But then there’s this: a scan of a full-page advertisement in a recent edition of the Flathead Beacon with photographs of 47 babies newly delivered in the Kalispell Regional Medical Center. All but one are fair-skinned with light-colored hair. “Wonderful white babies being born in Kalispell,” the website reads. “What do the babies look like being born in your town?”
Another item on the site depicts white families relaxing on the shore of a lake. A caption reads, “This is how white our beaches are, and I’m not talking about sand.”
Dresden Hale is the youngest daughter of Kalispell resident and neo-Nazi activist April Gaede, the public face of the Pioneer Little Europe movement. Launched in 2008, PLE invites “racially conscious” white Americans to relocate to the Flathead Valley to help create an armed Aryan homeland. Gaede’s other two daughters, Lynx and Lamb, are identical twins who gained media attention by performing neo-Nazi folk ballads as the musical act Prussian Blue. Lynx and Lamb have since renounced white supremacism and when last heard from were advocating for medical cannabis.
The PLE movement has brought dozens of white supremacists to the Flathead Valley. They’re increasingly making their presence known by staging public events; openly recruiting and distributing racist literature; stocking up on firearms at area gun shows while dressed in neo-Nazi clothing; working for local anti-gun control and anti-abortion campaigns, according to Gaede; and issuing violent threats to perceived enemies, including Media Matters, where this story was published online last week.
The growing numbers of PLE white supremacists in the Flathead Valley parallels a recent influx to the area of right-wing Patriot movement leaders and their followers. Their combined forces are transforming the region into the apex of right-wing extremism in the U.S.
Nationwide, the Patriot movement is surging. And local, state and federal law enforcement authorities, as well as Montana civil rights activists, say newly arrived Patriot members are forming ties with PLE white supremacists. “They’re showing up at each other’s events,” says a federal law-enforcement investigator. “They have in common a great degree of hostility toward the government in general and specifically law enforcement. Also, they’re both openly encouraging individuals with a similar mindset to relocate to the Kalispell area. At this point, they’re separate but related concerns for law enforcement.”
In addition to calling on fellow right-wing extremists to move to the Flathead Valley, leaders of both the PLE and the Patriot movements are urging their followers to exploit Montana’s lack of firearms regulations by stocking up on guns, says Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which closely follows PLE and Patriot activity.
“With the PLE, it’s the coming battle with Zionist Occupied Government; with the Patriots, it’s the New World Order,” McAdam says. Still, “the rhetoric is similar: ‘A big fight is coming, so move with us to Montana, where it’s easy to get a lot of serious guns.’” Gaede cited Montana’s pro-gun culture in a recent PLE recruiting message posted to the white nationalist online forum Stormfront. The Flathead Valley, she wrote, “has a distinct ‘Montana’ feel and attitude. That attitude is to leave others alone and allow them to have their own beliefs and choices. There is a strong pro-gun and pro-hunting population and one of the strongest Constitution parties that I have seen yet. Our Christmas parade still goes by that name and we have a nativity scene in our public square with a Baby Jesus...Come Home!”
The dogs in the cellar
Last month, Media Matters emailed April Gaede, the spokeswoman for the Pioneer Little Europe movement, to ask whether she considered PLE a racist endeavor.
“Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white,” Gaede replied. “If a group of Jews wanted to move to an area that had a high concentration of Jews already, would that make them Jewish supremacists? If blacks choose to associate and work with other blacks to form a ‘black racial community,’ is that racist? Apparently only white people cannot work for the advancement of their race, while groups like La Raza are accepted as ‘cultural groups.’ What if the 14 words said ‘We must secure the existence of our race and a future for Native American children’ instead of ‘We must secure the existence of our race and a future for White children?’ Would human-rights activists call that racist?”
The “14 words” is a popular white nationalist slogan that was devised by David Lane, a member of the 1980s right-wing domestic terrorist group The Order. The group committed armed robberies, including a $3.6 million armored car heist, in part to fund the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations. Richard Butler, the founder of Aryan Nations, set up shop in a northern Idaho compound in the 1970s. From there, Butler called for the migration of white supremacists to the Northwest. Aryan Nations has all but disintegrated since Butler’s death in 2004.
The current Flathead Valley-based PLE movement is the latest manifestation of the longstanding dream of white supremacists to carve out their own piece of America. Gaede and other PLE activists picked the valley for some of the same reasons Butler picked northern Idaho: historically, its population is more than 95 percent white and politically conservative with a strong libertarian streak. “Around here, we have a live-and-let-live mentality,” says Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher. “That leads to some individuals with fringe beliefs finding refuge in the Flathead Valley.”
