Civil Rights Enforcement Efforts in North Dakota


The North Dakota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is charged with assisting the Commission in its factfinding, investigative, and information dissemination functions. In keeping with this responsibility, the North Dakota Advisory Committee held two factfinding meetings, the first in Bismarck on May 16, 1996, and the second in Fargo on September 24, 1997, to receive information on civil rights enforcement efforts in the State.

The purpose of the factfinding meetings was to provide an overview of the issue and gather information from participants who brought a variety of statistics, experiences, recommendations, concerns, and opinions. Individuals invited to the factfinding meetings were identified through recommendations from Advisory Committee members, through personal and telephone interviews, and referrals from a variety of other sources.

The factfinding meetings were especially timely in that they coincided with a number of efforts and proposals initiated by community organizations, and also a study of the extent of and level of remedies for discrimination in the State by the Judiciary Committee of the North Dakota Legislative Council.

During the first factfinding meeting held in Bismarck,[1] 25 individuals participated, and at the second factfinding meeting held in Fargo,[2] a total of 19 individuals made presentations. Collectively, they represented an array of experiences and viewpoints from local, State, and Federal agencies and commissions, private and community-based organizations, advocacy groups, students, parents, and interested citizens.

It is our desire to lay out all the specifics with this subject. It is expected that the information found in this report will help State and local agencies to make informed decisions concerning the future of discrimination and civil rights in North Dakota.

To address these issues, this report will look at the importance of the North Dakota Human Rights Act and the role it has played in protecting North Dakota citizens. We will attempt to share with the reader other efforts, past and present, to address discrimination in North Dakota. The report will also discuss the extent to which discrimination exists in the State and identify under what bases (race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical or mental disability, or marital status) individuals are affected, and it will also outline what redress North Dakota citizens have when they have experienced discrimination.


[1] Invited participants to the May 16, 1996, factfinding meeting in Bismarck were:

Dale O. Anderson, president, Greater North Dakota Association; Myrt Armstrong, executive director, North Dakota Mental Health Association; Dave Boeck, supervising attorney, Protection and Advocacy Project; Linda Catalano, executive director, Legal Assistance of North Dakota, Inc.; Keith Elston, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union, North Dakota chapter; Gerard T. Friesz, executive director, North Dakota Public Employee Association; Richard W. Gray, American with Disabilities Act building codes program manager, North Dakota Office of Intergovernmental Assistance; Craig Hagen, commissioner of labor, North Dakota Department of Labor; Heidi Heitkamp, attorney general, North Dakota; Clare Hochhalter, assistant U.S. attorney, District of North Dakota; Lynda Johnson, director, North Dakota Fair Housing Council; Alton Koppang, member, American Association of Retired Persons; William Kretschmar, North Dakota House of Representatives; Claus Lembke, executive vice president, North Dakota Association of Realtors; Connie McBride, State project director, Green Thumb, Inc.; Don Morrison, member, North Dakota Progressive Coalition; Honorable Marv Mutzenberger, North Dakota House of Representatives; Eileene Olson, board member, Dakota Center for Independent Living; Deborah A. Painte, executive director, North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission; Bonnie Palecek, executive director, North Dakota Council of Abused Women’s Services; Curt Peterson, executive vice president, Associated General Contractors of North Dakota; Cheryl Red Eagle, columnist, Bismarck Tribune; Ora C. Robinson, former chairwoman, Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission; Catherine Rydell, North Dakota House of Representatives; Sandi Tabor, member, North Dakota Supreme Court Commission on Gender Fairness in the Courts.

[2] Invited participants to the Sept. 24, 1997, factfinding meeting in Fargo were:

Nate Aalgaard, executive director, Freedom Resource Center for Independent Living; Tom Disselhorst, staff attorney, Three Affiliated Tribes; Michael Edwards, Ph.D. candidate, Chemistry Department, North Dakota State University; Bruce Furness, mayor, City of Fargo; Theresa Grant, Native American Liaison, North Dakota Parole & Probation; Yoke-Sim Gunaratne, director, Cultural Diversity Project; Sandra Holbrook, director of equal opportunity, North Dakota State University; Scot Kelsh, North Dakota House of Representatives; Erich Longie, president, Cankdeska Cikana Community College; Holly Jeanotte Marion, director, Office of Community Relations, City of Grand Forks; Denise Mullen, housing and emergency assistance coordinator, Southeastern North Dakota Community Action Agency; Barry Nelson, director, Community Outreach Programs, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota; Darrell Nottestad, North Dakota House of Representatives; Adele Hedley Page, representing Sarah Andrews-Herman of Commission on Gender Fairness in the Courts; Deborah A. Painte, executive director, North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission; John Schneider, U.S. attorney, District of North Dakota; Cheryl Schrenk, staff attorney, Migrant Legal Services; Larry R. Spain, director, Legal Aid Association; Don Warren, civil rights manager, Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture.