, she intends to find out.

“If we determine that the FBI is part of the cover-up, they will be added to lawsuit as well,” Regan said. “She’s endured all these injuries, and surgeries, and prosecution, and yet she is still an incredibly strong woman and still involved in the movement and standing up for what’s right. She is a positive role model for other young people who are struggling and unsure how to contribute.”

One year ago November 21, Wilansky had already been at the Standing Rock camp known as Oceti Sakowin for 17 days. She spent her nights in a tent, in deteriorating winter conditions, and her days with Standing Rock activists, known as water protectors. As a recent college graduate, she had little experience with activism, and a rudimentary awareness of the consequences of colonialism for America’s Indigenous people.

“It was the place to be in 2016,” Wilansky said. “But I already had an interest in fighting pipelines, and I had an intellectual interest in decolonization.”

Before standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline, she first became involved against Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct in her home state of New York, which piqued her curiosity about climate change.

“Honestly, it’s cliché, but I went on a climate march in 2014, and so I think that helped awaken the dormant necessity of relating everything to climate change, because it’s so urgent.”

Life without fossil fuels is nearly impossible, she said, but she’s trying to lessen her carbon footprint by driving in an altered van that runs on used free vegetable oil from fast food chains.

“That’s still not going to solve the problem,” Wilansky said. “Ultimately I want to live in an eco-village, where you don’t have to live with the guilt of ecological destruction, and focus more on eco-revitalization.”

Sophia Wilansky near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota this summer – photograph by Jacob Crawford

Early evening: September 20, 2016
Wilansky stood with hundreds of activists against a brightly lit blockade at Backwater Bridge, north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. Coils of razor wire sparkled, icicles quickly forming from water cannons blasted into the crowds.

Two burned-out DAPL trucks formed a V in front of massive cement blocks. The water cannons came from fire trucks, and behind each door and jutting from military vehicle turrets stood sharpshooters with less lethal rounds.

Strangely, the plastic bin lid she used as a shield worked well against the water cannons, but did little to stop the rubber bullets. Earlier in the evening she was hit twice, once in the groin, and once in the chest. The upper portion of her left arm still bears the scar from where another rubber bullet broke the skin. Her clothes were soaked, and when she got too cold, she warmed up around fires out of the water cannons’ range.

“It wasn’t really bad, it took me a while to figure out why they were doing it, and at first we thought it was some kind of chemical they were spraying us with,” Wilansky said. “So many people were letting the water splash over them in an interesting form of defiance. It was really horrible, a human rights violation, but at the same time it was an incredible display of strength, the joy of being in water.

“I think it was a very spiritual action because it just felt like I said, defiance, to this basically military occupation right next to the reservation and next to Oceti. I don’t think that people had any illusions that this action was going to accomplish anything concrete, in the moment, and there were many actions with that same flavor.

“We were just saying ‘We are here, and we are not afraid.’  Just being there and holding that space, at that point in the struggle it was an act of resistance.”

Activist prepares to be hit with water – photo by Rob Wilson Photography

Since 4am, November 21, 2016
The blast knocked her down, hard. Pain was excruciating. At the time, many media outlets reported she lost her arm, and for a time, Wilanksy thought she had.

“In the early morning hours of November 21, 2016, police launched an exploding munition at Wilansky, which tore off most of her arm and left her gravely injured,” a press release from the Civil Liberties Defense Center stated.

The explosion ripped out the radius bone, muscles, nerves, and arteries, leaving her hand hanging by bits of skin. Friends placed her in a car and drove 30 minutes to an ambulance near Prairie Knights Casino. From there she was medevaced to a Minneapolis hospital, where doctors averted amputation.

Moments after she was struck, while waiting for the driver, Wilansky was afraid to look at her arm, and thought only about the medications she would soon receive to ease the pain. She never lost consciousness, and used her good hand to text a friend.

Sophia Wilansky after being injured early November 21, 2016

While at the Minneapolis hospital with her family gathered, “They were besieged by FBI agents who demanded Sohpia’s clothing, medical records, cell phones, and even threatened her doctors.” the Civil Liberties Defense Center press release stated. “Rather than attempt to ascertain which of the many armored police caused Wilansky’s serious injuries, the FBI launched a federal investigation against Wilansky – even issuing a federal grand jury subpoena to the Native American Water Protector who rushed her to medical care.”

Four surgeries later, her radial bone is slowly healing after a large bone graft. The metal plate inside her arm has not shifted, but she has no feeling in the palm side of her hand. Some feeling has returned from her forearm to her wrist, and she is able to wiggle her fingers now. A fifth surgery is scheduled, which will be a tendon transfer so that her thumb may move to touch her pinky finger. Pain, however, is still ever present.

On Monday, the Fargo Forum’s Inforum ran a short editorial by one of their own, Rob Port, who wrote about the “unfortunate profile of NoDAPL activist” in the New York Post.

“It’s all part of an ongoing effort by left wing propagandists to rewrite the history of the NoDAPL protests, particularly as we approach the one-year anniversary this week of their most violent episodes.”

That night, long before a police report could be filed, long before Wilansky had arrived in Minneapolis, police and TigerSwan, the private security company for Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC, initiated a “False and defamatory media campaign attempting to blame Sophia Wilansky for blowing herself up… including publishing fake photos and other information in the Internet,” the Civil Liberties Defense Center press release said, corroborated by emails obtained by The Intercept:

Ninety minutes after the standoff at Backwater Bridge began, Bismarck Police Officer Lynn Wanner told everyone to watch live feeds. A Code Red was issued at approximately 6:17pm. Nearly 15 minutes later, activists were attempting to remove the two burned-out DAPL trucks. Less lethal munitions were brought in at 7:16 p.m., and the fire truck arrived nearly 15 minutes later. By 7:45 p.m., officers were asking to retreat, and an FBI informant inside the camps reportedly found propane tanks set to explode.

By 9:58 p.m., the conversation between law enforcement officials and TigerSwan turned to preparation for a media backlash. Hundreds of reports of tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, and water cannons used on people came across in an email around 9:43 p.m.

In total, more than 300 activists were injured at Backwater Bridge before dawn on September 21, including a woman shot in the face with a rubber bullet, many suffering from internal bleeding, hypothermia, lost consciousness, severe head lacerations, and multiple fractures.

Law enforcement relied heavily on social media feeds in early attempts to refute Wilansky’s story. TigerSwan echoed law enforcement’s worries of a media backlash by saying live videos would be turned into anti-DAPL propaganda. The North Dakota National Guard also weighed in, asking how to disseminate the government narrative to the public, and the public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services suggested Port’s SayAnythingBlog.

Citing disinformation, both Regan and Wilansky’s family have said the government’s narrative does not contain “a shred of truth.”

“They’re using what happened to me as an excuse to ruin the whole movement,” Wilansky said.

Her only regret is that her time at Standing Rock was cut short.

“I certainly fulfilled some kind of purpose there, because what happened to me helped spur thousands of more people arriving. Ultimately, that didn’t stop the pipeline from being built though.”

Wilansky encourages young people, especially, to become involved in causes they believe in.

“Being involved in this particular movement and land defense is a really good option for people finishing college and high school and not ready to go get a job, and taking the typical path. It’s still possible for anyone to be a part of these camps, there’s so many camps, so many struggles all over the world.”

Self portrait Sophia Wilansky

If Wilansky’s injuries have taught her anything, it’s that she will work harder for the causes she believes in.

“The police commit daily acts of violence against black, brown, and Indigenous people, murdering Native people at a higher rate than any other group,” Wilansky said. “Extractive industry does the same thing, only more slowly and insidiously. The fact that state actors are willing to assault and maim anyone who stands for the water within an Indigenous-led movement only means that each of us must strengthen our resolve to contribute in our own way to the struggle to defend life and end the colonizing institutions that threaten it.

Despite her injuries, Wilansky isn’t angry. “A lot of people are angry for me, I think, at the police and all the other entities that are giving me a hard time. There’s lots of good reasons to be angry, but I’m not angry, because I already knew that’s how this society works.

“No attack on my body or my character will silence me or prevent me from returning to the frontline as soon as I am physically able.”


Keystone XL Pipeline passed, but not without dissent

Another controversial beginning, another “black snake”

By C.S. Hagen
LINCOLN, NEBRASKA – Nebraska regulators passed the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline project Monday morning.

After leaking more than 210,000 barrels of crude oil from Keystone I into the South Dakota prairies, TransCanada, the company behind the 1,200-mile pipeline, was approved for building a second pipeline, the Keystone XL, in Nebraska. Keystone XL has been a controversial project, facing fierce opposition by environmental groups, landowners, and Native American Tribes.

The TransCanada-managed pipeline was also stopped by valve turners in October 2016, in what became known as the most expansive, coordinated, takeover of fossil fuel infrastructure ever attempted in the U.S.

President Barack Obama once vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline, and President Donald Trump breathed new life into the project earlier this year, when he signed executive orders approving the project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission approved the project with two dissenting votes. According to state law, regulators are not allowed to consider the risks of pipeline accidents during permission proceedings. The decision can be challenged in court.

Keystone Pipeline spill in Amherst, SD aerial photograph – provided by TransCanada

Such pipelines are called “black snakes” by Indigenous tribes in the United States, as they believe their prophecies foretell such pipelines will ruin the environment.

“The Commission is very cognizant of the fact that opening a trench that entirely bisects the State of Nebraska from north to south to insert a 36-inch pipe will have impacts on the natural resources of the state, including soil, water, and wildlife,” the Commission reported. “It is impossible to complete such a project without impacts. There is no utopian option where we reap the benefits of an infrastructure project without some effects.”

The project will benefit union members and Nebraska residents, and will create about $30 million in wages and $20 million in fringe benefits, according to testimonies within the report. Land in which the pipe will be laid is primarily agricultural in use, the report stated.

Commissioner Rod Johnson, who voted for the project, said TransCanada, the managerial company for Keystone I and Keystone XL, made promises to the state that he will make sure the company keeps.

“There should be no doubt that this Commission and the citizens of this State expect TransCanada to keep those promises, and we will be watching to make sure that they do so,” Johnson said. “I fully understand that Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act [MOPSA] forbids this Commission from considering issues related to pipeline safety. Nonetheless, it is obvious that safety issues are of prime concern to the public regarding this pipeline. Safety was the number one issue raised at the Commission’s four public meetings and in the many thousands of written comments we have received during this process.

“TransCanada and project advocates have often said that the Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest in history. Nebraskans are counting on that promise, too.”

Not all the regulators agreed the Keystone XL project should have gone forward. Two commissioners, Mary Ridder and Crystal Rhoades, dissented, saying the burden of proof of public good was not met. Three men on the commission board, not including the executive director, Michael G. Hybl, voted for the project.

“The Commission failed to protect the due process rights of groups affected by this proceeding,” Rhoades said. She listed a number of violations, including that the route chosen violates due process landowner rights, that the applicant did not provide proof of publication in local newspapers along the pipeline’s route, and that she disagreed with decisions made during the proceeding.

“All human-made infrastructure degrades and fails over time,” Rhoades said. “No infrastructure ever designed has lasted an eternity and there is no reason to believe this pipeline will be an exception. Therefore, it is impossible to prepare beforehand for environmental impacts; and it will expose first responders, with limited resources, to unknown chemical compounds they may not have the necessary equipment to contain.”

Furthermore, no evidence was presented to substantiate that the applicant would minimize or mitigate potential impacts on natural resources, Rhoades said, and the company also failed to speak with local Native American tribes.

“The applicant only reported DOS [U.S. Department of State] had worked with the Southern Ponca Tribe, who reside in Oklahoma. This is the equivalent of asking a distant relative for permission to do major construction in your backyard. This is inadequate as it is unreasonable.”

Keystone XL employees also did not offer any evidence that the “man camps” along the pipeline’s route would not create a strain on local resources in terms of fire, police, sanitation, demands for power, and public safety, a recurring problem that North Dakota’s Bakken oil region also faced and still faces today.

News of pipeline project’s passing was good for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven.

“After nearly a decade of delay, the Keystone XL Pipeline is now moving again,” Hoeven said. “This pipeline project is important energy infrastructure for our nation that will create jobs and economic growth and make our nation more secure by reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Building newer and better infrastructure is safer and will provide our country with the infrastructure we need now and in the future.”

