Courtesy Byron Farmer
Byron Farmer was arrested for five days in July for speaking out against his tribal government’s alleged corruption.

Blackfeet Man Jailed for Speaking Out, Hits Back Harder

Adrian Jawort
11/26/13

Never one to stray from saying what he really feels, Blackfeet tribal member Byron Farmer actually spent five days in a tribal jail in July for speaking out against his divided tribal government’s alleged corruption. Farmer, the de facto leader of the Blackfeet Against Corruption group, said he was arrested over free speech violations as not once did he threaten anyone in his BAC Facebook post stating about a proposed parade float: “We promise it will be exciting and make headlines worldwide. And we can tell you we are not planning anything violent or illegal so they (tribal council) will not be able to stop us.”

RELATED: Tired of Corruption, Mont. Tribal Members and the Guardians Fight Back

Although Farmer’s actions are protected under the 1968 Indian Civil Rights Act, locally the Blackfeet Tribe deemed it a violation of the Blackfeet Ordinance 67 which protects council members against libelous “or misleading statements meant to harm, injure, discredit” them. Farmer’s attorney, David Gordon, writes, “They’re basically saying if you criticize the tribal council you’re going to go to jail and that’s frightening.”

Indian Country Today Media Network caught up with the always fiery Farmer to see what good jail did to him.

Was being arrested and jailed for five days over a free speech issue worth it?

I didn’t much like it. Our jails aren’t country clubs. I am a big guy so was never in danger, but I have to admit I was very angry. It was hardest on my family, but they understood the importance of BAC’s mission. But yeah, it did a firestorm of good. My five days in jail brought BAC millions of dollars in free national coast-to-cost advertising about what’s going on in our home. My arrest was the trigger that finally swung around the big national media spotlight to shine right on the Blackfeet Reservation, where it caught tribal leadership speechless, embarrassed, and scurrying. Ever since then the Blackfeet Tribal Council has been on the defensive and under non-stop media and legal pressure.

Where you surprised about the firestorm your arrest caused?

Americans may not understand the mysterious inner workings of Indian country, but they sure as hell understand what free speech is. So the national media immediately jumped on the news and printed my Facebook postings that triggered my imprisonment. Americans read my tame, innocuous comments and couldn’t believe that that sort of clearly Constitutionally-protected speech aimed at elected leaders could result in an arrest, let alone jail in America. People everywhere were really bewildered and angry and that fueled more media coverage. But I would have gladly done five months if that’s what it took to wake up the world to what is going on here.

What do you think of emerging as the BAC de facto leader?

I am not the leader of BAC, I am just one of many right-thinking Blackfeet that have been trying for years to push back the tidal wave of corruption that has engulfed the Blackfeet Tribe. Events and momentum may be on our side now, but for years we felt like tiny voices in the wilderness constantly being threatened and attacked. The reason my name is out there are four things that make my role possible. First, I live in Great Falls, beyond the reach of the BTBC and Tribal Police – I was on the reservation visiting family when they arrested me, so apparently they were waiting for me. Second, I am willing to loudly and relentlessly speak out, come what may. Third, neither I nor my immediate family depends on the tribe for a paycheck so they can’t use their favorite weapon – firing people – on me. Fourth, over time whistle blowers have come to trust me and BAC as a reliable, confidential outlet for things they want other Blackfeet to know. So, as anyone can see from BAC’s Facebook page, my inbox gets the goods almost every day and I never reveal my sources.

Most have to keep a low profile so they don’t lose their jobs or face other retaliation from the BTBC. Second, BAC doesn’t take credit for any of the good stuff that has been happening lately such as the indictments. All we do is keep up constant intense pressure on the bad guys with a steady drumbeat of reliable news, analysis, predictions, inside scoops, and the publishing of documents the BTBC want kept secret. Third, BAC will never give up and we have lots more to do.

RELATED: Montana Guardians Project Aims to Deter Indian Country Corruption

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on

Is that how they are going to treat all people with a VOICE...? keep on keeping on..... you are a voice and mind FOR MANY WITHOUT ONE....!!!

Gary Korhonen's picture
Gary Korhonen
Submitted by Gary Korhonen on

I am registered as a Blackfeet Indian, my mother is from this tribe. It is so corrupt we haven't gotten our per capita from last year and it is due in December. We were suppose to get our settlement money in September and it still hasn't come to us and now it is because the only people showing up at the council meetings are the three that have been ousted. Time for the Bia TO SHOW UP AND TAKE OVER.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on

As human beings it's only smart to expect some degree of corruption. However, it's a shame that Native Americans prey on other Native Americans for money or power. Isn't that the type of behavior that got our lands taken from us in the first place?

