August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

TODAY Chase Iron Eyes Demands Withheld Evidence of TigerSwan and Law Enforcement

Last Child Camp, Standing Rock
Chase Iron Eyes Demands Withheld Evidence

Lakota attorney Chase Iron Eyes will be in court on Wednesday, April 4, at 1:30 pm in Mandan, North Dakota, for a hearing related to his criminal defense. His charges stem from the nonviolent Last Child stand on Feb. 1, 2017 at Standing Rock 

Update -- "The state is now refusing to cooperate in handing evidence over that will assist in Chase's potentially-groundbreaking necessity defense. We just received news that the prosecutor is bringing in a special witness to challenge the notion that TigerSwan colluded with law enforcement during the protests.  We had a hearing before Judge David Nelson on Nov. 3. The State was given until Dec. 31 to provide our requested documents,” said LPLP attorney Daniel Sheehan. “And they stiffed us. Our opinion is that, frankly, they are afraid of the necessity defense, and they are jumping through every hoop to try to stop it.”

Chase Iron Eyes Demands Withheld Evidence

Standing Rock Activist to Claim State Has Refused to Turn Over Key Defense Documents at Wednesday Hearing
By Last Real Indians
MANDAN, NORTH DAKOTA – 2016 North Dakota Democratic congressional nominee Chase Iron Eyes will head back to court on Wednesday, charging that the state of North Dakota is withholding key evidence needed for his defense against charges stemming from protests of the Dakota Access pipeline. Attorneys for the Standing Rock Sioux tribal member say the evidence they’re after is extensive and will exonerate Iron Eyes by clarifying events that took place prior to or on the day of his arrest in February, 2017.
Constitutional attorney Daniel Sheehan, chief counsel of the Lakota People’s Law Project, represents Iron Eyes. He said the State is months late in both gathering and turning over evidence required for his team to present a “necessity defense” for his client, which will argue that any actions Iron Eyes took during the protests were necessary to prevent a greater harm.
“We had a hearing before Judge David Nelson on Nov. 3. The State was given until Dec. 31 to provide our requested documents,” said Sheehan. “And they stiffed us. Our opinion is that, frankly, they are afraid of the necessity defense, and they are jumping through every hoop to try to stop it.”
Whether or not Iron Eyes will eventually be granted the opportunity to present the defense still hangs in the balance. Judge Nelson, since recused from the case due to health reasons, granted extra time in November for Iron Eyes’ legal team to pursue the discovery evidence needed to present the defense. But now, Iron Eyes’ attorneys say, the state is refusing to cooperate.
Among the documentation being requested by Iron Eyes’ team are internal memos between law enforcement agencies and TigerSwan, a mercenary security firm that operated in North Dakota without a license, hired by the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners.
Internal memos published by investigative reporting website The Intercept allege that TigerSwan led a violent and comprehensive anti-protest, surveillance and publicity campaign that labeled protesters as “jihadist” and “terrorists,” among other potentially inflammatory language.
Iron Eyes’ attorneys have also requested documentation from North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum’s office, sparking a motion to quash from the governor. At the hearing, new presiding Judge Lee Christofferson will have the opportunity to rule on that motion.
“We are hoping that Judge Christofferson will agree that we are entitled to the governor’s evidence,” said Sheehan. “Ideally, the Court will also admonish the state’s attorney for his failure thus far to cooperate in the entire discovery process to which Chase is entitled to prepare his defense.”
The necessity defense, traditionally applied to cases such as a ship’s captain’s need to dump cargo to avoid sinking, has seen a different application in recent months as a defense for pipeline and other climate-related protestors. A judge in Massachusetts recently found a group of pipeline protesters in Boston “not responsible by reason of necessity.” In addition, a trial court in the state of Washington ruled days ago that Reverend George Taylor could use the defense to combat charges arising from his blockage of train tracks in Spokane to prevent the transportation of coal and oil.
“This legal defense is gaining momentum,” Sheehan said. “In our case, it’s a potential landmark for our legal system. We want every climate advocate, every Native rights advocate and every advocate for the Constitution to have this defense at his or her disposal to protest injustices in this nation.”
Iron Eyes’ legal argument posits that his protest was an attempt to protect his tribe from a likely oil spill under its primary source of water. He said that, while he knows mounting this defense carries some risk, he’s willing to take it. But first, the State must comply with court-mandated requests.
“I’m entitled to a fair trial under the United States Constitution,” said Iron Eyes. “If the prosecution is unwilling to pursue and turn over required evidence, I’m being denied my constitutional rights. The process so far shows a continuation of the pattern of denying rights to Native people. But I have faith in our judicial system, and I’m hopeful that Wednesday will be a watershed moment for this trial and our movement as a whole.”
South Central Judicial District trial court administrator Donna Wunderlich confirmed this past week that Iron Eyes’ case is one of 171 still open from the Dakota Access pipeline protests, which ended more than a year ago. To date, 543 cases have been completed. According to Sheehan, all but a few have ended in acquittals, dismissals of all charges, or deferrals of all charges.
Hearing details:
Who: Lakota People’s Law Project lead North Dakota attorney Chase Iron Eyes is back in court.
What: Judge Lee Christofferson will be asked to review and enter orders confirming the earlier rulings entered by the former presiding judge in the Iron Eyes case, Judge David Nelson. These rulings include:
1. An order for the state prosecutor to respond to discovery demands made by Chase Iron Eyes’ legal team; (Daniel Sheehan: “The state prosecutor has thus far provided only a minimal response, far from that which is required. This disturbing pattern of willfully incomplete responses now stretches back over many months.”)
2. An order to the state prosecutor to pursue all the discovery from law enforcement agencies that was agreed upon last Nov. 3 and ordered by Judge Nelson — but which the State Prosecutor refused to pursue;
3. An order that the prosecutor turn over all discovery materials that the prosecutor has received to date from other agencies but which has been withheld from the Iron Eyes defense team;
4. An acknowledgment that Chase Iron Eyes intends to present multiple necessity defenses, including the defense that the actions he took were to prevent the violation of the constitutional rights of Native Americans.
Where: Morton County Courthouse, 210 2nd Ave. NW Mandan, ND 58554
When: Wednesday, Apr. 4, at 1:30 p.m.
Why: The state has refused to cooperate in handing over evidence related to the Iron Eyes defense.

