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2018-04-12 / Headlines

Iron Eyes Wins Motion In Court

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
LCT CORRESPONDENT


Chase Iron Eyes Chase Iron Eyes MANDAN, NORTH DAKOTA – Late last week, a judge in North Dakota ruled that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the State of North Dakota must make available evidence that attorneys for Chase Iron Eyes believe will prove that their clients actions were a “necessity”.

For many Indigenous nations, fighting corporate powers set on extracting natural resources from lands held sacred by its citizens, is a daunting task. How do you prove in a court of law that you only option for protecting the land is by breaking laws, written by men.? That is the challenge facing Standing Rock Sioux citizen Chase Iron Eyes.

Iron Eyes stands accused of inciting a riot during protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline on February 1, 2017. Iron Eyes and 73-others were arrested after erecting tipis on land that the state says belongs to Energy Transfer Partners. The same land is party of treaty lands that were illegally taken from the Oceti Sakowin.

Iron Eyes does not contest that he was there that day, nor has he denied taking part in the action, but his defense is that his actions were part of an effort to prevent the contamination of the earth, and subsequently a trampling of indigenous rights.

According to the AP, a defendant needs to prove that they had no legal alternative to breaking the law. From an indigenous perspective the defense could hold some weight. Multiple irregularities and illegal action were undertaken to speed along the process of installing the pipeline in contested lands. Evidence has been documented to where culturally significant sites were destroyed by pipeline workers shortly after being notified of their existence. Additionally, tribal governments in the region have cried foul, as they claim they were not properly consulted with prior to finalization of the project.

Attorneys for Iron Eyes have argued that for them to prove that their defendant had no legal alternative to breaking the law, they would first need to be provided with evidence that they believe shows collusion between law enforcement, the State of North Dakota, and the private security firm TigerSwan to paint Water Protectors as ecoterrorists. Included in the requests was information from the North Dakota Governor’s Office.

The court denied the request for the information from the governor’s office, but it did grant the other motions.

“Christofferson ruled that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the State of North Dakota must hand over all missing evidence by May 1, and he scolded the deputy state’s attorney for his lack of action. Christofferson also granted defense lawyer Alex Reichert and Lakota People’s Law Project attorneys Daniel Sheehan and Lanny Sinkin the authority to subpoena employees of TigerSwan, the mercenary security firm hired by Dakota Access pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners. Our defense team alleges that TigerSwan ran a targeted, racist, no-holds-barred surveillance and smear campaign against Chase and other water protectors,” said the Lakota People’s Law Project in a release.

Evidence that the TigerSwan may have illegally been working with law enforcement officials has already been widely documented by the online news site The Intercept. Internal documents leaked to them show a coordinated effort by the company to undermine Water Protectors and to monitor prominent members of Native America.

“We hoped for an encouraging outcome today, and we got it. Our liberty depends on our collective ability to stand in protest of injustices and in support of our inherent constitutional, human, and environmental rights. My personal liberty is also at stake, an I’m proud to stand on the front line of such a critical battle at a pivotal moment in history. This Trial can safeguard our right to free speech and assembly. That’s something that’s already great about America, and I mean to make sure it is never compromised,” said Chase Iron Eyes.

The defense contends that within this information lies documentation that would prove Iron Eye’s innocence.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at ecoffeyb@gmail.com)

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