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CERA Announces Regional Conference in Kalispell on Heels of Elaine Willman’s Move to Montana



A Special Report of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights and Montana Human Rights Network.




The anti-Indian Citizens Equal Rights Alliance has announced a “Regional Education Conference” to be held September 26, 2015 at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell, Montana. The conference comes as longtime CERA Board Member Elaine Willman has recently moved to Ronan, Montana, an outgrowth of her involvement in a far right mobilization against the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and State of Montana water compact approved by the state legislature in April.

CERAThe conference will feature CERA regulars, allied elected officials and attorneys, and a well-known California activist who has aligned her cause with the paramilitary Oath Keepers and secessionist State of Jefferson movement. The Montana conference escalates the anti-Indian activity in that state and falsely positions CERA as the Indian law “expert.” Based on the agenda and history of the presenters the CERA conference is will simply promote bigotry towards indigenous people, spin far-right conspiracy theories, and spread inaccuracies about Tribal-State relations.

[column size=one_half position=first ]

Based on the agenda and history of the presenters the CERA conference is will simply promote bigotry towards indigenous people, spin far-right conspiracy theories, and spread inaccuracies about Tribal-State relations.

[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ]The topics for the conference make clear CERA’s broad attack on indigenous nations, including sessions on the “Flawed Fundamentals of Federal Indian Policy” and “Spreading Tribalism Across the USA.” CERA has long made clear that its ultimate goals are tribal termination and treaty abrogation. (See Revolutionary War for Citizens of Montana) Other topics emphasize recent conflicts in which CERA has engaged, including the “CSKT Water Compact,” “Fee-to-Trust Land” and “EPA Treatment Similar to States.” A presentation titled “Rogue Federal Agencies: EPA, BIA, USFW, BLM, DOW and Others” positions CERA on the political far right, evoking recent mobilizations at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada, in Merlin, Oregon and Lincoln, Montana by Oath Keepers.[/column]

In addition to CERA board member Elaine Willman, the conference will feature CERA leaders Lana Marcussen and Butch Cranford.  Marcussen is an Arizona-based CERA legal advisor, while Cranford has been active with the Plymouth, California-based No Casinos in Plymouth opposing tribal casinos and fee-to-trust transfers. Marcussen has erroneously claimed that “[T]ribal sovereignty is really a major legal fiction that has been created by the United States government.”



CERA Makes Friends


Some of the Speakers Scheduled for the Montana Conference

The Kalispell conference highlights local government allies gained by CERA in recent years – for instance, Richard Heidel, President of Hobart Village in Wisconsin. Elaine Willman served as Director of Community Development and Tribal Affairs in Hobart from 2008 to June 2015, where she opposed the sovereignty of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin. Heidel appeared at a CERA event in Riverton, Wyoming in June 2014. Heidel boasted of his Wisconsin experience: “If you can look the tribe in the eye and tell them that there are more important things to you and your government than their money or their service agreements… they immediately lose all leverage. That’s what we’ve done.”[1]

Fremont County (Wyoming) Commissioner Doug Thompson is also slated to speak. Thompson opened the 2014 Riverton event and deceptively cast its intention as “not to defeat the other side, but to have an open factual forum to talk about the consequences, some unintended and some intended, of Federal Indian policy.”[2]  In reality, CERA routinely spreads misinformation about tribes and unequivocally aims to “defeat the other side” by terminating tribal self-governance and treaty rights. The Wyoming conference was organized to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to recognize “Treatment Similar to a State Status” (TAS) for the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Under TAS – a result of tribal sovereignty and provisions of the Clean Air Act – the Tribes would be eligible for certain air quality-related federal grants and be notified, and allowed to comment on, federal actions potentially affecting air quality on the reservation. CERA organized the meeting after several state leaders had publically opposed the EPA’s decision.

The Kalispell conference also showcases CERA’s incremental success recruiting attorneys to the anti-Indian cause. At a 2013 Bellingham, Washington gathering, Elaine Willman bemoaned that, “You can count on two hands the legal counsel across the country that actually focus on Indian law on our side of the issue.”  Lana Marcussen reiterated, “I think there needs to be a consortium of attorneys starting to put together, figuring out how we’re going to make a lot of money for CERA.”[3]

By all evidence CERA is attempting to build this “consortium.” Along with Marcussen two other attorneys are billed to speak. One is Lawrence Kogan.

Kogan has appeared at meetings in Montana with Elaine Willman and Robert Fanning, a 2012 gubernatorial candidate and conspiracy theorist. In June 2015 Fanning created Regulatory Lawfare Relief to continue opposition to the CSKT water compact.  Kogan is working with Fanning on the project, according to compact opponent Clarice Ryan, credited with organizing one of Willman’s Montana speaking appearances.[4] Kogan is a principle in the Kogan Law Group, a New York firm that works with transnational enterprises to minimize the effect of environmental, health and safety regulations on their access to foreign markets.[5]  Kogan recently hired Willman to support his anti-Indian legal efforts. [6]

A second CERA-allied attorney at the conference will be Frank Kowalkowski, a shareholder in the Green Bay, Wisconsin law firm Davis and Kuelthau.

