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

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

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

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
Submitted by Anonymous on
divide and conconquor that is the way the Harper Conservative government works...they want to divide our people against 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 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
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
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
Submitted by Anonymous on 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
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
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!

aimes a re's picture
aimes a re
Submitted by aimes a re on
I too am a member of a Chippewa tribe in northern Minnesota. I feel that I am in a good tribe but I too have suffered the loop holes that seem to stem from any government entity. We as a Native peoples need to remember what our ancestors have suffered and sacrificed in order for us to survive. We as the present and future generations need to find away to incorporate TRADITIONAL native beliefs with the contemporary ideas and procedures of today's world, a challenge that we have not quite understood yet . I believe that if we as a people can put aside a materialistic, ignorant, forgetful, ungrateful, selfish attitude we can become a nation that other races strive to become. Most natives are not this way but when you give a person too much power they seem to forget and under appreciate what the little guy has done in order to support the big guy. WE need leaders in our community not a bad tribal boss. The difference is a leader will work with the community and abad boss will hand out irrational directions with no logical thought.

stickndn's picture
Submitted by stickndn on
A north Idaho tribe is no different the young and educated have been elected in by the younger generation. Unaccountability of tribal dollars is the norm, nepotism is rampant, missing monies and perpetrators go free, secret land purchasing without accountability, tribal members replaced with non Indians for speaking out against corruption. In the meantime the Elders are given a monthly stipend and told to be quiet, and ignored or denied access to tribal council when they do have something to say. The tribal court system is controlled by tribal council and they have contentiously hired non indian judges who mistreat tribal members and deny them their rights to defend themselves when the tribe has elder tribal members that are qualified to be tribal judge and do care for their people. It make many tribal members ashamed to know that we are mistreated at home and then the tribal elected travel around the country on our dime and tell the rest of Indian country how great they are. It's time for change in Indian country for many tribes who have adopted the su'appi traditions of dividing the people.

Bozy's picture
Submitted by Bozy on
You have true grit. I commend you. It is happening on every reservation and the govt doesn't protect the Native Americans.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on
It is said that with great struggles we can achieve great things my friend. Do not be discouraged in the face of adversity. Shine the light brighter, turn up the heat more & press on despite the harassment. Corruption never likes to be exposed. It likes to remain hidden to fester & deceive even more. Remember who it is we serve my friend: Wankantanka. He despises evil people & loves those who fight against wickedness. The true battle is not against mortal things, but is a war against the forces of the Evil One. Though sometimes we stumble & lose a battle, just remember we have already won the war come the end of time. Our leader is the Great Spirit along with His warriors of Light & all who follow them against every form of wickedness. Never give up my friend & always remember that many pray to the Creator to always be with those who are in the battle against the Evil One & his followers. It is never an easy life to be a person of integrity, honor & respect, yet remain compassionate, respectful & serving with the forces of Light my friend. Always live in a good way & use the gifts in the way the Creator has blessed you with for that which is of the good way. To be one that despises evil in all its disguises can be a lonely road to travel, but always remember that those who do are well favored in our Creator's eyes. When we please Him who made us all, then we are living in the way we were meant to be! What more can a person achieve in this world than for it to be said that we pleased Man Above? Take care my friend................You are not alone in this battle...........

Rob G.'s picture
Rob G.
Submitted by Rob G. on
Indian people stoop ing down to the White man form of control. Shame on you!!

paul frank's picture
paul frank
Submitted by paul frank on
Great job there Mr. Farmer I commend you as I being an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation in Washington are going through the exact same thing and a few of us are making a stance and our tc has corrupt funds to aid them the few of us that are making a stand struggle with doing the research and many are afraid to talk because like yours they use the fire tactic and threaten and bully our members to where they are scared to say anything so maybe you can check it out there was a recent signing of fuel tax and that is one of many scandals going on so thank you for what your doing for your people continue brother, prayers and blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
The bac is a goon squad being used by one faction of the tribal council they took over the tribal offices with the chairman. This takeover keep people from getting paid, the nursing home was almost running out of money and our old people would've been sent off reservation to be taken care of. The BAC and farmer are noting righteous they are as corrupt as the council . Bryon farmer seeks hatred and violence and he thrives on chaos

rgweiser's picture
Submitted by rgweiser on
What the hell? White people can endure similar arrests because of the Patriot Act, but tribal government officials cannot protect themselves? Talk about double standards. As far as I am concerned, tribal members that rat out their government officials and open the doors to federal gestapo are guilty of treason and should be tried accordingly.