Fight For Justice

On the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Reservation

May 1996

Read from the bottom up

May 30, 1996
The following excerpts were taken from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

Battle not Over

All quite at tribal center overnight, but threat of violence continues.
Tribal Chairman Fred Dakota says violence between tribal police and the dissident group Fight For Justice is inevitable. "If it takes a body than that's what it takes"
Dakota told Associated Press this morning he would accept military help from any group.

May 30, 1996
The following excerpts were taken from the Detroit Free Press

Violence escalates in tribal standoff
Police can't retake seized headquarters

Tribal police, aided by officers from nearby Lac Vieux Desert tribal reservation retreated from the headquarters ... after a 30-minute standoff.
Tribal Chairman Fred Dakota said he was asking for reinforcements from other tribes. "We're going to get help from wherever we can," he said "This thing is going to be finished." In a radio interview, he said he would use whatever means necessary to take back the headquarters and tribal records the group seized in the building. Tribal police went to serve warrants on the dissidents" he said.

May 30, 1996
Early Wednesday morning, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Police along with other outside tribal police agencies tried to execute a deadly raid on the tribal center grounds with the use of tear gas and assault rifles. Police arrived at the entrances of the tribal center in full riot gear and proceeded to give FFJ a three minute warning to evacuate the compounds which includes the Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church property which adjoins the tribal center property.

The Catholic Church has provided sanctuary throughout the takeover. After the three minute warning was given, tear gas was thrown into the crowd. After members of the press attempted to photograph tribal police wielding assault rifles, the police retreated to their patrol cars.

In addition to FFJ members and members of the media, John Terronez, a mediator from the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Department was present. Terronez, along with the reporter for Channel 6 were also gassed. This past week Dakota fired a number of the tribal police who have relatives on the grounds. They are being replaced with non-native police and tribal police from other reservations.

The tribal center is located just off US-41. The tribal center has been occupied since last August 1995 by a traditional native council along with an Elders' council called "Fight For Justice." This traditional native council along with an Elders' council called "Fight For Justice." This traditional council was formed in January 1995 after the non-traditional governing body decided to void a valid election by an illegal membership purge, stripping tribal members of many of their civil rights in order to maintain their power and positions in the tribe.

Mr. Terronez has been quoted as saying "FFJ has always been open to mediation." KBIC Tribal Chairman Fred Dakota has been unwilling to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the situation. According to a "Marquette Mining Journal"' reporter, Fred claims "Violence is inevitable... If it takes a body there will be a body."

As we write this, from the grounds of the occupied Tribal Center, the police are massing for another attack on us. All supporters in the native and non-native community are welcome and urged to come. Having a large number of people and press here may be the only way to avoid extensive bloodshed. "The Detroit Free Press", the AP and a number of members of the local media have been, are, or shortly will be on site. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community is located just to the west of Baraga, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

May 23, 1996,
In a letter from:
Michael Hayes Dettmer, United States Attorney, Western District of Michigan

To: Fred Dakota, Tribal Chairman; Don Chosa, Chief of Police KBIC


The United States Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan reiterates that the ongoing controversy at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community is an inter tribal dispute that must be resolved by the tribe. Respecting the sovereignty of the tribe, this office continues to offer any assistance it can to resolve this dispute in a nonviolent fashion.

I also want to clarify and dispel any possible misinformation or misunderstanding regarding the position of the United States Attorney regarding any violation of federal law in this case. In a recent letter issued by the Keweenaw Tribal Council, reference was made to this office and the possible actions that might be taken by this office if violence occurs at the tribal center. I reiterate the position of this office, a position that has been clearly stated to all parties throughout this on going dispute: the United States Attorney's Office will fully investigate any allegations of the unlawful use of force by anyone involved in this political dispute and will initiate appropriate criminal actions where warranted.

The United States Attorney's position has always been, and continues to be, that this is clearly an inter tribal dispute that must be resolved within the tribe, by the tribal government and its membership. I understand the necessity of a tribe maintaining law and order within its boundaries, especially in the area of civil disobedience. However, I also realize that, when confronted with situations like the on going dispute at Keweenaw Bay, where in many instances family members and relatives may very well be pitted against one another in a potentially violent confrontation, that seeking a nonviolent and negotiated means of resolution of the issues is the democratic solution. Thus, I continue to encourage both sides to find a peaceful resolution to this controversy, and I will do everything in my power to provide assistance to you in resolving this matter with nonviolent solution.

