Ever mindful of the bloody 1973 Wounded Knee, S.D., uprising, FBI agents today stepped onto the Red Lake Indian Reservation for the first time since violence erupted here early Saturday, leaving two youths dead and millions of dollars worth of property damaged.
Harry Hanson, leader of the insurgent Indians who rioted, said he was "very pleased" that the FBI was beginning its investigation.
"I'll be the first to give myself up to the FBI, but I will not deal with the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] police," Hanson said today.
At least two dozen U.S. marshals, part of a special Justice Department strike force, left the nearby town of Bemidji to establish a command post near the reservation as a precautionary measure in case FBI agents were attacked.
Today the reservation was peaceful. FBI agents and Indian youths rummaged through the rooms of some 10 burned buildings destroyed in Saturday's melee.
Authorities say the peace is a day-to-day prospect. They say they believe the longer it continues the sooner this tense reservation will return to normal, allowing FBI agents to finish their probe.
"We are being very careful," said David Brumble, agent in charge of the operation."We want no mistake about the FBI's mission. We are investigating each and every violation reported to us, and we are doing our best to maintain a very low profile so people will know we are investigating and not assuming a policing function."
Brumble said he expects his 25 agents to be on the reservation for at least two weeks. It appears unlikely that any arrests could occur before the end of this week.
Although peace was the order of the day, hostilities and distrust abound. The emotions of a group of youths who sat on Hanson's porch and talked about the BIA tribal leader Roger Jourdain were clear. Jourdain and the BIA were the key targets of insurgents.
Hanson, 40, spoke to the youths, his craggy face and piercing, yet froggy, voice sliced through the sweet lake air.
"We've got a war up here. It's a political war," Hanson said. "We haven't got justice. And all we've got so far is peace, but do we have our freedom?"
Hanson and his followers have accused Jourdain, who has fled the reservation, of running the reservation as a dictator, depriving them of their civil rights and using his power as chief to grant favors to his friends and misspend federal funds flowing to the reservation.
The youths described the BIA and tribal courts as being oppressive systems that deny them outside lawyers and jury trials.
They call it a system of the Ins vs. the Outs.
"If you are related or loyal to Jourdain you get a job. If you aren't, you don't," said one of several Indian men who said they feared having their names revealed.
"At election time you can get a job," said one Indian man. "But once the election is over they don't need you anymore."
One example of Jourdain's alleged misuse of federal funds occurred in November, when Jourdain purchased a two-page political advertisement in a regional newspaper urging voters to turn out for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party ticket.Dissidents allege that the $1,117 advertisement was paid out of a federally funded administrative account.
Such allegations were revealed by Hanson's wife, Stephanie, who was the tribal council's treasurer.
The Hansons have been engaged in political combat with Jourdain since November. Jourdain made several efforts to remove Mrs. Hanson from her post. He succeeded last Friday, in the move that prompted Hanson to invade the tribal jail early Saturday, touching off the rioting.
Stephanie Hanson was returned to office today. That announcement was made by Nathan Joe Head, acting BIA superintendent, whose appointment as superintendent Sunday helped end the violence.
Hanson said she would give the FBI documents in her office that would validate allegations of waste, mismanagement and fraudulent reporting against Jourdain and others.
Arrangements for the transfer of documents were being handled by Head. Hanson said she wanted a neutral party to witness the exchange to verify that the documents had not been altered.