Protesters gather outside federal building during AG Garland’s visit to Fargo

Published: Aug. 21, 2023 at 6:21 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - During his visit, Attorney General Merrick Garland touched on the work being done to investigate fentanyl trafficking rings, violent crimes & human smuggling organizations. While Attorney General Garland was inside the federal building. Outside, there was a crowd of protesters gathering, in hopes he’d hear their call to action for a similar mission.

The Attorney General mentioned the state’s Tribal law enforcement offices a few times during his address. Meanwhile, there were about a dozen protesters asking for support for a couple different issues, including more support to solve cases of murdered and missing indigenous peoples. One woman held a picture of her friend, Stella Trottier-Graves from the Turtle Mountain Reservation, whose murder remains unsolved 13 years later. The protesters told Valley News Live: Unsolved murders and missing persons cases are stories they know all too well.

“I believe it’s an epidemic in our community. I feel we need to allocate more resources towards finding people, believing people when they say they’re victims of crime & put adequate resources towards BIPOC communities when they go missing or they get murdered as much as they do when it’s a non-BIPOC person who goes missing or is murdered,” says White Earth descendant Brandon Baity.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) estimates there are about 4,200 missing and murdered indigenous peoples cases that have gone unsolved. The BIA says these investigations remain unsolved often due to a lack of resources available to identify new information from witness testimony or re-examine material evidence.

Another part of the protest was to ‘Free Leonard’. Leonard Peltier has been serving a life sentence for two counts of first-degree murder, in the deaths of two FBI agents during the Pine Ridge Shootout. He’s been in federal prison for over 46 years. ”He deserves to be free. He’s an elder. He has some illnesses, and he wants to go home back to Belcourt. He will be 80 years old on Sept. 12. He deserves to come home,” says Tracey L. Wilkie with the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Peltier was denied clemency by former president Barack Obama in 2017.