“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.

 

Dislike

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.

U N B E L I E V A B L E

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

America
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.

 

College newspapers targeted by KKK

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

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

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

KKK letter sent to university newspapers in North Dakota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hate crime resolution passes in Fargo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Valve Turner’s Trial: Mostly Guilty

In rural North Dakota, free speech is on the line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The defense may appeal the judge’s repeated denials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” Marquaret said.

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

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

“How did you know it wasn’t a hoax?”

“I didn’t.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sentences will be handed down next week.

Modern feudalism: tenant vs. landlord

Moorhead family given eviction notice after requesting repairs to rental property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No one should have to be afraid’

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

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

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

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

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

Betty Jo Krenz in Kevin Cramer campaign ad – YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savanna’s murder suspects plead not guilty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nation, city, misleading public on refugee costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They are stealing our babies”

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

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

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

Betty Jo Krenz – YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betty Jo Krenz – former Facebook photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a breaking story; updates will follow.

State settles misconduct allegations with Dakota Access Pipeline developers

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local feces hate crime marks sixth racial incident in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

« Older posts

© 2017 C.S.News

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

close
Facebook Iconfacebook like buttonTwitter Icontwitter follow buttonVisit Our GoodReads