Prison Guard Follows Racist Odinism, Hosts Gatherings in Butte
Butte’s Ron McVan worked with David Lane, a white nationalist and domestic terrorist, to create a racist version of Odinism called “Wotanism” or “Wotansvolk.” While spreading his sham religion around the world, McVan has focused on trying to recruit incarcerated people as new followers. His history in the white nationalist movement shows he is drawn to its most violent sectors, and he’s worked closely with notorious racist leaders.
Kelly Chambers lives in Butte, works at the Montana State Prison, and is a loyal disciple of McVan. Over the last few years, Chambers has hosted events bringing racist neo-pagans and McVan acolytes to town. He’s currently supporting efforts to hold a festival for racist Odinists in the Butte area in August 2022. Chambers records music with McVan, helps McVan with home improvement projects, relays messages for McVan on social media, and, most troubling, has dedicated himself to following McVan’s white nationalist religion.
Because of this, the Montana Human Rights Network has asked the Montana Department of Corrections to investigate whether Chambers’ white nationalist beliefs impact his job performance and interactions with incarcerated people at the Montana State Prison. A comprehensive report about Chambers and McVan follows. Content Warning: The report contains offensive material from white nationalist sources.
Prison Guard Follows Racist Odinism, Hosts Gatherings in Butte
In March 2021, the Montana Human Rights Network (MHRN) learned that a corrections officer at the Montana State Prison had hosted a gathering of white nationalist neo-pagans in Butte. The attendees were followers of Ron McVan, who helped create a racist version of Odinism called “Wotanism” or “Wotansvolk.” McVan’s partner in concocting it was David Lane, who died while serving a long prison sentence for his illegal activities in the 1980s with a domestic terrorist group called The Order. The Order bombed a Boise synagogue and robbed armored cars for the purpose of trying to start a race war.
The Montana Standard published a picture from the 2021 Butte gathering, and community members quickly determined it was held at the home of Kelly Chambers. They also tipped MHRN off that Chambers worked for the prison, which MHRN confirmed with the Montana Department of Corrections. MHRN’s subsequent research clearly proves that he is a devoted disciple of McVan. Chambers has helped organize multiple events in Butte for racist Odinists, all the while working as a state employee at the Montana State Prison.
This raises many problematic questions, as McVan has used prison outreach as a tactic for recruiting new followers. In his book Gods of the Blood about racist neo-pagans, Mattias Gardell found that 20% of Wotanists are incarcerated. MHRN has asked the Montana Department of Corrections to determine if Chambers’ white nationalist beliefs impact his job performance and interactions with incarcerated people at the Montana State Prison.
Kelly Chambers: From Montana State Prison to Valhalla?
Shortly after confirming that Kelly Chambers worked at the Montana State Prison, MHRN submitted this letter to Director Brian Gootkin outlining our concerns regarding Chambers’ white nationalist views and role as a corrections officer. While the Department of Corrections acknowledged receiving the letter, it hasn’t confirmed if it has looked into the questions raised. Asked if it wanted to offer a statement to be included in this report, the department responded it would consider “the appropriateness of providing a statement after we have had the opportunity to read the [MHRN] report in its entirety.” Chambers helped organize another gathering in January 2022 and is assisting with planning another for August 2022, which demonstrates that he’s aligned with Wotanism’s racist neo-pagan beliefs while still working for the Montana Department of Corrections.
Chambers moved to Butte from California in 2018, and he sports tattoos popular with white nationalists. In older photos, Chambers had two Iron Cross tattoos. While he has some newer ink covering up some previous tattoos, the Iron Crosses are still clearly visible. Chambers also frequently shares content on social media repeating common white nationalist talking points, such as saying he won’t apologize for being white, complaining that the white race is unfairly persecuted, and claiming that his beliefs are based on nothing more than celebrating his Northern European (white) heritage. “Why is it so terrible that European and American tribesmen show pride in their culture?” Chambers asked in one typical post. “Why are we being singled out?”
The close connection between McVan and Chambers is clear. Chambers routinely praises McVan and has referred to him as a “wise, kind hearted man” and one of the “leading authorities on Odinism in the area.” While there is no denying that Wotanism is explicitly racist, it’s important to recognize that not all followers of Odinism, Asatru, and other neo-pagan religions are white nationalists. In fact, many followers of neo-pagan religions vehemently denounce McVan and others who have co-opted and perverted neo-pagan beliefs with white nationalism and antisemitism. While there are many followers of neo-pagan religions who aren’t white nationalists, McVan’s acolytes can’t credibly make that claim. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from trying.