At the Bellingham meeting, Willman claimed to have recruited Kowalkowski to the cause during her Hobart tenure. A specialist in construction industry-related law, Kowalkowski is a member of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. Davis and Kuelthau describe that Kowalkowski has “extensive Indian Law practice having handled cases in state and federal courts, as well as at the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.” Kowalkowski was a lead attorney in Hobart Village lawsuits against the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin. At the Bellingham meeting Willman boasted that Kowalkowski, “writes the most amazing briefs. He is so knowledgeable on Indian law.  In just five years, he’s now got clients in Nebraska, and South Dakota and Minnesota. He’s made a name for himself just because of the work he’s done for Hobart. He’s got a niche.”[7]

CERA’s alliance with supportive attorneys will no doubt encourage future lawsuits against tribes by this already litigious group.



Global Conspiracies, Anti-Indian Style


The conference also includes a well-known California-based conspiracy theorist – Debbie Bacigalupi from Siskiyou County. A failed candidate for U.S. Congress in 2012, Bacigalupi travels the far right circuit preaching the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory. Agenda 21 refers to a wholly voluntary United Nations program supporting sustainable development, particularly in developing countries. For many on the far right, Agenda 21 is a global conspiracy against property rights and ultimately, America itself. In effect, the conspiracy theory helps construct a far right nationalism that turns the concerns of American citizens engaged in Constitutionally-protected political advocacy into an evil, international plot. Speaking on Agenda 21at the Red Lion in Kalispell in August 2015 along with Lawrence Kogan and Elaine Willman, Bacigalupi cast the plan as an attempt to destroy private property, religion and America:

“If your dollar were to go toward saving what we know is the greatest nation in the entire world. The only nation that has granted you your private property rights. Do you know that private property is also your body. It is your religion, it is your, who you say is your Creator, that is your private property and that is under attack. Your children’s body is your private property. And they want to just completely destroy private property. ”

Elsewhere, Bacigalupi wrote of Agenda 21, “This is communistic history in the remaking … But in America.”[8] Bacigalupi cites Michael Shaw of the California-based Freedom Advocates as a “dear friend” and “UN Agenda 21 expert.” At a June 21, 2013 appearance in Dorris, California, Shaw said of Agenda 21, “I think this is a demonically inspired dynamic.”[9]

Bacigalupi’s appearance comes as CERA has stepped up its own conspiracy game. While CERA leaders have previously alleged an Indian takeover of America, they elevated matters by recently building a relationship with the John Birch Society – long known for its caricature-rich conspiracy theories, including the claim that President Dwight Eisenhower was a communist. In a June 2015 interview with the JBS’s New American magazine, Elaine Willman elaborated,

“There seems to be a movement to just tear down the fabric of this country. It’s hard to envision us in the long term being the United States with [the] combined marriage of the federal executive branch, and the United Nations and Agenda 21 folks, and the environmental groups and the big billionaires. And then when they’ve got 566 tribal governments and little reservations to use as little launch pads, you can tear up a country pretty quick.   So, this Indian policy is but one tool, this is one part of it.”[10]

Claiming that tribes are involved in an international conspiracy to destroy the United States is based in bigotry that can only foster hostility toward indigenous peoples and people who support environmental protection.

Bacigalupi has expressed her own anti-Indian bigotry in the form a historical revisionism reminiscent of Holocaust deniers. Like Willman, Bacigalupi’s conspiracy-mongering is intertwined with imagined visions of national dispossession at the hands of Indians:

“We are now looking at ranchers and farmers [in Siskiyou County] who have lost their water rights to tribes. These were homesteaders who are now trying to figure out “how are we going to make it in America?”  In a country… where we were all Amer-I-cans, now we’re looking at being Amer-I-cants. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t have private property. You can’t put your kids in school unless they get vaccinated….. They are going to pit you against each other. First, you farmers and ranchers are going to be pitted against the Indians. You are going to look horrible, because you are not redressing. You are not paying back all the damage… you have done to those tribes. Here’s what I want to ask the tribes. If it weren’t our founding fathers who conquered this land… If it were not our founding fathers who believed in freedom and liberty for all people, which tyrannical king, which tyrannical kingdom would have been here first to create all slaves forever? I’d like to ask the tribes that. If it wasn’t the founding fathers who eventually gave you freedom and liberty, who was it gonna be that you would be the slave to? Which master would be here that you and I would not be free citizens. That’s what I want to ask them.”[11]

In no conceivable manner can the United States’ founding generation be understood as giving Indians “freedom and liberty.” National leaders of this era generally envisioned the gradual, or rapid, expulsion of indigenous peoples from their lands. In a famous 1783 letter George Washington outlined a course of gradual encroachment on Indian lands (versus advocates of aggressive incursions which Washington thought would lead to armed conflicts with tribes) that would cause the “Savage as the Wolf to retire.” President Thomas Jefferson advocated wholesale violence against tribes should they resist the U.S. and Jefferson’s Arkansas territory policy foreshadowed the Indian removal policy adopted by Congress under Andrew Jackson in 1830.[12] Bacigalupi’s “history” erases these realities in the service campaigns to further dispossess tribes of treaty-reserved rights and resources.

Unsurprisingly, Bacigalupi’s conspiracy-think led her to ally her cause with far right militia and secession advocates. Bacigalupi appeared at a May 2014 conference sponsored by the paramilitary Oath Keepers, California Tea Party groups and Americans for Prosperity.  Other speakers included Richard Mack and John Oetken of Oath Keepers and Ken Ivory of the American Lands Council.

Oath Keepers has become known for leading armed mobilizations to “defend” individuals and companies involved in disputes on federal lands. This included the 2014 mobilization supporting racist Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and recent campaigns to defend mining companies in Montana and Oregon.

The American Lands Council is a leading advocate of ceding federal lands to state governments.[13]

Finally, Bacigalupi told the August 2015 Kalispell audience that,

“We are trying to implement the State of Jefferson, right. You’ve heard of the State of Jefferson.  That is my family. That is our ranching friends who are spearheading that and trying to keep it going. ‘The time has come for 51,’ is our saying.”

The State of Jefferson (SOJ) movement aims to secede a number of Northern California counties to create a new state. The SOJ movement is deeply rooted in far right politics in the Klamath River basin, organized by a coalition of Tea Party, property rights groups, and libertarians. State of Jefferson leader Mark Baird, who also promotes the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory, has offensively declared that, “The tribe uses our own money to destroy the economy with the help of Federal and State agencies.”[14]

The second-most prominent SOJ leader, Liz Bowen, has promoted the work of far right militia advocates Richard Mack and Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America.[15]   In addition to seceding, a key goal of the SOJ movement is to overturn the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Reynolds v. Sims. This decision upheld the one-person-one-vote rule by requiring that state legislative districts be roughly equal in size – that is, the principle that every person’s vote should count the same. Overturning this standard of legal equality would lead to over-representing rural whites in state government relative to people of color more densely located in urban areas.


Elaine Goes to Montana

Anti-Indian Activist Elaine Willman Speaking to the John Birch Society's New American magazine.Anti-Indian Activist Elaine Willman Speaking to the John Birch Society’s New American magazine.

CERA’s Montana conference comes in the wake of Elaine Willman’s June resignation from the Village of Hobart and subsequent move to Ronan, Montana on the Flathead Reservation. In a June 2015 interview with The New American, Willman claimed to have travelled to Montana five times since September 2014 to oppose the CSKT water compact. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes hold reserved water rights both on and off their reservation under the 1855 Hellgate Treaty. The CSKT compact – approved by the State of Montana in April – would quantify tribal water rights and provide multiple protections for other existing water users, including an agreement by the Tribes and United States to relinquish exercising a tribal water right “call” on non-irrigation, small groundwater, and most upstream water users.

Willman’s jaunts to Montana came amidst a far right mobilization against the compact by Tea Party fellow-travelers, property rights groups and Flathead Reservation-based anti-Indian activists. The Concerned Citizens of Western Montana has been prominent in this effort. The group’s leader, Terry Backs, has organized events with the John Birch Society, according the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN). The Concerned Citizens have cited Willman’s book in their own material.[16] As MHRN describes, during her Montana excursions Willman shared a stage with Montana state legislators, including State Senator Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) and Representatives Keith Regier (R-Kalispell) and Kerry White (R-Bozeman).[17] (See Right-Wing Opposition to CSKT Water Compact)

In a September 2014 statement to the Montana Water Policy Interim Committee, a legislative committee established to study water policy, Elaine Willman offensively declared that “misguided phrases such as…’treaty rights’ when incessantly repeated can become seemingly true or real. But no such references or ideologies that pre-date the United States Constitution find compatibility within the four corners of the Federal or State Constitution.” Willman made this grossly inaccurate declaration despite the unequivocal federal treaty making powers and legislative supremacy established in the Constitution’s Article VI.

