The Aryan Nations and its late leader Richard Butler once sought to create a “whites only” homeland in the Inland Northwest. The group eventually was crushed by a Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit. Its compound was obliterated. And its membership was splintered.
Now, an analysis of Census data demonstrates that its dream, too, is dead.
Speaking today to the Kootenai County Democratic Club in Idaho, civil rights activist Tony Stewart offered the proof.
“I stand here 38 years after Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations arrived in northern Idaho to present to you the overwhelming evidence that diversity and a multiculture society are prevailing over the advocates of a whites-only region,’’ Stewart said.
Stewart, a retired professor with a background in statistics, said his analysis of census data shows that minority populations are growing much more rapidly that the white population in the state of Idaho, and in four North Idaho counties and adjoining Spokane County in Washington.
Turning that region into a “whites only” homeland was one of the main goals of Butler when he moved from California to Hayden Lake, Idaho, in the late 1970s and opened the doors of his Christian Identity church, commonly known as the Aryan Nations.
Not long thereafter, Stewart and others founded the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, which has received national awards and recognition for its model work in combating hate groups.
Stewart cited the Southern Poverty Law Center’s successful civil rights lawsuit against the Aryan Nations as a key factor in changing the public’s perception of the region. The suit was brought on behalf of a woman and her son who were chased down and assaulted by gun-toting neo-Nazis from Butler’s 20-acre compound. A jury in 2000 returned a $6.3 million judgment, forcing Butler and the Aryan Nations to file for bankruptcy. His compound of buildings was crushed by bulldozers and burned, and the site is now a “peace park” where cattle and deer graze.
After that legal victory against the Aryans, Stewart said, there was a rapid increase in the non-white population in North Idaho.
Stewart said he believes the minority population “could feel safer after the dismantling” of the neo-Nazi compound, described by many as the world headquarters for the modern-day white supremacy movement.
“The worldwide attention given to the trial and news of the former compound and world headquarters of the Aryan Nations being turned into a peace park may be a contributing factor in the rapid increase of the number of non-white/multi-racial families and individuals moving to the Inland Northwest,’’ Stewart said.
Stewart analyzed census data for the counties of Kootenai, Latah, Bonner and Nez Perce in North Idaho and for Spokane County, across the state line in Washington.
In those counties, the white population grew by 11.7% between 2000 and 2010, compared to 44.2% for the non-white/multi-race population.
The same population trends seen in those five counties apply to the state Idaho, as well. Between 2000 and 2010, the state’s white population grew by 15.5% statewide, compared to 73% for Hispanics, 81.5% for African Americans, 59.2% for Asian Americans, and 46.7% for two or more races.
“The data confirms we are becoming a region that will experience and celebrate diversity,’’ Stewart said, adding that the region “will enjoy a future that embraces many cultures.”
“The good news is the supremacists have failed in their attempt to create an all-Aryan homeland in our beautiful Inland Northwest,’’ he said.
Stewart said he wasn’t suggesting that the region’s racial problems are solved or eradicated. “As we celebrate this progress, let us not turn our eyes away from the injustices that still exist in our communities, the United States and around the world. Each day we observe examples of prejudice and bigotry resulting in many forms of harassment, intimidation and even violent acts.”