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Ojibwe teacher accused of starving horses to death resigns from Detroit Lakes school

The three horses that were allegedly starved out by Strawberry Lake by their caretaker have been deceased since Christmas, but are just now being discarded of as they lay by the roadside ready for a rendering truck to pick them up. Special to Forum News Service

DETROIT LAKES, Minn.—He had been teaching Detroit Lakes High School students the Ojibwe language for only a little more than a semester when Michael Dahl handed in his resignation. The school board swifty approved his decision at its last meeting.

Dahl is under investigation for allegedly starving to death three horses in his care over the winter—an accusation that came to light more than a month ago and one that fired up animal lovers across the region. According to Becker County Attorney Tammy Merkins, charges have not yet been filed in the case; in fact, it is still unclear whether that will happen.

"No decision has been made regarding charges," she said Wednesday. "At this time no complaint has been filed with the court. The investigation is still active, so I don't have the ability to comment further."

According to Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke, Dahl's departure from the school is not necessarily related to the horse scandal, but instead came following an investigation into a separate complaint against Dahl. Froke says they cannot release information on the substance of the complaint due to the fact that it is a personnel issue, but says following the investigation, Dahl chose to resign. A check of the Minnesota Department of Education website shows his licensure to teach was forfeited on Jan. 20.


Meanwhile, local residents around the Strawberry Lake area where Dahl kept the horses are once again enraged at what they see as adding insult to injury, as the bodies of the three horses are just now being discarded of in what they believe is a less than dignified manner. Authorities believe the emaciated horses, which were found frozen in the snow, have been dead since around Christmas.

"My friend and I were driving past his house (Wednesday) when we noticed a starving dog eating off the horses," said Brandon Moretti, a White Earth Tribal member who says the entire White Earth community is upset over the case. He added that the horses had been thrown at the end of the driveway of the property where Dahl had been keeping them. All indications are that it was not Dahl who threw them there, but the property's landlord, who did so because a rendering truck was scheduled to pick them up Thursday.

Dahl, who describes himself as a spiritual leader and who has ridden horse as part of pipeline protests with Honor the Earth, had a GoFundMe account that was still active as of last month in an attempt to get donations so that he could start up a horse rescue. He has not responded to voice messages left on his cell phone seeking comment, but before all this, community members like Moretti say he had a reputation as being a "nice guy."

"He was someone that people looked up to in the community of White Earth," said Moretti. "The past year he has changed for some reason; no one knew what was going on with him." Moretti posted videos and photos of the horses thrown at the end of the driveway and says he believes charges should be filed against Dahl.

"I'm not here to bash Michael," he added, "but only to find justice for the horses and closure for the horses' owners."

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.

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