More than three months after suspected arson burned six spiritual and cultural sites on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Sawyer County, no charges have been filed, no person arrested, and no comment from law enforcement agencies. And now, at least one tribal official says answers are overdue.
Sweat lodges, a ceremonial drum circle and drum lodge and part of the Honor the Earth Pow Wow ground were all torched on July 14 and 15. That included Alvin Baker’s Purification Lodge which burned to the ground.
Now Baker says it’s time for him and tribal officials to speak out. Even as a victim, Baker says law enforcement is leaving him in the dark, “We don’t have any information about where it’s going. I can’t get any information. Nobody will talk to me about it.”
LCO Tribal Governing Board member Mic Isham says most people on the reservation shares Baker’s frustration, “We don’t understand why it’s taken so long. It seems like in every other case, boom! They’re in jail, they’re charged.”
In fact, LCO Attorney James Schlender Jr. says emails have been sent to the Sawyer County District Attorney’s office. The reply: no decision has been made on charges relating to the arson cases. Schlender says they’re asking for an inquiry about that.
Isham says although he believes the danger is past, he says this was a hate crime, “Total hate crime. And religious. I mean, the community came together. The parents apologized to the community. That’s how sure he was of that. I don’t know what more can be done really.”
We have received “no comments” from District Attorney Bruce Poquette, the Sawyer County Sheriff’s Department, the state Department of Justice and Fire Marshall’s office. The U.S. Attorney is not available and the FBI will only say they are aware of the investigation.