Bryon Farmer of the Blackfeet Tribe Jailed For Talking About Corruption In Tribal Government

This month, on the Great Plains of Montana, a man named Bryon Farmer learned a hard lesson about the difference between collective rights and individual rights.

Individual rights protect people from the government and all of its political subdivisions. By contrast collective rights — sometimes called things like "states' rights" — protect the ability of groups to do things, sometimes to the detriment of individual freedom.

Byron Farmer had to learn the difference because he's a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and wants to speak his mind about its governance.

The Blackfeet Tribe has been riven by infighting. The tribal council suspended four of its nine members. Tribal council member Shannon Augare — also a state senator — has been charged by the feds with drunk driving after an incident in which he allegedly drove away from a traffic stop asserting immunity. There has been factionalism and protest.

All that Byron Farmer wanted to do is express his feelings at the North American Indian Days celebration in Browning. He planned a satirical protest float in the parade. To that end, he wrote a post on the Facebook group Blackfeet Against Corruption :

25 DAYS!! 25 DAYS!! Countdown: 25 days to the big show that no Blackfeet will ever forget and will make Indian Country History!

On Saturday July 13, 2012 at North American Indian Days we will show our tribe, Indian Country, America, and the world that the Blackfeet will no longer allow corrupt leaders, illegal actions, politicians that ignore the will of the people, and abuse of our laws and people. We will show all Indians that you CAN take back your reservation when corrupt and incompetent politicians get out of control.

If by July 13th the BTBC has not reinstated the four suspended Councilmen and has not filed criminal charges against Shannon “Silent” Augare the world is going to see something never seen before in Indian Country, and it will all play out in front of the global media: TV, newspapers, YouTube, etc.

If any of the 6 BTBC members – WS, SRC, FBCR, EOP, SA, or LG show their faces in public, even for a minute, they will instantly face something incredible, overwhelming, and unprecedented and the media will be there to capture it. If they hide, the world will know why and we will forge ahead with our plans anyway. The show will go on with or without them.

We are done showing our cards to the BTBC. They will just have to guess at what we have planned and wait like everybody else for the big day. We promise it will be exciting and make headlines worldwide. And we can tell you we are not planning anything violent or illegal so the BTBC will not be able to stop us, no matter how many outside police they call in. Calling a “State of Emergency” and hiding behind a police line isn’t going to save them this time.

The BTBC canceled the public flood memorial making a laughably ridiculous excuse about weather (but of course the weather was fine that day). The real reason was that the BTBC knew we had massive protests planned and there were film crews on hand that would have captured the protests and heckling. But this time they don't dare cancel NAID to avoid public humiliation, so see you there!

25 DAYS!! 25 DAYS!! Countdown: 25 days. Be there!

This was classic political expression protected by the First Amendment. It contains no true threats, it expressly states that there will be no violence or lawbreaking, and it directly addresses government officials and political issues.

But Byron Farmer was charged and jailed over it by tribal officials. He spent five days in tribal custody before making bail. Blackfeet Chief Prosecutor Carl Pepion charged Farmer with violation of the Blackfeet Tribe's Ordinance 67. That Ordinance forbids, among other things, certain statements about the Blackfeet tribal council:

harassment without merit, the distribution of false or misleading documents or writings, the making of slanderous or libelous statements, false innuendoes or misleading statements meant to harm injure, discredit or causing the member to be exposed to hatred, ridicule or contempt.

This is not the first time the Blackfeet tribal council has used Ordinance 67 to suppress dissent; last year they used itto charge a council member who was preparing petitions for removal of other council members.

How can such an ordinance — or any prosecution premised on it — stand, under the First Amendment?

That brings us back to the difference between individual and collective rights.

The United States' treatment of Native Americans has been a mixture of ignorance, brutality, murderousness, and a pattern of pathological oathbreaking that would make a heroin addict wince. It has since subsided — mostly — into corrupt and fraudulent incompetence, indifference, and amoral truculence.

The United States has made gestures of contrition and correction, including a half-century effort to give surviving tribes sovereignty. That sovereignty includes jurisdiction over criminal charges against tribal members on tribal lands.

Does that mean that members of Native American tribes have no right to free speech? No — in theory. The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 says that tribes can't "make or enforce any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for a redress of grievances." But here's the rub: sovereignty also means that the tribes get to enforce that right. The Supreme Court has ruled that, in general, only tribal courts have the right to decide whether tribal practices comply with the Indian Civil Rights Act. Byron Farmer and people like him can't sue in state or federal to invalidate Ordinance 67 – they have to rely on a tribal court, connected politically and culturally to the tribal council. Mr. Farmer could seek a writ of habeas corpus in federal court to get out of tribal custody, but that's a painfully slow process, one that allows the tribe to harass dissenters with short-term incarceration with effective impunity.

This is, perhaps, why Native American journalists have experienced extensive censorship in connection with the tribal press.

Anyone who thinks that I am suggesting that Native Americans are more prone to censorship than other American haven't paid attention to what I write about. They aren't. Humans are regrettably inclined towards censorship. Tribal councils are simply more free to censor than other governmental entities — "free" as a result of collective rights extended to them in a vain effort to put right what we did so very wrong.

Byron Farmer — as part of the Blackfeet Tribe — enjoys the collective right of self-determination, to the detriment of his individual right of freedom of expression. This is not a bug; this is a feature.

I've offered Mr. Farmer my help in trying to find pro bono counsel in his area — that's a tall order, given that I probably don't have too many readers who practice in tribal court. However, perhaps there's someone admitted in Montana who would be willing to help him with a habeas corpus petition to derail his tribal prosecution.

In the meantime, though the trial council is largely immune to the First Amendment, it isn't immune to the more speech remedy. Tell them what you think on one of their Facebook pages. Their web site with tribal contact information was up this weekend; as of this writing it is down. There's some alternative contact information here. Be polite and respectful, always bearing in mind that the person screening your mail often isn't the one making the bad decision. Write and speak, and never doubt that is a mighty privilege.

