The Banishing: Reporter's Notebook

Read this week's cover, "The Banishing," for more on the Mille Lacs Band Ojibwe.
This week's cover story, "The Banishing," examines crime on the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe reservation, and how the tribe has dealt with repeat violent offenders.

In 2008, the tribal court began banishing perennial criminals from the community. Legally called "exclusion," the order exiles an offender from the reservation for at least five years. If the banished member can maintain a clean record and gainful employment in that time, he or she can appeal the exclusion.

But three years later, crime persists. Throughout the course of this story, we talked to many tribe members who say the reservation has become a much more dangerous place since the mid-2000s. Most attribute the problem to gangs like the Native Mob and Vice Lords.

"You can't trust anybody anymore," says Mille Lacs Ojibwe member Irene Benjamin. "It's families against families, friends against friends.... It's just crazy."

Here are a couple anecdotes that didn't make print:

'Jamie Got Stabbed'

The road to Maria Kegg's house is decorated with smashed metal mailboxes and mounds of dirt.

Outside her home, a pit bull barks viciously at anyone who dares enter the property, pulling the chain around its neck with no regard for its own throat. Kegg, a slight woman with messy black hair, answers the door with caution. "Yeah?" she says.

A few minutes later, she is sitting at her kitchen table, recounting the details of the attempted carjacking that nearly got her killed. She speaks in such a casual tone, she might as well be describing an episode of Law & Order. (Read more about the carjacking in the feature).

For Kegg, this was just another day in her neighborhood, which might explain her casual attitude toward the story. The area has become so dangerous, she says, that she is on edge day and night. She often stays at her mother's house in a nicer part of the reservation when things look particularly grim.

As she looks at portraits of her kids sitting on the kitchen counter, she tells another story. One time she heard a shrill scream coming from outside her house and ran out to find a group of people gathered around a nearby park.

"I didn't think anything of it until I went outside and heard people crying," says Kegg. "And they said, 'Jamie got stabbed.'"

She ran to the park to find her teenage son lying the grass, she says, his guts hanging out of his stomach where his torso had been slashed.

"I don't know how many times I can call the cops," says Kegg. "I don't know if they help or not."

Photo by Andy Mannix.
A house boarded up and tagged in the Bugg Hill neighborhood.
​'Another Party Gone Wrong'

On an autumn Tuesday morning at Mille Lacs, the talk of the reservation is a recent shooting in a neighborhood called Bugg Hill. Though the tribe-owned bungalow homes look relatively new, Bugg Hill has established a reputation as one of the worst areas of the reservation. Many of the units are already boarded up and covered with graffiti.

The night of the shooting, Cynthia Guernsey was getting ready to finish her shift as security supervisor at Grand Casino when she heard a commotion in the lobby. At first, she made nothing of it. Then she heard someone scream an alarming combination of words.

"Did they just say 'gunshot wound'?" she remembers thinking.

Sure enough, she stepped out to see a 19-year-old man sitting in the casino clutching his right arm. The blood appeared to already be dried, meaning the wound was at least an hour old. He had a gash on his forehead, says Guernsey, as if he had also been pistol-whipped across the face.

When the police arrived, the man told them he had been dropped off by a black Chevy Tahoe, says Guernsey. He wouldn't say who was driving or what had happened. Police ruled it a home invasion.

On a fall afternoon a week later, a broken window on the front door of the house where it happened is sloppily boarded with a piece of plywood. A toy four-wheeler sits in the backyard. No one is home.

In the adjoining bungalow unit, a young woman answers the door holding a baby in a diaper. She wasn't home when the shooting happened, she says, offering only that she knows a woman lives there with her young child.

"Probably just another party gone wrong," she says casually, and shuts the door.

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It all stems from the Violence against our women, Child molestation and In breeding that goes on and everyone tries hiding. Its just Karma Slapping our people in the Face saying, "Hello, wake up this is a war zone". We all know someone that has done it, our Grandfathers have done it and it keeps going on and on. Then give us hand outs to reward us for bad behavior, we just start expecting everything handed to us. The white man was wrong by taking our land, But that's how it was centuries ago. Now big government has stepped in and really made a mess out of things once again. Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents. Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is called inbreeding "depression". Its not my place to judge, but our actions have compelled a higher power to judge and its sad to see that everyone keeps acting like nothing is going on. The "Per Capita" we receive is "Dirty" money that is generated from a gambling demon that has corrupted many people and takes advantage of this sin, but no one cares as long as we get our money. We all get this money handed to us and continue to rip people off, which is a greed demon that has spread nationwide. So now there are about a dozen Demons running wild and free to do whatever they want. Now the Gangs / Terrorists!!! are the repercussion from our children that were taught to keep their mouths shut and shown no love unless daddy was drunk and horny, So who stood up for these children, Gitchi Manidoo and he can only let so much of this go on before he releases his wrath and we're seeing it first hand. So this is only going to get worse since everyone is concerned about per cap and not the future of our people. We have no motivation to better ourselves, we get jobs handed to us and think we wont be fired cause we're Native, which is true but that's what we're taught. So here you go all you elders, you just reaped what you sowed. How many more are we going to lose before we realize the cycle isn't working. Show this to all the elected officials and see if they continue the *hush-hush* don't talk to the media or actually care about our people or just their beloved dollar that continues to bring our people down. Cut our Per Cap and invest it in creating Jobs, Awareness, Hope, Education and Religion as this is the only way to break the vicious cycle that we have created for ourselves.

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