Sunday, September 16, 2012

Arsonist Targets Lac Courte Oreilles Ojbwe Reservation in Wisconsin

“This was no different than the firebombing of a church.”---Lac Courte Oreilles Ojbwe tribal member Dianne Sullivan

Indian Country Today (7-23-12) reports:

A series of six suspicious fires over the July 14-15 weekend destroyed three important traditional ceremonial structures on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojbwe Reservation near Hayward, Wisconsin. The Ceremonial Lodge, housed in a historic log cabin and used for generations of Big Drum ceremonies was a total loss; a Big Drum dance ring in a separate location was also severely damaged.
Additionally, two private community sweat lodges were destroyed. Two buildings behind the Trading Post owned by longtime local journalist and publisher of News From Indian Country Paul DeMain were severely damaged. Finally, the speaker's stand at the long running Honor the Earth Powwow grounds received minor damage from a fire started there. The traditional powwow, described by the Hayward Chamber of Commerce as the largest in North America, was scheduled to begin the following weekend.
LCO tribal member Chris Grover, 37, has been arrested and jailed as a person of interest in connection with the fires that are considered to be criminal in nature according to a press release from the Lac Courte Oreilles and Sawyer County Sheriff Departments...
In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio, Paul DeMain observed that the traditional communities were clearly targets of the fires.
Many members of the community agree and noted that the perpetrator(s) had to possess intimate knowledge of the community as well as the structures’ remote locations. “The Ceremony House, Dance Ring and sweat lodges are not marked or easily visible from the road,” noted White.
“You have to have been shown where they are,” she said.
“These fires hit at the heart and soul of the Ojibwe people and our way of life,” observed LCO tribal member Dianne Sullivan.
She noted that many people in the community want the perpetrator(s) to be charged with a hate crime.
“This was no different than the firebombing of a church,” she said.
White noted that the resilience of Ojibwe people and their traditional spirituality was apparent in the arsons. Although the suspect(s) tried to repeatedly run over the Dance Ring with a heavy vehicle after fire failed to destroy it, the foundation of the ring was still standing.
“I think that’s a testament to the strength of our ways,” she said.

Paul DeMain, the editor of News from Indian Country reports that the suspect seems to be a disturbed person with a history of drug dealing. According to an article titled "Investigation into 6 arson fires at Lac Courte Oreilles continues" (July 2012):
LCO Tribal Council Chairman, also known as the Reverend Gordon Thayer of the Overcomer’s Ministry, Inc reports that he met with the suspect’s parents on Sunday afternoon July 15 regarding their son, and that he later attended the arrest of 37 year-old Chris Grover, a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribe and allegedly his nephew.

Thayer, a controversial figure because of his devotion to God, then left town without issuing any further statements.

Thayer has been highlighted in “recovery,” “born again” and “saved” theology blogs online as saying that he has been tormented by “traditional shamanistic spirits” that he was only able to overcome by his conversion and being “saved by God,” because the creator thru “Jesus has more power,” according to the website

According to Thayer, a Vietnam Veteran in his testimonials, he says he is now in a spiritual war rather then a physical war that God saved him from in Vietnam.  

Grover was known to be a former drug dealer in the LCO community of cocaine and marijuana along with his step-father Jeff Crone and Thayer's former communications director Joe Morey, all participants in Thayer’s /recover church group at times, according to local community members who asked to remain anonymous because of fear for their lives.

The community and inter-denominational members gathered and held 4-day pre-feast before their annual pow wow was held at the Honor The Earth Pow wow Grounds at noon July 17th bringing a broad inter-denomination community together and to prepare for the 39th Annual Honor The Earth Pow wow and Celebration praying the worst was over.

During the event, Grover’s step-father, Jeff Crone who had approached Paul DeMain and personally apologized for the events that endangered his life on July 16th,  stepped forward again on July 17th to the entire community and apologized for the conduct of his son.


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