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. Jack says

    This isn't the first time I have heard about the shenanigans the Blackfoot Tribe has been engaged in – cutting out longtime member families to increase share profits from the casinos, forcing people to prove ancestry over and over and over even though they have been members for generations, and general asshattery.

    Normally – when you read about something like this you always consider that there might be another side to this story. However, this is about the 5th time I have heard about the Blackfoot Tribe and their censorious thuggery and corruption. It is definitely time something should be done about this.

    Props to Ken for helping this man get Pro Bono council. I would love for the next story I read about the Blackfoot to be how their tribal council was disbanded and thrown in jail.

  2. Glenda Gilham says

    Where did you read that people have been cut out of profits? There is none to be had and we all have received equal dividends in all recent payouts. Disband our Council…I don't think so…rewrite our constitution…yes. However Bryons group is against rewriting and separation of powers. Their group wants the power…all of this is revolving around the fact that their group is NOT in power and they want to be. Outsiders are better to mind their own. This is an internal struggle our ppl must solve on their own.

  3. says

    "Mind your own business" is not a magic statement that overrides all US constitutional protections. Did you read any of Ken's posting before firing off your response?

  4. says

    This does not show how mr. Farmer was threatening the council saying that they had a "certain amount of time or else" he is also a convicted felon whose posts were starting with the phrase tick tock tick tock…there was a pipe bomb found in one of the housing projects about a month ago…what if this is what he was referring to when he said tick tock? I would say that it is always better safe than sorry.

  5. jimmythefly says

    LOL, that ordinance forbids:
    "… false innuendoes or misleading statements meant to harm injure, discredit or causing the member to be exposed to hatred, ridicule or contempt."

    I didn't read the whole thing, but I assume a person can't be jailed for their own statements that cause they themselves to be exposed to ridicule?

  6. EH says

    what if this is what he was referring to when he said tick tock?

    Obviously, he would advertise it on Facebook. Nice work, Sherlock.

  7. NI says

    I think the real problem is that both the US government and the Indians are trying to have it both ways: The Indians are US citizens for some purposes, and citizens of a sovereign entity for other purposes. The real solution is to make them one or the other for all purposes. If the tribes want to be sovereign, that’s fine, but then their members are no longer US citizens. If they want to be US citizens, that’s fine, but they lose their tribal sovereignty if they do.

  8. says

    Obviously the people commenting here have not been here from the beginning…this has been coming to a head for over the 1 1/2 years now. None of you people have seen or heard the things said by this individual and his hate group….if you are interested search Blackfeet against corruption on Facebook. It is an open group so you can read the page without joining…go to the beginning and start from there…you will see all of the hate and racial and sexual comments directed towards people of the council and people of this reservation….u best hurry before he begins removing things…I see some stuff has already been removed

  9. Ramona Blackman says

    Bryin, is for the Blackfeet people, this has been going far to long!!! The protesters have been shut down for voicing, equipment has been confiscated from, we are not allowed to utilize any tribal building, or even locations in ou town of Browning, we have been having rally at The Jug and old bar owned by a private owner, who is against corruption, every where else we have been threated with Ordinance 67, since last summer we were protesting in front of our Tribal office, we had teepees sat up and people would gather in the day time!!! We have been called clowns, ran down, made fun of because we protest at the jug. The thing going there is a group that want Open enrollement and we are the group that is protesting against and also against our corrupt council, they ousted four of our council that was elected by the people and appointed two that were not elected by the people, the tribe will not reveal documents to us, we can't even attend meeting. Used to have open meeting for the people once a month this is not even happening, what are they hiding??? Will not reveal their budgets, where a Tribe as a whole and should be allowed and informed where our monies are going!!! They will not let the four back in the offices where they were elected to work??? Why??? because these people are for the people!!! We have BIA that oversees and they sit back and do nothing, I always make comments and I am a elderly, we have never in my life been treated so rudely by a council, I am 62 years old and I guess if they want me thrown in jail, so be it, I will still voice my opinions. Someone needs to hear us we have been pleading for help for the past year. Really don't know what the BIA does to help us, they know what's going on, and they know its not right. No, freedom of speech, we may as well be in a holocaust, the way we are being treated!!!

  10. says

    Eh- yes, it is a long shot…but I did say better safe than sorry…signed Sherlock. P.s. He was talking about burning effigies of the council members on main street during the busiest day of the year for the reservation…naid parade…would a person not be jailed for such a crime against the president?

  11. says

    Neva Ben White, the issue under discussion here isn't so much the plight of this man, nor the corruption alleged against the Blackfeet tribe. The issue is, the odd history of US and Native American peoples has lead to a situation where a citizen of the US is in effect denied the full protections of the Bill of Rights by virtue of being a member of sovereign tribe.

    So which should have primacy? The US Constitution, or tribal law?

    As NI notes, both the US Gov and the tribes are trying to have both laws, and it isn't working.

  12. Ramona Blackman says

    I read some of the comments and they say we ridicule and run down people, should read their page and some of the stuff they write about our group, thy sure are not saints!!! These are people that want open enrollment, they are always ready to run the protesters down!!! We open enrollment we will half of the US getting enrolled and then where will the Blackfeet be??? I even have a grandson that will not make the rolls, that was a choice his mom made, marrying out of the tribe, still against it, my mother was a full-blooded Blackfeet and when this came up when she was alive, she was against, I stand by my mom, even though she has passed and my brothers and sisters!!!

  13. says

    He was talking about burning effigies of the council members on main street during the busiest day of the year for the reservation…naid parade…would a person not be jailed for such a crime against the president?

    No.

    Well, content-neutral laws against fires in public places might be applied to any one. But it is not a crime, to a free people, to burn a leader in effigy. Respectable leaders do not seek to make it one. Tyrants and thugs do.

  14. Ramona Blackman says

    Tick Tock it was a float being made of our corrupt councilmen, not a bomb!!! To be put in our yearly parade, the council are in fear of Byron, he knows how to speak his mind, and I am proud of him, for standing against the council, they think they are untouchable, always running to the law enforcement which they control!!! REALLY WHAT ARE THEY HIDING!!!

  15. Jack says

    Glenda – how many members of your tribe have been disenrolled in the past 10 years?

    Also – mind my own business? Is Bryon Farmer not an American Citizen who was arrested and jailed for speech protected by the 1st Amendment? I should mind my business while your tribe is violating someone's rights? I bet you aren't singing your tune of "Mind your own business" when you are wanting me to come to Glacier Peaks Casino and give you my money….

  16. dtsund says

    Perhaps "better safe than sorry" should be enshrined next to "for the children" as Phrases To Watch Out For.

  17. says

    Jack, the only members disenrolled are those that voluntarily choose to…thanks for correcting me Ken as I am ignorant to actual law…I remember a while back there was a preacher that was being threatened with jail time for burning the ?koran? (sp) I do not know whether or not he was actually imprisoned for his actions but I do remember it being big news. Anyhow, I think in order to understand this case it may be important to also know the history behind it…the council could've used this ordinance to arrest mr. farmer at almost anytime. In essence he has been his fb page as a platform to call people homo's, half-breeds, etc…(this not only includes members of the council but also members of the tribe) He has been reported to fb several times…(note the reason I included the word homo (bryons words) is to show how derogatory
    being called a half-breed is to an Indian…) I think the council should be applauded for showing such restraint in waiting to arrest this person. If it is the law that bothers mr. Farmer than he should not be supporting a group that was responsible for shutting down the constitutional reform a few years back. A few years ago a group of tribal enrolled people began the long and arduous journey of rewriting the constitution. It was voted on and overwhelmingly passed by like 95% of the votes…there was a group on the Rez that did not like this as it removed power from the few and give it to the many. This group is now called Blackfeet against corruption. So, long story short, if the group that mr. Farmer now represents had not killed the constitutional reform then he would have a legal avenue to pursue to get retribution. As it is now he has none because the tribal council is the end all beat all as far as law interpretation is concerned, and they are not even lawyers!, (however they do have lawyers to council them and give them help, but this is only suggestible information as far as interpretation goes they (the council) has final say… lol…I find humor in the irony of it all…as it stands now though this case could be detrimental to the sovereignty of all tribes…the constitutional reform should have been honored and we would not be having this conversation today

  18. different Jess says

    This is a fascinating exchange. Apparently none of these people have heard the Attorney's First Advice to Clients. Good job Ken!

  19. Tim McNeil says

    Interesting question – which comes first: U.S. Citizenship or Tribal Sovereignty? From a distance, the clinical disagreement appears to be one ripe for examination and probably would make a great topic for young law students to study. But as Ken and the many posters here have demonstrated, this is a real problem that is affecting real people right now. People who care deeply about their history and ancestry.

    I have no answer here, I wish I did. I can only offer my sincere hopes that somehow all these passionate people can find a workable solution for the sake of the Blackfeet Tribe.

  20. Glenda Gilham says

    People can also visit the Blackfeet Decendants Group it is an open page on FB. I know Descendant is misspelled. Actually Jack, I am against gambling…it creates more social problems for my people, plus a corporation runs it and we the members get nothing in terms of revenue. Thank you for your comments.

  21. Allen says

    Having a number of friends from different tribes and bands I would note that there are many issues that passes muster with the various Tribal Councils which may differ from what non-members might expect.

    Here's just a few:
    1. Who can live on the reservation?
    2. Inheritance.
    3. Non-enrolled family members' privileges and rights.

    What we think about a large body of the law , family, estate, property ownership, and so on, can be contradicted due to the sovereignty associated with the various tribes.

  22. NotImportant says

    As NI points out, a fundamental problem is the pseudo-sovereignty of the tribes. Excepting only the tribal elders, who would lose their modicum of power, the tribes would be better served by placing their assets into a corporation, eliminating the toy governments and simply treating their constituents like any other citizen. Anyone who has seen the conditions on a typical reservation should understand what I'm saying.

    Tribes that genuinely do not want this should have the option of secession, becoming entirely independent, and renouncing any further claim on the US government.

    For what it's worth, I am entirely unsympathetic to claims that anyone owes the tribes anything. History is full off warfare and conquest – that seems to be part of human nature. No one now living did any conquering of the tribes, nor was any tribal member now living ever conquered. Stop dreaming a past that never was, and live your life today.

    The tribes today are dominated by struggles over power and money amongst a select few at the expense of the average individual. Leaving power in tribal courts means that this cannot and will not change. A corrupt system that needs to end.

  23. Gare Reeve says

    I know that SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statutes doesn't apply to this situation, since this was an arrest and not a lawsuit. However, maybe we need a shorthand for this type of thuggish behavior, even if it's not based on any legal titles.

    I propose "False Arrest Against Public Participation", or FAAPP for short. Those who engage in such behavior could then be identified as "FAAPPers".

  24. Dan says

    Neva Ben white –

    As a complete outsider to any sort of tribal law and politics, I'm finding this discussion quite interesting. One important point, though, that you need to understand is that none of the statements that you attribute to Mr. Farmer can be criminalized, due to the First Amendment. At most, they can be the subject of a civil suit, which could require Mr. Farmer to pay damages (i.e., money) to the people about whom he falsely made these statements.

    I don't, and won't, pretend to understand the interplay between tribal and federal authority. But under federal constitutional law, anywhere off a reservation, Farmer's statements would be absolutely protected from criminal prosecution. It would be well for you to be aware of this, particularly on this site, where the readership appear to be rather more pro-First Amendment than average.