Dallas Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the fight against TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline is far from finished, and launched a website to help mobilize allies.   

“Our commitment has always been to protect the sacred,” Goldtooth said. “From the source at the Tar Sands to the ports on the coasts, we stand by this commitment and continue to fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

“We are pushing Mother Earth to the limit everyday and the KXL is just another oil and gas project that is locking us into a future we can’t afford,” Eriel Deranger, the executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, said.

“To hear that Nebraska is moving forward with this black snake, while a massive spill is being cleaned at this very moment, is heartbreaking,” Joye Braun, a registered member of the Cheyenne River Sioux, and with Indigenous Environmental Network, said. “We have not yet received information on the toxic chemicals that were released in this most recent spill, nor do we know where the contaminated soil is going to go. Spills like this have huge social impacts and our communities cannot afford this to happen. When it comes to KXL, it is a matter of when, not if the pipeline leaks.”

Lewis Grassrope, headsman of the Wiconi Un Tipi, said he has set up camp in the Lower Brule Sioux Nation in South Dakota in response to TransCanada’s “attempt to affect our living and way of life.

“Our camp is close to the proposed transmission lines for the KXL pumping stations,” Grassrope said. “We are here to choose how we live. We are here to continue to restore balance and save Mother Earth from any atrocious acts against her.”


“It’s not if pipelines leak, but when they will leak”

Keystone Pipeline leak contained, but largest to date in South Dakota

By C.S. Hagen
AMHERST, SOUTH DAKOTA – Four days before TransCanada anticipated obtaining permits for the Keystone XL project, the company’s older pipeline leaked, spilling more than 210,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil into the South Dakota plains.

The spill occurred near the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe Reservation.

“It’s not if pipelines leak, but when they will leak, and we’re experiencing a leak, a pretty substantial amount,” Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Flute said in a public video. “We want to know what was the cause, why it happened, and how much was spilled, and what impact that will have on our environment.”

The leak occurred at 5:30 a.m. Thursday near Amherst, South Dakota, and the Keystone Pipeline was shut down within 30 minutes, Brian Walsh, team leader for the South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources, said. Cleanup crews are at work, and Walsh’s agency is overseeing the cleanup process.

Keystone Pipeline spill in Amherst, SD aerial photograph – provided by TransCanada

“The spill has not reached any surface water, and it is contained,” Walsh said. “It’s not flowing off site. They have mobilized equipment necessary to begin the cleanup activities to the site and we anticipate they will work 24 hours a day to clean up the area.”

The Keystone Pipeline is operated by TransCanada, which manages a 56,900-mile network of pipelines extending from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, according to a press release made available by TransCanada. On the TransCanada Twitter page, company officials posted that they are currently assessing the situation near Amherst.

“Frequent updates are being provided to the affected landowners, community, regulators, and other state and federal agencies to ensure they are aware of our progress,” the press release stated. No mention was made of why the oil leaked.

“In terms of cost of cleanup that falls on TransCanada,” Walsh said. “In terms of penalties, we just don’t know at this time.”

On the Twitter page entitled Keystone Pipeline Sabotage, oil and pipeline proponents began crying foul hours after the spill.

“Wouldn’t put it past the crazy Dems to sabotage the pipeline,” someone named ARI Russian BOT said.

“Just as the approval was pending,” a commentator named Doug said. “Want to bet it was sabotage?”

Cleanup is no small feat, and could take months, perhaps years. All contaminated soil must be removed. If diluted bitumen, which has the consistency of thick tar, reaches water sources such as lakes, ponds, rivers, or aquifers, the cleanup would become nearly impossible, as bitumen, opposed to crude oil, sinks in water.

The Keystone XL Pipeline was first proposed in 2008, but the project received widespread opposition in Canada and the United States, and it ended with President Barrack Obama’s 2015 decision to reject the pipeline’s permits. President Donald Trump breathed new life into the Keystone XL Pipeline after signing a flurry of executive orders four days after ascending to the presidency.

TransCanada was in negotiations with regulators to run the Keystone XL Pipeline, with a capacity of 830,000-barrels-per-day, through Nebraska when the spill occurred.

The spill has many speculating if the company’s expansion permits will be approved, or not. Legally, pipeline safety is not a factor in issuing permits, according to Nebraska law. The state’s law says regulators are not allowed to consider the risks of pipeline accidents when considering permissions for pipeline construction, as the issue is federal, not state.

“In determining whether the pipeline carrier has met its burden, the commission shall not evaluate safety considerations, including the risk or impact of spills or leaks from the major oil pipeline,” Nebraska’s Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act stated.

Pro-pipeline politicians and businessmen continuously state pipelines are the safest method to transport crude oil, but pipeline opponents contest, saying all pipelines will one day leak.

Spills are unavoidable, according to an August 2017 report compiled by the Dakota Resource Council, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

The Dakota Resource Council’s report stated that the oil boom in the Bakken is endangering people’s health, and that the state lacks meaningful standards for detecting and repairing leaks.

“Each day, oil and gas activities across the state spring leaks that spew toxic pollution into the air, like an invisible spill,” the report stated. “The smog that pollution causes to form is endangering the health of communities across North Dakota.”

From 2010 to the present, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration or PHMSA reported a total of 373 spills between three major pipeline companies. After Thursday’s incident, and two leaks from the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2017, that number is 376.  

  •      Not including Thursday’s spill, TransCanada and subsidiaries had 13 spills totaling 829 barrels or 34,818 gallons of crude oil
  •      Kinder Morgan and subsidiaries and joint ventures had 213 spills totaling 21,598 barrels or 907,116 gallons of hazardous liquids
  •      Enbridge and its subsidiaries and joint ventures had 147 spills totaling 40,794 barrels or 1,713,348 gallons of hazardous liquids.
  •      The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline sprung two leaks in March 2017, spilling 84 gallons in Watford City and 20 gallons in Mercer County

“Additionally three other tar sands pipelines, Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, Enbridge’s Line 3 expansion, and TransCanada’s Energy East, are in various stages of development,” a 2017 Greenpeace report stated. “Construction of one or more of these pipelines could lead to the expansion of the tar sands, with serious consequences for communities and the climate.”

Although environmental activists have been fighting big oil and pipelines for years, the controversy took front pages across the world in 2016 during construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Resistance camps grew to become one of the state’s largest communities at one time exceeding 10,000 people. Approximately 854 people were arrested during the months-long opposition outside of Standing Rock, and so far 310 of those arrested have had their cases dismissed of were acquitted, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective, a law firm defending activists facing charges in North Dakota.

More than 120 First Nations and Indigenous tribes on both sides of the northern border have signed a treaty stating their opposition to the tar sands pipelines, trains, and tankers through their territories and lands.

Nearby, on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe Reservation, they’re wanting answers, but said that even though the spill occurred outside of their jurisdiction, TransCanada is being transparent with them.

“There is not an accurate amount of spillage that they can quantify,” Chairman Dave Flute said. “If there is any possible issue that we could have with our water, they will let us know,” Flute said. “Everybody knows there is a spill, we just don’t know how many gallons.”

Already, people from out of state are arriving at the cordoned spill area, Flute said.

“As [former Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman] Dave Archambault had preached, and I supported Archambault, be peaceful,” Flute said. “If you do come up here I do ask that you be mindful, and be respectful. Freedom of speech, you can say what you want to say, but be respectful.”

Flute said pipeline officials reacted quickly, and have shown concern for residents.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission was also contacted for comment on the safety of current pipelines operating in North Dakota, but no response was given by press time.



Local politicians’ online connections to the “Alt-right”

Instagram picture posted by Jake MacAulay on October 18 with Representative Christopher Olson and Lutheran minister Steve Schulz at NDSU

[Editor’s note: HPR began investigating elected state politicians after Jake MacAulay, director of right-wing think tank Institute on the Constitution, linked with the Confederate hate group League of the South, spoke at NDSU. His speech included racist and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. A picture MacAulay posted with West Fargo’s Representative Christopher Olson and a Lutheran minister on his Instagram while on campus raised questions about elected officials in the state. While not all politicians in the state were investigated, many were, and the results from public online searches including Facebook Likes and Tweets, were unexpected. It should also be noted that social media likes and groups may not always represent affiliation with any group, but at the very least show interest.]

FARGO – If the “Alt-right” had their way, America would become a white washed painting of a Caucasian family sitting around the dining room table, mother in an apron, father with a briefcase at his feet tussling a ruddy-cheeked child’s hair. Jesus would hang near the corner, all smiles, while an unopened newspaper explained away the dangers of war-weary refugees.

The “so called alt-right’s” extended family is vast, however, and includes quick-tempered, drunk uncles like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, to somewhat mild mannered cousins, like the “Alt-lite,” or grandpa, the “New Right.” Today, the links between benign-sounding organizations, such as the John Birch Society, Restoring Honor Rally, Young Americans for Liberty, and personalities including Ayn Rand, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck, can be connected to organizations listed as hate groups by civil rights watchdogs.

“Alt-right’s” fingers go deep, stealthily spreading hate in the name of religion and patriotism. In North Dakota, at least nine elected politicians are either sympathizers or actively involved with “Alt-right” organizations.

The significance of social media interactions has been made all the more important since President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter to express his personal views, and has also created scandals such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s “like” of a pornographic tweet on his official Twitter account from @SexuallPosts in September.

The Associated Press Stylebook on Media Law explains the alternative right as an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism, and populism, or more simply – a white nationalist movement, and is to be written as “Alt-right,” always in quotes. The term was coined by Hitler saluting Richard Spencer, and is ideologically connected to right-wing foundations and white nationalist think tanks. Since the word’s first mention in 2008, a war of words has commenced, stripping and disguising meanings, turning definitions inside out in an attempt to make bigoted and anti-LGBTQ organizations respectable.

“In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi, or white supremacist,” AP Standards described.

But according to the “Alt-right,” the Ku Klux Klan to good old-fashioned God-fearing white nationalists should now be known as “identitarians.” Genocide is too strong a word; they prefer “ethnic replacement.” Purging non-white people isn’t “Alt-right” correct enough; such people, including protesters, undocumented immigrants, and refugees from war-torn countries, have fallen under President Donald Trump’s umbrella and are called criminals, rapists, and terrorists, similar descriptions TigerSwan used against Native Americans and supporters during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy in 2016 and early 2017.

Such semantics are nothing new. The Posse Comitatus through organizations like the Liberty Lobby, used similar code words in the 1970s and 1980s, during the time when Heaton native, Gordon Kahl, took his Anti-Semitic, tax-avoiding stance against any government agency higher than the county level.

“They employed more insidious tactics, which were designed to cultivate a grassroots base of support,” author James Corcoran wrote in his book “Bitter Harvest.” “They disguised their hate for Jews, minorities, and the U.S. government with concern for the small businessman, the family farmer, and the white Christian American. Instead of sheets and swastikas, they draped themselves in the American flag.”

Today, the “Alt-right” has been successful at cultivating younger generations, even producing its own “deity,” partly for trolling amusement and also to make a political point. “Pepe,” the green frog, is a god of chaos and darkness, with the head of a frog. Pepe, who is more frequently known now as “Kek,” is the source of a type of magic to whom the “Alt-right” and President Trump owe their successes. The image is juvenile and racist, but appeals to young ideologists who play at deep thinking.

“Referencing Kek is most often just a way of signaling to fellow conversants online that the writer embraces the principles of chaos and destruction that are central to ‘Alt-right’ thinking,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported on August 8, 2017.

The Kek prayer:

“Our Kek who art in memetics, hallowed by the memes. Thy Trumpdom come, thy will be done, in real life as it is on/pol/. Give us this day our daily dubs, and forgive us of our baiting as we forgive those who bait against us. And lead us not into cuckoldry, but deliver us from shills, for thine is the memetic kingdom, and the shitposting, and the winning, forever and ever. Praise Kek.”

Online, the “Alt-right” movement has its own imaginary country, Kekistan, and its own green flag that resembles a Nazi symbol.