The PLE movement is guided by an 85-page document titled Pioneer Little Europe (PLE) Prospectus, written in 2001 by H. Michael Barrett, a longstanding white supremacist. Barrett’s history in the movement dates back to the late 1960s, when, by his own account, he served as the armed bodyguard for one of the leaders of the National Socialist White People’s Party, which had evolved out of the American Nazi Party. Barrett went on to join the Ku Klux Klan and become a field organizer for David Duke.
The Prospectus describes a step-by-step plan to gradually transform a mostly white, conservative area by taking over its local political and economic systems and then unleashing what Barrett terms “Uncontrolled White Nationalist Culture” or UNWC:
“The UNWC starts out by drawing together the [white nationalists] who are no longer permitted to exercise the integrity of their community living space anywhere else, those who are unwanted elsewhere if they even so much as express love for their race. These are the culturally homeless, the berserkers, the greatest misfits, the especially angry, those who refuse to run any more, who refuse to bow and scrape, the doers rather than passive thinkers, the dogs in the cellar.” The prospectus lays out plans to “connect with militants, those who have long lacked a community to defend,” and eventually to “displace and DESTROY all the local values that have never really served whites.”
Since the PLE Prospectus first appeared online, several white supremacist groups in the U.S. and the U.K. have announced their intentions to form Aryan communities as outlined by Barrett. Most of these efforts proved to be no more than talk. No other Aryan homeland organizers have gained anywhere close to the kind of traction within the larger white supremacist movement as PLE organizers in Montana have since the fall of 2008, when Gaede issued the first in a series of public invitations to white supremacists across the country to join her and a handful of PLE “advance scouts” in the Flathead Valley.
Gaede’s message was posted on several white supremacist online forums, including Stormfront, the largest website of its kind, with more than 100,000 registered users. Stormfront now has several active discussion threads promoting the Kalispell-based PLE movement, with more than 3,500 posts.
“Hello friends,” Gaede wrote in her first overture. “I am formally making you an invitation to ‘come home’ to the Pacific Northwest. For many years, the Northwest Imperative or Northwest migration movement has existed in the hearts and minds of many of our people. Over 20 years ago, some of the first White Nationalist pioneers started moving to this area. The numbers are not clear, but we are slowly but surely gaining ground. By the creation of PLE areas or towns, those of us who have already made the move will try to help and advise those who wish to do so.”
Local and federal law enforcement put the number of white supremacists who have either relocated to the Flathead Valley permanently or become frequent visitors to the area as a direct result of the PLE movement at close to 50. That figure does not include Patriot movement followers, who have moved there during the same time period. A December 2008 report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimated that approximately 35 Freemen or sovereign citizen extremists, sub-sets of the Patriot movement, were active in or near Kalispell. That number has increased since then, following the arrival of Christian fundamentalist preacher Chuck Baldwin, a leading figure in the Patriot movement. Baldwin moved to Kalispell in late 2010 with 17 members of his family. He’s since drawn more than 20 followers to the Flathead Valley, according to law enforcement sources. Last week, he declared his candidacy for Montana’s lieutenant governor.
At least 43 white supremacists on Stormfront and similar internet forums claim to be living in the Flathead Valley as part of PLE and to have moved there since early 2009. Another five claim to be locals who lived there before the PLE movement in Montana began. A review of more than 30 hours of video footage of five right-wing extremist events held in the Flathead Valley in the last 12 months reveals at least 36 self-declared white supremacists are either living there or traveling there often enough to appear at event after event.
“I would say there’s 25-30 of these individuals living here right now, and maybe about that many who come and go and seem to be thinking about moving here,” says Flathead Valley Sheriff Chuck Curry. “Obviously, we hope they don’t.”
Curry says there has been no uptick in reported hate crimes or extremist violence in the Flathead Valley since the PLE movement went public. “At this point, it seems like it’s all rhetoric,” he says. “But we’re keeping our eye on it. We work very well with the FBI here.”
Curry thinks Gaede and other PLE activists were drawn to the valley by widespread anti-government sentiment in the region. “For whatever reason, it’s pretty normal around here for people to declare themselves anti-government, at least in terms of the federal level,” he says. “That’s what these [PLE] folks find attractive, the same as the constitutionalists, whom we called ‘militia’ 10 years ago. But having hard feelings toward the federal government and being a neo-Nazi are two different things. These folks are on the edge of society. They’re not representative of our community.”
Recent arrivals in Kalispell include rank-and-file members of neo-Nazi, skinhead and Ku Klux Klan groups, as well as better-known white supremacists such as Gaede, neo-Nazi webmaster Craig Cobb and former Aryan Nations organizer Karl Gharst.
It looks as though the PLE movement in Montana is beginning to execute the strategies outlined in the PLE Prospectus. These include providing “safe speaking forums” for controversial historians, some of whom have revisionist views. Since March of 2010, PLE members have organized a lecture in Kalispell by prominent Holocaust-denier David Irving and four showings of Holocaust-denial movies in the basement of the Kalispell Public Library.