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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Native American water protector becomes first to be sentenced to time in federal prison for DAPL protests

Seven Native Americans face felony charges, while hundreds of others still face lesser charges for their role in the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Editor’s Note: The original image used in this article featured Bibi Moreno, who was not related to the events of this article. The image has been replaced. We apologize to Bibi for any confusion this may have caused. 

Michael “Little Feather” Giron, a member of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation, was sentenced to thirty-six months in federal prison this week. He is the first person to be sentenced to serious prison time for his role in the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Little Feather has already spent fifteen months of his life incarcerated – time which will be credited to him as part of the sentencing – but still faces at least eleven months in prison. His legal team hopes that he will be released after eleven months to a halfway house.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hagler, Little Feather was officially identified as one of the individuals that set fires that obstructed law enforcement during the last raids of the camp. In February, Little Feather took a non-cooperating plea deal rather than stand trial, and agreed to take responsibility for aiding a “civil disorder” in exchange for the prosecution agreeing to drop the charge of Use of Fire to Commit a Federal Felony.

The Water Protector Legal Collective explains that many of the defendants facing charges in relation to the events at Standing Rock take plea deals because a trial will mean facing a hostile jury pool. A defense-commissioned study last year by the National Jury Project found the a whopping 77 percent of potential jurors in Morton County and 85 percent in Burleigh County had already decided that the Standing Rock defendants were guilty. A motion for a change a venue for the defendants was denied.

You won’t see this story on the mainstream media. Although the big media outlets gave some coverage to the DAPL protests during the height of the movement, they have been notably silent since the last camps were raided fifteen months ago, despite the fact that seven Native Americans have been indicted for federal felony crimes and hundreds more have faced lesser charges.

Among the others that were charged, two, Red Fawn Fallis and Michael “Rattler” Markus  have taken non-cooperating plea deals and await sentencing, and two others, Dion Ortiz and James “Angry Bird” White, are preparing for trial. The state of North dakota has prosecuted 835 state criminal cases related to the DAPL protests, of which 325 have been dismissed or acquitted at trial and 235 are ongoing.

The felony charges against the seven Native Americans stem from the law enforcement raid on the water protectors camp on October 27, 2016.

The fight against the DAPL has been happening for over three years now. The pipeline, which cost nearly $4 billion and transports oil across 1,200 miles, has already leaked several times. Despite the fact that the project was eventually greenlit, the fight of the water protectors and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has paved the way for protests against oil pipelines all over the country – and the world.

Meanwhile, the Standing Rock Sioux have filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers for authorizing the construction of the pipeline, which they claim violates the Clean Water Act, Rivers and Harbors Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

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