The New American’s Alex Newman described in June that “The implications of the [CSKT compact] fight are so serious that Willman is moving to the area in an effort to defend liberty and the rights of besieged Eastern Montanans.”[18] While the Flathead Reservation is actually in western Montana, the Bircher’s claim about Willman proved true. In early May 2015 the Concerned Citizens of NW Montana began an effort to fundraise for Willman’s move, declaring, “We, the Concerned Citizens of NW Montana, wish to fund Elaine Willman’s move to Montana. She has agreed to the move.”[19] As Willman explained, she moved because,

“I became convinced that the CSKT Compact is a template for federalizing all state waters and implementing communalism and socialism consistent with Agenda 21 and that it is intentionally aligned to spread tribalism as a governing system while eliminating State authority and duty to protect its citizenry. It is my belief that Montana is Ground Zero for test-driving this model in a highly-prized state of small population. I so seriously believe this peril is a fight worth fighting that I have walked away from an excellent employer and moved my family, household, and consulting business to Ronan, Montana.”[20]

Willman had previously written a letter, posted by Newstalk KGVO, declaring that “The Proposed CSKT Water Compact is the Revolutionary War for citizens of Montana. Its consequences are as severe.”[21] No doubt pleased with her move, the Concerned Citizens of NW Montana is promoting the September conference, declaring, “This year’s event features some of the top speakers in the field.”[22] CERA’s Kalispell conference is also being promoted by the Tule Lake, California-based Klamath Basin Crisis, which also promotes the State of Jefferson movement.[23]

Willman’s move to Montana comes as CERA has increasingly operated in a broader far right movement, including efforts in Wyoming, Montana, Washington and California variously working alongside Tea Party, property rights, secessionists and local anti-Indian activists. The group’s budding alliance with the John Birch Society could foster a deeper relationship with the Tea Party movement in which the JBS is entrenched. The Montana conference could provide a springboard to stepping up anti-Indian activity in that state and continuing to posture CERA as the Indian law “expert” to the far right around the country.





[1] Graff, Trevor. Group urges leaders to stand up to EPA on Riverton boundary ruling. Casper Star Tribune. June 14, 2014.…

[2] County 10. Small Turnout for CERA Workshop at Riverton City Hall; EPA decision said to be unconstitutional.

[3] Tanner, Charles. Take These Tribes Down: The Anti-Indian Movement Comes to Washington State. April 26, 2013. Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

[4] The Waking Giant. Bob Fanning Running for Governor of Montana. March 2, 2012.; Ryan, Clarice. Group will awaken Congress to water compact. The Missoulian. July 5, 2015; Montana Human Rights Network. Right-Wing Conspiracies and Racism Mar Opposition to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and State of Montana Water Compact. April 15, 2015.

[5] The Kogan Law Group.; Wilson,
Samuel. Lawyer spearheads water compact legal challenge. The Daily Inter Lake. June 15, 2015.

[6] CSKT opponents campaign against Compact. Western Ag Reporter. August 20, 2015

[7] Davis and Kuelthau. Frank Kowalkowski. Biography.; State of Wisconsin Bar Association. Lawyer Profile.

[8] Bacigalupi, Debbie. Regionalization: One World Order.

[9] “Agenda 21 Q & A, Dorris, CA, 21-Jul-2013.” Hosted by Liberty and Property Rights Coalition and other Sponsors. 21-Jul-2013. Doris, CA.

[10] Alex Newman. U.S. Indian Policy Used to Assault Freedom, Expert Says.

The New American. June 26, 2015.

[11] Bacigalupi, Debbie. Agenda 21 Activist. Northwest Liberty News.

[12] See Washington, George. Letter to James Duane. September 7, 1873. In Prucha, Francis Paul. 1990. Documents of United States Indian Policy. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press; Bolton, Charles S. 2003. Jeffersonian Indian Removal and the Emergence of Arkansas Territory. The Arkansas Historical Quarterly. Vol 63(2):253-271; Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to Henry Dearborn. August 28, 1807. National Archives.

[13] See American Freedom Alliance. Season of Events 2014;

[14] Baird, Mark. Statement submitted to Congressman McClintock’s Public Forum. August 6, 2013.

[15] Pratt, Larry. Sheriffs Standing with the People Against the Feds. January 7, 2012.; Bowen, Liz. Liz Writes Life. January 22, 2013.

[16] Montana Human Rights Network. Right-Wing Conspiracies and Racism Mar Opposition to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and State of Montana Water Compact. April 15, 2015.; Concerned Citizens of Western Montana. Who Controls the Flathead Irrigation Project. November 10, 2013.

[17] Montana Human Rights Network. Right-Wing Conspiracies and Racism Mar Opposition to Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and State of Montana Water Compact. April 15, 2015.

[18] Alex Newman. U.S. Indian Policy Used to Assault Freedom, Expert Says.

The New American. June 26, 2015.

[19] Concerned Citizens of NW Montana.

[20] Willman, Elaine. Valley Forge and the Flathead Valley. July 29, 2015.

[21] Willman, Elaine.

[22] Concerned Citizens of NW Montana Facebook Page.

[23] Klamath Basin Crisis. News.

Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

More posts by Chuck Tanner