Category: Dakota Hate (page 1 of 3)

Series of stories on racism in North Dakota, how an isolated state’s small towns are being targeted by white supremacists, and desperate residents fight against the invasion. From Nazis to the KKK, the Creativity Movement to supremacists, the Peace Garden State has been steeped in racism disguised as “North Dakota Nice” for more than 100 years.

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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. 

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.

‘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.”

 

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.”

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.

Local feces hate crime marks sixth racial incident in 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haisley Jo Comes Home

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

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

Haisley Jo Greywind-Matheny – photo provided by the family


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milton – the lost and found dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savanna Greywind recipt for rental property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Looking for another Indian girl to kill’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few pictures of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Savanna’s Body Found Near Harwood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search for Savanna Continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This Is A Brave Space”

Local white-rights activist claims Charlottesville rally was a trap, dozens gathered locally to remember a victim and renounce hate

By. C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Pete Tefft woke up Saturday morning in Charlottesville, Virginia, eager to march for what he believed in: white rights. The racist hors d’oeuvres from the night before – a torch lit march to the Confederacy’s top general Robert E Lee’s statue – was too small a sampling, and he wanted more.

Sure, fights had broken out Friday night. While being filmed by a Unicorn Riot crew he was challenged, and a like-minded person nearby clobbered the journalist.

Pete Tefft in Charlottesville Unit the Right Rally – Unicorn Riot screenshot of video

“Cite a source for what you’re saying about white people being murdered in South Africa,” the journalist said.

“Cite a source?” Tefft said. “On the Internet.”

“That’s a f*cking rabbit hole,” a bystander yelled, and then punched the journalist.

“Hard to get excited about walking into a war zone,” Tefft said. “Everyone needs to do their duty though. I’m still in shock from seeing our guys beaten, maced, and pelted with projectiles while the police stood by and did nothing.”

Saturday night at 8:29, live updates published by the Daily Stormer, a white nationalist platform featuring the Summer of Hate Edition, included congratulatory messages.

“To those of you in Charlottesville, go out and enjoy yourselves,” the update stated. “If you’re at a bar in a group, random girls will want to have sex with you. Because you’re the bad boys. The ultimate enemy of the state. Every girl on the planet wants your d*ck now.

“And to everyone, know this: we are now at war.”

The altercation Friday night didn’t leave Tefft fazed, nor did the violence the following day alter his conviction about white rights.

“The AltRight went to an assembly that was peaceful and legal,” Tefft wrote early Monday morning on his Facebook page. “The AltRight went to assemble in order to advocate for the rights of white people to exist and protest the erasure of American culture, history, and to uphold the First Amendment. We followed every legal measure and were cooperative with authorities…”

“The state violated our Constitutional rights and let Antifa and BLM do the knife work for them. Any blood is on the hands of the police, the city of Charlottesville, and the state of Virginia.”

Tefft continued by saying the rally was not a Ku Klux Klan or neo Nazi rally, but an AltRight rally.

Richard Spencer and white-right activists facing police line – online sources

“This was a rally by people advocating for white identity. And it was brutally shut down. The media sees the deaths as a godsend so that the tyranny of the government can be forgotten and retroactively justified,” Tefft said.

“It was a trap, plain and simple. But let us be clear. Ultimately, this was a victory for us. Our movement will be emboldened by Charlottesville. The ‘Unite the Right’ rally legitimized our struggle.

“The is the beginning of the white civil rights movement.”

Since Tefft’s turn to white supremacist ideals, friends and family have denounced him, yet he still remains loyal to his cause. His father, Pearce, recently published a letter condemning his son’s beliefs.

“I, along with all of his siblings and his entire family, wish to loudly repudiate my son’s vile, hateful, and racist rhetoric and actions,” Pearce Tefft wrote. “We do not know specifically where he learned these beliefs. He did not learn them at home.”

The Tefft family has remained mostly quiet since Fargoan Luke Safely identified Tefft as a Nazi last February.

“Peter Tefft, my son, is not welcome at our family gatherings any longer. I pray my prodigal son will renounce his hateful beliefs and return home. He once joked, ‘The thing about us fascists is, it’s not that we don’t believe in freedom of speech. You can say whatever you want. We’ll just throw you in an oven.’

“Peter, you will have to shovel our bodies into that oven, too. Please son, renounce the hate, accept and love all.”

So far, the Charlottesville tragic events have spurred little response from the state’s Republican leadership. Senator Heidi Heitkamp D-ND, tweeted Sunday evening. “Yesterday was a terrible and tragic day. The KKK and neo Nazis have no place in our country.”

