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Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, Published March 29 2013

Spirit Lake Tribal Council denounces remarks by Rep. Kevin Cramer

GRAND FORKS – The Spirit Lake Tribal Council issued a statement Friday harshly criticizing comments attributed earlier this week to Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., regarding the protection of women and children on the reservation, including that he reportedly wanted to “(w)ring the Tribal Council’s neck and slam them against the wall.”

Also Friday, Melisa Merrick, director of the Spirit Lake Victim Assistance program and author of the website article that reported Cramer’s comments, issued a copy of a letter she has sent to Cramer.

She says in the letter that she is “still stunned and outraged by what we experienced” in the meeting she and other tribal victim assistance professionals had with him in Bismarck on Tuesday.

In its statement, the Spirit Lake council said Cramer’s remarks “clearly stem from a lack of understanding” of the recently reauthorized Violence Against Women Act, which the council said “includes safeguards that address the concerns the congressman expressed with regard to due process.”

The council statement noted the “(w)ring the Tribal Council’s neck” comment attributed to Cramer and said the tribe “takes these threats of violence seriously and finds them particularly inappropriate given the audience Congressman Cramer was addressing.

“A threat of violence is exactly the wrong way to send a message,” the statement continued. “His comments are beneath the dignity of his office and the relationship that his government has with the first Nations of this country, who are among his constituents. The tribe is concerned that the congressman’s intemperate statements reflect his negative views of his tribal constituents as a whole.”

The council said it “will be launching a full investigation on this incident.”

The Spirit Lake Indian Reservation is near Devils Lake in eastern North Dakota.

Richard McCloud, chairman of the neighboring Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in north-central North Dakota, also denounced Cramer’s reported remarks.

In a letter to the congressman, McCloud wrote, “I am demanding a meeting with you and your staff to discuss these deprecating statements and to make things ‘right’ and to move forward productively with the least amount of prejudice and discriminating statements as possible.”

Rob Port of SayAnythingBlog.

com, a conservative political blog based in North Dakota, was skeptical of Merrick’s account. Port suggested that the confrontation “sure seems like a setup.” Merrick “is a longtime Democrat operative on the Spirit Lake Reservation,” he wrote, and he posted a copy of an apparent quick-turn Democratic-NPL Party appeal for contributions based on the incident.

“Please contribute today to take a stand and send a clear message – we won’t stand for Rep. Cramer’s prejudice and sexist remarks,” the appeal reads. It was signed by Prairie Rose Seminole as “Native American representative on the Democratic-NPL executive committee.”

Cramer’s Washington, D.C., office was closed in observance of Good Friday, and efforts to reach him for comment on the council’s statement were unsuccessful.

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