Aryan Nations

Extremist Groups: Information for Students. Volume 1. Detroit: Gale, 2006.

The Aryan Nations, based in Hayden Park, Idaho, acts as a paramilitary hate group and is one of America's most predominant and active white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations. The group incorporates ideals both of Christian Identity, which predicates its ideologies of hatred of other religions and ethnicities on Christian theology, as well as some aspects of neo-Nazism. The group strongly advocates the establishment of a white state with the exclusion of all other races.

The group is involved with active recruitment of members and allies itself with numerous other hate and extremist organizations, and numerous splinter entities have been produced from within the ranks of the Aryan Nations. Some of these splinter groups have been actively involved in violence, even while this is not the official mode of operation for the organization.


The Aryan Nations was founded in the mid 1970s under the leadership of Richard Butler, an adherent to the teachings of Christian Identity, who had served in the U.S. armed forces in World War II. Butler set up a compound as a base for the organization in a rural area of Idaho and began setting up conferences and recruitment sessions. The organization in its early years began to train recruits in paramilitary activities as well as tactics of urban terrorism and guerilla warfare.

The compound was designed to offer people who shared the ideologies of Christian Identity and white supremacists with a site away from the easy grasp of law enforcement or the media. The Aryan Nations proudly reached out to other groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and other neo-Nazi groups, to unite in embracing their common worldviews and ambitions to create a white state.

The Aryan Nations made a concerted effort in its early years to reach out to young people through a variety of youth activities. In the early 1980s, an Aryan Nations Academy was established. The birthday of Adolf Hitler each April served as the occasion for large youth conferences. The Aryan Nations also cultivated the creation of several white power bands with names like Bound for Glory and Christian Identity Skins.

Beginning in 1979, Butler made a concerted effort toward recruitment in the nation's prison system. The group wrote letters to inmates and was involved with the distribution of materials among the prisoners. This activity intensified in the late 1980s when several of the leaders of the organization were imprisoned as a result of federal prosecutions.

In 1987, the activities of the Aryan Nations were expanded into a new center in Utah as well as on the radio with the introduction of a weekly broadcast entitled "The Aryan Nations Hour." The show only lasted for a few weeks because of death threats and advertisers canceling. Yet, the organization continued to grow into the 1990s with offices opening in more than a dozen states.

Over the course of the 1990s, even with its growth, the Aryan Nations experienced considerable internal disarray with several leading members leaving the group to found new white supremacist organizations. By 1997, the group had grown to include 18 state offices with funds largely originating from member fees and some donations from outside backers.

In 1994, the Aryan Nations was able to attract its largest audience to the annual Aryan youth festival held on the occasion of Hitler's birthday. The occasion welcomed the participation of many of the leaders of the different neo-Nazi and hate movements in North America. Even while continuing to avoid directly advocating violence, several incidents made the Aryan Nations the target for considerable public and media outrage. On August 10,1998, Buford Furrow, who had been involved with the organization as a guard, opened fire at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles, California. He wounded five people and later killed a Filipino postal worker while fleeing police. After surrendering to the FBI, Furrow said that the shooting spree was intended as a wakeup call to America to kill Jews.

In September 2000, the Aryan Nations and Richard Butler were required by a jury to pay $6.3 million to a mother and son who had been assaulted and shot at while seated in their car outside of the Aryan Nations compound. The decision bankrupted the organization, but through private funding, Butler was able to reopen under the name of the Aryan National Alliance.

In recent years, the Aryan Nations has been able to continue their publicity efforts, aided by the internet and, despite continuing internal tensions, the group has remained intact. With Butler's death in 2004, considerable questions have emerged regarding the future of the organization.

Throughout their existence, the Aryan Nations has been opposed by groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as by numerous efforts by local, state, and federal law enforcement to limit the activities of the organization.

Philosophy and Tactics

The ideologies of the Aryan Nations find their origins in the philosophies of Christian Identity and neo-Nazism. Christian Identity in the United States is most often connected with the teachings of Wesley Swift, a former Ku Klux Klan organizer from California who was one of the mentors of Richard Butler. Swift, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian in 1946, openly called for genocide to be carried out against Jews. Today, the United States today contains several hundred chapters of Christian Identity groups, with the Aryan Nations having become one of the most organized and vocal.

The central belief of Christian Identity espouses that the white people are the chosen people and only they have hope for salvation. Most Christian Identity believers adhere to a fundamentalist and literal interpretation of biblical sources. According to this ideology, God created a second race referred to as "Mud People," who were the ancestors of all modern day peoples of color. Christian Identity teaches that these races were created by God to serve as the servants of white people and are soulless, are not truly human and have no value in God's eyes. The third race, the Jews, was created by Satan, and they are only involved in trying to destroy the Aryan race.

The Aryan Nations accepted these philosophies in developing an ideology that advocated a strong anti-Jewish as well as anti-governmental stance. The Aryan Nations see the Jewish people as a virus that is designed to destroy the Aryan culture and race. The official Aryan Nations' "Declaration of Independence" refers to the United States as the "Zionist-occupied government of the United States of America" and established that the goal of all followers of the Aryan Nations should be to be of any connection or commitment to the United States.

In keeping with their anti-Semitic philosophy, the Aryan Nations believes that Jews are not only an inferior race, but also deserve to destroyed as the natural enemies of the Aryan race.

In hopes of beginning the effort towards the development of a white racist homeland, the Aryan Nations established their compound in the rural community of Hayden Lake, Idaho, which Butler designed to become the international headquarters of the white race. In the summers, the compound would host festivals for white supremacists under the banner of World Congress of Aryan Nations. The compound consisted of a 20-acre ranch that was patrolled by armed guards and dogs.

