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White Earth restores order

WHITE EARTH - The White Earth Police Department along with the White Earth Conservation Department, with assistance from the Becker County Sheriff's Department, Mahnomen County Sheriff's Department, Clearwater County Sheriff's Department, Bureau of Indian Affairs Police-Boise Forte, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Safe Trails Task Force, successfully restored law and order on Tuesday, July 13, by removing a small group of protesters, that had been camping outside the White Earth Reservation Tribal Council (RTC) Administrative Building.

According to a press release from Gary Padrta, the White Earth media relations director, the protester's demonstration hinged on a petition asking for the removal of White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma J. Vizenor.

"The actions of the protesters had become more aggressive forcing the RTC into a security lock down on Monday, July 12," Padrta wrote. "Police officers and conservation officers of the White Earth Nation remained inside the RTC Administrative Building overnight for building security. Safety concerns for employees and staff weighed heavily in the decision of the White Earth RTC to close the Administrative Building Tuesday, July 13."

Tactical and planning assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs-Boise Forte assisted the White Earth Police Department and the White Earth Conservation in removing a fortified barricade placed in the roadway leading up to the RTC Administrative Building. Two protesters were arrested at this location due to unlawful conduct, and a third protester was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Two two-person teams from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension followed close behind videotaping the actions of the police officers.

Protesters moved to a location where a short standoff occurred between law enforcement officers and protesters. A segment of the group decided to move to another location where they could protest in a peaceful manner. Law enforcement officers assisted a small group of the remaining protesters at the campsite in the cleanup of the grounds.

The White Earth Tribal Council is currently working through the process of a removal petition concerning Vizenor as outlined in the Revised Constitution and Bylaws of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe (MCT), specifically Article X, Section 3.

The Tribal Council denied the first removal petition two months ago because the petition failed to meet the minimum number of valid signatures.

Joseph Plumer, White Earth Band tribal attorney, explained that the law requires each member of the White Earth Tribal Council to receive a copy of the removal petition. After that, the Tribal Council has 15 days to give the accused, Vizenor, written notice of the charges and set a date for hearing on the removal petition, with at least five days for public notice.

The 15-day period will run until today. Vizenor has been notified of the charges, and a hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 9 at the Shooting Star Event Center.

The petition to remove her from office claims illegal activity in law enforcement and the court system. It also accuses Vizenor of not following the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe Constitution.

The White Earth Tribal Council will validate all signatures - the number hasn't been confirmed - and make a decision on whether the charges are valid.