Kekistan banner


The term “New Right” was first used by the Young Americans for Freedom in the 1960s, and was created as a conservative counter balance to liberalism, linked with the Religious Right, and more recently in 2016 to the “Alt-lite” movement. “Alt-lite” supporters flocked to President Donald Trump’s side during his campaign, and although they share “Alt-right” views, they say they reject racialism and Anti-Semitism.

Late last month, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a warning before a Congressional committee.

“The current administration’s rhetoric is emboldening white supremacist movements, and although we might find hate speech abhorrent, it should be protected as a right under the First Amendment,” J. Richard Cohen, president of the nonprofit hate crime watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, said.

“National leaders need to speak out against growing white nationalistic ideals.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a nonprofit civil rights watchdog organization. For more than three decades, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been monitoring radical right activity in the United States, and advising law enforcement, civic leaders, college administrators on how to respond to rallies led by hate groups and leaders.

In 2007, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a list of hate groups in the United States, many of which are mainstream organizations, and the radical right struck back, branding the organization a hate group in retaliation.

A difference exists between “Liking,” “Following,” and joining a “Group” on Facebook, according to Tim Hoye, owner of Tim Hoye Consulting, a social media management and website customization company.

“To follow a page a person you can go click the ‘Like’ button on that page,” Hoye said. Hoye is also running for House of Representative District 45 as a Democrat.

“When they do that it will show up to your friends and if you have friends on that page they will see that you ‘like’ that page as well. It doesn’t mean you actually consider that content something you would endorse.”

Although liking a page doesn’t necessarily denote endorsement, it does increase the person’s or page’s popularity, Hoye said. A better option is to simply follow.

“Instead you can ‘follow’ a page and not have to increase that page’s likes, your friends won’t see that you like that page and it will do everything the same as liking the page without everyone on your friend list knowing you are watching that page.”

A clear distinction is drawn when someone joins a group on social media, Hoye said.

“Groups are a little bit more personal than a page. A lot of groups you have to be accepted to so you aren’t automatically in there to see the content. You aren’t able to follow a group, you can only ‘like’ a group.”

Dr. Matthew Crain, assistant professor in media studies at Queens College, part of the City University of New York, agreed, saying social media investigations are necessary, and newsworthy.

“There is actual empirical evidence out there for this,” Crain said. “In general it’s a safe assumption that if you tweet or retweet or post on Facebook that there is an implicit endorsement or an expression of support.”

A hierarchy of such support exists: follows, likes, and joining groups, Crain said.

“The differences are, if you like something, you are signaling that you like it in a public way, it publicly identifies your like for that thing. Following means you’re not necessarily signaling an attachment of that page, but you can see their posts, a less public version of liking.”

A group is different, joining a group means that you are a part of that group and you get updates on that group. Joining a group is the “highest level of engagement,” Crain said.

“The Like button is a crude mechanic (like most of Facebook’s icons) meant to signal support of some kind,” NDSU Department of Communication Assistant Professor Robert Mejia said. “What this support specifically means, however, is another question. In general, we would say that liking signals support for either the community, the actual message content, and/or the general tone of the message.”

A politician may monitor a group by pushing the Follow button, Mejia said. An argument can be made for a politician detesting a group, but following it anyway, as a means of keeping an eye on a particular subject, but, typically a Follow suggests a stronger sense of endorsement. “Following carries with it a distinct purpose apart from liking. If liking might mean endorsement with a specific message tone or content, or the community more generally, following just signals general interest in monitoring the ongoing communication of that community. Joining a group can be similar to following. The main difference would be that joining a group often enables a higher level of participation.”

“Preserve History” III% Security Force – from North Dakota Freedome Defense Forse III% Facebook page

North Dakota Nine
Congressman Kevin Cramer received a $20,000 donation from the Freedom Project during his reelection campaign in 2016. The Freedom Project is an affiliate of the John Birch Society, and calls Common Core an “absolute appropriation of Soviet ideology and propaganda,” and that it is “mainstreaming homosexuality, promiscuity, and other practices,” according to The Washington Post.

The Freedom Project is also the educational arm of the American Opinion Foundation, a nonprofit created by the John Birch Society, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. On the Freedom Project’s website, it declares itself as a fully accredited online academy for churches to private schools – a Common Core free curriculum deeply rooted in Judeo-Christianity. Enrollment costs $2,000 a year for full time students.

Arms giant, Northrop Grumman, produces mssile systems and military drones, and is a major sponsor of Cramer’s donating a total of $20,000 in 2016. Northrop Grumman is also a sponsor of conferences intent on replacing mental health care with SWAT teams in police departments across the United States, and is intent on exacerbating Islamophobia, according to VICE News.

Cramer is also financially supported by Syngenta, a Swiss agribusiness giant, which was cited by the United Nations for influencing policy makers, obstructing reform, and in some cases “deliberately manufacturing evidence to infuse scientific uncertainty and delay restrictions.” Syngenta gave Cramer $5,000 in 2016, and settled its lawsuit with American farmers pertaining to approval of GMO corn for export before China approved it in September 2017 for $1.5 billion. Additional lawsuits from US grain handlers and Canadian farmers are still pending.

Northrop Grumman and the Freedom Project also gave $10,000 to Senator John Hoeven in 2016.

Representative Christopher Olson, of West Fargo, helped bring Jake MacAulay and the Institute on the Constitution to NDSU, according to MacAulay’s Instagram photograph. Olson believes The Washington Post and CNN are fake news, according to Facebook and Twitter posts. He frequently tweets Breitbart news stories, and believes politics is not a game, but is war. Citing Alexis de Tocqueville, Olson also doesn’t like democracy, according to a Twitter post on October 7, 2016.

“Democracy make[s] every man forget his ancestors, hides his descendants, and separates his contemporaries,” Olson wrote.

Theocracy is a model that he, and others, appear to support through Facebook posts, Likes, and Twitter feeds.

Olson is the introducer of a bill to change or halt refugee resettlement in North Dakota by offering local communities the power to request a moratorium. Cass County Commissioner Chad Peterson also supported Olson’s efforts. Local media quoted Olson in January 2017 saying he is against hate crime legislation and anti-discrimination laws, as such laws are not effective.

Olson’s a fan of Breitbart, and he also follows the John Birch Society, an old Cold War-era nonprofit that is still waging war against the “Red menace,” and has been diligently evading claims its organization is racist and anti-Semitic since the 1960s. He is also following the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which purports a Darwinian view of society in which elites are natural and government intervention is destructive, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The institute believes forced integration and affirmative action is primarily responsible for the complete destruction of private property rights.

Olson likes the Chalcedon Foundation, reported as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Although the foundation’s name was founded with the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. in mind, the group supports theocracy, and the death penalty for practicing homosexuals and other abominators. “Father of Christian Reconstructionism” and the foundation’s founder, Rousas John Rushdoony, denied the Holocaust before his death, and wrote that American slavery was “generally benevolent” despite “misguided attempts to make whites feel guilty about it,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Ruth Institute is another organization Olson follows, and it is listed as a hate group because of its anti-LGBTQ message and association with the American Family Association, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

More prominent among these associations Olson subscribes to is the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, listed as a hate group since 2008 by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its “virulent and false attacks on non-white immigrants.” FAIR is a lobbying organization, which according to its website seeks “to influence public policy directly by lobbying.”

Olson joined the North Dakota Freedom Defense Force III Public Forum, a recruiting forum for state militia, which contains many posts about the use of force against those in power and advertises handbooks on anti-Islamic resistance, exploding targets, and body armor for sale. The III in the name stands for the Three Percenters, also written as 3%ers and III%, and is described as an American “patriot movement” aligned with the Oath Keepers, one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the USA today. Michael Brian Vanderboegh founded the Three Percenters group, and it has been linked to planned domestic terror attacks in Kansas in 2016 against Somali Muslims. Three Percenters have gathered into small militias around the United States, believe that only three percent of colonists fought in the Revolutionary War, and that the federal government is working to destroy American liberties, according to Vice News and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

ND Security Force III% patch – on ND Freedom Defense Force III% Facebook page

Nationally, Three Percenters have more than 10,000 members, and the North Dakota Freedom Defense Force III has a total of 145 in North Dakota. Included in the site’s posts is a picture of well-armed militia with Confederate flags flying, which says: “Preserve History III% Security Force.” On June 28, the group changed its name after the national movement “split” from III% Security Force to III% Freedom Defense Force, according to an announcement, which combined the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Colorado, Montana, Illinois, New York, Florida, and Alabama.

Representative Rick Becker, from Bismarck, founded the Bastiat Caucus in North Dakota in 2013, and is a fan of Young Americans for Liberty, a group that rose from the ashes of Young Americans for Freedom and listed in 2006 as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Young Americans for Liberty is listed as a hate group because of its sponsorship of right-wing extremist lectures, on the “perils of multiculturalism.”

Becker also follows “Alt-right” personalities such as Tomi Lahren, and the late Ayn Rand, known as the “patron saint of the libertarian right,” and founder of Objectivism, who said during a speech at West Point that racism didn’t exist in the USA, until liberals brought the issue up, according to media outlet Salon.

“Today, it is to everyone’s advantage to form some kind of ethnic collective,” Rand said during the 1974 speech. “If you can understand the vicious contradiction and injustice of a state establishing racism by law. Whether it’s in favor of a minority or a majority doesn’t matter. It’s more offensive when it’s in the name of a minority because it can only be done in order to disarm and destroy the majority and the whole country. It can only create more racist division, and backlashes, and racist feelings.”

Later in her speech, she lashed out against Native Americans.

“But now, as to the Indians, I don’t even care to discuss that kind of alleged complaints that they have against this country,” Rand said. “I do believe with serious, scientific reasons the worse kind of movie that you have probably seen – worst from the Indian viewpoint – as to what they did to the white man. I do not think that they have any right to live in a country merely because they were born here and acted and lived like savages.

“Any white person who brings the elements of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it is great that some people did, and discovered here what they couldn’t do anywhere else in the world and what the Indians, if there are any racist Indians today, do not believe to this day: respect for individual rights.”

On Facebook and Twitter, Becker likes right wing organizations such as the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which believes forced integration and affirmative action is primarily responsible for the complete destruction of private property rights. Not far away under Becker’s Facebook and Twitter likes is the Tenth Amendment Center, or TAC, an antigovernment movement and organization that declares itself non-partisan and favors nullification of federal laws it considers unconstitutional. The tenth amendment defines the establishment and division of power between the federal and state governments, and came under fire in the 1950s when Southern states tried unsuccessfully to resist desegregation by nullifying federal laws.

TAC falls into the “Alt-right” category as the organization frequently invites speakers from the John Birch Society, and neo-Confederate hate group League of the South, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Further down on Becker’s Facebook likes are Glenn Beck and Restoring Honor Rally, a 2010 rally led by Beck, known as a “master divider along racial lines” icon. During a career in Top 40 radio, Beck frequently performed imitations of “black guy” characters and racist tropes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which including mocking unarmed blacks shot and killed by white police officers. Beck refers to Reverend Jesse Jackson as “the stinking king of the race lords,” and whips up opposition to what Beck calls, black nationalism.

On Twitter, Becker follows Beck, the Ayn Rand Institute, and some of his Likes include a post from TheBlaze and Bill O’Reilly (who has recently settled sexual misconduct claims for $32 million) which states that Black Lives Matter is a “hate America group.” Becker also follows the Goldwater Institute, a think tank that promotes legislation called out by the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center in October for attempting to promote laws that will circumscribe the ability of college presidents to speak out against racism.

Representative Luke Simons, of Dickinson, also likes Young Americans for Liberty and the Bastiat Caucus on Facebook. He likes Breitbart editor Ben Shaprio, who claimed the LGBTQ community doesn’t really face discrimination, an untruth, or in the words of President Trump — “fake news” — according to Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program statistics. In 2015, 17.7 of all reported hate crimes in the country – 5,818 single-bias incidents involving 7,121 victims – stemmed from sexual orientation bias. Since 2005, LGBTQ people are twice as likely to be targets of violent hate crime as other minority groups, according to the FBI’s 2014 hate crimes statistics.

