Wed July 18, 2012
Show of solidarity given after six arson fires at Wisconsin reservation
Six fires last weekend on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation which appear to have targeted ceremonial and spiritual places are being called “criminal in nature” by tribal police.
Tribal members on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation near Hayward came together for a community feast Tuesday, but it wasn’t a celebration. It was an effort to come to terms with six suspected arson fires that destroyed their historic log Big Drum Hall Ceremonial Lodge as well as attempts to burn a part of the Honor the Earth Pow Wow grounds.
Paul DeMain lost his living quarters in one of the fires. He says the blessing feast was important to reassure the community before this weekend’s Honor the Earth Pow Wow, an event that attracts about 15,000 people. “The target was the traditional community and for the most part the traditional community are the people who’ve embraced the pow wow as a much more social event," he says. "So there were people who were saying they were afraid to come to the pow wow this weekend and their safety concerns. So part of what we wanted to do was to get people to show that everyone was standing in solidarity.”
DeMain says several church denominations were at the feast. “So it was an attack on religious rights," he says. "It wasn’t non-Indians. It was members of our own community attacking other members of the community. To me, it’s just a situation that’s just out of balance.”
The fires also destroyed two sweat lodges and damaged a ceremonial ring in the Town of Sand Lake on the LCO reservation.
One man was arrested by the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department and the LCO Police Department. His name wasn't released as of Tuesday night.
The State Fire Marshal and Department of Justice are assisting in the investigation. None of the agencies involved are granting interviews since the case remains under investigation.