Fight For Justice

On the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Reservation

December 1996

Read from the bottom up

Wed. Dec 18, 1996
Keweenaw Bay: Diocese responds to raid on church property

"We are outraged at the invasion of Church Property and are continuing to investigate the situation. We are saddened at the use of physical violence by the Tribal Police and we persist in our hopes and prayers that a peaceful resolution to the conflict at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Reservation will be obtained through mediation and conciliation. We hope the resolution will bring justice for all parties."

The proceeding statement was released today by the Diocese of Marquette. It was written in response to the raid by KBIC Tribal Police on the Most Holy Name of Jesus Church grounds - including the rectory and the convent - just after midnight on December 17th. The Catholic Church has been providing sanctuary to Fight For Justice - a group of KBIC tribal members and their supporters protesting corruption and disenfranchisement - for the last 16 months.

In full riot gear, including guns, the now largely non-Indian Tribal Police forceably entered the rectory and kicked in the door to Father John Hascall's bedroom. Police also forced their way into the convent which was occupied by 77 year-old Tribal Elder Alice Curtis and the three children she was baby sitting. Alice Curtis, who is confined to a wheelchair, was shoved aside as she tried to prevent them from entering the bedroom of three young girls. The telephone lines to the convent had been cut. Grandma Curtis was left crying, shouting and shaking.

An 18 year-old and his mother were doused in pepper spray, and an ambulance was called to the scene to provide him with medical attention. The 18 year-old had failed to move far enough aside on a stairway landing to satisfy the officer. He was sprayed at close range. FFJ women blockading the entrance to Father John's home were also threatened with pepper spray. One FFJ member was badly beaten in full view of the three young school girls and taken to the hospital. Another was arrested and is being held in jail for violating the conditions of his bond. The Police did not arrest Father John Hascall, although a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Police claimed they were seeking Jerry Lee Curtis, one of the Fight for Justice leaders, and were attempting to serve a warrant signed by Judge Gurski of the Hannahville Indian Reservation. Gurski was hired by KBIC to hear the cases arising out of the Fight For Justice takeover, since KBIC Tribal Judge Bradley Dakota is the son of federally-indicted Tribal Chair Fred Dakota. Another son and a daughter of Fred Dakota were among the Tribal Police who participated in the assault.

Police were unsuccessful in arresting Jerry Lee Curtis, who had barricaded himself in the Most Holy Name of Jesus Church itself. The Police threatened to enter the Church as FFJ members argued furiously with them that they could not do so. The Police finally left when they realized that FFJ supporters from the surrounding towns had begun to stream in.

These events precede Tribal Council elections, which are scheduled for 21 December. The event was described by the Public Relations person recently hired by KBIC, as a "routine" police search.

PLEASE fax the following numbers, urging negotiations and a peaceful resolution to this dangerous situation!

Representative Bart Stupak Fax: 202-225-4744

Senator Carl Levin Fax: 202-224-1388

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Chair, Fred Dakota Fax: 906-353-7540

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Police Fax: 906-353-6838

Tuesday, December 17, 1996
Around 12:20 a.m. Keweenaw Bay Tribal Police in full Riot gear and carrying loaded shot guns and ammo, stormed the tribal center building. Colin Van alerted to the attack left the building and entered his car which was parked near the church. The officers went on to smash all the windows of the car and drag Colin out of the car and handcuffed him. Colin all the while was telling them he was white and they had no jurisdiction over him. After they had handcuffed him, they viciously attacked him. They threw him to the ground. Seven or eight officers maced him and kick him viciously all over his body and in the head.

Also in the tribal center building they proceeded to mace Josh Emery, a 17 year old and his mother.

The police also broke into the convent where they pushed an elder, a 78-year-old women in a wheelchair out of the way and terrorized the children that were sleeping near the Christmas tree.

Then officers then stormed the rectory of Fr. John Hascall, when FFJ members tried to stop them outside the rectory doors and tried to tell them that they had no jurisdiction to break into the Church property. They told FFJ members that they had a warrant to arrest Jerry Lee Curtis. They showed FFJ members a warrant signed by Judge Gurski, an Indian judge giving permission to enter a non tribal residence.

A KBIC Tribal Police officer, Mike Hazen & came running up to the door and told the other seven officers that Jerry Lee was in the church. Officer William Seppenan still tried to enter the rectory. When we told him "you have no reason to enter the rectory as your own officer told you that Jerry Lee is in the church." He ignored this. Another tribal officer,LaPalm, who is non-Indian, threatened the women with mace if they didn't move out of the way. When the women would not move, they physically threw them out of the way.

They proceeded to ransack Fr. John's home. When they arrived at Fr. John's bedroom door, an FFJ member tried to stop them from entering. After yelling threats to Fr. John, tribal officer LaPlam kicked down the door and forcibly entered Father John Hascall's bedroom. Paul Halverson was guarding Fr. John, the officers went on to arrest Paul after Padre urged him to go peaceably. They did not arrest padre himself, although there is a warrant out for his arrest.

The tribal police than left the compound without Jerry Lee Curtis.

All of this is taking place on the eve of another bogus Tribal Elections, scheduled for 21 of December

December 9, 1996

Judge Douglas B. Gurski dismissed charges against 14 members of FFJ. MacGregor issued a press release saying that the 14 were guilty and he was only releasing them for the good of the community. After being threaten with lawsuits MacGregor retracted his statements to the press. The reason he had to dismiss the charges was that he could not prove any the charges brought against these or any other FFJ members

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.