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White House official hires attorney as powwow fight story heats up

Bill Mendoza, left, receives a blanket as Secretary of Education John King looks on during a May 2016 visit to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education

A nearly year-old incident is causing headaches for William Mendoza, the executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

Mendoza, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has hired an attorney as word of an October 2015 powwow fight spreads through the mainstream and conservative media. He is contemplating legal action against Barrett Dahl, the man whose offensive Washington NFL jersey sparked the brawl.

“Should Mr. Dahl continue to malign Mr. Mendoza he will have no other choice but to pursue all available legal remedies," Mendoza’s attorney, Mark Zaid, told News9.

Both Mendoza, 40, and Dahl, who is of Sac and Fox and Choctaw heritage, suffered injuries during the fight, according to news reports. Both have undergone medical treatment since the incident and Dahl and his father have threatened to sue Mendoza, citing large medical bills.

Dahl, 28, is now on GoFundMe, seeking to raise $10,000 to cover his family's purported costs. The page was started a week after The Durango Herald broke the story about the fight.

"The medical bills have caused me and my family to lose everything we have," the page states.

Barrett Dahl is seeking to raise $10,000 to cover the costs of medical bills. Photo from GoFundMe

The incident took place during the October 30, 2015, powwow hosted by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science at the National Harbor, right outside of Washington, D.C. Mendoza was there with his family and not as a representative of the Obama administration. Dahl was there as a student from Fort Lewis College in Colorado.

During the event, Mendoza approached Dahl about the jersey, which he said had the words "Injun Pimp" written on the back. Dahl has suggested the shirt read something else but he claims it was torn apart during the fight. He has declined to provide photos of the item in question.

Fort Lewis -- which happens to be Mendoza's alma mater -- apparently disciplined Dahl when he returned to Colorado, Politico reported, but it's not clear what might have happened. Dahl told The Herald that he finished the fall and spring semesters following the fight but he has since been living in Oklahoma.

Fort Lewis is a public institution that was built on the site of a former Indian boarding school. As a condition of accepting the land from the federal government, the college agreed to waive tuition for any American Indian or Alaska Native student.

Read More on the Story:
Oklahoma Native American Says He Was Attacked Over Redskins Shirt (News9 8/17)
Obama official faces questions about Redskins jersey altercation (Politico 8/18)
Obama policy adviser 'called autistic Native American man a "weetard" for wearing a Redskins sweater, spat in his face and then beat him so badly he needed THREE surgeries' (The Daily Mail 8/18)
Autistic Native American says White House official attacked him over Redskins jersey (The Washington Times 8/18)
White House Indian education official accused of assaulting Native American over Redskins (The Washington Examiner 8/18)
Obama appointee accused of beating autistic man over Redskins sweater (WND 8/18)
Native culture takes center stage (The Lewiston Tribune 8/18)

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