  25. Demosthenes says

    And the winner of the "You All Look Alike to Me" Award is…NotImportant, for his apparent ignorance of the fact that not all Indian tribes live on reservations! The prize is a no-expenses-paid trip to Oklahoma, where he will no doubt learn that there are alternate models of tribal sovereignty and tribal governance which give the lie to his one-size-fits-all solution.

    NotImportant is also a finalist for this year's "Back to the Future" Award, for his suggestion (apparently made in ignorance of history) that tribal sovereignty should be done away with in order to make life better for the average Indian. With no obvious competition yet having emerged, he stands as the clear favorite in that category as well. Truly, an ass-picious day for NotImportant.

  26. Wondering says

    Anyhow, I think in order to understand this case it may be important to also know the history behind it…the council could've used this ordinance to arrest mr. farmer at almost anytime. In essence he has been his fb page as a platform to call people homo's, half-breeds, etc…(this not only includes members of the council but also members of the tribe) He has been reported to fb several times…(note the reason I included the word homo (bryons words) is to show how derogatory being called a half-breed is to an Indian…) I think the council should be applauded for showing such restraint in waiting to arrest this person.

    Neva Ben white, are you saying you support arresting people for using the word "homo"? Arresting people. For words they speak? Not civilly suing them or speaking back against them, but outright putting them in jail? For words.

  27. Lago says

    @NI: Your choice is not a choice at all. Their reservation is whittled down from their original territory and is not sustainable. They do not have the choice to be completely sovereign unless they want to do some kind of exclusive business, like Indian casinos in California. This is the same for virtually all the Indian reservations throughout the US.

  28. says

    Wondering…thanks for your interest in what I have said…no, I do not support wrongful imprisonment, nor do I support instigating a mob mentality. this whole "uprising" began when a group of people (enrolled Blackfeet members) started a petition to let the tribal membership vote on an issue here on the reservation. The contents of the petition are irrelevant to this conversation, what is important to know though is that this petition have been vehemently opposed by a small group of radical members of this tribe and this group has also instigated several mobs over the past year that have resulted in fist fights, egging of cars, the council closing down tribal offices, hiring personal body guards, and calling a state of emergency on this reservation, just because the group was opposed to this petition. The petition needs enough signatures from tribally enrolled members for the secretary of interior to call for a vote on the matter. In essence mr. Farmer and his group are trying to stop the tribe from voting on this matter, which is definitely a violation of our rights on this reservation. I do not support violating a persons rights and I definitely do not agree with the council having supreme authority over the members, I do however believe that for the safety of all, this was an important safety measure. He was arrested during the native American Indian days celebration which attracts thousands of participants from other tribal affiliation and thousands of people there to observe the festivities. It was in fact a safety measure used by the tribe to ensure civility during the powwow. @Dan, I too am a staunch civil liberty supporter. I would never agree with a police state. I do, in this case, agree with the actions of the council. They, after all, reduced his bond from $5,000 cash to $500 cash after the festivities were over.

  29. delurking says

    Neva Ben white, you are not a supporter of civil liberties and you are clearly supporting police-state action in this case. You condone jailing an individual on the vague suspicion that he might commit a crime in the future. A state that does that is tyrannical.

  30. says

    If you think you support free speech because you support low bail when someone is arrested for criticizing the government, you are wrong.

  31. Wondering says

    Neva Ben white, so, you do support him being arrested for words. Or for past actions. Not for a crime he's actually committing right now, but for a crime he may commit. Very Minority Report.

    Hey, from what you say, he sounds like a jerk, and what the council did is legal under tribal law. But it was a clear act to stop him from speaking at an inconvenient time, otherwise they wouldn't have lowered his bail after the event in question. That sounds like abuse of power to me. I mean, heck, the it's legal for the TSA to violate people's bodily integrity and detain them, while claiming they're not detaining anyone, but I don't support that, either.

    You seem to be saying it's okay to arrest someone for words or past actions in this particular case because you don't like this guy's words and past actions.

  32. says

    @Wondering

    Neva Ben white, are you saying you support arresting people for using the word "homo"? Arresting people. For words they speak?

    And to clarify: outside a World of Warcraft chat window? ;-)

  33. says

    I know I know I know…and I would definitely disagree with myself too, but you do not live here…sometimes circumstances dictate actions that we are normally opposed to…thanks, and I do realize I am contradicting myself by saying such but I knew it when I wrote it and I stand by my choice still…like I said you do not live here…our judicial system is not normal and in essence this "crime" was a ploy to remove him from the streets during the celebration and in all probability will amount to nothing, unless pursued by mr. Farmer, then and only then will something become of it. It will be as big of a deal as he wants it to be and I can assure you that if he chooses to pursue the matter any further then the council will be forced to defend themselves and in this case they will probably win…just to make myself clear I am not in any shape or form garnering support the for council…I am sure that there is probably some kind of shennanigans in them offices and I do not condone corruption. I would rather see the constitutional reform that we, as a tribe, have asked for. Thus far this council has failed to uphold that vote as has the one before it. Constitutional reform would solve the corruption by giving us a system of checks and balances and would solve mr. Farmers delimma also. Thanks for replying and I apologize for being so contradictory, but as I have stated before, I stand by my statements based on the circumstances of this situation which are unequivocally unique to our part of the world.

  34. says

    Beware in real life and Outside of the world of Warcraft chat windows there are riots and mobs and instigations and fights…people afraid to leave their houses for reasons stated…the words on the computer come to life on the Rez…it's only something a person can understand if they live it…as close knit as a neighborhood and as relentless as a ghetto

  35. oldlowrent says

    This thread is very interesting. As someone from the Blackfeet Reservation, it is hard to see Bryon being supported by any outside group. He has been posting some really filthy, vile, hateful, and slanderous things for over a year now. His hate speech was directed at old ladies and children until he directed his attention towards the tribal council.

