Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Fargo Police Arrest Native American From Sweat Lodge

by C.S. Hagen | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | News | February 24th, 2017

Zebediah Gartner released from jail Friday afternoon after being pulled from a spiritual ceremony in a Native American sweat lodge in Fargo by police - photo by C.S. Hagen

FARGO - Fargo Police pulled Native Americans out of a sweat lodge during a spiritual ceremony Thursday night, and took one to jail wearing nothing but undershorts for resisting arrest.

The resisting arrest charge was dropped for insufficient evidence by the city early Friday, but Zebediah Gartner, an Anishinaabe, pled guilty to a class B misdemeanor for theft of property, which stemmed from a January 24 incident involving a disputed two or three pieces of chicken taken from Cashwise Foods, according to court proceedings.

He pled guilty to the charge in Fargo City Municipal Court, and was fined $400.

“Four hundred dollars for a piece of chicken,” Gartner’s mother, Monica Gartner said.

“I did take the chicken but I didn’t eat it, I threw it away because the guy told me I could only have one, so I threw it away and walked out of the store,” Gartner said during televised court proceedings. “So I guess I plead guilty, your Honor.”

The city recommended a deferred sentence of 11 months, which means Gartner must steer clear of the law in order for the guilty plea to be withdrawn and the file to be sealed. Gartner has no criminal record or prior convictions, according to the city prosecutor.

Monica was visibly relieved when the judge announced the charges had been dropped in court, but couldn’t believe two pieces, or as the city states, three pieces of chicken could be worth $400.

For police to drag people from a Native American sweat lodge is the same as dragging people away from church, Monica said.

Zebediah Gartner and mother Monica leaving Cass County Jail Friday afternoon - photo by C.S. Hagen

“They were in the sacred lodge, they heard yelling, and opened up the door,” Monica said. “There were more than five police cars and a fire truck.”

Gartner was released from Cass County Jail at 2:45 p.m. He said the incident was traumatizing.

“We were in the sweat lodge, basically a Native American church, and we were just finishing up,” Gartner said. “I opened the door and a cop flashed a light on us.”

The police officer asked for identification, to which Gartner replied he didn’t have to comply as he had not committed any crime.

“He grabbed my arm, and kneed me,” Gartner said. Then he was pushed to the ground and handcuffed.

Wet with sweat from the lodge, police led him over frozen ground and snow toward police vehicles in sub-freezing temperatures, without shoes, and nothing but trunks on, Gartner said.

“The handcuffs were so tight that my fingers were swelling up,” he said. He revealed minor injuries around his wrists from where the handcuffs were clamped.

Native American Commissioner Maylynn Warne said Gartner’s arrest was disrespectful of Native American traditions and unwarranted. The sweat lodge located off 38th Street in South Fargo has been used for many years.

Sweat lodges are a place where people can go to re-purify themselves and find their path back to traditional ways. Traditionally, the lodges are circular, and are formed from saplings. The sweat ceremony includes the chanunpa or the peace pipe, prayers, offerings of tobacco, sage, cedar, or sweetgrass in a sacred fire. Red hot stones are later brought into the lodge and placed into a pit. Much like saunas, water is poured over the stones to induce steam and heat.

“This is like a church, a sacred ceremony,” Warne said. “If something like this happened at a church, it wouldn’t be this way. This shows how they’re treating American Indians here, and what’s happening out in Standing Rock is playing itself out here.”

Law enforcement from across the state and Wisconsin finished evicting the main camps outside of Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Thursday afternoon, the North Dakota Joint Information Center reported. Since August, law enforcement has spent more than $32 million and have arrested nearly 750 people during Standing Rock’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tensions were high this week at the former Oceti Sakowin camps as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ deadline to empty the camps was resisted by more than 100 people.

“He was dragged out in his undershorts, into the cold, and marched to waiting police cars,” Monica said. “He tried to reason with them, and Zeb is really outspoken, he was standing up for our culture.”

In a post on Facebook related to the incident, Ashley Maye said she was at the sweat lodge when police arrived.

“It was ridiculous,” Maye wrote. “They tried saying they’ve been patrolling this area for a few years and they weren’t aware of it. I said that’s hard to believe as it’s been operating and running for years. They also tried to allege that it was illegal to burn the fire. The arresting officer was being rude, sarcastic, and snide, and purposely was trying to rile Zeb up. Six squad cars showed up as backup.”