Representative Sebastian “Seabass” Ertelt, of Lisbon, follows the Bastiat Caucus on Facebook. He has also joined a Facebook group called the American Party, ND. Horace Greeley, a 19th century New York newspaper editor, once called the American Party the “Know-Nothing” party. The American Party is also recognized as the precursor to the Ku Klux Klan, as it pushed for immigration bans on foreign paupers, criminals, idiots, lunatics, insane and blind people, and wanted a 21-year naturalization period before an immigrant could become an American citizen. The American Party’s candidate for the 2016 Presidential election was Robert Macleod Jr., and the page currently has 33 members.

Representative Daniel Johnston, from Valley City, is a fan of Jake MacAulay and the Institute on the Constitution, an organization that has ties to the Confederate hate group League of the South, and calls the Southern Poverty Law Center “a joke.”

“I don’t impose or force my ideas on anybody, but just like you I am entitled to an opinion,” Johnston said on his own Facebook post.

Representative Dwight Kiefert, from Valley City, frequently posts Breitbart articles on his Facebook page, and he also likes the Conservative Tribune, a right-wing media outlet that frequently belittles the Southern Poverty Law Center. He’s also liked religious right attorney Jay Sekulow, personal attorney for President Donald Trump, and chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. Sekulow i also affiliated with the Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism. Both companies are nonprofit organizations. In June 2017, The Guardian discovered Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism steered more than $60 million to Sekulow since 2000, after using fundraising tactics on the poor and unemployed about “abortion, Sharia law, and Barack Obama,” according to The Guardian.

Kiefert likes the anti-gay rights Benham Brothers, whose rising voices in right-wing Christian circles could not have happened without the Family Research Council, according to the Benham Brothers. The Family Research Council split from Focus on the Family in 1992, and has links with the Family Research Institute, a Colorado-based hate group, and with David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan.

Fargo City Commissioner and Fargo Deputy Mayor Dave Piepkorn, from Fargo, has nearly no online presence, preferring to work with political mouthpieces such as the SayAnything Blog, AM 1100 “The Flag,” radio, and Valley News Live. His Facebook profile is either hidden, or doesn’t exist, but his call for uncovering the costs behind refugees in Fargo and across the state has sparked heated debate since he made the proposal in October 2016.

Burleigh County Commissioner Jim Peluso, from Bismarck, is a fan of Right Stuff, Hardcore Conservative on Facebook, which is a nearly identical name of The Right Stuff, a fascist, anti-Semitic, prominent mouthpiece of the “Alt-right.” An inordinately large number of stories featured on Right Stuff, which has 451,000 followers on Facebook, reported on black people or Muslims beating white people, white people getting even, or blurbs damning current immigration policies. Peluso also follows a Facebook group with more than one million followers called Angry Patriot, which is filled with “fake news” from Christian News Alert defending President Trump’s actions.


Tennessee multi-state milita during training – FTX with ND, MN, OH, SC, GA.-ND Freedom Defense Force III% Facebook pagejpg

Betty Jo Krenz under investigation by State’s Attorney

Woman allegedly involved in fake adoption scheme of Native American children

FARGO – Betty Jo Krenz is now in the Stutsman County State’s Attorney’s Office crosshairs.

Krenz, approximately 46, and formerly living in Woodworth, was once a case manager for the Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services. Her role within the tribe ended in 2011. She became a high-profile figure speaking out on tribal issues and was included in a 2014-campaign advertisement approved by Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-ND. She appeared in Cramer’s campaign ad entitled “No One Should Have To Be Afraid” in 2014. Three years later, the video had 377 views and 15 subscribers onYouTube.

Government attorneys had one interview transcript before Monday, but received two reports since then, Frederick Fremgen, the Stutsman County’s State’s Attorney, said. The Stutsman County Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigator, according to officials.

As the investigation is currently underway, Fremgen would not release any additional details about the case, he said, including if an arrest warrant will soon be issued.

During the time she was allegedly involved in faking adoptions, she frequently mentioned Cramer, and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, according to Autym Burke, who said she was “duped” by Krenz. She initially paid $1,800 in adoption fees, which were later mostly paid back.

Krenz was also a nominee for the 2017 L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth Award, but was not selected, according to L’Oreal management staff. She has a long criminal record involving forgery and writing bad checks, both under her current surname and former surname, Edland, according to North Dakota court records.

On September 27, 2017, the Spirit Lake Tribal Council banned Krenz from entering the Spirit Lake Reservation, tribal administration reported.

Since Burke made thesituation public on September 21, complaints against Krenz have gone viral on social media. Burke lives in Oregon, and although she met Krenz during the near year-long faked adoption process, she had no idea that 1,500 miles away the baby in question belonged to Jodie Blackboy, a registered member of the Spirit Lake Nation, she said.

Blackboy said she did not know Krenz was using her infant daughter’s pictures for “her own gain,” she said.

Other online messages between alleged victims and Krenz talk about Blackboy’s baby Julissa, and Haisley Jo, believed to be the same baby taken during Savanna Greywind’s murder on August 19. Krenz’ messages about Haisley Jo were written on August 27. Haisley Jo and the suspects in Greywind’s murder were found and arrested on Thursday, August 24. Haisley Jo was returned to her father, Ashton Matheny, in early September.

Krenz also had multiple GoFundMe accounts, raising more than $16,544, and $4,470 for a math camp for Lakota children. She was also involved in the Kind Hearted Woman Dream Shelter in Jamestown; with Robin’s House, a shelter for women and children, and a blog called Restless Spirit Blog, last updated in 2016. During a September 2016 YouTube posting, Krenz also discusses a $2,000 micro grant she planned to use to help women for Damsel In Defense, a women-empowering organization.

Burke said in September that her family felt heartbroken for the baby’s mother, Jodie Blackboy, and spoke out because she wanted to ensure nobody fell for Krenz’s lies.

Blackboy said in a September 23 Facebook post that she knew Krenz for years, and came close to letting Krenz take her child, temporarily. Now that the Stutsman County State’s Attorney’s Office will be investigating the charges filed by law enforcement, Blackboy was pleased.

“That’s great news,” Blackboy said.

Burke had questions when she heard the news. “This is the first I am hearing of this news,” Burke said. “Do you know what the charges are? Is she being arrested?

“I am thrilled that law enforcement is taking this matter seriously. So many people including my family have been hurt. This is great news.”

Krenz taking the spotlight in Cramer’s campaign is an issue Burke hopes will be noticed.

“He [Cramer] owes the people of North Dakota an apology for not doing his research on her before aligning himself with her so tightly,” Burke said. “I have made it clear that he played an intricate role into my faith in her. I believed she was tight with him, she must be okay. I was a fool to believe that, and he is a fool for not stepping up and admitting that a gross error has been made here in his camp.”

Janel Herald, the founder of the National Collective of Concerned Parents, said the case was feeling like another crime against Native Americans that was to be swept under the rug until the State’s Attorney’s Office became involved.

“Silence speaks volumes,” Herald said. “I’ve taken away a lot from that silence. To Governor Burgum, senators Hoeven and Heitkamp, and especially Congressman Cramer who used Mrs. Betty Jo Krenz in his campaign advertisement, this is what your silence has spoken: you chose not to speak out against the protection of children and child exploitation. You chose not to speak on protection of the citizens against fraud, theft by deception or conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Why is that? Why do you choose to take ‘wait and see’ approaches on even the matters that would matter the most to your constituents – humanity.

“It is a shame to have you as the leaders of North Dakota.”

Cramer’s office has been contacted repeatedly for comment, but has said nothing about the situation. 

‘Onkel’ Stern’s list

How a Valley City German immigrant saved more than 125 German Jews from the Holocaust

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – In 1933, “Onkel” Herman Stern received a coded letter from a relative called “The Chammer.” Postmarked Venlo, Holland, containing one word, typed in capital letters and double-spaced.


A warning followed: “Before saying one more thing – I must warn you never to refer to it in a letter… Whenever you write just say ‘I’m in receipt of your letter from Holland and glad to learn that everything is okay’”

Herman Stern 1929 – photograph provided by Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library UND

The Chammer spent his savings to travel by train from Nazi Germany to Holland, where outgoing mail was still safe from prying eyes, and described in detail the atrocities he had witnessed in his German hometown. Four Jews shot and killed, no arrests, no police interference. Six Jews in one day committed suicide. Forty-five Jewish bankers arrested. A Jewish friend in Worms was locked in a pigpen. Doctors were quitting. Lawyers no longer had access to their black legal garments.

“The Jehoodems [are] done for in Germany and this is what happens every day,” The Chammer wrote. “Never say anything that you are sorry you heard about the cruel treatments. If you do write this and the letter happened to be censured, they will be SHOT to death, SHOT, SHOT to death.”

The letter was just one, still safely guarded at the UND’s Chester Fritz Library Department of Special Collections, that alerted Stern that the Nazi threat against Jews was more than hate speech.

A radio program on WCCO in 1933 led by Rabbi Albert Yannow also put the situation into focus for Stern. One listener wrote in to the radio station saying: “I am with Hitler for trying to put Germany again in the sun, out of which France, and indirectly the Allies have forced it. The Jewish question, to me, is the outcome of a hysterical condition there. Injustice has ever been the Jew’s lot. That seems to be his fate – to suffer and endure.”

The youngest of eight children born to a poor Jewish family in Aberbrechen, Germany, Stern rekindled contacts involved with immigration and one by one, and began saving his family. Their names are scrawled in a well-worn ledger. 

Herman Stern’s ledger – photograph by C.S. Hagen

In all, Stern saved more than 125 people from near certain death at Nazi hands. Showing foresight, he started early. As president of Straus Clothing Company, he had funds, some land, but more importantly, Stern was respected, and had a friend in the United States Senate in Gerald P. Nye, who quietly helped Stern obtain immigration visas for his German relatives.

During a time when anti immigration laws turned Jews away by the shiploads, Stern also found a friend in former North Dakota Governor John Moses, a Norwegian immigrant who campaigned for office speaking Norwegian, German, and English, and later defeated Nye for his seat in the U.S. Senate.

Fifteen boxes of paperwork at Chester Fritz Library tell the complicated story of how Stern saved his family, many of whom were distantly related. Some were smuggled out of Germany under blankets by the French Resistance, and routed to Cuba, Chile, or Panama to wait for U.S. visas. Another managed to escape to Paris, and then later on to Casablanca.

“He couldn’t save his brothers, and that bothered him for the rest of his life,” Stern’s grandson, Rick Stern, said. “He tried, or they were too late.”

Herman Stern’s grandsons look over a well-worn ledger with a list of those who were saved – photograph by C.S. Hagen

Stern’s story has had little media attention, and virtually none during his lifetime (1887-1980). Recognized for many awards, perhaps the most prestigious for Stern being the posthumous Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award and the Boy Scouts of America’s Silver Buffalo award, little was said about him saving more than 125 Jews from Nazi internment. A monument was also erected for Stern at the Veterans Memorial Park in Valley City in October 2016.

Since the movie “Schindler’s List,” Stern’s story has been gaining attention, including a book written by Moorhead resident Terry Shoptaugh entitled “You Have Been Kind Enough to Assist Me.” Additionally, a documentary on Stern’s life will be released this month by Visual Arts Studios in Fargo entitled “The Mission of Herman Stern.”

While on his deathbed in Fargo, 1980, Rick read the Silver Buffalo award to his grandfather, one of the only early mentions of him being a Holocaust rescuer.

“During World War II you helped more than 100 persons who were in great danger of concentration camps or death in Europe to come to this country,” the biography on the Silver Buffalo award said of Stern.

They were the last words Stern heard, Rick said. His reply, like the way he chose to live, was simple, honest, and humble.

“Well, that’s nice,” Stern said.

“I was there when it was time,” Rick said. “Have you ever been with someone when they passed on? This was so beautiful, so magnificent. We were just talking, he coughed a few times, and then I felt his spirit rise.”

Petitions for help from German Jews 1930s to 1940s – letters provided by Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library UND

Stern remembered
Stern committed one dishonest act to fulfill his dream, Rick said. He ran from a clothier apprenticeship in 1903. In those days, an untrained apprentice’s contract had to be purchased. His family was poor. His father worked in a packaging company and had many mouths to feed, and Stern was a dreamer.

