A lawsuit has been filed by a group of Native Americans alleging that the city and higher tribe officials of Wolf Point, Montana conspired with police to round up the Native American population in the town ahead of a big rodeo event.
According to The Daily Beast, the lawsuit charges that the city detained numerous native people from two local tribes in an outside detention center that had no toilets, food, medical unit (some arrested had disabilities), or protection from the elements. They were held without being informed what they were being charged for, and there are no arrest records for these people. Those detained believe it was to make Wolf Point “whiter” ahead of The Wild Horse Stampede, an annual rodeo event — something that happens every year since 2013 in what the locals call “Wino Round Up.”
Plaintiffs from the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes say they were targeted in the arrest raid for being homeless, denied due process, and were not read their Miranda rights. The plaintiffs say their elected officials and police dismiss this group of people as being “Homeless, Winos, Street People, Tree People, Drug Addicts, Alcoholics, or Prairie Niggers.”
The population of Wolf Point in around 3,000, with a 50 percent Native population and 40 percent Caucasian. The town’s small size leaves them poorly equipped for a mass arrest like “Wino Round Up.” Reportedly the jails were filled to capacity and the rest of the detainees were kept on two outdoor basketball court — women to one court, men on the other.
The plaintiffs wrote in the suit:
Women were provided a blanket and a pot in which to relieve themselves. Men were instructed to urinate through the fence. Some of the male plaintiffs will testify that they were unable to get near the fence and so were forced to ‘pissed or shit their pants.’
The first day of the plaintiff’s arrest was hot, causing one person to faint from the heat. At night, a violent rainstorm hit the jail and the officers attempted to put tarps on the courts to cover detainees but when that failed the plaintiffs were moved inside a small, cramped, “windowless garage.”
Ann Rose Sullivan, a city attorney, told The Daily Beast:
Our office cannot comment on the specifics of pending litigation against the City of Wolf Point or Roosevelt County. I can only say that these allegations have no merit and we are confident that our police officers, sheriff’s department, mayor, and town council will be vindicated by the ultimate outcome in this case.
However, a partially redacted internal investigation obtained by Montana’s Great Falls Tribune tells a different story and suggests that the police did purposefully detain Natives without due process:
On April 15, 2014, IAD (Internal Affairs Division) interviewed Lieutenant (name deleted),” the report reads. ‘Lt. (name deleted) proffered that the corrections officers were told that they would be detaining the ‘street people’ for twenty-four hours. Lt. (name deleted) advised that she protested that this was wrong, that holding these individuals without formally charging them would be violating their civil rights. Lt. (name deleted) asserted ‘I knew this would come back and bite everyone in the ass.’
The Daily Beast reports this year’s rodeo went off without a hitch, and that their website boasts:
The Wild Horse Stampede offers a glimpse of unadulterated eastern Montana life. There’s no glitz. Just honest-to-goodness fun based upon decades-old traditions.
Good, old-fashioned traditions like treating Natives without dignity or respect for their human rights just like the good old days? Yeehaw!
Featured Image via Getty Images/Nick Latham