3 people found dead on White Earth Reservation related to public safety director

March 19, 2019 10:11 PM

A member of the White Earth Tribal Council confirmed Tuesday the bodies of three people found inside an Ogema home Monday belonged to Emma LaRoque and her two sons.

Emma and her kids are related to the reservation's Public Safety Director Mike LaRoque. She is his daughter and they are his grandchildren. Officers stumbled upon their remains when responding to only what was called "an incident" off Highway 34.

Given the sensitive circumstances, three bodies were discovered, two of whom are kids, and they're related and also stayed at the Chief's home. It's on an Indian reservation which is sovereign land. 

Outside agencies including the Becker County Sheriff and the BCA took over the death investigations.

RELATED: Authorities investigate deaths of 3 people in Becker County

In the northwestern Minnesota area, the grief was palpable during traditional services which combined community, culture and comfort.  Merlin Deegan Sr. is the White Earth Cultural Coordinator and explained the importance of time-honored services. 

"What we have going on here is the Gee-shek ceremony to help heal the people," Deegan said. 

Members gathered in a healing circle for a ceremonial pipe smoking, prayers, drums and cedar wiping. 

"We wash them off and we deal with their grief because our people right now really need something to grasp onto and move forward in a positive way," said Deegan.

At several locations, mental health, spiritual and cultural counseling was offered Tuesday and will be again Wednesday. For those who couldn't make it to the rituals, a crisis line was also available. 

As members coped with the loss of three lives, emotions and questions surfaced, such as were Emma and her kids homicide victims?  How did they die? Was a weapon of some sort found? Why did they die? And who's responsible?

The BCA is expected to release those details.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics tracks violent crimes and reports Native Americans die at much higher rates than the general population. Also, the Department of Justice announced recently the first in a series of grants to support victims and their families. 

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Beth McDonough

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