Gordon Johnson's picture
Gordon Johnson
Submitted by Gordon Johnson on

Hang tough Byron Farmer, you're fighting the good fight. Tribal governments across the land have let power go to their heads to the detriment of the people. If people who fought for tribal sovereignty knew that unrestrained corruption would be the outcome, they might have had second thoughts.

Eastwind, Tsalagi Elder's picture
Eastwind, Tsala...
Submitted by Eastwind, Tsala... on

I salute you Byron Farmer, Siksika First Nations servants should be honorable / honest people but..corruption is everywhere! Keep to the "Red path".

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on

Very glad you are stepping up against Tribal issues, stay strong and keep fight for your tribes.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on

AWESOME, PROTECT THE PEOPLE THAT DON'T HAVE A VOICE, WISH THEY WOULD DO THE SAME IN THE NAVAJO REZ. JUST WONDER WHY WHERE BROKE ALL THE TIME, OUR WHERE ALL THE MONEY GOES. BUT THOSE THAT STRUGGLE ASK 4 ASSITANCE BUT ALWAYS GET DENIED. HOPEFUL NATIVE STAYING TRUE

Sybil Johnson's picture
Sybil Johnson
Submitted by Sybil Johnson on

thats why so many people are arrested--because they get tired of the crap going on, speak out--FREEDOM OF SPEECH--and guess what--knock, knock and to jail-do not pass go do not collect $200--You should feel proud of yourself for standing up against the corruption in your tribe and bringing it out. Keep it up.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on

divide and conconquor that is the way the Harper Conservative government works...they want to divide our people against eachother...it is sad when our First Nation people forget that there was a time when we were a connected people, not divided from eachother..we worked together to keep the band strong..what happen to these teachings...have we become that assimalated by the waseechoo..we need to connect our hands in uniform against the government that wants to do away with the treay's..I am proud of this man and so should be others because he is standing up for our rights...to have had him persicuted instead and by the hand of his own people just goes to show that there are alot of apple First Nations that are running our bands and this is a disgrace to being called First Nation Leardership...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on

I am Blackfeet and I surely don't believe corruption should exist in the tribal community because there are many hardships that have to be endured.

Gary Cates (Standingcloud)'s picture
Gary Cates (Sta...
Submitted by Gary Cates (Sta... on

As "Native" people who support our people, it is our obligation to speak out against corrupt government or government agencies. I applaud you Byron. We need such speakers here on my rez. at Fort Hall where the corruption is rampant. The saying here is "The 2 ways of getting rich are to either win the lottery or get elected to the counsel".

Debby Douglas-Hayes's picture
Debby Douglas-Hayes
Submitted by Debby Douglas-Hayes on

Why is it that when people speak the truth, especially against politicians or tribal leaders, they always get into trouble? They are locked up, shunned, or even killed! This is not the way of our Fathers! "The truth will set you FREE"!!!!!!!!

blackfeettru92's picture
blackfeettru92
Submitted by blackfeettru92 on

OMG really, this man doesnt live on the Reservation, his children are barely enrolled so his grandchildren probably wont be enrolled blackfeet. he lives on welfare in greatfalls, and if he did make it known he was in browning, I am sure there would be many individuals to make him back up his tough, uneducated, slurr against his own people. this man doesnt represent the blackfeet and needs to be shunned ah ho

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on

....to my Colville Tribal peeps: this mirrors me and the Colville tribal council, Colville rez etc etc. Feel free to contact me with anything and I WILL go forward with it against council and/or just advocate for the Colville tribal peoples...keeping YOU anonymous, of course, I too will not back down! Talk to me on fb, I will advocate your Colville tribal concerns....

StopThaMaddness's picture
StopThaMaddness
Submitted by StopThaMaddness on

a similar thing happened to me with my tribe, only i was fired from my job for a facebook post about a council member who did unethical behavior involving my family. i won my grievance and was given my job back but received a maximum suspension without pay. i was advised not to post anything negative about my tribe or any of our tribal programs again or i would lose my job. i lost my right to my own opinion and now to keep a job within my tribe i have to keep my mouth shut about what i see and get involved in as an employee, even off work hours.

NativeGrl's picture
NativeGrl
Submitted by NativeGrl on

Sending up smoke, songs and prayers to our relatives in the Blackfeet Nation. Decolonize, in peace and beauty...

Bill Brown *='s picture
Bill Brown *=
Submitted by Bill Brown *= on

Keep up the good work, stay strong and fight the good fight.

Bill Brown *= Anishinaabe White Earth Rez , MN.

Compton Cypress's picture
Compton Cypress
Submitted by Compton Cypress on

It takes a great person to take a stand for what is right, and history shows us that the struggles of such ones are great, and in time people remember them for their stand, their trials, and their successes... Please do not give up!

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