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Charge Dropped Against Indigenous Journalist Who Documented DAPL Construction With Drone

A misdemeanor charge of “stalking” against indigenous journalist Myron Dewey, known for his work covering the Standing Rock camps and other Native American-led resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), was dropped by Morton County prosecutors.

On October 8, 2016, Dewey flew a drone, as part of what he called a “nonviolent drone direct action.” There were other drones up in the air, however, Dewey’s drone was singled out for allegedly flying over property owned by DAPL. He was pulled over in the evening, and police seized his drone.

Dewey was at the National UNITY Conference in Denver, which is a conference for American Indian and Alaska Native youth. He gave a presentation, and then the news of the dropped charges was reported to the young people at the conference.

Youth raised about $800 to help Dewey pay for attorney fees, but he told Shadowproof he plans to give the money to the Water Protector Legal Collective so that it supports other water protectors, who are more in need of support.

Bigger media outlets were requesting to come in and document his case. Dewey suggested that frightened prosecutors and convinced them to back away from the charge against him.

While there may be cause for celebration, Dewey was called by a newspaper in Bismarck and asked if prosecutors had filed additional charges against him. He was concerned this could happen.

“That’s what they’ve been doing to water protectors. As they walk out of court, they give them additional charges,” Dewey said.

As Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) previously stated, indigenous people flew drones to “balance the information” out there and protect the “sacredness” of their water and Mother Earth.

Dewey and others tracked construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and used drones to detect when Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the pipeline, was violating a court injunction. They also collected intelligence that could be used to bolster cases brought by indigenous groups against the pipeline.

When Morton County seized Dewey’s drone and charged him, their act created a chilling effect against indigenous people, who would dare to challenge the construction of the pipeline by collecting information that might be used to stop the destruction of land.

Multiple times, Morton County officers have shot at drones that Dewey has flown. He has spent thousands of dollars and raised money to replace them.

He showed the Federal Aviation Administration evidence of Morton County officers shooting at his drones. According to Dewey, that prevented the Dakota Access Pipeline from gaining the approval of a no-fly zone over some of their property.

Dewey is Newe-Numah/Paiute-Shoshone from the Walker River Paiute Tribe, Agui Diccutta Band (Trout Eaters) and Temoke Shoshone in Nevada. He founded Digital Smoke Signals, which was created to “indigenize” media through indigenous voices that could produce representations of their cultural core values.

He recently produced the third part of a feature documentary, “Awake, A Dream From Standing Rock,” to get the perspective of water protectors out to a wide audience. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Although he wonders if prosecutors will come after him with a superseding indictment, Dewey’s focus has always been on the water protectors. He said he knew what he did was right, and he would be okay. But there are water protectors, like Red Fawn Fallis, who faces a political prosecution for “attempted murder,” and he will be standing in solidarity with them.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."