There is a need to interject here for a moment. We have spoken often of Frank & Leo Kuntz, founders of the Nokota Horse Conservancy (NHC). We also spoke in great detail about Robert Utley and Castle McLaughlin and their credentials. A few new names appear in these hearings that need to be talked about too: Marylu Weber and Bob Fjetland.
The two friends were founding members of what is now North Dakota Badlands Horse (NDBH). There is a story before the birth of NDBH.
The Nokota Horse Conservancy was founded in 1999. In 2009, the NHC had taken Bob Fjetland, his wife Deb Fjetland, along with three others: David Bernhardt, David Robson and Nola Robson, to court over the use of the Nokota name. You can read the entire court transcript in the library section of our website.
The short story is that this group of people had formed an organization called The Nokota Horse Association. They were using the same brand as the NHC and had also planned on registering the horses that were rounded up in the park as Nokota horses. This included training horses captured from Theodore Roosevelt National Park and selling and breeding them to the public as Nokota horses. Marylu Weber & Bob Fjetland were members of the Nokota Horse Association.
This lawsuit happened in the midst of a TRNP horse round up where the group of people represented by the Nokota Horse Association, led by David Bernhardt, former NHC board member, planned on using the Nokota name to help sell the captured horses from the park. Judge Daniel Hoveland issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Nokota Horse Association from registering or promoting park horses as “Nokota”, pending the outcome of the court proceedings. A newspaper article from October 21, 2009 states:
“If they are not able to (label the horses) it will definitely affect the market,” said Larry Schnell of Stockman’s Livestock Exchange in Dickinson, the horse sale venue. “For those that it means something to, they won’t pay if they can’t register them.”
Since Frank and Leo proved that the Notoka Horse Conservancy was the rightful owner of the Nokota name, that the Nokota horse was a specific breed that they have spent years preserving, and that the Nokota name could not be given to just any horse, they eventually won the lawsuit in October of 2009.
In November of 2009, Marylu Weber along with Bob Fjetland and others, started North Dakota Badlands Horse, a 501 (c)3 organization. From their website:
“Because wild horses of the Badlands hold a unique place in the history and settlement of North Dakota, the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry was established to register, promote, appreciate and preserve the wild horses of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.”
Knowing this brief piece of history, it would seem that North Dakota Badlands Horse and its members would be in favor of the North Dakota Senate passing SCR 4011. They were NOT. It is interesting to note that both Marylu Weber and Bob Fjetland stood in opposition of a resolution that would essentially grant them rights to most of what they were fighting for in their lawsuit against the NHC in 2009. We are just as confused as you are!
We will look at their testimony at this hearing next.