“Being removed, and thrown on the ground when you are fresh out of lodge and have nothing on but trunks and its cold out, poor discretion to say the least,” Lissa Yellow Bird-Chase, founder at Sahnish Scouts of ND, a missing persons advocate, said in a Facebook post. “I have been told before there has been questionable behavior on police’s part, just another example of North Dakota not so nice.”’

Fargo Police Officer J. Rued is listed as the arresting officer. Fargo Police Officer Cultural Liaison Vince Kempf visited Gartner while in jail, asking him if he needed a ride home, Gartner said.

Warne said the Fargo Police Department does far too little to educate its officers on Native American traditions, and Thursday night’s arrest was little more than institutional racism.

“We just didn’t show up here, we’ve been here,” Warne said. “The only way to solve this is through education.”

Mayor Tim Mahoney said the incident was a misunderstanding. Police officers saw an unattended fire in a field, and because of a lack of training, and because the arresting officer was new to the force, made a mistake.

The area also needs fixing up, which Mahoney said will occur during the upcoming weeks. In the meantime he said the sweat lodge will have to be closed until the repairs can be made. Additionally, cultural training courses pertaining to Native American traditions will begin soon for the Fargo Police Department and fire departments, Mahoney said.

“The police department wants to work with Native American Commission on cultural competency training for all their officers so this doesn’t happen again,” Willard Yellow Bird, cultural planner for Fargo, said in a Facebook post.

Gartner plans to look into filing a lawsuit against the Fargo Police Department he said, but is unsure how to begin. 

Recently in:

CANNON BALL - Joint Terrorism Task Force agents contacted an Indiana activist days after he returned home from Standing Rock’s fight in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline.Aaron Pollitt, 28, from Indiana, was charged…

The 48th Annual UND Writers Conference, “Citizen,” will take place March 22-24, 2017, at the Memorial Union on UND’s campus in Grand Forks. The Conference will feature authors/artists who contemplate what it means to be a…

Best Bets

​Hand to God

by HPR Staff

March 16-30, 7:30 - 9:30 PMThe Broadway Theatre Garage, 409 Broadway, FargoA dark comedy play about the God-fearing children of Cypress, Texas, who go to a local church and practice their Christian puppet ministry. But when one boy…

In the WNBA, was there ever a team like the 2011 Minnesota Lynx? People argue about it, but we say they’re the best. Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Bronson, Maya Moore, Taj McWilliams-Franklin.The Lynx drew first in…

How can we be so stupid?So here we go again with healthcare costs. Doctors once were paid pigs, chickens, and veggies for delivering babies. But now we have $10 Tylenols, $1,000-a-day pills, $10,000-a-day hospital rooms, $100,000…

The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…

On a cold windy Tuesday night, we wandered into the new downtown establishment Magnolia’s. I was impressed that the new tenant had replaced the garish green exterior of the previous Kitchen Gremlin. A pink and white signage and…

Changes in the presidential administration are always bound to bring out artistic expression, whether supportive or critical. The recently inaugurated Trump administration is no different. It’s safe to say that the 45th President…

Cinema

​2017 Fargo Film Festival

by HPR Contributor

By Kaley Sievert Movies have this magic. An emotional pull that lures audiences into their universe. Filmgoers can get lost in stories painted in dazzling lights, electric colors and robust sounds. They mourn over the hardships of…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the North Dakota Governor’s Awards for the Arts. Recipients of this year’s awards include a wide range of different artists working in a variety of different methods of expression. A…

When I arrived at the practice space for Tin Roof Theatre in the Moorhead Center Mall for an interview last week the place was decked out with set pieces and stage flats, preparations for their upcoming show. Tin Roof founder…

Humor

What is acceptable comedy?

by HPR Contributor

By Bill LucasYou may wonder about the title. Whenever we hear someone’s opinion I think it is important to know a little about them. We all are offended by many things that are due to our experiences in life. We may be able to…

It was right around this time last year that news articles around the world were spreading fear about a looming hop crisis. Supposedly driven by an overwhelming influx of new brewery startups, as well as the American craft beer…

Shopping can be a stressful experience, especially while looking for healthier food items or trying to decide which supplements you need to add to your regimen. It can be mind-boggling for someone stepping onto the path to a…

Live and Learn

​The other shoe

by HPR Contributor

By Elizabeth Nawrotnawrot@mnstate.eduI look up from my hotel lobby breakfast astonished to see a framed print of Wassily Kandinsky's "Mit und Gegen,” a masterpiece of color and composition that just happens to be my favorite…

“There is one thing, and only one thing, in which it is granted to you to be free in life, all else being beyond your power; that is to recognize and profess the truth.” – Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is Within YouThis is…