    I was relieved when I heard he was arrested because Indian Days is a happy time for our tribe. Picture the world's largest family reunion. Many visitors take part in the festivities. To let one person turn it into a spectacle didn't seem right. A non violent protest with Bryon at the helm is sure to turn into a profanity laced tirade with a barrage of verbal assaults.

    Bryon is touting all the newspaper articles and media as a vindication of his message. That is what bothers me the most. He doesn't understand that the people on this site and others are only supporting his right to deliver that message any time and place he wants. They are not agreeing with the content of his ignorant posts. I believe he will begin to understand this when the cameras go away.

    I appreciate the comments on this page because it made me rethink how I felt when Bryon was arrested. I now realize that if they can jail one person like that it can happen to anybody. Freedom of speech is the backbone of our society. I support his right to say whatever he wants.

    However, this is not a case I would recommend anyone take pro bono. Would you jump at the chance to represent Westboro Baptist in court?Yeah they have a right to do what they do, but why tarnish your own reputation by being associated with hate speech.

  36. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says

    Just because cryptic remarks drive me crazy, I'm going to go ahead and make a guess about the "Constitutional reform" proposed by an equally cryptic petition – "The contents of the petition are irrelevant to this conversation,".

    Just a guess, but that "reform" could easily be the proposed change of the tribal Constitution's requirements for enrollment – from the current blood quantum model to a lineal model. The petition which proposed that change would be the petition circulated by B.E.A.R. (Blackfeet Enrollment Amendment Reform).

    (This may be entirely irrelevant – or incorrect! – and is not meant to derail the thread, so feel free to delete . I just don't like it when someone decides what is relevant for everyone else.)

  37. says

    Yeah…the content of the petition is for enrollment reform…which is irrelevant to this convo…I just did not feel like typing it out and trying to explain it all at the time…that's why I left it out…am not attempting to be vague…if you wanna know about the enrollment reform visit the b.e.a.r. Site which Glenda referred to earlier…the reform of the constitution which I am speaking of though is NOT concerning enrollment reform…the reform I am alluding to concerns the judicial system which gives the tribal council absolute power…this reform was already voted on and passed a few years back and has yet to be enacted upon by the prior and current council

  38. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says

    So… what exactly *was* it – aside from "Constitutional reform"?

    And how do these two sentences work together:

    "So, long story short, if the group that mr. Farmer now represents had not killed the constitutional reform then he would have a legal avenue to pursue to get retribution."

    "this reform was already voted on and passed a few years back and has yet to be enacted upon by the prior and current council."

    …?

    How did Mr. Farmer's group kill it if it passed with 95% support and is waiting on the council to act?

  39. Anony Mouse says

    I appreciate the comments on this page because it made me rethink how I felt when Bryon was arrested. I now realize that if they can jail one person like that it can happen to anybody. Freedom of speech is the backbone of our society.

    Yeah, supporting speech you agree with (or at least don't dislike) is really easy. It's the difficult, uncomfortable speech that's the hardest to defend, and the most important to defend.

    I doubt anyone was thrilled with advocating for the rights of Illinois Nazis, but those bastards had the right to march.

  40. Tom says

    This is an amazing thread in so many ways.

    I wish I could elaborate without a giant coherent-only-to-me-rant, but I critical filters are in the shop or otherwise non-functional right now, so I'll just thank Ken, et al. for having such a fucking interesting living room.

  41. Tom says

    I saw the typo above and started thinking about a "my people have no tradition of proof reading" joke, but then started typing this comment instead. Now I'm looking at my belly button.

  42. Black Betty says

    OldLowRent and Neva Ben White…

    What you don't seem to understand is this: the 1st Amendment exists not to protect the speech we love (for that needs no protection), it exists to protect the speech we hate.

    And everyone here finds what your tribal council did to be an absolute offense to our better natures. Many here would defend Westboro, as distasteful as that is to us. We would defend burning the President's image in effigy or burning the Koran, as disrespectful as those two actions are. Are they wise…no. But, neither are illegal and both deserve vigorous free speech advocacy.

    Neva Ben White, what you did by arresting this man was not for safety. It was an action committed to shut down the free speech of a citizen of you own tribe. And OldLowRent is correct. If you will arrest this man, you will do it to ANY and ALL of your citizens. By arresting him for this, you have essentially proven Mr. Bryon's contention that your council is corrupt.

  43. Peter Henry says

    "America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free"."

    –"The American President", 1995, Aaron Sorkin, Writer.

  44. says

    A few successfully coerced the old council into *tabling* the new amendment to the constitution. I do not know the intimate details but essentially this is what happened according to a friend who was involved in the first reform movement. It would have distributed the *power* thru out our tribal govt. And given a system of checks and balances. In essence the council would not be able to have their hands in judicial matters.

  45. Luke says

    OT @Peter Henry – The best part about that section of the movie is how he goes from defending freedom of speech and how it's important for the president to uphold the Bill of Rights to wanting to ban hand guns.

    From the same speech:
    "You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I'm gonna convince Americans that I'm right, and I'm gonna get the guns."

    I wonder if Sorkin recognized the hypocrisy when he wrote it.

  46. says

    All this talk of lack of Constitutional Reform somehow being at the root of our problem is the reddest of herrings. The crisis of the last 12 months (and now this freedom of speech issue) occurred because the same folks who now bitch about Constitutional Reform wouldn't stand up for key parts of the current Blackfeet Constitution that would also have naturally carried over to any reformed version.

    That tells me they don't actually give a rat's ass about our Constitution or the state and stability of our society, present or future, except to the extent it solves some personal pet project of theirs such as enrollment, or gives them pocket money (that's why Constitutional Reform was derailed — I was in the room– the then-BTBC didn't say "stop," they just said, "Keep on going but sorry no more blank checks for all these new paid positions you guys keep creating –too little progress for too much money. But feel free to carry on with Reform, we aren't stopping you.")

