Port: Bill gives taxpayer dollars to group recently found liable in sexual harassment case

"Minnesota taxpayers might wonder why their money should flow to such an overtly political organization. One seemingly troubled by some serious institutional problems, no less."

A Native American woman with long, dark hair wears dangling earrings, a beaded necklace and a denim overshirt.
Winona LaDuke, founder of the environmental activist group Honor the Earth.
Zach Kayser / Brainerd Dispatch

MINOT, N.D. — Last week a jury in Becker County, Minnesota, found that Honor the Earth, a left-wing activist group, must pay a former employee to settle a sexual harassment suit .

Meanwhile, state lawmakers in St. Paul are considering whether to appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization.

"Doug Burgum's campaign launch did a great job of laying out his resume as a competent leader, but sadly, that's not going to be enough to separate him from the GOP pack."
Dave Weigel, a political reporter for Semafor, joins this episode of Plain Talk, and co-host Ben Hanson reports on Burgum's campaign launch event.

Honor the Earth, founded by Winona LaDuke, has organized protests against pipeline projects, such as the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipelines, and also advocates for divestment from energy sources like oil, gas, and coal.

According to a report on the suit from my colleague, April Baumgarten, Honor the Earth employee Margaret "Molly" Campbell says she was harassed by a co-worker named Michael Dahl who made "inappropriately sexually charged comments." Campbell reported the incidents to LaDuke who responded by dismissing her concerns.

“That’s just how Michael is,” LaDuke told Campbell, per filings in the latter's suit.


Campbell resigned in early 2015 after being placed on unpaid administrative leave. At that point, LaDuke sent her an email telling her to “stay quiet” about her allegations of harassment lest she face a defamation lawsuit.

Honor the Earth's lawyer argued that Becker County lacked jurisdiction since the organization was formed in the White Earth Nation. The court rejected that argument, and the jury rendered a verdict awarding Campbell $750,000.

Rep. Alicia Kozlowski, a Democrat from Duluth, introduced House File 2091 to Minnesota's current legislative session. It would appropriate $920,000 over two fiscal years to the Minnesota Humanities Center "for grants for museum-related programming and educational efforts to teach the public about the history and cultural heritage of Indigenous people in Minnesota."

Of that total, $520,000 would go to "upgrade and convert the Carnegie Library building in Park Rapids" to "Giiwedinong — The Museum and Cultural Center of the North."

This is a project LaDuke has founded and touted in her columns, to be built in a building that once housed offices for Enbridge, the company behind the Line 3 pipeline.

Also among the earmarks in the legislation is a $200,000 appropriation to "coordinate, curate, and organize displays of collections from Honor the Earth, Akiing, and other organizations at the museum."

Even setting the financial liability created for Honor the Earth by the jury finding in Becker County aside, Minnesota taxpayers might wonder why their money should be flowing to such an overtly political organization.

HF 2091 was referred to the Legacy Finance Committee in February. There haven't been any significant actions on the bill since then.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What To Read Next
Get Local