White Earth protesters clash with tribal police
Protesters who are pushing for the removal of White Earth (Minn.) Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor clashed with tribal police officers, according to a Facebook page dedicated to replacing the current government.
The online page documented tension Monday between protesters and White Earth government officials. A video posted to the White Earth Camp Justice 2010 group's page at 4:29 p.m. shows protesters yelling while at least eight police officers stand in the doorway of a tribal building.
Meanwhile, Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon described the group of 50 to 60 protesters that have been camped out at tribal headquarters for at least three days as peaceful.
Gordon said protestors are upset with the current tribal government but haven't tried to forcibly take over leadership, calling such reports "extremely exaggerated."
Protests heated up Monday evening when demonstrators placed branches across the roads around the building. Traffic was slowed but not stopped, Gordon said.
Facebook posts - or status updates - detailed the tension.
"Getting Explosive down here," said a White Earth Camp Justice Facebook post at 5:08 p.m.
"The cops are coming in on us we need people," said another at 5:17 p.m.
According to the page, things calmed down later in the evening.
"All is calm at CJ," said a post at 6:53 p.m. Camp Justice dates back to an organization that was formed when former Chairman Chip Wadena was ousted in 1996.
No Becker County sheriff's deputies were on the scene as of 9 p.m. because Gordon said there was "no reason to."
As of Monday evening, the sheriff's office had not received any reports of damage and no arrests had been made, Gordon said.
Calls to tribal Police Chief Randy Goodwin were not immediately returned Monday evening.
A second petition in three months to remove Vizenor was filed last week with the White Earth Tribal Council. Officials rejected the first petition for not having enough valid signatures.
The latest petition accuses Vizenor of not following Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution and illegal activity in law enforcement and the court system, claims Vizenor told the Detroit Lakes Tribune newspaper have no merit.
The tribal council delivered a letter to petitioner Harvey Bonga on July 9, explaining the council will validate signatures and make a decision on whether the most recent petition's charges are valid.
"The procedures defined in the MCT Constitution will be followed. In the end, the truth and facts will prevail, and good government at White Earth will continue," Vizenor told the Tribune last week.
Calls to tribal council members Monday were not immediately returned.
White Earth is a tribal reservation about 60 miles northeast of Moorhead with about 9,100 residents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511