Michael H. Dettmer

Charles Loonsfoot, FFJ;
Tribal Chairman and Tribal Chiefs of Police in Michigan.

May 23, 1996
The following excerpts were taken from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette
Story by Paula Pintah

KBIC is laying off police officers and Fred Dakota is sign the dismissal papers instead of Police Captain Don Chosa.... at last count, three officers were laid off and another transferred to the Marquette area...

A officer who was dismissed requested anonymity received this letter "Please be advised that until the crisis situation at the Center is resolved, it will necessary to place you on temporary layoff. If and when the situation has been resolved, your position on the Keweenaw Bay Police will be reevaluate. Your last day of employment will be May 24, 1996....

The latest conflict was set off when FFJ sent out a press release saying it would release medical and dental records to those who request them through the direction of former tribal physician Dr. G. Harrison as a gesture of good faith....

The Tribal Council mailed a letter dated May 20, 1996 to tribal members saying, "No 'good faith gesture begins with a press release.

Now FFJ has written another letter in response to the council, the two and half page document is broken down into sections listing what FFJ sees as illegal actions by Dakota...

Dakota is being investigated by a Federal Grand Jury through the exact nature of the investigation is still unknown... Under the letter's heading "Tribal Attorney Joseph O'Leary calls for a criminal investigation of Fred Dakota" FFJ reveals information from a memo O'Leary sent to the tribal council in which he stated "Fred Dakota's alleged wrong doings should also be specifically investigated to determine whether charges can and should be brought against Fred."

May 18, 1996
In a letter addressed to the Tribal Police from the Tribal Council dated May 17, 1996:
(Written word for word.)

Some time go we had written you and reminded you of your legal responsibilities for which each and every one of you receive money from us, every two weeks. It is obvious to us from your required reports, that you are not taking these duties very seriously.

There are a group of people, which has stolen every record which this tribe has accumulated for the past 100 years. They are on the grounds of our former office building. Every day we receive reports that no one involved in this theft has been located. Everyone in the community knows where there are, except you. It is very clear to us, that we are being ignored.

You have been flying under the cover of the Tribal Council in regards to your governmental immunity. Neglect waives any immunity that you may claim. There have been a number of people that want to hold us responsible for the misery that they have suffered and for personal belongings which they have lost. We will take that responsibility, but we will not fund any type of defense for you. In fact, there have been Tribal members who have requested that we take a civil action against you, to recover damages, for payment that you have received and not provided the services that you accepted the money for.

We have decided that we will personally return to the Tribal Center to recover our belongings along with volunteers who have supported us through this ordeal. Should this happen, your position will be terminated. We have reminded you of the Tribal Code infractions which you may have committed in our prior memorandum. If we have to retrieve our property ourselves, and something drastic should happen, the US Attorney's office may view it as Involuntary Manslaughter because of your nine months of neglect.

We have been guaranteed that a number of civil suits are going to arise from the takeover. It is unclear to us why you would put your own personal property, and face criminal prosecution, for criminals, who have done nothing positive for anybody. By your daily reports, it's clear you have made your decision, and by way of this letter, we have made ours.
Tribal Council:

Frederick Dakota, Chairman
Wayne Swartz, Vice Chair
Ann Durant, Secretary
William Emery, Ass't Sec.
Amy St Arnold, Treasurer
Terri Denomie
Rosemay Haataja
Isadore Misegan
Michael LaFernier
Pauline Knapp-Spruce
Richard Shalifoe
(Gary Loonsfoot, Sr. did not sign this letter)

May 5, 1996
It have been decided that FFJ will boycott this years KBIC's powwow, July 26-28, and we wish all people reading this to also boycott this joke of a powwow in solidarity against a bogus tribal council.

To read a brief summary of FFJ and it's begining read Tina Lam's Detorit Free Press article

Copyright 2001 by Rose Edwards. All Rights Reserved.