    Anyway, guys, answer me this: Why did you stay quiet when 4 duly elected BTBC members representing 7,111 votes were permanently denied their Constitution right to serve? Why did you stay quiet when Willie said on the front page of the Glacier Reporter that they were permanently suspending them when there is no such provision in the Constitution? Why did you stay quiet when Wells' seat was filled without first removing him? Why did you stay quiet when Paul was suspended for making copies? Why did you stay quiet when the BTBC refused to meet the Constitutional requirement of maintaining a full Council and operating with a full legal quorum? Why have you stayed quiet when General Meetings –a Constitutional requirement– are now closed or eliminated? Why have you stayed quiet for 12 months while the illegal BTBC has operated without a legal quorum? And, today, why are you staying quiet, when the Blackfeet Constitution has this clause:

    Section 3. Civil Liberties – All members of the tribe may enjoy without hindrance freedom of worship, conscience, speech, press, assembly, and association.

    No, you guys who bitch when you should stay quiet, and stay quiet when you should be screaming your heads off and standing up for your rights have created EXACTLY the tribal government you deserve. YOU enabled them, YOU protected and encouraged them with your silence, YOU, by your silence and acquiescence, have created this monster run amok.

    So YOU are the problem. Now that you have proved yourself too afraid to fight, at least get the fuck out of the way of Bryon and others in the Tribe that (love 'em or hate 'em) at least fight like Blackfeet and don't run and hide. They are, after all, fighting for YOU, even if you are too dumb to realize it.

    On our reservation a popular game is to claim you know better than others what it means to be Blackfeet. I think we can all agree that the warrior mentality is at the very core of being Blackfeet. So what the hell happened to you chickenshits? Our ancestors would be ashamed of you: All you do is talk, pose, preen, complain, and blame from the safety of your smartphone. Meanwhile, thanks to your inaction and cowardice, our ancient society is disintegrating while the rest of us are struggling to save it.

    When I was young, hot headed, and stupid, I participated in anti-war protests. I saw the government as the evil enemy and myself as righteous. Then one day I hear an interview with a Marine General who was asked about these unruly mobs protesting the war. In my childlike, hateful mindset, I expected him to say "nuke those dirty hippies."

    Instead, he said: "I disagree completely with them, but I will gladly die defending their right to do what they are doing, protesting and speaking out." That is the day I grew up and realized what America and free societies are all about.

    I wish some of my fellow Blackfeet would grow up and show the right kind of fight at the time we need it most.

  47. says

    Amskapii-where were you when pat Schildt was railroaded out of office? Why aren't you angry for our constitution being torn up? What about the few whom tried to oust the current council illegally and fired all of those tribal employees and televised the whole debacle? What about the fund which was created for one council persons sons rodeo career? What about the ones that were involved in the illegal hunt? Where is the outcry over this corruption? This tells me that certain people are only against the corruption that does not fulfill their own agendas.

  48. says

    No NBW, you are merely looking in the mirror. Unlike you, I am an equal opportunity protester. I was outraged at the Pat Schildt ouster and said so (including to him), loudly, on many occasions. The irony of JSGs ouster on precedent he himself set with Schildt was poetry and I said so. I was outraged at the twice attempted coup by BOC and company and said so, loudly. I have been a harsh critic of those involved in the illegal hunts. And now I am loudly complaining about the current illegal BTBC. I see right and I see wrong and speak accordingly. It's pretty simple, try it.

  49. FitzJames says

    I for one would like to thank Neva Ben white for expressing an opinion that while I disagree with, at least sheds some more light on the situation. I think that while the Tribal Council might have thought they were serving public safety by arresting the individual, the curtailing of public speech can only have a detrimental effect on any society.

  50. says

    Amskapii-kudos..I am glad to hear that you are an equal opportunity protester…I however will not let bryon run roughshod over this reservation bc if he and his cronies have their way then the corruption that is already rampant will double even quadruple and if we think things are bad now then imagine if a bunch of hoods are running our govt…under the current council I see some economic growth despite the cronyism…the new tribal grocery store and the new best western hotel are a few examples…and btw I disagree with your analysis of the constitutional reform being a red herring…the way to control corruption is to remove the absolute power the council enjoys

  51. jstok says

    Btw have you heard any specific corruption that he has exposed?

    If there are no examples or specifics then why should he be silenced? I mean unless he's overstepping his free speech rights. BTW, Have you heard of or can you point out any specific examples where he has overstepped his 1st amendment rights?

  52. jstok says

    OK I'm apparently tag-stupid…

    Neva Ben white: "Btw have you heard any specific corruption that he has exposed?"

    If there are no examples or specifics then why should he be silenced? I mean unless he's overstepping his free speech rights. BTW, Have you heard of or can you point out any specific examples where he has overstepped his 1st amendment rights?

  53. says

    Jstok. You are right as are the rest of the people in this forum…under the first amendment he hasn't overtepped any boundaries. According to ordinance 69 he has. This apparently supersedes other laws. The question directed towards amskapii was directed at him/her bc tthis person seems to condone rabble rousing although I have yet to see any of the corruption that mr.farmer claims to be exposing…his rants and raves are all basically that, rants and raves. His greatest accomplishment in his quest to expose corruption thus far has been to be arrested. Now he claims that he is going to take his fight to the supremest of courts and expose corruption. Well whoopty doo for him I say. That's it? A false arrest is his coups de gras? If not for the council arresting him he would not have a leg to stand on but yeah I suppose people do get tired of being slandered and bullied on the computer.

