Assailants called Glacier County Commissioner "Dirty Indian" as they kicked him.
The trial of three Montana men who hurled racial slurs as they assaulted a Blackfeet man will begin February 3 in Libby, Montana. The attack occurred in September 2008 as Ron Rides at the Door, a member of the Blackfeet Nation and a Glacier County Commissioner, attempted to break up a fight outside a Great Falls bar.
Three brothers, Todd, Brian and Aaron Molenda, all white, were reported to have knocked Mr. Rides at the Door to the ground and kicked him as they yelled "Dirty f------- Indian." Michelle Rides at the Door (Mr. Rides at the Door's wife) and two other Native men were also attacked. The three were initially charged with misdemeanor assault, though the charge has since been raised to felony criminal endangerment, a crime that involves creating "a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury" to another person. Under Montana law, the Moldenda brothers could receive a penalty of up to $50,000 in fines and 10 years in prison each.
While racial slurs were used during the assault, Glacier County attorney Larry Epstein decided not to pursue the case under Montana's malicious intimidation or harassment statute. This law carries a potential five year penalty and $5000 fine when a perpetrator causes "bodily injury...because of another person's race, creed, religion, color, national origin, or involvement in civil rights or human rights activities." Both Mr. Rides at the Door and the Blackfeet Nation sought hate crimes charges in the case, according to press reports. Mr. Rides at the Door was quoted as saying, "They could have called me any name in the book, but they called me a dirty (expletive) Indian." (Indianz.com October 21, October 23, November 10, November 24 2008; Great Falls Tribune, November 4, 2009; Montana statutes 45-5-221 and 45-5-207).
Chuck Tanner is a co-coordinator of Borderlands Research and Education. Borderlands is committed to using strategic research to support indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights and environmental justice.