One strategy Chambers and other McVan followers deploy is denying that their beliefs are steeped in white nationalism. After the Standard ran the photo of the 2021 gathering at his house, Chambers claimed, “we know that we most definitely are not ‘white supremacist.’” In October 2020, he posted that he’s not a neo-Nazi or white nationalist. Instead, he wrote that he was “proud of my culture and heritage.” Chambers threatened to sue anyone making such claims after the local newspaper’s coverage but, perhaps recognizing what Wotanism represents, never followed through.
“Heil to you sir!” Chambers wrote to McVan in another post. “You truly are one of the great men of our faith.” Another post found Chambers claiming McVan is “more valuable to us than you will ever know” and thanking McVan for sacrificing so much for “the sake of our culture.” McVan’s social media is full of YouTube videos featuring himself and Chambers recording music together, including both obscure Aryan anthems and bad covers of more mainstream songs. On social media, Chambers has frequently relayed messages to followers when McVan gets suspended for violating content standards. In October 2021, Facebook banned McVan for life, which Chambers dutifully reported to supporters.
Being a loyal disciple of McVan’s racist neo-pagan beliefs has come at a cost for Chambers. In August 2021, Chambers noted there was much “turmoil and chaos” surrounding his decision to follow McVan’s concocted racist dogma. However, he said he was “unwavering in my beliefs” and chastised “all of the cowards that have decided to turn their backs on me and their own people.” For good measure, Chambers built himself a Viking throne out of an old bedframe and took brooding black-and-white pictures sitting atop it. In a picture of the finished throne, Chambers thanked McVan for helping adorn it.
Ron McVan: Worship and Fight for the White Race
All of Kelly Chambers’ efforts to defend Ron McVan and downplay the racism of their neo-pagan religion ring hollow when you consider McVan’s white nationalist career. McVan’s racist spiritual journey didn’t start with David Lane. He had long searched for a religion that meshed with his white nationalist views, because he knew Christianity wasn’t the answer. “It [Christianity] was always too Jewish for me,” McVan once wrote, and it “takes away the warrior spirit.”
By the 1970s, McVan found books authored by Ben Klassen, founder of The Creativity Movement and its racist and antisemitic religion known as “Creativity.” Creativity boils down to worshiping the white race, teaching that white people are the “creators of all worthwhile culture and civilization.” It views the white race as nature’s finest creation and refers to people of color in insulting and derogatory ways. An integral part of Creativity doctrine is “RAHOWA,” an acronym standing for “Racial Holy War.” It’s used to describe a worldwide ethnic cleansing that will leave white people as earth’s only inhabitants. Not surprisingly, the group’s history is filled with violent activists, and its last real national leader, Matt Hale, is serving a long sentence for trying to have a federal judge killed.
McVan wasn’t just a rank-and-file Creativity member. Instead, he moved to The Creativity Movement’s headquarters to work with Klassen and edited the group’s main publication. However, he eventually dumped Creativity for racist Asatru. By 1995, he had hooked up with David and Katja Lane to help fabricate and spread Wotanism, which McVan describes as “an ancestral faith that puts race first.”
McVan’s history shows he is drawn to the most violent sectors of the white nationalist movement, and he isn’t just a passive member of these groups. Instead, he has worked with white nationalist leaders and used his artistic talents to help promote and spread racist and antisemitic beliefs. He’s continued those leadership tendencies through his efforts to spread Wotanism.
McVan has never denounced Lane or The Order’s white nationalist domestic terrorism. Instead, he continues to celebrate the white nationalist views of the now-deceased Lane. His memes frequently promote the “14 Words” coined by Lane, which serve as a white nationalist anthem: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” McVan has also posted Lane’s 88 Precepts, which served has Lane’s manifesto. The number “88” is frequently used by white nationalists as code. The letter “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet, and 88 symbolizes “Heil Hitler.” The 14 Words and 88 are frequently used as a form of racist shorthand by white nationalists. In May 2021, McVan started selling autographed copies of two books, including a collection of Lane’s writings that McVan illustrated.
McVan’s writings and postings about his racist neo-pagan beliefs discuss how the white race sits atop all others and always has. In prehistoric times, McVan claims that all white people were “known originally as one single tribe, the Aryan Tribe!” According to his revisionist history, members of this Aryan Tribe inhabited practically every corner of the world, and it all started with the magical, and totally fictional, island of Atlantis.
“Aryan man was never one to suffer tyranny or tyrants gladly,” states one essay he wrote, which also said the white race “has always scorned those lesser breeds who have cringingly submitted to abuse or oppression.” Another screed he posted claims the white race played a “seminal role” in the “founding and development of all civilizations.” White people, according to McVan, are the most “industrious and life adapting race of people.”
