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Nighttime American Indian ritual driving wedge between neighbors in Mahnomen

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

A battle is brewing here. At the center, drumming, loud singing, and fires 20 feet high until late hours of the night, several nights a week.

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The tiff has left an American Indian saying his federal rights were violated after he was cited for performing the Indian ritual and angry neighbors saying they're fed up.

The ceremony involves a sweat lodge, in which Indians build a fire and go into a hut in a cleansing ritual. Part of the ritual involves singing and drumming. That noise at night is leading to countless complaints.

Damian Bad Boy says he pounds a drum and sings spiritual words as a cleansing process. Sweat lodges have been part of the American Indian culture for thousands of years, but now they are dividing Mahnomen.

Bad Boy has held the rituals for two years and there is a growing demand among local American Indians that is leading to more of them. There's been at least 14 in May and they all start at 10 p.m. when Bad Boy says spirits are stronger. They can last several hours.

Neighbors say they are fed up. Bonnie Liebl has lived across the street for 30 some years. She says Bad Boy is causing trouble in town.

"My religious belief doesn't interfere with their lives. There's does with the north end of Mahnomen."

Liebl says Bad Boy isn't respecting the community. The noise keeps her and dozens of others up at night.

"Drum, yelling, screaming, fires 15-20 feet high, ashes flying over our home."

While Liebl says she wants Bad Boy to stop the ceremonies, he says federal law and the constitution allow for such events, no matter the time of day.

Bad Boy has been ticketed once for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. He says authorities have also threatened to arrest him. Bad Boy plans to appeal that ticket; but meanwhile Liebl says she might move.

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