A group of protesters in Browning are accused of assault and other disorderly crimes after attempting to overthrow the current Blackfeet tribal government earlier this week.
Six people, part of a group calling itself Blackfeet Against Corruption, were charged in tribal court on Friday morning after being arrested during a protest and attempted takeover of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. The protesters have been accused of a variety of crimes, including resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and assault.
According to attorney Roberta Cross Guns, six of the protesters pleaded not guilty to the charges at Friday morning’s arraignment. Charges against one protester, Michael John West Wolf, were dropped due to a lack of evidence. Cross Guns said pre-trial hearings are set for October.
On Tuesday morning, between 50 and 60 protesters gathered outside of tribal headquarters in Browning demanding that Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. hand over power. Among them was suspended tribal councilor Cheryl Little Dog, who was also arrested and appeared in court Friday. Little Dog, who is in a wheelchair, has been in and out of the hospital this week due to an infection she got while in jail, according to her attorney. Little Dog is charged with three counts of assault.
The protest came after a year of political unrest on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Last summer, members of the ruling council suspended five other councilors and dozens of tribal employees. Since then the nine-member panel has been partially vacant and Sharp’s administration is ruling under an emergency declaration.
In August, Little Dog brought her case to a traditional customs court and it ruled in her favor, stating a new tribal council needed to be put in place. A traditional customs court is a board led by tribal elders. Its order demands that an interim council be put in place until a special election is held. This week, Sharp said the customs court has no legal authority over the tribal council and he does not plan on giving up power.
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