Herman Stern after arrival in North Dakota – photograph provided by family

“All Grandpa could think of was coming to America, that was the land of opportunity,” Rick said. “Grandpa was a little like Jacob, he was sent by the Almighty here so he could rescue his family. And he did.”

Stern never spoke about anti-Semitism in his youth, Rick said. “That’s why it was so disturbing for him when it came up. His only tangible brush with real hate came while he was walking with his wife in Valley City, and came upon a Ku Klux Klan rally cross burning at a local park. “It gave him the creeps,” Rick said.

In 1903, still a teenager, Stern boarded a ship to America. Morris Stern, Herman’s uncle, and a position in Straus Clothing awaited him in Casselton. By 1908, Stern moved to Valley City, married Adeline Roth in 1912, and by 1920 was owner and manager of Straus Clothing in Valley City, the place he would call home for the rest of his life.

He lived through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, two world wars, and came out on top, but never flaunted wealth. He was active with the Boy Scouts, war bond recruitment drives, later with the United Way, the Rotary Club, Masonic Lodge, the Greater North Dakota Association, which became the Greater North Dakota Chamber, and much more. A memorial was erected in his honor in Valley City in October 2016.

“Whatever was positive for Valley City. Boom. He was there,” Rick said.

In the home, German was reserved for Stern and his wife. His sons never learned the language, it was forbidden when the German Kaiser Wilhelm II waged the First World War.

Before the Second World War, Stern founded the North Dakota Winter Show, the state’s oldest agriculture and livestock show.

“On that day, I remember the dedication,” Rick said. “They pulled this thing down and a big banner dropped revealing the ‘Herman Stern Arena.’ He was so upset, he fell off the stage, and he had two questions afterward: how much did it cost, and who authorized it.”

Herman Stern – photo provided by family

Shortly after Stern’s death, snow collapsed part of the building’s roof, destroying the commemoration sign. “People said, ‘That was grandpa,’” Rick said. “He never liked that sign. He was humble.”

Stern kept himself busy until just before his death at 92 years old.

“He was righteous,” Mike Stern, Rick’s brother said. “I remember I disappointed him once, and I still feel really bad about it.” While coming home from Camp Wilderness, Mike stopped at Lake Melissa to say farewell to friends. He arrived home 30 minutes late, and found his grandfather worried he had been involved in a car accident.

“When your grandfather that you worship says, ‘I’m very disappointed in you,’ that’s something you can’t forget,” Mike said.

The “blessed grandson,” Rick, once borrowed a car and slid on ice, smashing in the rear end. He was able to drive it home, but Stern reacted differently, which ended in a family joke. Stern offered to sell Rick the vehicle, and Rick reminded him not to set the price too high as it had been involved in a bad accident.

Both brothers’ first memory is their grandfather, sitting cross-legged, bouncing them up and down on his knee while humming a German tune.

“We all compare ourselves a little to those who passed before us,” Rick said. “But I feel we all fall so incredibly short of him. We do our best, but it just can’t compare.”

Straus Clothing Store – photograph provided by Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library UND

Holocaust rescuer
America eventually opened its doors to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazis, but the help came too late in 1944. Many European Jews were forced to return to Europe after arriving in the United States. China was one of the only countries that allowed Jews to enter, accepting nearly 23,000 Jewish refugees who found relative safety in Shanghai from 1941 to 1945.

A page in Herman Stern’s ledger – provided by family

Even after World War II finished, liberated Jews emerged from concentration camps and from hiding, ill, exhausted; and discovered a world that seemed to have no place for them.

Stern’s efforts started in the 1930s, years after he brought one of his brothers over from Germany. He needed to prove himself, and show he could support every refugee he vouched for; personal affidavits of his financial worth were needed for every case.

He had a net worth of $50,000, was a shareholder of Straus Clothing Company, owned 320 acres of farmland near Valley City, another net worth of $5,000, according to affidavits filed with the American Consul General in Stuttgart, Germany.

Letters of repute were also needed – for every single case. He obtained these from Fred J. Fredrickson, mayor of Valley City. “During all this time Mr. Stern has been one of the most progressive and substantial citizens and businessmen of our city and state,” Fredrickson wrote.

At first, his petitions seemed to fall on deaf ears. He needed to change the narrative, and find influential people who could help persuade refugee legislation. Correspondence between the National Refugee Service, National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Welfare Society, Hebrew Sheltering and Immigration Aid Society of America, was frequent.

In 1938, Stern wrote to the American Consul General in Germany, hoping to relieve bureaucratic worries. Some affidavits were rejected, as in the case of Dr. Rudolf Mansbacher, a nerve specialist from Germany who had an affidavit written by an American doctor and was not recognized by the American government.

Senator Gerald Nye – mid 1930s – who quietly helped Herman Stern obtain immigration visas for German relatives – photo provided by Department of Special Collections, Chester Fritz Library UND

“My sponsorships may seem perhaps excessive to you compared to the financial statement, but I can assure you, my dear Consul, that all the immigrants have and will be properly received who are coming in my care. Every immigrant has received a proper home, not alone through my efforts, but also through the assistance of my friends.

“You may be satisfied without any doubt whatsoever that I shall continue to carry out the pledge and that none of the immigrants sponsored by me will become a public charge, but on the contrary, will become useful citizens.”

And many of Stern’s family did. Some joined the war effort. Others found work on farms. Stern searched out hospitals, nursing homes, and area doctors willing to offer qualified refugees work.

Doctors were needed in American hospitals, a 1939 pamphlet from the American Medical Association reported. From 1934 to 1938, during the rise of Hitler’s National Socialist regime, 1,528 physicians migrated to the United States, of which 75 percent were Jews. During the same years, the United States had 170,000 physicians, which meant one doctor for every 784 people.

Despite the need for qualified doctors, the system was rigged against him. Few doctors from Europe could pass American medical standard tests, and needed further training. Stern began looking into medical schools.

“After making further canvass I am still of the same opinion that fifty doctors could be placed in our state, but at present our hands are tied,” Stern wrote to Charles Jordan of the Central Committee for Resettlement of Foreign Physicians on July 1, 1939. “All we can do is to interview our prominent doctors all over the state and see if we can in some way influence these men so they will gradually recommend modifying the rules and attitude of the National Organization.”

Stern found an empathizer in Dr. Irvine Lavine, who assisted placing refugee doctors around the state.

ND Governor John Moses

Fresh off the boat after journeys circumnavigating the globe, many stayed at the Stern family house in Valley City after they first arrived. Gustavas Straus traveled through Trinidad, Hans Wertheim through Chile.

Mike remembered stories his father told him of frequently having dinner with relatives he had never known. “Our dad was a little upset sometimes – he was young – because he couldn’t get seconds or thirds,” Mike said.

Nobody went hungry. Stern’s wife, Adeline Roth, 22 at the time, never wavered in her support for her husband’s efforts, Rick said.

In 1939, Stern had a scare. A medical report from the Dakota Clinic in Fargo reported no disease had been found on his heart after X-rays. The pain he was experiencing then was probably stemming from muscle or nerve issues, or more likely, although the medical report made no mention, from the stress of trying to save his family.

On March 27, 1941, two years after World War II started, Stern wrote to the National Council of Jewish Women in St. Louis, Missouri.

“I am endeavoring to gain admittance of four adults and two children into Cuba as a temporary quarter until it is possible to gain visas for them to come to the United States of America. The relatives in question are now living in Paris. They are not French citizens, but are refugees from Germany.

In order to obtain permission to travel to Cuba, Stern was told to deposit $2,000 per person in a Cuban bank, with $500 bond placed with the Cuban government, also for each person, plus two round trip tickets, and lawyer fees up to $250.

Records safely tucked away in box nine at UND’s Chester Fritz Library Department of Special Collections, end before 1944, and Stern had already found ways to bring more than 125 refugees to North Dakota. Most dispersed across the nation, few remained behind, Rick said.

Most of the letters to Stern are in German, written by hand in impeccable penmanship reminiscent of a medieval scribe translating holy texts. Other letters are typed, but there’s little need for a translation.

The Talmud translates best: “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

“I don’t know how to thank you,” a letter written by Hans Wertheim in 1939 to Stern said. “You may be sure that we shall never forget your kindness and what you have done for us. We are glad to know that there are people who are willing to help us.”

“In later years people would say, ‘We owe you so much,’ but he would say, ‘No, you don’t owe me anything,’” Rick said.

Stern kept his efforts mostly quiet, except to his family. He never wanted the publicity or the acknowledgement, he only wanted to help steer men and women toward successful futures.

If Stern were alive today, sitting around the dinner with friends and family, Mike, his grandson said he would know how to answer questions about society’s recent polarization. He might pound the table dynamically with a fist, but his thick German accent would be impossible not to listen to.

“I think Grandpa would be welcoming immigrants and trying to get them plugged into the community, into Boy Scouts, or joining the church,” Mike said.

A short pamphlet Stern wrote and used to pass out, explains his views perfectly.  

“Without strength of character, we are a ship without a rudder, lost in the sea of no return… Respect the views, practices, and habits of others. Be more than tolerant, be understanding. In dealing with people, learn to respect and understand their position. Judge an individual not on his race, creed, or economic standing, judge him for what is in him.”


Senatorial eyes on missing person case

Can tribal and federal cooperation assist cases of missing Indigenous women?

By C.S. Hagen
FORT BERTHOLD – Olivia Keri Lone Bear disappeared approximately 15 days ago, leaving friends, family, and scouts puzzled. Why was no statewide alert issued? Why are the relationships between tribal and state police so strained? Why are police saying they have “other things to do besides look” for a missing Indigenous woman, according to an investigator?

Why would one of Lone Bear’s trusted friends speak only on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution?

What is known is that Lone Bear borrowed a teal blue 2011 Chevy Silverado with a silver toolbox in the bed, on Tuesday, October 24. When she borrowed the truck, the owner, who works in New Town and asked that his name not be printed, didn’t notice anything unusual about Lone Bear. She frequently used his truck.

Olivia Lone Bear – photograph provided by Dickinson Police Department

“She’s a great gal, she worked at the Legion, that’s how I met her six years ago, and she’s borrowed my truck for years,” the truck’s owner said. “We were just really good friends.”

He discovered soon after her disappearance that she left a cell phone and a note behind, but assumed it was a simple letter to her children, whom he said she loved.

“The note is horrifying,” he said. “The note is a goodbye note, it’s not an ‘I love you kids and see you in a little bit note.’ It’s in her words too.”

She used words like ‘maize balls,’ a term of endearment she said to her children, and that she hoped her children would continue to be able to see each other, he said.

“The note says she’s leaving forever,” he said. “‘I love you kids,’ and that’s it.”

Because Lone Bear’s disappearance is an ongoing investigation, police could not confirm the note’s message. The vehicle Lone Bear borrowed is still missing.

The truck owner received two alerts about Lone Bear’s disappearance on Friday, November 3, which did not include her name, he said. “Why didn’t they [alert messages] go out at least Friday, or Saturday, October 26 or 27?”

Lone Bear loved her children, and never spoke to him of anyone stalking her.

“If someone was giving her troubles she would have told me,” he said. “It sounds like she’s not coming home.”

Olivia Keri Lone Bear, 32, is five feet six inches tall and weighs about 130 pounds, was last seen leaving Sportsman Bar on October 24, driving a teal blue 2011 Chevy Silverado with a silver toolbox in the bed and North Dakota license plate number 839BRC, according to investigators and the Dickinson Police Department. She was later spotted at the drive-through of a liquor store, an investigator said.

Lone Bear’s brother, Matthew, said she was wearing a white and camel-colored jacket and blue jeans on the day she went missing. He’s been searching for his sister every day since she disappeared. At first, volunteer helpers were in the 50s, then their numbers dropped to the 30s. On Wednesday, only 12 people were searching for Lone Bear.

The snows came to the Fort Berthold area the same day, increasing difficulties. Both Matthew and his sister are registered members of the Three Affiliated Tribes Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. “We’re trying to put a call out to come help,” Matthew said. “Our numbers have been so small lately we can’t go door to door.”

Although state and federal agencies, sheriff’s departments, tribal police, the Belcourt Fire and Rescue, and the New Town Fire Department have been assisting in the search, Matthew said that initial police response could have been better, quicker.

