Havre Daily News
A mediator from the U.S. Department of Justice who came to Havre for a day in June will be back for a longer stay on Monday to discuss issues of racial tension with community leaders.
Speaking from the department's Community Relations Services regional office in Denver on Thursday, the mediator said she will be in the Havre area for five days. The focus of her trip is basically the same as it was the first time: talk to community members, get a full picture of what is happening, and help the community work out its problems.
The mediator spoke on condition that her name not be used. She said mediators prefer that their names not appear in the media to help along the conciliation process.
"We're coming in to do an assessment," she said. "I'll be talking to a whole host of people, community members I didn't get a chance to speak with the last time I was here."
She said she will be meeting with Havre Mayor Bob Rice, the Blaine and Hill County commissioners, tribal councils at the Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap reservation, members of the Havre City Council, the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, and school members.
The mediation process often involves town hall meetings as well as smaller group settings. No town hall meetings are planned in the Havre area. After she is done compiling all of the information, she will then file a report with the Justic Department and see what else needs to be done.
Hill County Commissioner Mike Anderson said the commissioners plan to meet with the mediator on Tuesday. The meeting was initiated by her, he said, and they are prepared to answer any questions that she may have. Blaine County Commissioner Don Swenson said he was contacted about her visit on Wednesday, and has a meeting scheduled for Thursday. He said she told him the visit with the commissioners was to "tell us about her department and what she does."
Chamber executive director Debbie Vandeberg said she has been e-mailing with the mediator, but that no official meeting has been set.
City Council members Allen "Woody" Woodwick and Tom Farnham had not been contacted about meeting with the mediator, and had heard nothing about her meeting with the council, they said. Havre Public Schools Superintendent Kirk Miller also has no plans to meet with the mediator, nor does Montana State University-Northern Chancellor Alex Capdeville, they said.
Mayor Bob Rice was unavailable for comment.
Rocky Boy tribal council cheif of staff Richard Sangrey said today that the mediator has not contacted the tribe, but the tribal council will be willing to speak with her if she does.
Her first trip on June 21 came in response to an article written about Havre by journalism students at the University of Montana. The article, "Bordering on Racism," ran as an insert along with seven other stories by UM's Native News Project in the May 21 edition of the Great Falls Tribune. The article included accounts of mistreatment of Native Americans in some Havre businesses.
The mediator described her June 21 visit as "really good." She spoke with about 25 concerned community members at the time, deputy director for the agency Stephen Thom said after her trip.
The Community Relations Service was created in 1964 by the Civil Rights Act to help act as a peacekeeper and conciliator in the racially divided South. Since then, the organization has shrunk in size but grown in scope, offering its services to local governments and community groups nationwide to resolve racial tension. The agency has 10 regional offices and 50 agents.