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FBI visits Lakota-run winter housing camp to discuss safety issues
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FBI visits Lakota-run winter housing camp to discuss safety issues

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Two FBI agents on the left speak with two camp members on Thursday.

The FBI on Thursday visited Camp Mniluzahan, a Lakota-run winter camp established on tribal land outside Rapid City jurisdiction. 

The camp was established by Creek Patrol members on Sunday after an initial attempt to create it on public land Friday in Rapid City. The Rapid City Police Department ordered the group to take down four tipis, saying they violated city ordinances related to tents, public events and the flood plain. Officers arrested six people who stayed inside a tipi. 

The Thursday meeting with the FBI agents was not tense like the event on Oct. 16. FBI agents and some Creek Patrol members laughed and shook hands toward the end of the short meeting. 

"We're not trying to infringe upon your running of the camp, we just want to make sure that if there’s an emergency we already have plans in place," an FBI agent named Kevin said in a public video posted to Facebook. “I want to make it very clear that we’re not here to remove you from where you’re at, we’re not here to try to arrest you or get you in any legal trouble.

"We're not here to infringe upon your sovereignty," the agent said, adding that group leaders are invited to the FBI office in Rapid City to discuss safety plans. 

“We do have plans in place," a Creek Patrol member told the agent. “Our intent is to maintain the peace for the way we’ve been doing it for thousands of years."

The woman said the group would discuss whether it wants to meet with the FBI and call the agency back. 

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The video was livestreamed by Creek Patrol member Carrie Middletent around 12:20 p.m. on Thursday. It shows three plain-clothes FBI agents and their black SUV at the entrance to the camp in a forested area with dirt roads. Camp leaders have not yet disclosed the location, but it's on land held in trust by the federal government for the Oglala, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes. 

“I want to thank you for your congeniality," the woman told the agents. 

Kevin said he recognizes the camp is on tribal land so “we as the FBI are the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction here as opposed to the sheriff's office and the local police department."

He said he learned about a recent incident where there was a medical emergency at the camp, but first responders had difficulty contacting the group. Kevin said the FBI would like to meet with the group to discuss communication and logistics for any medical, fire or criminal issues that arise. 

“We just want to sit down and work all those things out," he said. 

After the agents left, Middletent explained that they had driven into the camp but the group made them turn around and wait outside the entrance. Middletent did not immediately return a message from the Journal. 

The FBI has jurisdiction over major crimes on reservations and other Native American land like this camp, according to spokesman Kevin Smith. 

The only reason agents would revisit the camp is if they need to investigate a major crime, he said. The agents have no control over other crimes or the camp itself. 

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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