  54. says

    NBW, I don't know Bryon Farmer, I have never seen him on the rez, as far as I know. I understand he is a big guy and have seen his FB photo, so I don't think I could've missed him. Months, maybe years ago, I started seeing his postings on FB and found him really obnoxious, unpleasant, out-there, and mean. Others told me he was actually a nice guy, but that wasn't the impression I got from his postings. But then in the last month or so I was told by many to take a look at the BAC page, the tick tock stuff. I found his postings to be much different in tone, informative, and credible. I am guessing he now has some help cranking out the stuff on there. I did hear on BAC FB some things I hadn't heard before, e.g. Poka, Helena salaries, Augare dashcam video, etc., and I read major breaking news on the BAC page that beat the newspapers to press. But I don't think BAC is an investigation entity, I gather they get lots of anonymous tips and publish them. Seems like most or all of what they publish comes true fairly quickly and I am not aware of any false info posted there, at least by Mr. Farmer. So, I am glad they are doing what they are doing –they sure got the BTBC's britches in a bundle and are filling an information vacuum since the BTBC stays silent on everything these days. I think the best indicator that BAC is doing some good is how the BTBC clearly reads every words BAC posts and freaked out to the point of arresting Mr. Farmer under circumstances that are clearly illegal. (Even Ordinance 67 isn't worded to allow that sort of arrest and imprisonment.) That tells me the BTBC is scared of BAC and is trying to silence them, which suggest to me that the BTBC has a lot they don't want made public.

  55. says

    Yes very astute observations a.p. Very astute indeed. I am actually in agreement with your observations in that the actions of the council do seem to lend themselves to someone with something to hide. Bryon never exposed anything at the headstart, that was already under investigation, the dash cam video is not his to claim either. The pooka ranch is suspect I guess…I do not know what is going on with it but all of this is irregardless and moot if you are not against any and all corruption which bryon and co. are most assuredly not. Believe it or not I would actually support the fellar if he did not have underlying motives for "his cause". Bryon is only a mouthpiece for a group of racially insensitive people and this group is very much the complete opposite of anti-corruption. Guaranteed.if they were they would not have supported the takeover by the "other council", they would not support the litigants involved in the illegal hunt, they would not be against other issues going to a vote…etc…

  56. Ashera says

    I'd like to express my appreciation to both Neva Ben white and Amiskapi Pikuni for their posts on this thread. You have both been informative and level-headed, and it's been very interesting to see this issue from several different, contrasting perspectives. I don't agree with everything that has been said, but I can see and understand how you arrived at your positions.

  57. Charlene Burns says

    Some of us are fighting for equal rights for everyone…such as those of us who have worked diligently on constitutional reform and those of us who are also fighting for the rights for all Blackfeet people. We are even fighting for Bryan's children's right to be enrolled. Other people are fighting for power..which is what the battle is about now…one big power struggle…our fight is not personal that's why we don't have to say anything derogatory about anyone personally..just about the systems that are smothering our people. It's funny that both movements that would have brought equal rights to all the Blackfeet people were stopped by the group that Bryan represents. If you look at the University of Montana's story that they did on this subject you will see what I am saying. One of their leaders says…if we let this happen we will no longer control??? Why does someone have to control? Red Flag….why would you ignore your own people's vote for separation of powers? Red Flag…and why do we send our young troops all over the world to fight for people's rights to vote and then applaud those right here at home in America who won't let these issues come to the vote of the people? Red Flag. Don't talk about 1st right amendments on one hand when our council acts to protect the crowd from an angry man saying "tick tock" and then not respond when we say the people voted and the vote was not honored. No American citizens could live under the present Blackfeet constitution that has no bill of rights for its people. Why would you support people trying to find democracy?

  58. Charlene Burns says

    Woops, that was supposed to say why wouldn't you support people trying to find democracy.

  59. Charlene Burns says

    Here is the quote from Byron's main leader..
    "Grant, one of the main opponents of enrollment reform, said the biggest benefit to being enrolled is the right to vote.

    “That’s what we don’t want to give them, because there’s such a large number that they would take over the thinking and the way they view things, bringing in their values that they have,” he said. “Everything that the Blackfeet stood for—that would change with the large enrollment number"

    This quote is from the story the UofM did in their Native News Project of 2013 in a story called "Blackfeet-Fractioned Identity."

    We actually have ran the numbers of how many Blackfeet were left unenrolled and the number comes out to about 7,000 more that we left behind of our own children and grandchildren. Our petition calls for them to be able to trace their heritage back at least 3 generations and it lets us return to what our enrollment requirements have always been traditionally and what our three sister Blackfoot tribes still are. Just simply lineal descent. Many of our Blackfeet people who don't live here at home still hold strong traditional values and have not assimilated but rather went off seeking work…like in the old days when they went looking for buffalo. There are 6,000 voting members on the reservation and 6,000 voting members off the reservation. Only about 3000 people vote in the elections, most of them on reservation because you have to present yourself at the polls. Of those 3000, the majority voted to have separation of powers. Mr. Grant's group has fought all these movements. The vote of the people for separation of powers, the constitution reform and the enrollment movement.

    So how can they say they are fighting for the rights of "the people" when obviously they mean about 1700 out of 17,000 people.

  60. Glenda Gilham says

    This past year and a half, has been spent educating the community about Secretarial Elections, constitutional reform and helping to clear up misinformation. How quickly one groups hardship is forgotten or swept away over the outrage of another. The Enrollment reform group was the first group removed from utilizing the tribal facilities, we were banned from our Tribal store. That resolution is still active to this day. As Tribal members we have all felt the frustration. For some of us there has been a price to pay for speaking up. I am no longer employed and probably blackballed from any future employment on the Rez for, as someone is fond of telling me, "having a big mouth" but I will continue to speak. I have also spoke out against a certain company and individual, who has been linked to questionable activities. No support on that end.