The truck Olivia Lone Bear borrowed – Facebook post

“The core people who have been searching every day have been family,” Matthew said. “Look at how much time has gone by until law enforcement got involved. We want to make the system better. This is right in the middle of the Bakken. We know the stories.”

Stories of dozens, if not hundreds of missing Indigenous men and women have never returned home from North Dakota’s Bakken oil patches.

Lone Bear isn’t married, Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase, of the Sahnish Scouts of North Dakota, said. From her investigation she discovered Lone Bear – like most people – drinks on occasion, and sometimes had employment issues.

“It was common for her to stay out a day or two, but she always checked in,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “For her to be gone this long without contacting somebody is out of character.”

Yellow Bird-Chase traveled from Fargo to the Fort Berthold area to search for Lone Bear. She’s a body hunter, who spent nearly six days in the rugged terrain. Being involved in dozens of missing persons cases across the state, she has been featured in articles from the High Plains Reader to the New York Times.

Frequently, she butts heads with law enforcement during her searches, because she puts her missing persons first, she said. Police, however, frequently have “better things to do,” she said.

“The New Town Police Department – the tribal police – is not playing very nice. They feel threatened by me,” Yellow Bird-Chase said.  “They really have a terrible bedside manner.”

She posted about Lone Bear reported missing and what she sees as police reluctance on Facebook, which attracted the attention of police detectives, who told her to take the post down. She refused.

“When the local PD tells a distraught family that they have ‘other things to do besides look’ for their missing loved one… Please call us directly or Sahnish Scouts number with any info/tips,” Yellow Bird-Chase said on her Facebook page.

“That was an exact quote the very first day we started searching,” Matthew Lone Bear said about the police response.

Emergency alerts from the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services were issued, but erratically, Yellow Bird-Chase said.

“An alert came out in that area, and I think it was geared toward Fort Berthold only, but I think it should have been statewide,” Yellow Bird-Chase said. “To put a boundary between the tribe and the state is lame, I think. They limited the area. I was there, and some of the Sahnish Scouts people, and none of us got the alert.

“There’s a broken system there. If we were in the area we should have got an alert and we did not. That causes some confusion for me, because a lot of oil field workers keep their phones attached to where they are from. If they use an out-of-state area code, does that mean they don’t get an alert? There are a lot of foreign phone numbers in that area that could have been touched.”

Tribal police have a difficult working relationship with state police and federal agents, Yellow Bird-Chase said.

“That is crystal clear to me. Some of these close-knit relationships we have as a culture have a negative effect when it comes to some of these processes, like the legal process. People are trying to protect their own. Some things get brushed under the rug. We need to call out nepotism professionally. If there is a direct family relationship here, you need to remove yourself from the process, and that’s not happening.”

Yellow Bird-Chase hopes clarification can be made with regard to emergency alerts.

Senator Heidi Heitkamp is watching Lone Bear’s case. Heitkamp is the introducer of “Savannah’s Act – 1940,” a bill aimed to enhance all levels of law enforcement on Indian reservations by coordinating law enforcement agencies to better protect women and girls from violence, abduction, and human trafficking.

Heitkamp stated that incidents involving Native American women have reached a crisis, and named the bill after Savannah Greywind, an eight-month pregnant 22-year-old Spirit Lake Tribe member, who was abducted and murdered last August in Fargo. The bill has been heard by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and is moving through the legislative process, Abigail McDonough, Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s communications director, said.

“On some reservations, Native women are murdered at ten times the national average, and 84 percent of Native women have experienced violence in their lifetime,” Heitkamp said on her website. “In 2016, North Dakota had 125 reported cases of missing Native women according to the National Crime Information Center, but numbers are likely higher as cases are often under-reported and data isn’t officially collected.”

Heitkamp posted Lone Bear’s missing persons poster and updates on her official Facebook page.

“She’s very concerned about Olivia, especially after everything that happened with Savannah Greywind,” McDonough said. Heitkamp is receiving daily updates and watching the relationships between agencies in charge of the investigation, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, BIA, and state and local police.

A separate bill, introduced in June by Heitkamp with Senator John McCain, aims at creating an Amber Alert system in Indian Country to help stop abductions, McDonough said.

“Currently, such alerts in many parts of Indian Country are limited to tribal lands – if they exist at all,” McDonough said.

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services Public Information Officer Cecily Fong said protocols for sending out alerts are included in the North Dakota State Alert and Warning Plans. Alerts can be sent throughout the entire state, if local and tribal public safety officials request activations of an alert in their jurisdictions.

“All smart phones capable of receiving a text message that are in or entering the alert targeted area will receive the alert message regardless of state prefix,” Fong said.

If an alert is centralized, and a cellular phone enters the alert area late, but before cancellation, the cell phone will receive the alert one time.

“Cell phone users have the option to deactivate the capability of their individual cell phones to receive all alerts, except for Presidential Alerts,” Fong said.

Matthew Lone Bear and family put out another call for help Wednesday, saying that all volunteers searching for his sister will receive a place to stay and food will be provided.

Those who can’t travel to help can make donations to help with boats, hotels, and food, which can be made to a Paypal account listed on the Searching for Olivia Lone Bear Facebook page.

“Radicalized capitalists are the terrorists”

More than 761 arrested, 310 cases dismissed, so far two activists imprisoned in connection to DAPL controversy

By C.S. Hagen
MANDAN – Defense lawyers are whittling down the cases involved with the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, but the sudden imprisonment of two last month came as a shock, and has activists wondering if the state is either being vindictive, or changing strategies.

“I was singled out among many who were unjustly arrested,” Alex Simon said.

Simon, 27, is a teacher from New Mexico and served 13 days of an 18-day sentence for locking arms with activists – known as water protectors – against a police line on October 22, 2016. That same day, 140 others were arrested with him, but only one other received a jail sentence: 65-year-old Mary Redway, a retired environmental planner from Rhode Island.

Mary Redway spent four days in jail for standing her ground while at Standing Rock – photograph by Liminal Films

I was shocked that he ordered us to jail immediately,” Redway said after she served four days inside the women’s booking cellblock of the Burleigh Morton Detention Center. “We were shackled and led out of the courtroom as though it were a scene from a really bad movie. It was [Judge Thomas A.] Merrick’s way of saying ‘F*ck you.’”

“It seems that Judge Thomas A. Merrick wanted to make an example of me, berating me because, in his opinion, I didn’t ‘have a dog in the fight,’” Simon said. “He is mistaken, and I am proud to help shoulder the burden in the fight for Indigenous Rights. If this is the price I must pay for Indigenous Peoples to pursue a path towards sovereignty, I am honored to do it.”

“I’m out,” post from Alex Simon on Facebook

Both Redway and Simon say they were treated decently while inside, surviving on a high-carbohydrate diet. Redway was treated with “kid’s gloves,” while Simon even made a few friends during his incarceration.Redway said the booking guard refused to believe she was convicted and imprisoned on a disorderly conduct charge.

“I had to show him the court papers before he would change what he had typed in,” Redway said. “Then he muttered something to the effect that nobody gets jailed for disorderly conduct.”

So far, 310 cases for activists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy have been dismissed or acquitted, 107 activists made plea deals, 24 cases have had pre-trial diversions, and one case has made an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court, according to Sarah K. Hogarth, communications director with the Water Protector Legal Collective. Another 109 cases are inactive, and 259 cases remain to be tried, calendared until July 2018.

A total of 761 people were arrested during the months-long opposition to the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department. The Water Protector Legal Collective reports 854 people were arrested.

Alex Simon spent 13 days in jail for locking arms with activists against the Dakota Access Pipeline – photograph by Liminal Films

Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney and registered member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who ran against Congressman Kevin Cramer R-ND, last year, is one of those arrested and he’s still awaiting trial. He faces felony charges of inciting a riot, and plans to use the necessity defense, a tactic denied to valve turners in Pembina County by Judge Laurie A. Fontaine in early October.

Iron Eyes plans to argue that his crime, while he does not dispute his involvement, was justified because he committed them to prevent a greater harm. His case had a hearing on Friday to argue that his attorneys needed more time to gather evidence.

Iron Eyes also plans to challenge the “civil rights conspiracy” narrative that portrayed activists as terrorists, which resulted in harsh treatment.

“Radicalized capitalists are the terrorists,” Iron Eyes said in a Facebook post on Friday. “The unnatural outlier, the disease of all pursuits of life, liberty, happiness and spirit. Here they stand before God, criminalizing water protectors, privatizing water, preying on the impoverished, forcing a form of indentured servitude for capital exchange, committing genocide, and forcing people to kill each other for their own profits. Not in defense of land, water, people or even ‘country.’ We, sentient beings, are committing unforgivable murder on the innocent for their endless war machine, their death march.”

Redway is now out of jail, and finishing up her community service with the Water Protector Legal Collective in Mandan. Despite the state’s poor conviction record, she is worried that state prosecutors, and state leaders, are changing tactics. Judge Merrick was one of the petitioners who attempted to change the Supreme Court law to stop out-of-state attorneys from defending primarily out-of-state defendants.

The petition failed after the North Dakota Supreme Court received 536 comments against changing the law.

On October 23, Cramer along with 80 colleagues petitioned US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to help prosecute “to the fullest extent of the law any criminal who try to destroy energy infrastructure.

“This is about right and wrong,” Cramer wrote. “As we’ve seen from the DAPL riots, environment terrorism – when left unchecked – sets a dangerous precedent that puts lives at risk and has resulted in major damage to private and public property.”

Judge Merrick – photograph taken by Liminal Films

“We’ve seen the state change it’s strategy vis-a-vis prosecution tactics,” Redway said. “They really went to town on my trial with enhanced photos taken from helicopter footage to establish who was where, and when. There was nothing like this in any earlier trials, and they brought in new charges and a judge from the surrogate circuit who is vindictive and willing to twist the law. All new plays.

“The state has found its winning combination and will probably try to replicate it in future trials. Chilling. They may even recharge those who had their original two charges dropped, but haven’t yet gotten the new charges.”

Despite serving time behind bars, both Redway and Simon do not regret their actions.

The movement for Indigenous Rights is so powerful because it is focused on healing historical and environmental trauma and it is being led by people whose ancestors were the original stewards of this land,” Simon said. “As a fellow human being a person who comes from Jewish descent, I am compelled to help alleviate suffering wherever it exists.”

“Would I do it again?” Redway said. “To be clear: I had no intention of getting arrested that day. But I also believe, the judge’s verdict notwithstanding, that I did not break the law in any way. I do not regret my actions, despite having been convicted and sent to jail. I stand by my right to peaceably protest.”

‘A thousand Saddams’

A Yazidi family’s journey from war-torn Iraq to America

By C.S. Hagen     
MOORHEAD – Today, Ezzat Khudhur Alhaidar is safe from ISIS guns, but the memories of war still haunt him. In 2005, he donned a U.S. Army uniform and began working as a front-line interpreter, a position that put food in his belly and a target on his back.

He leans back into a leather sofa while his wife, Zaman Alo, finishes setting a makeshift table with a mound of biryani, steaming hot chickpea soup. Onions covered with sumac follow. Four more dishes take up the table’s last inches, which doubles as a nightstand: homemade pickled green tomatoes, olives, a sumac salad, and chicken kabob pieces, tastes of Alhaidar’s homeland in Iraq. He bemoans the lack of proper Iraqi kabobs, also known as kafta; the taste here is just not the same.

Volume blaring, Alhaidar’s five children finish watching “The Emoji Movie.” After only three years in America, his eldest children speak English with ease, explaining the movie’s plot. His second youngest daughter performs cartwheels with the grace of an Olympic athlete on the living room floor. The apartment walls are sparse; few pictures or decorations accompanied the family on their flight from Iraq, but the apartment is home and it’s safe.

They’re Yazidi, an ethno-religious minority, persecuted for centuries because of their adherence to Yazidism, the oldest Mesopotamian religion. Alhaidar obtained U.S. visas three months before the most recent pogrom against Yazidis began, watching news reports helplessly of neighbors and family fleeing before ISIS’s onslaught.