On Sunday, Congressman Kevin Cramer R-ND, re-tweeted a post by Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representative, saying, “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.”

Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke pointed to President Donald Trump as the bedrock for the “Unite the Right” Charlottesville rally.

“Today will be a historic day, remembered as the moment everything changed,” Duke tweeted.

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country,” Duke said in a video uploaded to Twitter. “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he’s going to take our country back. That’s what we gotta do.”

James Bergman preparing to sing “We’ll Still Stand” – photo by C.S. Hagen

Later, Duke reminded President Trump on Twitter on exactly who his greatest constituency was. “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror and remember it was white Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.”

Shortly after one woman, Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, plowed into a crowd, and two police officer were killed when their helicopter crashed, Trump gave a press conference weakly condemning the violence.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides,” Trump said. “On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country.”

At least 19 others were also injured during the rally.

Trump’s vague statement spurred Merck CEO Ken Crazier to quit the president’s manufacturing business council, according to the USA Today. His casual remarks also inspired a question from Richard Spenser, a white supremacist and president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank.

“Did Trump just denounce Antifa?” Spencer tweeted.

Heyer’s death prompted a Fargo/Moorhead response late Sunday night, when nearly 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on Veterans Memorial Bridge. With only a few hours of preparation time, Fargoan James Bergman wrote the song “We’ll Still Stand,” which he performed for the first time Sunday night.

“If I stand up against hate (in spite of all my fear), and someone strikes me down, the ground might be bloody but my conscience will be clear,” some of the song lyrics stated.

Candlelight vigil on Veterans Memorial Bridge to remember Heather Heyer – photo by C.S. Hagen

“The idea that people who marched in Charlottesville believe they are Christian, that is disgusting to me,” Bergman later said before the crowd. “We can’t afford to be silent right now. We need to show up, we need to stand up, and we need to speak up against hate.”

Moorhead Mayor Del Ray Williams spoke at the event.

“I don’t know if racism or hatred has necessarily increased in our community,” Williams said. “It is a hard thing to measure. What seems to have changed is the nationalists seem to feel emboldened to speak out publicly. I am proud of our community members that came out to the candlelight vigil last night to offer support and love to counter the nationalist movement.”

Ruth Buffalo, an organizer of the event, encouraged people to speak their minds. “This is a brave space, to step forward and take action,” Buffalo said.

“We need to be kinder than is needed,” Jen Welle, of Moorhead said.

“This has been happening in our country for a long, long time and Heather is another name on that long list,” Melissa Gonzalez, of Fargo said.

“We are called to speak for those who are voiceless,” Martin Avery, of Fargo said.

Diogenes Alexander Rex and Hamida Dakane during the candlelight vigil on Veterans Memorial Bridge – photo by C.S. Hagen

Amal Dei, a former refugee from South Sudan, spoke about how her heart was torn apart when she heard of Heyer’s death. “But love will always win no matter what.”

Dana Bisignani, of the Democratic Socialist Party, quoted Welsh socialist Raymond Williams. “To be truly radical is to make hope possible, not despair convincing.

“Part of the reason we have so much hate is because of decades of decimating our public schools,” Bisignani said.

Shaun King, senior justice writer for the New York Daily News, condemned the violence in Charlottesville.

“I see Heather as a martyr in this modern day movement against injustice and oppression,” King said. “I’ve said it many times, but if you ever wondered what it would be like to be alive in the Civil Rights Movement, you are living in that time right now. And if you ever wondered who you would be or what you would do in those circumstances, the best indication is what you did this weekend.”

During a North Dakota United Against Hate rally in early August, Tefft said he planned to first attend the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, and then begin planning rallies in the Fargo/Moorhead area.

“I want to bring awareness to a lot of these issues, and the only way to do it is out in the public square,” Tefft said. One of the issues he plans on focusing on is mass immigration into North Dakota, which he claims is an anti-white policy.

Candlelight vigil in Fargo for Heather Heyer – photo by C.S. Hagen

Dave Piepkorn: Behind Bannon’s refugee resettlement plans?

Fargo city commissioner claims information provided to city is lies

By C.S. Hagen
FARGO
– The Fargo City Commissioner leading the charge against refugee resettlement in Fargo claimed partial responsibility this week for helping the national push on the same issue.

