Young member of Tulalip Tribes indicted for role in Oregon standoff

Eric Lee Flores. Photo from Facebook

Eric Lee Flores, a 22-year-old member of the Tulalip Tribes, has been indicted in connection with the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Flores is accused of threatening U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers and employees. Along with other co-defendants, he allegedly intimidated federal officials and encouraged others to join the standoff "through social media and other means of communication," according to the indictment.

Flores is the youngest of the 25 people charged for their roles in the 41-day occupation, The Seattle Times reported. He traveled back and forth between the refuge and his tribe's reservation in Washington in early January, when the incident began, the paper said.

Flores was arrested in Washington on February 11 and is awaiting transfer to Oregon, the paper reported. He was due to be married to his girlfriend, another young tribal member, that same weekend. The couple has a 6-month-old daughter, the paper said.

“I’m really worried,” Tiff Fryberg, 20, told the paper. “I just don’t want him to be in jail. I can’t sleep. I’m starting to get sick.”

Chairman Mel Sheldon said he was surprised to learn that one of his own participated in the occupation, which was started by anti-government protesters who called for the return of the land to the local population rather than to the Burns Paiute Tribe, whose ancestors originally lived on a reservation at the refuge that was taken from them by the federal government.

“None of us knows how he came up with his belief systems,” Sheldon told the paper.

Leaders of the Burns Paiute Tribe repeatedly called on the protesters to leave the refuge because they were worried about damage to their ancestral home. Federal investigators said they found trenches and latrines -- including one with human waste -- on and near sensitive sites.

“Imagine if I went to Washington, D.C., to the cemetery where all the military are and dug a hole and made a latrine out of it, like they did to my people’s burial grounds,” Jarvis Kennedy, a council member, said at a rally on Saturday in Portland, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. “That’s the only way I can explain it to non-Natives.”

Get the Story:
For Tulalip 22-year-old, a life gone haywire after Oregon standoff (The Seattle Times 3/5)
Two sets of protesters flood downtown Portland (KATU 3/5)
Occupation Supporters Try To Sway Broader Audience In Portland (Oregon Public Broadcasting 3/5)
$125,000 Raised for Groups "Antithetical" to Malheur Occupiers (KLCC 3/6)

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