Eric Lee Flores. Photo from Facebook
Environment | Law | National

Member of Tulalip Tribes pleads guilty for role in Oregon standoff

Eric Lee Flores, a 22-year-old member of the Tulalip Tribes, pleaded guilty for his role in the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Flores pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States. He could be sentenced to up to six years in prison but federal prosecutors have agreed to conditions that could see him serve six months in home detention.

Flores is the youngest of the 25 people charged for their roles in the 41-day occupation and is the second to plead guilty in the large and complex case. Authorities said he traveled back and forth between the refuge and the Tulalip Reservation in Washington in early January, when the armed occupation began.

"I thought I was doing the right thing,'' Flores said at his plea hearing on Thursday, The Oregonian reported. "I thought it was public land.''

The land in and around the refuge was initially created as a 1.78 million-acre reservation for the Burns Paiute Tribe in 1872. But the federal government forced the tribe's ancestors off the land and forced them to march to reservations in Washington following the Bannock War in 1878.

Some tribal members eventually returned to Oregon but found themselves as outcasts in their own homeland. A land claim was later settled by the Indian Claims Commission for just pennies on the dollar.

The tribe now resides on a much-smaller reservation of about 800 acres. Its members own more than 11,000 acres of allotments.

The armed standoff, which was led by members of the anti-government Bundy family and resulted in one death, ended in February after 41 days. Some of the remaining defendants are accused of damaging cultural sites and archaeological sites at the refuge.

Get the Story:
Second Oregon standoff defendant pleads guilty to federal conspiracy charge (The Oregonian 6/9)
Refuge occupier Eric Lee Flores pleads guilty to conspiracy (AP 6/9)
Second Oregon Standoff Defendant Pleads Guilty (Portland Patch 6/9)

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