The outreach successes of the Aryan Nations are connected with the extensive network that the group has formed with other white supremacist organizations. The group has formed alliances with the two major factions of hate groups in the United States, which were formed after the breakup of the American Nazi Party in the 1960s. The first was the Christian Defense League, which is based on Christian Identity philosophies, and the other was the National Alliance, which is based primarily on pro-Nazi ideologies with the goal of replicating the Nazi party influence in the United States. Despite these varying philosophies, Richard Butler made an effort to reach out to both of these groups as well as the various other splinter groups.

While the base of operations is in Idaho with extensions around the United States, the Aryan Nations made considerable inroads in Canada as well, beginning in the early 1980s. The leader of Canada's Aryan Nations, Terry Long from Alberta, was ordained by Richard Butler and is now said to be in hiding from the authorities. As in the United States, the Canadian factions of the Aryan Nations have experienced growth primarily by allying with similar extremist groups. Most prominently, the pro-Hitler and neo-Nazi group, the Aryan Resistance Group (ARM), is based out of Mission, British Columbia, with an extensive history of involvement with violence and crime, and is a regular attendee of Aryan Nations conferences.

The Aryan Nations network in Canada is involved with the publication of a periodical on Christian Identity thought and news entitled Winston's Journal. The journal has denied the existence of the Holocaust, as well as referring to the Jews as satanic. In 1994, the journal declared their "Man of the Year" to be Paul Hill, a Christian fundamentalist who had been convicted for murdering an abortion doctor in Pensacola, Florida.

At the Aryan Nations youth festival held in 1994, many of the leaders of the numerous hate groups in attendance called for a new strategy they labeled "Leaderless Resistance." Actively advocating violence, the approach promoted the creation of numerous smaller groups of terrorists whose job it would be to go out and commit criminal acts and violence. The aim of these attacks would be to provoke society to recognize the influence of the white power movement and lead to the creation of a white racial state. Through this new strategy, which was never really clarified in terms of practice, the umbrella groups of leadership like the Aryan Nations would exercise less control, and smaller factions would be created with the purpose of carrying out more violent attacks aimed at provoking society.

The Aryan Nations have throughout their history acted on a local level with limited tools for recruitment. After selecting communities that they view as a source of new recruits, the Aryan Nations often begins by placing leaflets on cars with racist and anti-Semitic content. The group most often targets areas with high traffic of the young and most impressionable segments of society like schoolyards, sporting facilities, and public restrooms. The targets for recruitment will be almost exclusively young whites beginning at the high school age who, given their relatively young age, are able to be easily molded to carry out the directives of the group's leadership.

In recent years, the Aryan Nations have come to rely heavily on the Internet both for recruitment purposes as well as a tool to inform the world of their ideologies. The official Aryan Nations web site includes an application for new members, an online catalog of books with themes relevant to the philosophies of the organization, and an extensive list of links to other hate groups. The site prominently features a section it calls "Public Notices," providing information regarding current events and activities being organized or sponsored by local Aryan Nations groups.

Other Perspectives

Pecent events both in the United States and around the world have changed the perception of the Aryan Nations and other hate groups as only threats to society. Now they are being increasingly looked at as terrorist groups and even as allies with international terrorists. The Aryan Nations and other Christian Identity groups, despite their approach to minorities and people of color in specific, have come out in support of some of the actions of Islamic terrorists. For that reason, these white power groups are being considered by society and law enforcement with a renewed attempt to limit their activities.

In statements put out by the Aryan Nations, they have declared Islam to be their ally as a result of the standards of morality espoused by the Muslim religion. The Aryan Nations specifically points to what they claim to be the efforts of Islam to uproot the Jews from society. As a result of these statements, Aryan Nations is increasingly being labeled by its opponents as a terrorist group, although the central organization has not yet been directly connected with any specific terrorist act.

Groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have approached the activities of the Aryan Nations with direct action to shut them down. Most notably was the 2000 lawsuit that bankrupted the organization. These groups also work with law enforcement to encourage them to crack down on branches of the Aryan Nations by exposing any dissemination of hate literature. These groups work with state and federal government to develop laws that make the activities of hate and extremist groups illegal and to severely limit their activities. They are principally involved with informational efforts to counter the materials that are put out by the hate groups and believe that the most effective way of combating hate and extremism is through educational and publicity efforts.

Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have used mass media to highlight the activities of the Aryan Nations and, because of their resources and access to influential personalities and government officials, the actions of these groups have achieved considerable successes in curtailing the continued growth of groups like the Aryan Nations.


The Aryan Nations has steadily grown in membership despite their internal struggles and considerable opposition from tolerance organizations and law enforcement. Throughout their existence, the organization has thrived by reaching out to similar hate groups and adhering to the ideologies of Christian Identity and neo-Nazism.

While the Aryan Nations group itself has not been directly involved with many acts of violence, splinter groups as well as past members of the organization have carried out several attacks against minority targets, and Aryan Nations leaders have not shied away from supporting violence. The growth of the Internet has been embraced by the Aryan Nations as an additional tool for recruitment and the group continues to recruit through local activity carried out by its branches across the United States as well as in Canada.

While the structure of the group remains largely uncertain as a result of the death of its founder Richard Butler in 2004, as well as financial instabilities brought on by lawsuits, the Aryan Nations' name continues to be associated with the leading hate groups in North America, and its rise from the 1970s and into the twenty-first century indicated the potential for the continuing growth of hate-inspired extremist groups.