Ezzat Alhaidar – photo by C.S. Hagen

When Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003 during Operation Red Dawn, Alhaidar remembers feeling relief. During Hussein’s reign, no one dared breathe the dictator’s name, let alone speak ill of the government. If suspected of dissatisfaction, one could face flesh-eating acid in one of multiple torture chambers, Alhaidar said. Few came out alive.

As a child when he saw police, he remembers shivering with fear. “It was not life,” Alhaidar said. “We were the happiest people when we got rid of Saddam, but we didn’t know after Saddam, a thousand Saddams would come to the country. If there was a choice between now and Saddam, we would not choose Saddam.”

The ISIS invasion of Yazidi areas came quickly in 2014, with no time to raise alarms. The Peshmerga, the Iraqi Kurdistan forces, promised safety but fled before oncoming ISIS troops. One night, Yazidi villages went to sleep and awoke the next morning with ISIS in charge.

And then from 6,000 miles away, Alhaidar watched as the slaughter began.

The Yazidi people are regarded as people of a different faith who need to be killed or converted to Islam. Once before, they were targeted by Muslim extremists, primarily Sunni jihadists, after the US invasion of Iraq in 2014.

ISIS jihadists have been mostly beaten back, but Alhaidar’s relatives still have no home. After the massacres began, Alhaidar managed visas for his mother, a few nephews and nieces, from America, but other family still remain behind. They live in refugee camps and are unable to return home.

More than 40,000 Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar, identified as the final resting place of Noah’s ark, and nearly half a million people poured into Dohuk, the Kurdish north, in one of the largest and most rapid refugee movements in decades.

Villages were decimated. More than 5,000 people were killed in two days. Another 7,600 women were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery, many still missing. No less than 3,000 children were sent to brainwashing, indoctrination schools to learn how to become future terrorists, Alhaidar said.

Most of the ISIS forces were recognizable faces, Alhaidar said, coming from neighboring towns, and not foreign fighters.

“What can we expect of these kids in the future?” Alhaidar said. “We were crying over here. ISIS attacked my people. People have become hopeless, homeless.”

Growing up hard
At 16, Alhaidar rose with the sun to haul bricks on his back. Not manageable red baked bricks but heavy construction bricks, with a daily quota of 100, for $25 in pay.

“Life is hard, sometimes, and harsh, it can crush you,” Alhaidar said. “But I got a lesson from the bricks: if I didn’t go to school I knew I would spend my life hauling those bricks.”

In ancient times, Yazidi culture and religious rituals were passed orally from generation to generation. They do not have their own schools, and mosques were avoided to deter conversion.

Historically, the Yazidi have been attacked repeatedly by neighbors. Atrocities were recorded by researchers, historians, and writers, such as Henry Austen Layard. One genocide occurred in Shekhan Province, close to Mosul, after fleeing Yazidi were trapped along the Tigris River due to spring flooding. Yazidi women jumped into the river to escape conversion, according to Laynard.

A second genocide occurred in Sinjar Province, when Ottoman soldiers beheaded Yazidis.

Picture of Yazidis before terrorist firing squads – from Ezzat Alhaidar’s Facebook

The Alhaidar family is originally from Sinjar, but his parents fled from oppression to a village called Kabartu, where Alhaidar was born. Later, Hussein’s regime destroyed their village and grouped 12 villages into a collective called Omayya. After Saddam fell from power, the collective was renamed Khanke.  

Although the villagers were also Yazidi, Alhaidar’s family was never accepted into the community, he said. Alhaidar’s father, formerly a shepherd, became a day laborer to put food on the table, and life for his family was difficult.

“They were always higher, as we were not from that village,” Alhaidar said.

Life became harder after his father died in 2004. Without money to take him to the hospital, his father asked a friend for help, but he passed away the next day.

“After my father’s death, my life became harder, and I felt that I had to walk alone with no support,” Alhaidar said. “My brothers and sister and my mother were in the situation, and were doing their best, yet nothing could be compared to my father. Before my father’s death, we would barely think about the tough or hard side of life.”

Refugee camps currently in use in Duhok area, Iraq – photo provided by BRHA Duhok

In 2013, the government handed out land parcels to the villagers, but not to his family. “They were mean, and they were always the people of the situation, nobody could raise their face to say ‘Hey, we’re over here.’”

“We were always getting attacked by those around us, and by that I mean Muslims,” Alhaidar said. “The only reason we were oppressed was because of our religion, which makes it difficult to maintain our culture.”

He began studying late into every night at the Iraq University of Dohuk. College was free, but he still needed money for food, clothes, and lodging. Some days, he borrowed clothes to attend classes. A brother helped with a loan of 500 dinars, the equivalent of $300.

While his friends were getting married and buying cars, Alhaidar worried about enough cash for his next meal. A dowry for marriage seemed an impossible dream. He spoke his native Kurdish, also Arabic and English, and saw opportunity when U.S. armed forces came, once again, to his homeland in 2003.

He signed up as an interpreter.

“That decision changed my life,” Alhaidar said. “And it changed the lives of all the people around me. Because of that decision to join the U.S. Army, I brought 28 people to the US and they are working, smiling, while if they were left over there, whatever you say is not enough, at the very least they would have no jobs.”

As a U.S. Army interpreter
“If you were a minority, you were gone. If you were US Army and coming from vacation, you were gone,” Alhaidar said about a lonely road he frequently had to travel. “Gone” means a quick bullet or indefinite imprisonment for exchange. Al-Qaeda terrorists would not frequently target military Humvees, but rather the vehicles following behind.

“I was an easy target for them,” Alhaidar said.

Being Yazidi and an interpreter for an invading force, and frequently meeting face to face with terrorists during interrogation sessions, meant he had to take extra precautions. Frequently, suspected terrorists were interviewed, then released two weeks later.

“We were safe, but we were scared to go anywhere,” Alhaidar said. He always watched for tailing cars, never went to Mosul. Terrorists targeted interpreters and their families. Stories of fellow interpreters ambushed by terrorists kept him on edge. Such as the story of one man who broke 27 bones during an Al-Qaeda sneak attack.

Before joining the US Army, food was scarce. Afterward, he could eat his fill. “You could smell the food a mile from the restaurant,” Alhaidar said.

He went on duty for 45 days in a row, then came home for six. He also worked as an advisor for US troops, helping differentiate between friend and suicide bomber. When he saw indiscriminate shooting, it was one of his jobs to stop the soldiers or private mercenaries and tell them the differences between Orange Zones and Red Zones, the latter meaning dangerous areas.

Ezzat Alhaidar while an interpreter for US Army – Facebook page photo

The stress of war, constant vigilance, leaving his home country to start a new life in a strange land, has taken its toll, Alhaidar said. He opens a kitchen cupboard and returns with a brown paper bag, filled with prescription medicine for PTSD. He’s improved over the years he’s lived in Moorhead, but is filled with a longing to help his people, as well as the new American community in Fargo/Moorhead.

He’s tried for help at the local Veterans Hospital, but was denied. The U.S. Army does not consider him a veteran.

“We wore the same uniform, wore the same boots, went on the same missions, and could be killed at any moment in Iraq and Afghanistan, but unfortunately, today, they do not recognize us as veterans,” Alhaidar said.

Ezzat Alhaidar showing his PTSD medicines – photo by C.S. Hagen

“It’s not about money. The U.S. Army was a school, and I was proud to be a student in that school. I was a part of it. But they said ‘No, rules are rules.’ Even if they could consider us veterans, and not pay us anything, that would be fine.

“Are you a veteran?” Alhaidar pretended to be military doctor questioning himself.

“No. I don’t have a paper. So what do they call it when I was working with them? Part of our duties meant that if we weren’t there, many more US soldiers would have been killed.”

Additional duties included interpreting any communication between Iraqi and US forces, talking with village leaders, learning where the dangerous spots were, and locating IEDs.

Alhaidar was injured once when his Humvee was ordered to lead a nocturnal drive without headlights and they smashed into a gravel pile. He marched with soldiers into war, accompanied searches for terrorists going house to house, relayed information quickly under fire.

“We were between them,” Alhaidar said. “We would know who was lying and who was a danger.”

Once, a commanding officer known to Alhaidar as Captain Kingman, ordered him from the safety of a Humvee to accompany an ambulance into Mosul Province.

“Even a crazy person wouldn’t go into Mosul in an ambulance,” Alhaidar said. “No armor, no protection.”

He survived, but the same captain also required him to translate while he cursed elderly village leaders. “And you know, in Iraqi community, that was not allowed,” Alhaidar said. “We were there to protect people.”

The U.S. Army had one rule he can’t forget: never chase terrorists if they ran away.

“These bitter moments gave me lessons in life,” Alhaidar said. “I’m a new American, but even in Iraq I was American in my soul.”

Because of his role helping the U.S. Army, officials said he would be protected, but Alhaidar waited more than a year before obtaining a visa, during which time he saved enough money to purchase a house and find a wife, with a $7,000 dowry.

After he left the military in 2012, he worked as a teacher with Weatherford, an oil company. Working 15 days on and 15 off, he also started a computer shop and a learning center for teaching English as a second language.

The Alhaidar family – photo by C.S. Hagen

Over sips of cloying Iraqi tea, Alhaidar knows he is one of the more fortunate interpreters, one of thousands who worked with the U.S. Army during its post-9/11 military operations. In exchange for their services, Iraqis who collaborated were promised special visas, but the Special Immigrant Visa program became backlogged. Some are considered traitors by insurgents, and are actively hunted. Identities were kept secret.

President Donald Trump’s Administration travel ban has recently created new obstacles for the Army’s former Iraqi partners, and many are being denied visas.

In May 2014, however, Alhaidar packed his family’s lives into eight suitcases. He filled four with his most precious possessions – books – some Kurdish, some Arabic, and others in English. Hard drives and photo albums, the only transportable keepsakes he could bring, went into another suitcase.

Traveling through Jordan, his family landed in Chicago after a 14-hour flight.

“Everything was green, everything was beautiful, but we still knew our trip was not done,” Alhaidar said. A type of sadness came over his family during their layover in Jordan. Their home for countless generations seemed far away.

Today, Alhaidar has three bachelor’s degrees, and is active in community development. Neither Republican nor Democrat, he believes in dealing with issues, and not following a political line. He’s building a nonprofit organization, and is active with Mindful Seeds, a leadership program in the Fargo/Moorhead area.

Settling into America hasn’t been easy, but slowly, his children are growing used to the area. Alhaidar’s wife is in school, and he has found work, but is looking for more meaningful employment, perhaps one day in politics.

“Life has started to smile on us.”

With recent hate crime incidents in Fargo, seven cases so far in 2017, Alhaidar challenges people to make attempts to understand world events. He is no stranger to hate crimes. In Iraq, he was part of a close circle of friends including engineers, doctors, veterinarians, and technicians, with himself as a teacher, who once, when life was simpler, enjoyed picnics, a few beers, and music together.

“Due to tensions, discrimination, sectarian religious and political issues, and adding to that, ISIS attacks, there is barely anyone left in this group anymore. They all left the country. Each went to a different country, whether in Europe, America, or Australia, to start a new life away from their childhood memories.

“Life is about stepping toward each other and building trust,” Alhaidar said. “Even white supremacists we should listen to. We have to be careful of our daily actions, and see Fargo/Moorhead as a colorful community. Today, the life of Moorhead is the life of our kids.”


Milk War Worries

How a red state hopes to protect the dairy industry by keeping a watchful eye on incoming retail giants

By C.S. Hagen 
FARGO – Nearly half a century has passed since North Dakota’s last milk war. In those days, when dairy farmers couldn’t make enough to live, years before North Dakota’s Milk Marketing Board began setting prices, farmers dumped milk on the streets in protest. Shots were fired, fences cut, fires set. Truck tires were slashed. Windows broken.

In 1964, two National Farmers Organization members were killed in Wisconsin when a cattle-truck driver ran them over as they attempted to block access to a stockyard. In Minnesota, the governor came close to calling the National Guard for help.

Once upon a time every small town had a corner grocer, with a creamery within running distance, supplied by local cows whose mooing lulled the populace to sleep at night.

