Man under investigation for horse deaths hoped to start a horse rescue ranch

OGEMA, Minn.--An Ogema man under investigation for the starving death of three horses in his care has a GoFundMe site seeking $10,000 to create a "family horse rescue ranch."...

The three horses in November, before winter set in at their pasture near Strawberry Lake. Submitted photo.

OGEMA, Minn.-An Ogema man under investigation for the starving death of three horses in his care has a GoFundMe site seeking $10,000 to create a "family horse rescue ranch."

Michael E. Dahl, a White Earth spiritual leader and Ojibwe teacher at Detroit Lakes High School, set up the still-active Go-Fund-Me site on Sept. 25, 2015 and has so far received donations of $841 towards his $10,000 goal.

Dahl did not return a message left on his cellphone voice mail. He has been accused by a former horse-breeder of letting three horses under his care starve to death-including a 2-year-old filly that was descended from the great race horse Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown. Horse breeder Amber Shaide of Fargo says she gave one of the horses to Dahl as a spiritual gift, another he reportedly got from a horse rescue organization and the other he was charged with taking care of for its owner while she was away. White Earth tribal police are investigating the horse deaths, according to the Becker County Sheriff's Office. Any charges would be brought in Becker County District Court.

Here's some of what Dahl wrote on his GoFundMe site:

"Those of you that don't know me, I will do my best to tell you a little bit about myself and my endeavors. ... I am Michael Dahl and I am Ojibwe/Anishinaabe from the White Earth Reservation. I am a community man, meaning that i spend most of my time in my community and doing whatever I can to make it a better place. ... I am also a horse lover and have been drawn to this place because it has 10 acres of land and room for pastures for my horses and a couple more. My dream is to turn this place into a "family horse rescue ranch" someday, so when a horse that needs to be rescued comes, a family would be able to assist in the recuperations and preparations for that horse to be adopted out.


This would also be an opportunity for the family to experience a triumph together and be able to work thru some of the tragedies and hardships that I had sat with them thru previously. When the horse is ready to be adopted, the family would have the option to adopt the horse themselves and then be able to assist in the upkeep of the horse and the ranch to help defray the costs of upkeep- and eventually bringing back and revitalizing the relationship with horses and our people. This is the long term dream..."

The three horses were found dead at the site of the proposed horse rescue ranch near Strawberry Lake late last month. One of the horses was ridden in the 2015 Love Water Not Oil Ride held by Honor the Earth, said Executive Director Winona LaDuke.

"We are devastated to hear that this has happened," Honor the Earth Board Co-chair Shannon Martin said in a news release. "The Michael Dahl we knew was a kind person with commitments to his family, animals and community. I can't believe this type of cruelty was perpetrated..." He said Dahl is no longer associated with Honor the Earth.

Honor the Earth has held four horse rides along the proposed Enbridge pipeline routes, and has participated in ceremonial and spiritual horse rides against the Keystone XL pipeline and the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.

Spiritual horse rides continue to be central to many Nations, who have hosted the Big Foot Memorial Ride (commemorating the 300 mile ride of Chief Big Foot's band, which culminated in the Wounded Knee massacre), the Dakota 38 plus 2 Ride, and many more spiritual rides.

Honor the Earth says it will continue to support culturally based work with horses, and on the reservation. "Horses are healing animals, I have seen them many times help children, and many people who have experienced trauma, and I am continuously grateful to the horse nation," said LaDuke.

This last year's horse ride included a ride from Standing Rock to Tioga, the route of the proposed Dakota Access pipeline.

She said if Dahl is ultimately found responsible for the horse deaths, it will be a mystery why he didn't ask for help.


"I have taken care of Michael's horses before when he was without money to care for his horses," LaDuke said. "He could have easily asked me for help. ... To me, this is like killing a relative. I cannot understand this."

Honor the Earth Board Co-chair Paul DeMain said people are angry about the needless deaths.

"Honor the Earth is outraged at the starving death of these horses," he said. "The horses could have been afforded care by our organization had we been asked. We expect those responsible to be held accountable-Honor the Earth extends condolences to the horse nation and the White Earth people for this sorrowful act."

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