Friday, July 11, 2008


Dawes County, Nebraska (see map) is the site of a very unreported story about racism against American Indians. In recent days a " red ribbon grand jury" was convened there to investigate the actions of the legal system.

Long time Indian activist Russel Means (pictured here) says the "red ribbon grand jury" was called because of "egregious violations" by police and the courts across Dawes County that he says will result in legal action against the cities of Chadron and Crawford, and possibly others. The “grand jury” is sponsored by the Republic of Lakota. The grand jury compared the disparity of arrests between Native Americans and non-Natives, the severity of charges for the two groups and sentences.

Means and Vernon Moves Camp, who works with the Native American Civil Rights Commission, recorded 3 hours of testimony from 13 individuals, alleged police brutality, lack of investigation, excessive bails and stiffer punishments for Native Americans.

Most of those testifying were Native Americans with complaints about police brutality, discrimination, excessive bail and longer sentences for Indian defendants, and a lack of investigation by law enforcement of crimes against Native Americans.

The grand jury was set up after Moves Camp's daughter, Dominique Ten Fingers, was charged with assault for allegedly hitting another woman with a nail-studded piece of wood. Her family says the charges are racially-motivated, and asked Means for help.

Appearing last month at the arraignment of Dominique Ten Fingers, 22, on assault and disturbing the peace charges in Dawes County, Means commented, “I know that racism and hatred exist in the periphery of the reservation and in the border towns. It’s unreasonable and unconscionable.” He added, “Here is a woman unlawfully charged, illegally held and unconstitutionally treated. So, now we are on the offensive. Chadron is not going to get rid of us.”

The Chadron Record reports the charges against Ten Fingers stem from an incident that occurred May 15-16. The Chadron Police Department received a call to 1010 Maple Street at 11:16 p.m. May 15. Listed as an assault n second degree, the call log reflects that “someone had just thrown something thru her front window and broke it.” The log indicates the call was cleared at 1:14 a.m. May 16.

County attorney Vance Haug insists race played no role in the charges.

However, affidavits from Sharon Iron Horse, Lana Grass and Lakisha Garrett prepared by Moves Camp, claim O’Connor and Kelly Broberg initiated the fight and that any injury caused by Ten Fingers was in self-defense. Moves Camp and other supporters of Ten Fingers want the charges dismissed. They are also calling for criminal complaints against O’Connor, Broberg, Officers Fuchser and Bauer, the Dawes County Sheriff and the State of Nebraska. Documents presented to the Chadron Record by Moves Camp allege illegal entry, willful damage, illegal arrest and incarceration, misuse of office for personal gain, violation of oath of office, defamation and slander.

You can actually view and listen to the opening remarks made by Means (and other testimony and information as well) at the red ribbon grand jury by going to

News about this is hard to come by, but I'll keep searching.

The following is from the Chadron News (Nebraska).

Indian activist finds racism in area legal system
By KERRI REMPP, Record staff writer

A difference of opinion over the issue of racism in Dawes County is pitting Native American activist Russell Means against the local police and judicial system.

Means was in Chadron for the second time within a week June 24 to hear testimony at what he calls a Red Ribbon Grand Jury. He first came to Chadron the week before for the arraignment of Dominique Ten Fingers on assault charges. Ten Fingers’ family believes the charges were brought against her for racial reasons and contacted Means for help. He responded by setting up the grand jury to allow individuals to testify about mistreatment at the hands of the police and judicial system. Individuals were also welcome to testify in support of law enforcement.

Means and Vernon Moves Camp, who works with the Native American Civil Rights Commission and is Ten Fingers’ step-father, recorded testimony for over three hours last week and plan to return July 10 at 10 a.m. for another session. Thirteen individuals told their stories to Means and Moves Camp.

“Essentially everyone testified to police brutality, lack of investigation, excessive bail, excessive sentencing on Indians,” Means said, adding that one couple prefers to shop in Rapid City, S.D., out of fear of what will happen to them in Chadron. Gas prices have forced them to return to Chadron to do business, however, and they are so scared they have their son meet them half-way.