This Norman Rockwell dream ended as cities grew. Grocers began creating larger stores applying pressure on creameries to sell milk more cheaply, consequently putting many out of business. But it was the farmer who suffered most, John Weisgerber, director of the North Dakota Milk Marketing Board, said.

“If they’re going to have these milk wars, it shouldn’t come from their monies, they said in those days,” Weisgerber said. In the 1960s, North Dakota dairy farmers wanted state laws to replace federal laws, and the Milk Marketing Board was born.  

Today, the milk canvas is once again shifting; tensions, once again, are running high.

In April 2016, a Buxton farmer on the online forum New AgTalk said he was too young to remember much during the milk wars of the 1960s. The unidentified man posted a picture of his father dumping milk in 1967. Another commentator reported that bigger mega-dairies are complaining about current prices, while seeing trucks of prostitutes driving by to service illegal workers.

“Some of you guys finally got my point,” another commentator said. “I also said farmers won’t band together, but if we all would, what power we could have. Funny how one oil well in the Gulf or one country says they are going to cut oil production and the next day gas is up at the pump.”

“Especially our good neighbors to the south think our supply-managed dairy and feather is socialistic, bordering on communism, but it’s okay to band together and cut production,” another commentator said.

Milk producers and retailers are worried about giant retailers and international grocery store chains already here and poised to spread across the state. Walmart, Sam’s Clubs, and Costcos selling milk for a dollar less than local, smaller retailers. German retailer Aldi, known for slashing fluid milk prices in half or more, is preparing to open across the Red River in Dilworth, and its corporate eye looks further west, along the I-94 corridor in North Dakota.

Another German grocery retail chain, Lidl, is also entering the US market, and it opened its first store in June, according to the Associated Press.

Aldi announced in July that it plans to spend $3.4 billion and open 900 new stores across the United States, with 2,500 new stores opened by 2022, according to the Associated Press. The smaller-scale retail chain would create 25,000 new jobs, primarily in the Midwest. Aldi has more than 10,000 stores worldwide. On June 15, 2016, Aldi became licensed to operate in North Dakota, and was authorized in 2014 to operate in Minnesota, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State.

If another war over milk ensues, the repercussions could be devastating for the few dairy farmers left in North Dakota. There are approximately 80 dairy farmers in the state, with 10 in Emmons County, dairy farmer Rita Mosset said.

“All milk is North Dakota milk,” Mosset said. “But now, even Costco is giving us trouble. That’s what hurts, if they want to drive to Minneapolis and buy a bunch of milk and put it in their store, that’s the hard part.”

The idea that all milk in North Dakota comes from North Dakota, isn’t entirely accurate, Weisgerber said. “It’s a matter of semantics. Is it more economical to transport from Thief River or from Bismarck where there is another plant?” Weisgerber said. “You have to look at the economics of transporting milk. It weighs 8.6 pounds a gallon.”

Milk can be brought into the state if the plant where the milk was purchased is licensed in North Dakota, Weisgerber said. Walmarts purchase all their milk from Dean Foods, so their milk comes from Bismarck or Thief River plants. Costco purchases their milk from Kemp’s Cass-Clay organization.

When and if Aldi or Lidl come to North Dakota, they would be allowed to purchase milk from outside the state as long as the plant is licensed in state.

“I don’t know what Aldi may do, but the law in North Dakota is no one can sell below the minimum retail,” Weisgerber said. “Minnesota has a minimum markup law on the books, and they’re not enforcing it, so I guess for us, for me, and for these retail grocers that operate in Moorhead market, that’s a doggone good question: why don’t they enforce it? That’s allowing these so-called milk wars to go on.”

Typically, if a retail chain sold milk below the minimum price, a grocer in the market would file a complaint with the Milk Marketing Board, which would in turn investigate and enforce a civil penalty for violations, Weisgerber said.

The president of the North Dakota Grocers Association, John Dyste, has more than 50 years experience in the rural grocery store business. He’s seen the grocery evolution in his hometown, a decrease from three grocery stores to one. Today, there are three grocery stores in his entire county.

“There was always a new thing that came up, whether it was the Walmart coming, or the Costco coming,” Dyste said. “Through the years there’s always been the next crisis or the next concept that was going to change everything. It seems like the grocery industry has adapted and found ways to coexist with the Walmarts and Costcos in the area.

“But every time there’s a new player in town, the money gets chopped up once more.”

The North Dakota Grocers Association is a trade association under the National Grocers Association that represents retail and wholesale grocers in the food distribution industry.

Justin and Janel Mosset on the farm with a calf – RJDairy Facebook page

On the farm
Rita Mosset and her husband, Jerome, grew up around cows, bought their farm near Linton in 1982. Their livelihood depends on being able to continue selling their milk to Land O’Lakes, hundreds of pounds every two days.

Dairy farming, and some crop farming in the summer, takes up the Mossets’ time, basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They’re not a big dairy, can’t use hired hands like others nearby. Their four children grew up on the farm, and learned chores, good work ethics, Mosset said. When her children come home to visit, Mosset wants a day off, but they always end up back in the barn.

As long as the Mosset family’s milk quota doesn’t shrink, they can continue to live off proceeds, but they cannot produce too much; their profits shrink with any extra milk.

Rita Mosset on the farm – RJDairy Facebook page

“If we want to milk more cows, we have to alert them first, and see if there is room to grow,” Mosset said. She’s seen North Dakota milk prices increase in grocery stores in the past year, but her selling price dropped $10 to $12 per hundredweight.

“The milk price is so high, it’s very disappointing,” Mosset said. “They do make money on milk, because they have it priced up. They just don’t want to confess up to it.”

Mosset runs a Facebook page called RJDairy. She’s also a photographer and brings familial warmth to their life on the farm through her pictures and stories. Once in awhile, she attracts a troll.

“We farmers have nothing to do with retail prices,” RJDairy replied to a criticism on their Facebook page. “We take what we get which is 1970s prices yet. We are losing money while retail makes the money.”

“Then why are you still doing it? Suspicious?” Buck Bush, the critic, wrote.

“Milking cows because it’s a hard job, and I love my animals.”

“I don’t think it will hurt the little towns so much, because little towns don’t go into the big towns just to buy their milk.”

The milky way
Milk is a hypersensitive market, Grocers Association President Dyste said.

If the market turned to Costco or Aldi or Lidl for all their milk, the impacts would be felt from the Mosset family, to creameries, to grocery stores, to bottling companies, even feed stores and veterinarians, Milk Board Chairman Weisgerber said. Even rural retirement homes would have difficulty getting milk supplied.

“These big retailing giants, they can ruin the local business,” Weisgerber said. “It’s a sensitive topic. A local dairy farmer could take two days in a smaller truck, or a semi with 40,000 pounds of milk, delivering to small towns across the state. If he loses a grocery store there, he’s lost his volume, and yet he’s expected to service those accounts.”

Walmart ensures deliveries only to Walmarts. The same goes for Costcos, or even Aldis, and their volumes are the hot tickets for creameries: a steady and large demand.

If the Milk Marketing Board had not been approved by the state legislature in 1967, the state would have become a milk dumping ground for surplus milk, primarily from eastern dairy-producing states. For every cow milked in North Dakota, Minnesota has 30,  Wisconsin 90 times as many, according to 2016 statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Quite simply, the milk would flow in from the east,” Weisgerber said. “And if farmers weren’t making a fair return on their milk, they would go out of business.”

The Milk Marketing Board’s legal charge is to regulate minimum wholesale and retail prices of fluid milk within the industry and establish milk-marketing areas within the state, according to the North Dakota Century Code.

In Fargo, milk ranges from Costco’s $3.05 for a gallon of two percent milk. At Family Fare, the same gallon is priced at $3.89, and at Hornbachers $4.13 for a gallon of Cass-Clay. Aldi typically sells milk with no artificial growth hormones at $2.39 a gallon.

In Minnesota, milk is typically cheaper. At Cub Foods in Minneapolis, a gallon of generic milk is $2.79. A gallon of Kemp’s Special is $3.50.

“It may be cheaper in Minnesota versus Fargo,” Weisgerber said, “but if you go to some place like Costco, you go to the Walmarts in Fargo, their milk is right down there at the minimum. What is the great draw to the grocery store? Cheap milk.”

“I doubt that will be overall true,” Dyste said of the discrepancy between North Dakota and Minnesota milk prices. “There’s always going to be a pocket where it will be true. If you got someone that is coming in and cutting the market to make their position, then things will happen.”

Aldis takes a loss with their milk sales, but they make up for it in other goods.

Another monkey in the milk wrench is the recent rising interest in almond milk and soymilk, products the Milk Marketing Board cannot control. Prices are regulated at the fluid milk level only, which would include liquid yoghurts, cottage cheese, and sour cream. The Milk Marketing Board has no control over butters, hard cheeses, or powders.

Bob Hendrickson of the National Farmers Organization is primarily involved with cattle, but he has noticed another new trend with convenience store milk sales.

“These gas stations are moving more milk than grocery stores,” Hendrickson said. “Husband has to pick up milk on the way home from work, and this is because of the younger generation, of course.”

“I’m seeing these larger chain gas stations out in the countryside where they’ve never been before, and that could hasten the end, there’s only so much market out there,” Dyste said.

Nationally, milk consumption is dropping
All 50 states produce milk, some more than others, and the industry has seen a consistent decline in the numbers of dairy farms, with a matched rise in cow numbers per dairy. From 2004 until 2014, the United States was the world’s third largest dairy product exporter, falling behind New Zealand and the European Union, but in 2015, US dairy exports fell by almost 30 percent.

Total fluid milk sales are down from 1975, which had national sales of more than 53 million pounds, and in 2016 a total of 49.5 million pounds. Milk sales reached their peak in the 1990s, and early 2000s, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

Products such as yoghurt and sour cream, however, have gone from a measly 425 and 350 million pounds respectively in sales in 1975, to well over four billion and 1.3 billion pounds respectively in 2016, according to the USDAERS.

Fargo public schools sell a half pint of milk for 35 cents, which doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but if you add 16 half pints to make one gallon, the cumulative selling price is $5.60.

All attempts made to contact multiple local and out-of-state grocery store managers for comment failed.

Attack on the poor
Some say – off the record – that North Dakota’s high milk prices are a secret attack on the young, the poor, and those who need nutritious milk most. People eat and drink what they can afford, sometimes being forced to make the tough choice of reducing quality for quantity, according to a 2012 United Nations report.

A difference of a dollar for a gallon of milk may not be much to most people, but for the poor it could be a deciding factor whether to buy fresh milk or something cheaper and less nutritious.

“To begin with, people start reducing the quality of the food they eat,” the United Nations report stated. “That means less fresh fruit and vegetables, less meat. They will concentrate on staples, usually grain such as wheat, maize, or rice. This impacts their intake of vitamins and protein, which can be harmful, especially when children are under two.”

When initial cuts are not enough, a family will start reducing the number of times they eat a day. Then medicine gets cut from the budget. In rural areas, especially in underdeveloped countries, a family might then sell off their chickens, or goats, or cows, which puts a few dollars in their pockets, but is disastrous for their future. They’ve lost their assets, and they’ve lost the nutrition found in eggs or milk.

When those losses are still not enough, children are pulled out of schools, and once out, they rarely go back, and the chances of pulling themselves or their families out of poverty are reduced.

You have to be rich to be poor, The Washington Post wrote in 2009. Without a car, Fargo’s poor can rarely travel to Costco and are stuck with a gas station or urban corner store, where a loaf of white bread may cost upwards of $3, with wheat bread nearly a dollar more. Two loaves of white bread at Costco cost $3.99. A gallon of milk can routinely cost over $4 at an urban store, where at Costco the price hovers a little over $3.

“One of the best ways of helping the poor avoid the worst effects of food price hikes is through so-called ‘safety nets’ – reliable systems providing food to the most vulnerable when times are hard,” the United Nations said in the report. “These include school meals programs, assistance to smallholder farmers, and nutritional support for mothers and children.”


First anti-DAPL activists sentenced to jail

Biologist and schoolteacher found guilty; others had charges dismissed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaker at NDSU Purports Racist and Anti-LGBTQ Agenda

Pre-organized advertisement speaker linked to Confederate hate group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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