  61. says

    Yeas! Glenda has spoken vehimitely against an extremely suspicious person with incredibly suspicious activity and there has been absolutely no mention of this individual from mr. Farmer…why? Does he write bryons tick tock speeches? Maybe maybe not….but yes incredibly this persons name has been noticeably absent from the anti-corrupt group.

    I would like to thank Glenda gilham for ALL that she has done to support her people. Like she said she has lost a job that she probably had tenure on and she also has been physically attacked because she was willing to speak up for her people and out against corruption.

    Also, Charlene burns, who has taken a stand to fight corruption on the Rez in a civil way, by legally advocating and petitioning for constitutional reform, separation of powers and now enrollment reform. (and she has never been arrested) lol

  62. Mark - Lord of the Albino Squirrels says

    I think they can say they are fighting for the rights of the people (in regards to the enrollment issue) because of what happened when the council petitioned the BIA to go to lineal enrollment back in 1994. It is fair to say that the BIA's response was… chilly. Those against lineal enrollment take the following – from the BIA response letter to the council's petition – seriously:

    “the courts or Congress may well decide that a tribe has so diluted the relationship between a tribal government and its members that it has ‘self-determined’ its sovereignty away.”

    (This quote is *also* from the story the UofM did in their Native News Project of 2013 in a story called "Blackfeet-Fractioned Identity.")

    Whether that is a fair reaction from the Bureau or not, I think it would be a mistake not to take the possibility of loss of sovereignty into account as a possible consequence of the move to lineal enrollment.

    On this issue (enrollment), I do not feel qualified to assert a stance. I am not Blackfoot (enrolled or otherwise) and thus do not have the right or the inclination to say what the tribe should do. The possibility of gradual loss of sovereignty (to more tribal land going to "fee" status) due to lower blood quantum fractions among descendants is to be taken seriously. The possibility of quick loss of sovereignty and financial ruin – as indicated by the BIA letter – should be taken seriously as well.

    To an outsider like myself, it looks like the tribe is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place regarding enrollment.

    That said, the one thing that I can and do have a stance on is the right to free speech.

    An advocate for one side in a debate has been jailed for disagreeing with the other side. It is possible to see how an advocate for enrollment status quo is worried about the tribe's future status, and not just attempting to move power to themselves. It is just as possible to see how an advocate for enrollment reform is worried about the tribe's future status, and is not just attempting to move power to themselves.

    But it is impossible to see how those who jail to suppress dissent are doing anything other than taking and maintaining power by force – at the expense of the rights of the people.

  63. Careless says

    So Neva Ben White writes " tick tock tick tock" and knows the location of a bomb and thinks it's better to be safe than sorry? Time to lock him up, I guess.

  64. says

    An exerpt from a post on the Blackfeet descendants group fb page….

    Don't laugh! But Senator Augare might re-establish tribal sovereignty because his drunk driving case has been transferred to Federal Magistrate Court in Great Falls where the Judge is bound by federal law in considering issues of state jurisdiction on Indian reservations and the extent of county courts jurisdiction over Indians and Indian trust property. Congressional intent in legal issues examines the historical intent of Congress in establishing tribal sovereignty and banning white men from the reservation. Blackfeet Tribal Sovereignty is contained in treaty, agreement, federal statutes, the Organic Act of the Territory of Montana, and the Montana Constitution. What do the white men have to explain their ownership of Blackfeet Treaty lands or their presence on the reservation? There are zero Congressional Statutes that Congress intended to diminish tribal sovereignty and diminish the reservation land base or allow white emigration to the reservation. Whites are squatters and the state is in trespass for the past 100 years. The Black Civil Rights movement began when a Black woman refused to give her seat on the bus to a white man, less glorious is the drunk driving senator from Glacier County but he may end up forcing an examination of how the white man got on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. In that context I support his contention the Glacier County Sheriff has no business arresting sovereign Blackfeet Indians. Where is the BIA and tribal cops? The joke is that we have been trying to get the tribal council to support the sovereign property rights of hundreds of Blackfeet allottees who had their trust land titles severed in Glacier County Courts, and here is the drunk driving senator supported by the tribal council-but no support for our sovereign land rights held by treaty and Congressional Statutes. Maybe after this the drunken tribal council will support our rights to get our stolen lands back! A hint to Senator Augare, Glacier County does not have a legal right-of-way for any state/county roads on the reservation, it is one of the issues in the Blackfeet claims.

  65. says

    I posted this bc of all the talk of sovereignty that we have been having.

    Also, mark the lord, there is a lot of background and such that goes along with the enrollment issue…I'll explain it later when I have the time…until then you are welcome to go to the docs section of the blackfeet descendants page where there is a wealth info.

  66. Charlene Burns says

    Actually, where I think we are stuck is between those that understand how the assimilation process was yielded against our people and those that need to understand it. The assimilation weapons that were formed against us to reduce us to where we are today began with the Dawes Act to separate the unity of the land, second was with the removal of our traditional form of governance that held our leaders accountable to the people. Next was the attempt to make the children all stand alones in the boarding school experiment in the attempt to remove family and community unity so that the thought of "we" vs "I" had to be done away with. Then they seduced us under a constitution that does not have a bill of rights for the people by saying it would protect us from the crooked agents. Finally, they introduction of using blood quantum as the marker for identification of who we are so there would be a limitation of their trust responsibility instead of every generation looking out for 3 generations ahead and three generations behind. I think our only weapon we can combat all of this with is to arm ourselves with the knowledge of how we were broken down.It was part of the plan. By the way, did you know that the US Bill of Rights does not apply to us?ing to protect the first amendment doesn't even know that it does not apply to us. The Indian Civil Rights Bill applies to us and when you call to ask about your civil rights, they will tell you that it is up to each tribe to determine their rights and therefore whatever the tribal council says or does, that is your bill of rights. That is why it is critical to change the constitution. Call the department of justice and ask if the Bill of rights apply to you.

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