New film 'An Indigenous Response to MeToo' -- Breaking the Silence for Healing


New Film – “An Indigenous Response to  #MeToo” – is an Engaging Conversation Starter
to Break the Silence and Lean into Cultural Teachings for Viable Solutions

By Liz Hill, Ojibwe
Censored News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (April 4, 2018) – “An Indigenous Response to #MeToo” is a new half-hour Rematriation Magazine film featuring a group of cultural change-makers from Haudenosaunee Six Nations territories and the Guachichil de La Gran Chichimeca. The film’s purpose is to share a culturally grounded and relevant response to address the #MeToo movement in Indigenous communities, to start group conversations and to lean into culturally based solutions.

Recently, more than 70 Indigenous people from across Haudenosaunee territories and communities around the world met for the 2018 launch of Rematriation Magazine – “Returning the Sacred to the Mother” at Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Rematriation Magazine, an Indigenous women’s online publication, will include feature stories, videos, podcasts, interactives and other multi-media offerings focusing on topics important to Indigenous women. During the meeting, the women and men also discussed the #MeToo movement and how it has differed in Indigenous communities across Turtle Island from the mainstream. “An Indigenous Response to #MeToo” was a result of this discussion.

“The #MeToo movement has taken the country by storm and this is why I asked a group of Indigenous people to come together to discuss what is – and what is not – going on so that we can extend the conversation into our communities and take control of the narrative,” says Michelle Schenandoah, chief executive officer and editor in chief of Rematriation Magazine. “We are not part of the mainstream society; yet knowing how pervasive sexual abuse is in our communities, this film provides a backdrop to explore this issue in our own way.”

“The mainstream trend has been to outcast prominent men accused of sexual harassment, but what does #MeToo look like for Indigenous people?” asks Schenandoah. “There is no recourse for both men and women in the mainstream and there really hasn’t been much direction beyond this point for the movement. As Indigenous people, we've been working to address sexual abuse a lot longer than in the mainstream.”

“This film is intended to start group conversations within our Indigenous communities. We highlight examples of women and men who’ve created change by leaning into traditional teachings and ceremonies – and the impacts have been profound,” says Schenandoah. “Acceptance of the mainstream does not have to be our response; it’s not the healthiest option for our communities and we have our culture to help guide us.”

"‘An Indigenous Response to #MeToo’ makes an important, vital and timely contribution to the conversation on sexual and other forms of gender violence,” says Hayley Marama Cavino, Ph.D., Māori: Ngāti Pūkenga/Ngāti Whitikaupeka, professor of Native American and Indigenous Studies at Syracuse University (the film premiered on April 3 in Cavino’s Indigenous Women’s Lives class at the university). "I was particularly struck by the assertion that our communities have long grappled with these issues, as well as how proximate we are to them – a particularly poignant moment in the film comes when one of the participants points out that we are talking about the behavior of fathers and brothers and relatives,” says Cavino.

"One of our elders at home – Mereana Pitman – says that when you violate women and children you violate everyone, including yourself, because of the ways we are interconnected through genealogy,” says Cavino. "Sexual violence is never – for us – only about what happens to the individual, but rather is an assault against the blood – against our ancestors, our children to come, and all with whom we are connected in present time and place.”

Rematriation Magazine sponsored this film for free-of-charge viewing by Indigenous nations, organizations, health care providers, educators, community members and those interested in joining the conversation. You may access “An Indigenous Response to #MeToo” on Vimeo by clicking here. To support similar projects, Rematriation is accepting online contributions at The Producers are also available for community screenings with discussions.

The film was produced by Indigenous Concepts Consulting for Rematriation Magazine. Executive Producer is Michelle Schenandoah; Co-Producer is Neal Powless; and Director is Katsitsionni Fox. The film features an all-Indigenous cast of community leaders and includes music by Joanne Shenandoah and “The Women’s Power Song” written by the Akwesasne Women Singers.

For more information about the film or to book screenings with discussions in your community, contact Michelle Schenandoah at or (315) 925-7191.

Video: Password: Rematriation

How it has differed in Indigenous Communities:

#MeToo look like for Indigenous people?:

We’ve been working on this a lot longer:

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