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Two Indian Country Police Officers Remembered at Memorial Service

A story about two Indian country police officers being memorialized and remembered at the Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in New Mexico.
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The names of two fallen Indian Country law enforcement officers are being added to the Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Artesia, New Mexico. Chitimacha Tribal Police Sergeant Rick Riggenbach from the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and Mahnomen County Deputy Sheriff Christopher Lee Dewey of Minnesota, which includes the White Earth Indian Reservation, are being added to the memorial. Sergeant Riggenbach was killed this past January 26 while responding to a mobile home fire near Charenton, Louisiana. Deputy Christopher Lee Dewey was shot several times, on February 19, 2009, while assisting a motor vehicle in a ditch and passed away on August 10, 2010 after many months of treatment and rehabilitation.

Penobscot Police Chief Robert Bryant spoke on behalf of United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) Chief Bryant read a statement from USET President Brian Patterson relaying the honor of 26 federally recognized tribes for honored law enforcement officers. “Our ancestors knew the value of maintaining a healthy, prosperous, and safe homeland and hunting ground. Periodically, outsiders would threaten the peace or try to take over the hunting and farming grounds. And sometimes our villagers would have disputes. Our Warriors were there to defend our homes, maintain the peace, and many times protect our honor. Today our law enforcement officers are the warriors that battle each day to create a safe environment for our families to work, recreate, and grow. They are also iconic to our community pride and honor as they work to protect and serve. When any officer falls in the line of duty or passes it tears at the fabric that is the safety and well-being of Indian Country. Because so many of our Tribal Nations have police forces that are small in number, the loss of a Native warrior makes a greater ripple in Indian Country,” read the statement. 

Sgt. Rick Riggenbach

Deputy Sheriff Christopher Lee Dewey

On the day Sergeant Riggenbach was killed, Chitimacha Police Chief Blaise Smith was at the site. “I lost a warrior. He died in my arms. I am not going to relive everything here today, because I relive it on a daily basis. But, in court for the arraignment (of Riggenbach’s alleged assailant) somebody mentioned the words ‘due process.’ I need to tell you on January 26, 2013 due process took on a different meaning for me. I never want to ever go through something like this again,” Chief Smith told the memorial service attendees, according to a release by USET.

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Mahnomen County, Minnesota Sheriff Douglas Krier says after Deputy Dewey was shot his office was engaged in a long standoff with the shooter. Krier says Deputy Dewey suffered many months before passing away and eventually his staff waded through a long trial. The shooter was found guilty and was being sentenced on September 9, 2011. Sheriff Krier was asked if he thought Deputy Dewey knew justice was served.

“At the time of the sentencing when I was writing down the notes as to when, where, and dates, times and place for sentencing I wrote down September 9th. And of the things the media asked me after everything was done is ‘Do you think Chris is aware of what’s going on, do you think he’s with you?’ And I said yes and I can prove it. When people, not law enforcement, write down dates, such as the Fourth of July, it’s (written) July 4. When law enforcement write down dates it’s (written) 7-04. I wrote down the date September 9, and I looked at it and I went ‘you gotta be kidding me.’ September 9th if you write it out is 9-09. That was Chris’ badge number. So I knew Chris was with us and he is still with us today,” Krier explained.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Michael S. Black says the whole ceremony is to honor service and dedication to law enforcement. “Honoring those from years past and these recent years from our law enforcement family is our solemn duty. It reminds us that a career in law enforcement can be and always has been dangerous and that law enforcement officers sometimes make that ultimate sacrifice. And for that thank you the family because it was you that allowed them to go to work every day and put their lives on the line for the community they serve,” said Director Black, according to the USET release.

Sergeant Riggenbach and Deputy Dewey will be the number 100 and 101 names to be etched in the memorial at Artesia Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLECT). The Memorial site was designed with the Native American traditions in mind. The Memorial is encompassed by the Circle of Life. The Circle is broken in one location to allow for entrance and departure. There is sage planted in all four directions next to the Memorial to sanctify the site. The four planter areas are filled with white, yellow, black and red rocks and foliage. This indicates the nationalities of the world and indicates that we are all brothers/sisters in the world. The formation area is done in earth-tone brown indicating mother earth. The foliage next to the formation area also has been configured in a manner as it relates to the Native American beliefs and traditions. Upon completion of these ceremonies this site will remain sacred ground for all Indian nations. 

Design of the Circle of Life at the Indian Country Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at the FLETC-Artesia, New Mexico