|Indian Country Today interviews Byron Farmer, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana who was arrested and jailed by the tribe for a posting on a Facebook group called Blackfeet
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.
Get the Story:
Blackfeet Man Jailed for Speaking Out, Hits Back Harder
(Indian Country Today 11/26)
Column: Blackfeet Nation goes quiet on controversial matters
Blackfeet Nation chair
defends arrest over Facebook posting (7/18)
Blackfeet Nation man arrested for posting on
Facebook group (7/17)