For McVan, the threats to white people are all around. He complains that too many white people are scared of being called racist, which leads them to “lick the boots of their accusers.” Additionally, McVan warns that Christianity, liberalism, and anti-racism are destroying the white race. He derides Christianity for promoting “endless fighting and death among its Euro-Tribe folk.” Worse, he says, Christianity promotes marriage between different racial groups and LGBTQ+ rights. He warns that the white race faces the “very high probability of total extinction” due to an “unending flood of third world invaders.” McVan hopes there are “enough Euro-Tribe Alfa [sic] Males” left to fight off the “anti-Aryan aggression” that threatens “Aryan survival and freedom.”
On social media, McVan emphasizes the racist and antisemitic tenets of his religion both in long essays, like those mentioned above, and short memes. His memes often reference the “white genocide” propaganda favored by the white nationalist movement and urge white people to fight for their race. McVan also sprinkles in various antisemitic memes, including ones that repeat age-old conspiracies claiming that Jewish people control the banking industry, government, and media. Perhaps the most blatantly antisemitic meme looked like a puzzle on Wheel of Fortune. While missing a few letters, the puzzle clearly read, “It’s the [expletive] Jews.”
Most people readily equate racism with a swastika or a person in a Klan robe. One of the challenges posed by McVan and other practitioners of racist neo-pagan beliefs is that they deploy symbols and talking points that are less obvious. Instead of swastikas and overt white power rhetoric, McVan and his followers discuss the superiority of the “Euro-Tribes,” invoke Viking gods, and portray white people as victims of multicultural efforts. These more subtle forms of imagery and language allow them to avoid public criticism and open new lines of recruitment. While the symbols and rhetoric may change, the underlying racism and antisemitism stay the same.
Chambers, McVan Hold Racist Neo-Pagan Gatherings in Butte
Ron McVan may live on the Butte Hill, but his ideas, writings, and artwork inspire white nationalists all around the world. Kelly Chambers has helped host events drawing some of those supporters to Butte. Like McVan, some of them have extensive backgrounds with other white nationalist groups.
Brett Butz, a contractor from Colorado, attended both the 2021 and 2022 gatherings that Chambers hosted. Butz formerly led Colorado’s chapter of Blood and Honour, a neo-Nazi skinhead coalition. At a 2013 event, Butz said his skinhead crew was “going to train to kill” Muslims. He also discussed how he’d taken steps to avoid being caught with firearms since he was on parole. After the 2021 Butte gathering, Butz took to social media to claim their neo-pagan beliefs aren’t racist and called McVan “one of the best and wisest men I’ve ever known.” In 2021, Butz and his wife traveled from Colorado to Los Angeles to pick up a stockpile of books written by McVan and David Lane. They delivered them to McVan, who began selling autographed copies for $50.
Tony Wisehart, from Washington, also attended both Butte gatherings. Wisehart is active with the Wolves of Vinland, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has categorized as a hate group. The Wolves follow a racist version of Asatru, which is remarkably similar to Wotanism in that it’s a hodgepodge of pre-Christian, Scandinavian, Viking, and Germanic tribalism. Founders of the Wolves combined Nazi and Norse imagery to cobble together their version of white nationalism. Videos from both the 2021 and 2022 Butte gatherings show Wisehart leading ceremonies for the assembled white nationalists.
McVan isn’t the only fan of The Order involved with this particular Butte constellation. John Lundquist, from Washington, attended the 2021 gathering. For his profile picture on Facebook, Lundquist has used a photo of Robert Mathews, founder of The Order. In a social media post, Lundquist refers to Mathews as “one of the greatest warriors our tribe has ever produced from the blood and soil of Aryan spirit.” He praises those who have “fought for and given everything to secure the existence of our people and a future for White children,” a clear reference to the 14 Words. Lundquist has also praised David Lane and The Order “for being men of action and men of honor above all else.”
Wotanism is nothing but another vehicle for white nationalism, and McVan’s acolytes attending the Butte gatherings are a clear example of this.
Racist Neo-Pagans Claim Arson, Fire Marshal Disagrees
Following the 2021 Butte event, the carport at Ron McVan’s house burned to the ground. Chambers immediately blamed the local newspaper’s coverage for the fire. He encouraged people to contribute to multiple crowdsourcing fundraisers to help rebuild, including one by Brett Butz’s wife and one started by the Asatru Folk Assembly, which SPLC describes as the largest racist neo-pagan hate group in the United States.
McVan used similar talking points about the fire as Chambers. He posted multiple pictures of the fire-damaged property. “THIS IS HOW SELF-HATING WHITE PUNKS RETALIATE AGAINST THOSE WHO DO NOT SHARE THEIR WARPED VIEW OF POLITICS!” he raged on Facebook. “WHOEVER DID THIS TO MY HOME WILL EVENTUALLY BE FOUND AND DEALT WITH ACCORDINGLY.” In another post, he claimed Antifa burned down his garage.
McVan supporters responded to the fire by doxing the publisher of the Montana Standard and sending nasty emails to the paper’s staff. “There’s a reckoning coming for those responsible,” posted Chambers, “they just don’t know it yet. The gods will dispense justice.”
