On the heels of Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) leader Elaine Willman’s opinion pieces in the Missoulian and Kalispell Daily Interlake, an attorney closely allied with CERA is embarking on a three-town speaking tour in Western Montana. Attorney Lawrence Kogan will appear February 8th in Kalispell, on the 9th in Polson and 10th in St. Ignatius. Polson and St. Ignatius are located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). CERA and its allies’ early 2016 actions hint at plans for aggressive organizing in the area in the coming year.
The events are titled, “Standing Up for Montana Water and Land Rights,” and focus on themes the anti-Indian group stressed as Elaine Willman moved from Wisconsin to Ronan, Montana in 2015. These include the CSKT Water Compact, the Kerr Dam and Energy and Water Costs.
The close CERA-Kogan bond is displayed in a flyer promoting the events, featuring a photo of Kogan with Lana Marcussen, a CERA legal advisor. Speaking in 2013 in Washington State, Marcussen inaccurately declared, “[T]ribal sovereignty is really a major legal fiction that has been created by the United States government.” Marcussen assails the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) as “one of the most horrific laws regarding Indians on the book.” ICWA passed in 1978 to address the alarming number of Native children removed from tribal homes by private and public agencies.
Kogan’s involvement with CERA has coincided with the group’s heightened stress on Islamophobic conspiracy theories about tribal alliances with “Middle Eastern tribalism.” In Elaine Willman’s world, this will lead to “wealthy little Sharia compounds on Indian reservations.” Raising the profile of anti-Muslim bigotry solidifies CERA’s place in a broader far right movement.
Kogan may have helped CERA bump up the place of Islamophobia in its racist repertoire, gaining notoriety (as in notorious) in late 2015 when he weaved anti-Muslim conspiracy-mongering into a legal brief aimed at blocking the CSKT from managing the former Kerr Dam. Kogan hired CERA’s Elaine Willman to help with the case (see American Lands Council and CERA). Rejecting Kogan’s argument, a federal judge noted the brief’s “perplexing arguments regarding the Turkish government’s involvement with Native Americans.” The judge wrote that “counsel for Plaintiffs [Kogan] conceded that no such evidence has been submitted.” Making unsubstantiated claims about alleged “harms” posed by ethnic or racial groups based on “no such evidence” is, by definition, bigotry.
Kogan’s tour demonstrates that CERA and its allies will be active in Western Montana in 2016.