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn – photo provided by City of Fargo

During an interview Monday morning on AM 1100 The Flag Need To Know Morning Show, Dave Piepkorn responded to information related to a Freedom of Information Act request, made to the city by the High Plains Reader, or HPR Magazine, into any connections between Piepkorn and Breitbart, an alt-right media outlet once managed by special advisor to President Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon.

Breitbart reporter Lee Stranahan attended a Fargo City Commissioners meeting last year and published a story about refugee resettlement in Breitbart on October 22, 2016.

HPR Magazine’s FOIA request was called a subpoena by a host on the Need To Know Morning Show.

“Obviously they’re trying to discredit me, doing whatever they can to do that,” Piepkorn said during the radio show. “What they thought was that Steve Bannon, as you know, who is active on the President’s staff, I think what they thought that they were basically telling me what to do and giving me instructions when actually, if you look back at the initial executive orders for refugee restrictions, they actually used quite a bit of my material in the original one, so that is what went down.”

Piepkorn admitted his self-reported influence at a national level pleased him.

“That’s very flattering, obviously to be a humble little city commissioner in Fargo, North Dakota, is pretty cool,” Piepkorn said.

Trump Administration executive orders filed on January 25, entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” and “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” and on January 27 entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” make no mention of any of the issues Piepkorn introduced to the City Commission on September 26, 2016.

During the meeting, Piepkorn raised the topic that Fargo, Cass County, West Fargo, and accompanying school districts were spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars on refugees in what he called an “unfunded mandate.”  

Worried about tuberculosis, Piepkorn also became critical of health records and criminal records of New Americans arriving in Fargo during the city commissioners meeting.

Exactly which refugee restriction policies Piepkorn claims to have influenced were unclear at this time. Piepkorn did not return direct calls for comment.

Refugee resettlement issues sparked a movement to recall Piepkorn’s seat as a commissioner for Fargo, which failed in May for lack of votes.

“Over the past two months our volunteers have worked ceaselessly to hold accountable a city commissioner who continues to abuse his power in the effort to denigrate and marginalize some of the city’s most vulnerable residents,” the recall committee said in a press release at the time.

“Piepkorn’s actions are the actions of a bully and we will continue to work to ensure that no elected official, especially those installed with a minority of votes, uses their office to spread fear, foment distrust, or divide our community.”

Since January 2002, 3,677 refugees were settled in Fargo, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota reported. A total of 1,553 people came from Bhutan, 811 people from Somalia, 672 from Iraq, 228 from Congo, 209 from Liberia, and 204 from Sudan. The American Communities Survey reports the population of foreign-born people in the Fargo/Moorhead area is 10,663, or 4.5% of total population, as of October 2016.

Piepkorn called to have city leaders included in refugee resettlement decisions, but he also stated on October 10, 2016 that he was shocked to learn that refugees receive all the rights of a legal resident.

For months, the Fargo City Commissioners have heard feedback from local businesses, from police, from Lutheran Social Services, and from others involved with refugee resettlement, all of whom have said that having refugees in the Fargo/Moorhead area are cost-positive.

“New Americans, or refugees and immigrants, make up approximately three percent of North Dakota’s population,” according to the American Immigration Council.

“They are employers, taxpayers, and workers in fields few local citizens are willing to go,” according to the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report filed by the Fargo Human Relations Commission.

“Foreign-born residents contributed $542.8 million to the city’s GDP in 2014, and have a spending power of $149.4 million,” the report states. “A first generation immigrant is cost-positive in North Dakota by approximately $3,250, and long-term benefits are incalculable,” according to the report.

The Fargo Police Department and the Fargo Human Relations Commission also published a report in January saying that crime rates are not higher in refugee populations.

“There are good and bad people in every population,” Fargo Police Officer and liaison to the Fargo Human Relations Commission Vince Kempf said. “In my experience, the ratio of persons committing crime remains the same from culture to culture. From a law enforcement perspective, the cost of refugees being placed in Fargo is impossible to calculate, as are the benefits of having refugees settled here.”

According to the American Community Survey immigrants are less likely to be criminals than native-born people, citing U.S. Census Bureau statistics incarceration rates of 1.6 percent of immigrant males aged 18 to 39 as opposed to 3.3 percent rate of native-born males of the same age group.

The total population of Fargo is 105,549, of which 95,205 are white, 3,137 are Asian, 2,852 are African American, 2,308 are Hispanic, 2,206 are two or more races, and 1,452 are Native Americans, according to statistics provided in 2017 by the U.S. Census Bureau.These numbers do not reflect areas surrounding Fargo, including West Fargo or outlying areas.