Two non-Natives also testified to unfair treatment. William Stolldorf of Crawford, a disabled military veteran, claims to have been harassed by the city’s police officers in an effort to “run him out of town.” He says he’s been the victim of illegal search and seizure, “physically roughed up and physically taken into custody without being read my rights.”

“I live in fear, but I refuse to be run out of town and the home I grew up in,” Stolldorf said.

Denis Lyons, also of Crawford, also claimed harassment by local police and said a Native American family he knows were discriminated against in terms of housing in Crawford and eventually left town.

“We live in fear in Crawford,” Lyons said.

Means said in light of the testimony at the grand jury, he plans to widen the scope of his investigation. While it was originally meant to focus on Chadron alone, Means said he now wants to call attention to the “egregious violations” by police and court system of constitutional rights throughout Dawes County.

“Based on the evidence we’ve gotten already, we are going to be suing Dawes County, Chadron and Crawford and maybe others for the gross violation of our civil and human rights, for gross discrimination, gross hatred,” Means said.

Local law enforcement and county officials vehemently deny that racism plays a role in arrests, charges and sentencing in Dawes County.

“From my experience working with the local law enforcement race is never a motive. The officers work hard to do a good job and be fair to all regardless of race,” said county attorney Vance Haug, who did not wish to comment further since Means’ investigation began with Ten Fingers’ ongoing case.

“Race is not a factor in the charging of that case. To comment further would be unfair to the defendant,” he said.

Dawes County Sheriff Karl Dailey insists his agency follows the law as closely as possible and works to give fair treatment to all, both on the street and in the jail.

“I can’t speak for other agencies, but at my agency we’re an equal opportunity arresting agency. We don’t care rich, poor, white or not. If a person needs arrested we arrest them. If a person doesn’t need arrested and a situation can be resolved without it, we don’t arrest them,” Dailey said.

Native American representatives have come through the jail in the past and never found anything to substantiate claims of racism, he added, saying Means is welcome to inspect the facility himself.

“My facility is open to whatever scrutiny anyone wants to give it

Chadron Police Chief Tim Lordino and Lieutenant Rick Hickstein attended most of Means’ grand jury.

“It concerns me that we have part of the population of Chadron that is upset with the law enforcement,” Lordino said, explaining he attended the meeting in order to hear the concerns and address them.

“If I didn’t care about them, I wouldn’t have showed up,” he said.

“As law enforcement administrator, I will not be tolerable of traffic stops that are based on race, arrests based on race. We need to be fair and impartial in the administration of our job in law enforcement. That’s the only way it should be.”

The Chadron Police Department has not received any complaints that individuals have been harassed based on race, Lordino said. Should there be a complaint, the department has policies in place to handle those, including an internal investigation or turning the investigation over to another agency to insure the complaint is investigated fairly and impartially. Lordino stressed he is willing to listen to anyone who comes to his office with a complaint about the department.

“We will continue to look into any complaint we have fairly and impartially,” Lordino said. “Nobody should be fearful of reprisals from law enforcement.”

Despite those assurances, Means firmly believes racism against Native Americans is deep-rooted.

“Most citizens of Dawes County absolutely don’t realize what their county and city governments have been doing to Indian people,” he said. He plans to edit the video taken at the grand jury and post it on YouTube and the Republic of Lakotah Web site.

Moves Camp said all of the information gathered at the grand jury last week and the upcoming one July 13 also will be forwarded to authorities responsible for human and civil rights. He encouraged anyone else who wants to come forward at the second grand jury to write down their stories and sign their statements.

“You guys are going to verify that (racism) not only exists but is prevalent,” Moves Camp said.

There will be no demonstrations or endangerment of individuals or public property in the process of investigating these claims.

“Together we’ll win and we’re going to do it legally and lawfully,” Means said. “We want the government of the state to pay attention to the injustice,” he added, calling for sentences in cases allegedly based on race to be commuted.

Dawes County is just the beginning, Means said.

“I want people to understand that this investigation is not going to be limited to just Chadron or Nebraska. We’ve already had complaints from the reservation about tribal government and will be looking into that.”

No comments: