Editor's note: This is the first of a four-part series by Media Matters of America.
At first glance the Pioneer Little Europe website seems like it could be the work of the Montana Office of Tourism. Photographs depict the rugged beauty of the Flathead Valley region near Glacier National Park in northwest Montana.
One image shows a young blond-haired girl playing in a meadow overlooking Kalispell, the largest town in the area, with a population around 20,000.
The site also features short news items about the Northwest Montana State Fair and a wildflower beautification program along with Kalispell job postings.
But then there's this: A scan of a full-page advertisement in a recent edition of the Flathead Beacon, the local paper, with photographs of 47 babies newly delivered in the Kalispell Regional Medical Center. All but one are fair-skinned with light-colored hair. "Wonderful white babies being born in Kalispell," the website reads. "What do the babies look like being born in your town?" Another item on the Pioneer Little Europe site depicts white families relaxing on the shore of a lake. A caption reads,"This is how white our beaches are, and I'm not talking about sand."
And that little girl in the meadow? Her name is Dresden Hale. That's Dresden for the German city firebombed by the Allied forces in World War II, and Hale for the 1990s leader of the neo-Nazi group World Church of the Creator, Matt Hale, who's doing 40 years in prison for soliciting the murder of a federal judge.
Dresden Hale is the youngest daughter of Kalispell resident and neo-Nazi activist April Gaede, the public face of the Pioneer Little Europe (PLE) movement. Launched in 2008, PLE invites "racially conscious" white Americans to relocate to the Flathead Valley to help create a heavily-armed Aryan homeland.
(Gaede's other two daughters, Lynx and Lamb, are identical twins who gained widespread media attention by performing neo-Nazi folk ballads as the musical act Prussian Blue. They have since renounced white supremacism.)
The PLE movement has brought dozens of white supremacists to the Flathead Valley. They are increasingly making their presence known by staging public events, openly recruiting and distributing racist literature, stocking up on firearms at area gun shows while dressed in neo-Nazi clothing, working for local anti-gun control and anti-abortion campaigns (according to Gaede), and issuing violent threats to perceived enemies, including Media Matters, which is now under "indictment" for treason to the white race.
The growing numbers of PLE white supremacists in the Flathead Valley parallels a recent influx to the area of ultra right-wing "Patriot" movement leaders and their followers. Their combined forces are rapidly transforming the region into the hottest flash point of right-wing extremism in the country.
Nationwide the anti-government Patriot movement is surging, and the number of racist hate groups has surpassed 1,000 for the first time since the Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading authority on extremism, began tracking white supremacist activity.
Both trends are glaringly evident in the Flathead Valley. Local anti-hate activists have responded to the PLE with several large demonstrations. Meanwhile, local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities, as well as Montana civil rights activists, say that PLE white supremacists are forming ties with newly arrived Patriot group members in the region.
"They're showing up at each other's events, and they have in common a great degree of hostility toward the government in general and specifically law enforcement," says a federal law enforcement investigator with specialized knowledge of extremism in Montana. "Also they're both openly encouraging individuals with a similar mindset to relocate to the Kalispell area. At this point they are separate but related concerns for law enforcement."
In addition to calling on fellow right-wing extremists to move to the Flathead Valley, leaders of both the PLE and the Patriot movements in the region are urging followers to exploit Montana's weak firearms regulations by stocking up on guns, including .50 caliber sniper rifles and assault weapons, says Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which closely follows PLE and Patriot activity, including online communications.
"With the PLE, it's the coming battle with Zionist Occupied Government, with the Patriots, it's the New World Order, but again the rhetoric is similar: 'A big fight is coming, so move with us to Montana where it's easy to get a lot of serious guns, because chances are you're going to need them,'" says McAdam.
Gaede cited Montana's "pro-gun" culture in a recent PLE recruiting message posted to the major white nationalist online forum Stormfront.
"The atmosphere of the area has a distinct 'Montana' feel and attitude. That attitude is to leave others alone and allow them to have their own beliefs and choices," Gaede wrote. "There is a strong pro-gun and pro-hunting population and one of the strongest Constitution parties that I have seen yet. Our Christmas parade still goes by that name and we have a nativity scene in our public square with a Baby Jesus... Come Home!"
This week in a four-part series, Media Matters will take a close look at the PLE movement in Montana as well as the overall surge of right-wing extremist activity in the Flathead Valley region. "What is happening in Montana -- thanks to this newest wave of extremists -- is a convergence of two 'separatist' ideas that have long fermented in the brew of Pacific Northwest extremism," reads a Southern Poverty Law Center report also released today. "The antigovernment 'Patriots'...want to establish a remote base of like-minded allies as a bastion of resistance for the day when, as they believe, the government will impose martial law. White supremacists are organizing around the idea of forming a long-desired all-white homeland far away from the multicultural cities."
Part two of our series will focus on the ideology and logistics of the PLE movement in Montana -- its origins, strategies, current strength, and ultimate goals. It will also cover the ongoing efforts by PLE activists to promote Holocaust denial.
Part three will provide background information on key PLE activists and cover a recent barrage of violent threats issued to perceived enemies including Media Matters. It will also report on the Montana Creators, the PLE-allied state chapter of the Creativity Movement, a particularly violent neo-Nazi organization formerly known as the World Church of the Creator. This year Montana Creators have repeatedly been spotted buying firearms at gun shows near Kalispell while dressed in clothing displaying their group's distinctive neo-Nazi symbols.
The final part in the series will address the ongoing spike in Patriot activity in the Flathead Valley, spearheaded by Chuck Baldwin, a fundamentalist Christian preacher and far-right Constitution Party activist who moved to the Flathead Valley about a year ago.
"We know there's a fight coming," Baldwin told a gathering of about 200 in Kalispell earlier this year. "We know there is a line being drawn in the sand, and we want to be in the right place. The good ground is right here in Montana."
There, Baldwin said, "Real Montanans will fight and die for the principles of truth, honor and freedom."