Magnolias in the Sagebrush: Bo Gritz, Racism, Posse Comitatus, Idaho, North Dakota
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Wed Jun 6 14:14:48 MDT 2001
I sent this discussion of Gritz, North Dakota and Idaho racism, etc at the
request of a vigorously anti-racist friend who wished to post it, and did,
on an Internet discussion list. [I also included a brief mention -- the
very little that I know -- of another "John Salter," apparently a resident
of Idaho in the early '90s, who appears to be a Posse Comitatus type.]
I sent this on May 22, 2001 -- almost a couple of weeks before the large,
traditional Klan cross was burned surreptitiously -- early Monday morning,
6/4 -- on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse.
Sometimes, you can almost smell the magnolias in the sagebrush. Hunter
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2001 9:11 PM
Subject: Finished Copy: Gritz, Racism, Posse
Michael: From Hunter Gray [formerly John R Salter, Jr]
Thanks very much for the Bo Gritz etc stuff. I know something about him. I
professor [and chair, Indian Studies] at UND, Grand Forks -- and had been
for eleven years -- when he came to Bismarck and gave a talk in that
setting. It was Summer, 1992 and this appearance was, I believe, in
connection with his Presidential effort. My
son, Peter, still in his early 20s, had just become State Editor of the
Bismarck Tribune and he covered the event. He was not impressed at all with
Gritz --quite the contrary -- and got much of his literature. He brought it
all to me -- since then, as always [and now] I'm a resource person on far
stuff. While some of the Gritz material had the usual right-wing populist
slant, other things went obviously deep into the militia circle,
survivalism, and, at least through very obvious implication, into racism.
That was disturbing enough for me -- but then Peter showed me a little gem,
self-professed "warrant," which called on "citizens" to arrest George Bush
[the other one]
and was signed by three men -- including a John Salter [horror of horrors] !
who lived somewhere in Idaho [no specific address given.] This was obviously
Posse Comitatus stuff, pure and simple, and that's a clearly racist outfit.
We had had plenty of
trouble with the Posse in North Dakota. I had just gotten to the state in
1981 when, soon after that, the Gordon Kahl shootout with US Marshals took
place at Medina, ND, fairly
close to us: everybody's tragedy -- several dead and several headed to
The Posse cropped up in all sorts of anti-Indian things. They were a major
problem for us - - along with some other racist outfits and just plain
hoodlums -- in our very intensive Native rights campaigns in the Northern
Plains in the 1980s and 1990s. But we won all of those tough campaigns --and
we won all the way!
All of these racist outfits -- and I put Gritz in that context -- have
sought to capitalize on the continuing major economic tragedy in the
Northern Plains: thousands of ranchers and farmers forced out, totally
losing everything. In 1989, the North Dakota State King Commission
awarded me its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award for both
historical and contemporary social justice activities. Then-Governor George
A. Sinner [Democrat] presented the award to me at a ceremony at Bismarck.
In the course of his remarks, he discussed the fact that, in the 1980s,
8,000 North Dakota ranchers and farmers had lost their land.
And it's all continuing. God knows how many small towns are dying -- almost
To come back to the Gritz thing at Bismarck in 1992: I was Chairman of
Grand Forks Community Relations Committee. I took the Gritz stuff to our
meeting and we went over it carefully. We all agreed it was obvious that
these were new racist-group efforts to move into North Dakota. [ I took
some ribbing on
the "other John Salter" but I didn't and don't think it's funny.] Anyway,
through a variety of our mechanisms -- friendly journalists and other media
people, labor and Native rights activists, and other key and kindred
people -- we sent out all sorts of sensible alerts throughout North Dakota.
I personally contacted all the Indian reservations. Nothing shrill -- just
urged people to be sensibly vigilant and report any developments to us right
away. For awhile, we did get reports of Gritz and Posse-type literature
["warrants" calling for the citizen arrest of Janet Reno etc] being
disseminated and, when this occurred, we helped the people who were
contacting us with this information to spread the word vigilance-wise in
their respective areas. In the end, not much came of the Gritz/Posse
efforts in North Dakota, fortunately. But the Posse thing itself still
retains some of its traditional footholds in the state and thus remains a
Peter, my intrepid journalist son, then went down to LaMoure Co, ND to
do a series of stories on the super-racist Winrod family of Missouri which
was causing considerable trouble in that southern part of ND:
inflammatory materials, constants threats, etc. His excellent series in the
Bismarck Tribune certainly helped get rid of them. But, before he went down
there, I presented him with my belated graduation present: a .357 Ruger
revolver. He still has it, of course. Eventually, with the same newspaper
chain, he went to Anaconda and Butte, Montana for awhile and then to
Lincoln, Nebraska, where he is now City Editor of the Lincoln Journal-Star
[same chain.] They've had some problems there with the super-crackpot
Richard Barrett, the Klan lawyer from Learned, Mississippi [near
Jackson] -- an old foe of mine -- who has been causing trouble via his
American Nationalist Movement.
Back to Bo Gritz: After looking over that raft of literature that Peter
brought me in 1992, and seeing the obviously Posse Comitatus stuff -- and
following his trail since -- I've certainly always viewed him as a racist.
He may be complex, confused -- but the racist side of him I think is far
from buried! I think it's pretty overt -- and, certainly, the people in his
circle are often very much in the racist wing of the militia thing.
Bo Gritz, I guess, is still in Idaho -- but I've seen little evidence of his
stuff around here in the southeastern part of the state. We have had some
potentially serious problems in this part of Idaho -- here at Pocatello --
and also over at Boise -- with the National Alliance. This is a West
Va-based, extreme extreme racist outfit, very much involved with the
"Identity Church" movement and the "Phineas Priesthood". Its literature is
passed out here, surreptitiously, at night -- and it seems to be making a
direct appeal to skin-head types [unemployment here has been rising, as it
is nationally.] There has been one recent fire-bombing here. The National
Alliance is moving its efforts into Idaho -- as the old faction-ridden,
beleaguered, and aging Aryan Nations entourage up in North Idaho -- Coeur
d' Alene region -- is fading from the scene, some moving over the state line
into Montana. There is also some sort of Ku Klux Klan unit digging in
around here. And the John Birchers have a surprising amount of strength.
We keep fighting -- as do you. All best, Mike.
In Solidarity, Hunter Gray [Hunterbear] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis
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