As money was being raised, McVan reported that Chambers was bringing over a jackhammer to get the old concrete pad out so they could start the rebuild. He also thanked Chambers for installing security cameras after the fire.
While the Wotanists saw nefarious causes and conspiracies behind the fire, the Butte-Silver Bow Fire Marshal Zach Osborne reached a different conclusion. “There was no evidence found that we thought at all that it was any form of arson,” he told a reporter. Even after the official investigation was completed, McVan continued to stoke the arson narrative on social media.
Wotanists Rebuild in Butte
In mid-January 2022, much of the same crew descended on Butte again. Leading up to the gathering, Kelly Chambers thanked all those who helped raise $16,000 to build McVan another carport. Continuing the false arson narrative, Chambers said the non-existent perpetrators served as a “catalyst that has sparked a fire that will never be extinguished. We will never forget.” Chambers told McVan followers that he’d be providing security for the event, and he relayed on social media that McVan was excited to see everyone, saying, “He misses all you guys a lot!”
Around 15 McVan disciples attended, with Brett Butz and his contractor background being central to the work party. Butz’s wife posted pictures of the construction in process, and the finished product is a major upgrade from McVan’s previous carport. The new structure is an enclosed garage connected to a new patio, which features a ceremonial platform.
In a social media thread about the building party, James Ault announced he was “coordinating with the great folk” at McVan’s to host an Asatru Folk Assembly event in Montana in August 2022. By March 2022, Butz said it would be held August 26-28 and encouraged racist Odinists to attend. Chambers said he would put together music for the event, and he’d be offering tattoos of a logo he created – a rune celebrating prosperity and wealth. He said he hoped it would raise some money to help offset the event’s costs.
Implications of Chambers as Prison Guard
While building a garage is a normal suburban activity, there’s nothing normal about the dangers posed by racist neo-pagans. For example, racist Odinists participated in the infamous Charlottesville Rally in 2017 which resulted in the killing of an anti-racist activist. Anders Breivik, the 2011 mass shooter in Norway who killed 77 people, also followed racist Odinism.
Given the history of racist Odinism and Chambers’ close relationship with McVan, there are numerous troubling questions about his role as a corrections officer at the Montana State Prison. MHRN also finds it concerning that, according to social media posts, it appears that Chambers has participated in events to recruit new employees for the prison. Clearly, having a white nationalist serving as an officer at the state prison is problematic on many levels. It raises many questions, not the least of which include:
How might Chambers’ white nationalist views be influencing his interactions with incarcerated people of color, which data show are disproportionately overrepresented in Montana prisons, especially given his position of power in those interactions?
Given McVan’s extensive efforts to get his materials into prisons over the years, is Chambers helping McVan spread Wotanism within the prison?
Is Chambers providing special treatment to incarcerated people who express white nationalist views, either those echoing his racist religious beliefs or those belonging to groups like the Aryan Brotherhood, European Kindred, Aryan Circle, or similar groups that are active in prisons?
These questions are the reasons MHRN asked the Montana Department of Corrections to review Chambers’ activities. The state agency isn’t alone in needing to address this issue. Following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, the armed forces and law enforcement have been forced to acknowledge that they have white nationalists and/or militia supporters in their ranks and need to resoundingly reject these dangerous ideologies. This is a problem that has long existed. Here are just a couple of similar examples from around the country:
Two Florida prison guards that belonged to the Ku Klux Klan were convicted of plotting to kill a Black incarcerated person in 2017.
Two Black incarcerated people in Ohio sued corrections officers that allowed a white supremacist inmate to stab them in 2019.
In 2020, a captain at the Nevada Southern Detention Center was fired due to his posts on a white nationalist website. He was fired after a media report led to questions about how his violently racist and antisemitic posts could impact him holding a position of power over vulnerable populations.
National organizations like the Brennen Center for Justice and Just Security have published reports on the issue of white nationalists infiltrating law enforcement and the military. MHRN hopes the Montana Department of Corrections will take this issue seriously and become an example for other states to follow when it comes to how agencies should address these problems when they arise.
It seems clear that, at this point of his white nationalist career, Ron McVan won’t be denouncing any of his activism or beliefs. However, if despite the abundance of evidence, Kelly Chambers isn’t a white nationalist, he needs to publicly renounce McVan and Wotanism. He also needs to apologize for and stop holding events that bring McVan loyalists to Butte. If Chambers wants to pursue Odinism or Asatru, there are non-racist ways to do so. In the absence of Chambers publicly renouncing McVan and Wotanism, MHRN believes the Montana Department of Corrections needs to make sure Chambers’ white nationalist beliefs aren’t impacting the way he conducts himself while working at the Montana State Prison.