Turtle Mountain Band banishes blogger from reservation 5-16-07

BELCOURT, N.D. (AP) - The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa has banished an Internet blogger after a column critical of conditions on the reservation.

The tribal resolution, signed Friday, says Rob Port's column was “injurious to the peace and seriously threatens the general welfare, health, safety, political security and prosperity of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, its members, and other tribes in the state of North Dakota.”

Port, of Minot, is webmaster for SayAnythingBlog.com.

“How do you ban somebody from land without even telling them about it?” he said. “It doesn't seem very straightforward, banning somebody for an opinion piece.”

Titled “The Appalling State of North Dakota Indian Reservations,” his column ran in the January issue of a magazine called The Dakota Beacon and appeared on Port's blog. Port said he spent about 15 hours “going around neighborhoods and knocking on doors” on the Turtle Mountain reservation.

He wrote that people are “perfectly content to live there. Probably because they don't know any better. They were likely raised in housing projects by their parents, who in turn were probably raised in housing projects themselves.”

Port's column also called for an end to reservations and “cradle-to-grave entitlements.”

“We were getting a lot of calls asking that we do something,” Tribal Vice Chairman Ted Henry said.

Henry said the column unfairly generalizes life on the reservation.

“It cut our people down,” Henry said. “We do have a lot of good people here. The article doesn't say anything about that. A lot of our Indian people work hard.”

The tribal ordinance adopted last year, in an attempt to fight illegal drugs, creates a process to permanently banish or withhold services from tribal members and nonmembers involved in serious crimes. It was first used last year to banish a man who was not a tribal member but was suspected of drug activity.

People who are not tribal members can be banished without warning if the tribe deems immediate removal necessary.

“I didn't write it thinking I am going to tick these people off,” Port said of his column. “I thought 'I am writing it because people don't think about what's going on in the reservation very often.”'

The tribal resolution demands a retraction.

“It makes me a little sad that this is their reaction,” Port said.

The resolution was not only for the Turtle Mountain people, but also for Port's “own safety,” Henry said. “A lot of people were pretty upset with the article,” he said.

“I don't think he'll retract it, and I suppose there will be more writing now,” Henry said. “But (Port) won't be allowed back on.”