On Wednesday July 11, Red Fawn Fallis, 39, Lakota and the most high profile water protector charged with a felony at Standing Rock was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison with 18 months for time served. Her legal team will not appeal.
Fallis was found guilty of one count of civil disorder and one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon. In the video of her arrest on October 27, 2016, Fallis, a medic at the camp, can be seen arriving on an ATV where a line of police in riot gear are faced off with water protectors. The wall of men parts and a deputy tackles her saying he heard her shouting “water is life.”
Behind the line of armored law enforcement, five men pile on top of her. As they pin her arm behind her back and with their knees hold her legs down, the gun which is not visible in the video because of all the men on top of her can be heard discharging three times, apparently into the ground.
It was revealed in leaked documents reported by The Intercept in December, her boyfriend Heath Harmon, 46, from the Fort Berthold reservation was an informant working for the FBI and that the gun Fallis allegedly fired during her arrest belonged to him.
According to a Motion to Compel Discovery filed by her defense attorneys Harmon “seduced Ms. Fallis and initiated an intimate, albeit duplicitous relationship with her. He spent the majority of the 48-hour period prior to Ms. Fallis’s arrest with her and had access to her and her belongings… He used their romantic relationship to rely upon her as an unwitting source of information for informant activities.”
Family members of Red Fawn told me the FBI plant literally “jacketed” her by putting his jacket with the gun in it on her right before her arrest and planting items in her backpack. In leaked police drone footage shared by The Intercept, Harmon can be seen leaving on her ATV just 20 seconds after his purported girlfriend’s arrest. Seconds later, he spoke to a Dakota water protector (who asked not to be identified) and did not mention Red Fawn’s violent arrest. In his leaked interview with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms he claims he immediately returned to camp to collect all of her possessions and return them to her family on Standing Rock. This after his girlfriend was tackled by several large men for free speech in front of him.
After giving false and contradictory testimony to law enforcement regarding the gun, he continued the pretense of being her boyfriend even after she was arrested. In leaked audio of their phone calls, Fallis can be heard tearfully confiding, unknowingly, to him, a paid infiltrator, her fears and desire not to serve time for something she did not do.
In 2012, it was revealed that in Britain London’s Metropolitan police was running a top secret decades-long infiltration program, the Special Demonstration Squad, of progressive groups that led to long-term sexual relationships with women being spied upon. Some of these women gave birth to children by undercover police officers who never revealed their true identities. One of those women identified as ‘Jacqui’ later settled with the Metropolitan police for £425,000 or about $560,000. She described the experience to The Guardian as being “raped by the state” and was deeply traumatized after discovering the truth.
“I had a spy who was being paid by the government to spy on me,” Jacqui told the press, ” to the extent that he watched me give birth, so he saw every intimate part of me.”
Native American women have long been the target of violence both by the United States government though total wars waged against their nations to gain access to homelands and through structural violence in the resulting colonial society that marginalizes them.
A widely quoted 2010 Department of Justice report found Native women experienced rape and murder at rates nearly 2 and half times that of other American women. In some counties, the murder rate is 9 times. Criminal database statistics find that 70 percent of Native women’s reported attackers are men not of their race—most being white men. Most American women are primarily assaulted by men of their own race. More data is needed to address the vulnerable picture this paints of Native women in America.
At the hearing, Red Dawn Foster, Lakota/Diné candidate running for the South Dakota state senate and a hunka sister (adopted in the traditional Lakota way) of Red Fawn recounted to the judge Fallis’ history of abusive relationships that made her susceptible to manipulation by someone like Harmon.
At the hearing, U.S. District of North Dakota Chief Judge Hovland granted Fallis permission to wear civilian clothing at the nearly 6-hour hearing. She appeared shackled and wearing a traditional ribbon dress.
It was however, partly Hovland’s refusal to allow for further discovery into Harmon’s role in the defendant’s arrest (and of pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners’ security contractors like TigerSwan who he determined were not part of the prosecution) that forced the defense to agree to a non-cooperating plea deal in late January. Under the deal, the most serious charge against her of firing an weapon at law enforcement was dropped. That charge could have put her in prison for 30 years. He also refused to allow any defense based on treaties that were violated by the building of the pipeline.
At the prayer after her sentencing was postponed in June, friends, family, attorneys and supporters of Red Fawn gathered for prayer in a Bismarck hotel meeting room. Her hunka uncle and University of Colorado professor Glenn Morris and attorney, spoke to those gathered telling them that he had spoken to his niece that morning. She has already been in custody for more than 20 months.
“She told me,” he said, “‘I’m a wild Oglala. I was born free, I will live free and I will die free. And I know what day this is.’”
That day was the 142nd anniversary of what the Lakota call “Victory Day”, the Battle of Greasy Grass, or as the Americans call it the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In 1874, it was in search of gold that Custer led 1,000 men into the Black Hills in violation of the Fort Laramie treaty. Since then mines on Lakota land have produced according to some estimates nearly 10 percent of the world’s gold. In 2016, the battle was the transportation of heavy crude from the Bakken through unceded Lakota treaty lands which potentially endangered Lakota communities and millions of Americans downriver that precipitated the Dakota Access pipeline protests at Standing Rock.
It would seem with Fallis and several other Standing Rock “water protectors” (as protestors preferred to be called) still facing felony charges the battle has never really ended between the Lakota, their allies, and the American government.
Jacqueline Keeler is a Navajo/Yankton Dakota Sioux writer living in Portland, Oregon. She has been published in Salon, Indian Country Today, Earth Island Journal and The Nation. She is finishing her first novel Leaving the Glittering World set in the shadow of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State during the discovery of Kennewick Man.