For the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), 2016 has begun where 2015 left off – promoting bigotry toward indigenous people and attacks on tribal rights, conspiracy mongering and Islamophobia, and continuing the group’s development as the Indian “expert” for a broader far right movement.
Longtime CERA leader Elaine Willman, who relocated from Wisconsin to Ronan, Montana in 2015, rang in the group’s new year with several opinion pieces in mainstream and far right publications. On January 11, 2016, Willman’s first article was posted on the far right News With Views website.
Willman joins the more than 100 News With Views “contributing writers” whose works are sponsored by the Merlin, Oregon-based Walter Publishing. Willman is joined in this status by such far right luminaries as militia advocate and white supremacist fellow traveler Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America; Oath Keepers’ hero and militia proponent Edwin Vierra Jr.; Agenda 21 conspiracy “theorists” Michael Shaw and Tom DeWeese; rabid Islamophobe Devvy Kidd (“Islam is a national security threat, not a religion”); and Christian Right bigot Chuck Baldwin (“homosexuality is moral perversion” and Islam “a bloody, murderous religion since its inception”).
In her inaugural News With Views article, titled “The Spreading Epidemic of Tribalism in America,” the veteran anti-Indian leader paints a picture of a tribal takeover of America, dangerous Indian alliances with “Middle Eastern tribalism,” and a United Nations Agenda 21-driven attempt at “taking down states in cooperation with One World Order folks, socialism, communism and international control and governance of U.S. citizens.” For “evidence,” Willman cites the existence of the Hearth Act of 2012, a law supporting greater tribal control (in keeping with tribal sovereignty) over the leasing of tribal trust lands. For Willman, however, “we will now have wealthy little Sharia compounds on Indian reservations.”
“This is what unequal, hyphenated-Americans and ‘cultural diversity’ has created,” Willman concludes. “To do nothing” in the face of this conspiracy, she continues, “cosigns (sic) America’s demise that is already completely orchestrated and under implementation.” Willman regurgitated much of her News With Views article for a January 17 opinion piece published in the Kalispell Daily Interlake. Mention of Willman’s far right screed appeared on the Pie and Politics blog of State of Jefferson leader Liz Bowen.
Willman’s writings display a narrow brand of American nationalism built through a series of oppositions and recurring appeals to a truncated American Constitutionalism. By melding anti-Indianism, Islamphobia, anti-diversity, and John Birch Society-style global conspiracy mongering and anti-communism, Willman’s pits a loosely-defined body of white, Christian, property-owning Americans against a collage of foreign, darker-skinned forces and their environmentalist and human rights advocate allies.
Willman’s brand of nationalism mirrors that espoused by some in the band of far right thugs occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon. Like Willman, those illegally occupying the refuge disregard tribal rights, rifling through tribal artifacts and proposing the transfer of previously stolen Burns Paiute lands to ranchers and loggers under exclusive county jurisdiction. The Burns Paiute Tribe condemned the occupation, calling on the federal government to protect the tribe’s resources and artifacts. In a January 15 press release, Tribal Chair Charlotte Rodrique stated, “Armed protestors don’t belong here…They continue to desecrate one of our most important sacred sites…They should be held accountable.”
Like those holed up at Malheur, Willman has allied her cause with the transfer of federal lands to county governments, writing for the Utah-based American Lands Council and playing host to ALC figure and Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder at a 2015 CERA conference. The American Lands Council is the leading national advocate of such federal lands transfers.
Given their similar world views, it is unsurprising that Willman defends the ultra-nationalists occupying the Malheur refuge. In a January 18 opinion piece, Willman attacked Travis McAdam – formerly of the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN) – for expressing concerns in The Missoulian (January 14) about the Malheur occupiers announced plans to convene a so-called “common law court” and level charges against public officials. Such actions frequently took place when these “courts” arose alongside far right militias in the mid-1990s, including the infamous Montana “Freemen” standoff in 1996. Willman dubbed McAdam’s concern an “MHRN smear” and declared that “MHRN supports the United Nations and One World Order that calls for ending state government, and a transition to an internationally governed North America.” American human rights activists here take their place among the foreign “others” at the receiving end of Willman’s bigoted nationalism.
Willman’s ramblings have inspired others. In a January 26 article on the Northwest Liberty News website, James White takes up a conspiracy theory “about the potential of a ‘Trojan Horse’ scenario where countries who may sponsor terror can establish a foothold, legally, right on American soil via the numerous existing Native American reservations.” To support his “argument,” White cites Larry Kogan, a CERA-allied attorney who weaved the same brand of Islamophobia into a failed legal brief intended to block the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes from managing the former Kerr Dam. In rejecting Kogan’s brief, a federal judge cited the “perplexing arguments regarding the Turkish government’s involvement with Native Americans” and noted that “counsel for Plaintiffs [Kogan] conceded that no such evidence has been submitted.”
Making unfounded claims that a racial or ethnic group poses a harm based on “no such evidence” is, by definition, bigotry.
In addition to spewing racism and ultra-nationalist vitriol, CERA began 2016 by continuing its work with property rights groups to oppose tribal sovereignty around the country. On January 24, CERA leaders Lana Marcussen-Saucerman and Butch Cranford were slated to host an event with the Central New York Fair Business Association in Verona, New York. The event was to be moderated by CERA Chair Judy Bachman of Vernon. The Business Association has participated in past CERA events and joined CERA in lawsuits opposing Oneida Indian Nation sovereignty.
CERA’s early 2016 actions and words indicate that we can expect more of the same from the group in the coming year – bigotry, a combined legal, cultural and political campaign to do away with tribes as nations and further alliances with a broader far right attack on human and civil rights.