Fargo reflects state statistics as being 90 percent white  
In the state, Native Americans make up for the second largest demographic, with 605,449 white people, and 36,591 Native Americans. Only 7,960 people are listed as African American, and 13,467 as Hispanic, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

The issue has been brought to the state legislation’s attention, which has agreed to a series of meetings to discuss the refugee resettlement issue in North Dakota.

While on live radio, Piepkorn pointed out that people have been lying to the Fargo City Commissioners.

“And I do think that this next step with the legislature having this review, that’s way more serious because it’s one thing to have a city commissioner asking questions, but when you start not telling the truth to a legislative committee and will have the state auditor and things like that involved, it’s much more serious when you don’t tell the truth,” Piepkorn said.

“There’s this idea that the ball is hidden somewhere,” Fargo Community Development Administrator Dan Mahli, said. “No one is hiding the ball. We’re not keeping track of that level of detail, when someone uses city services, or calls the fire department, or the police. Sitting down and talking about where we are at and finding out how we can improve. Let’s do that.”

Separating who is a refugee and who is not is a near impossible task, Mahli said.

“The thing that stands out is that every one of these studies speaks of the difficulty of segregating the data between foreign-born populations, refugee status, and people of color,” Mahli said. “The idea of comparing the studies, that frankly none of them are about refugees, even the one from the finance committee, it says the information herein cannot be separated as a refugee study.”

Barry Nelson, of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and of the Fargo Human Relations Commission, said Piepkorn’s allegations that people have been lying to the city commissioners saddens him.

“I think it’s a sad state of affairs when you have a seated elected official who doesn’t like the information being reported on by a group of citizens and volunteers who work diligently on trying to do justice,” Nelson said. “And he ends up calling the information fake news, propaganda and lies. It’s a very, very sad state of affairs.”

Nelson, along with city employees, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota employees, have repeatedly asked for a sit down with Piepkorn.  

“Let’s have a conversation,” Nelson 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.”

While not trimming lawns, Piepkorn also serves as the deputy mayor of Fargo, and formerly served as a member of the FargoDome Authority.

“There are people watching what we are doing around the country,” Piepkorn said. “And actually the world too, without a doubt. This is going to be one of the key issues around the 2018 election cycle, and it’s a huge deal.”

Piepkorn also said there is no shortage of laborers in Fargo, but there is a shortage of people willing to work for $10 an hour.

Specific expenditures on how much refugees cost the city have so far been difficult to discover, according to testimonies before the Fargo City Commissioners.

Piepkorn thinks differently.

“These numbers aren’t difficult to find at all, they’re difficult to reveal to the public, because you know, obviously a lot of people don’t want to go through what I’ve gone through,” Piepkorn said. “The numbers aren’t hard to find at all, they’re all there. The challenge is to find the courage to disclose them to the public because of political correctness.”

Fargo Police Chief Todd said his department has provided all the financial figures possible, including the cost of employing a cultural liaison officer.

“We did supply financial costs as what we put into it as a department,” Todd said. “Another separate question we have gotten that I have not been able to answer is arrest statistics for New Americans and refugees.”

Police departments do not collect data on whether someone is a refugee, but they do collect data on race.

“But just because you are African American doesn’t mean you are a refugee or a New American, you might be from Chicago, and been there your whole life, or you might be from Somalia. I can’t differentiate within that race statistic as to who is New American and who is a refugee.”

Todd said he had no issues with an investigation into the costs of refugee resettlement.

“People have asked me whether I think it’s appropriate to ask questions about what things cost,” Todd said.  “We should do our best to answer those questions. I also think it’s an opportunity for the refugee community and new American community that yes, these are the costs the government may have, but here’s the benefit of the result of that investment.”

Targeting approximately three percent of Fargo’s population is a political issue, as well as a humanitarian one, Nelson said in April.

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

“Terminating or slowing down the refugee resettlement program would have a negative cycle of effects on the City of Fargo, both immediate and long term,” the Refugee Resettlement in Fargo report handed to the city commissioners stated.

“Immediate effects would include further exacerbating the workforce shortage, requiring more businesses to leave and/or outsource their operations. Long-term effects include economic slowdown due to a loss of business revenue and creating an inability to keep our younger generation in Fargo and/or attract new talent to the area.”

Despite the testimonies, Piepkorn remains unmoved.

“It goes along with the High Plains Reader, they’re trying to discredit what we’re trying to do,” Piepkorn said during the radio show. “And it’s not surprising. Liberals have their agenda, and they’re the opposition.”

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