Indian Country artist Walter Roy “Bunky” Echo-Hawk Jr. (Pawnee Nation/Yakama Nation) appeared in court in Pawnee County, Oklahoma last Tuesday, March 15, for his preliminary hearing announcement date. He faces a criminal charge of lewd or indecent acts to children under 16.

Echo-Hawk was arrested on Jan. 10, and released on a $10,000 bond under the condition he appear in court on March 15 to schedule his preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing was set for April 28, according to his attorney Dan Good of Adler Markoff & Associates Law Firm.

The victim, who is currently under the age of 16, originally reported the behavior to a local Department of Human Services (DHS) worker on October 5, 2021, according to documents filed in January by the state of Oklahoma in the District Court of Pawnee County and obtained by Native News Online.

In an inteview with a Pawnee County DHS worker, the girl vividly recounted incidents where she was repeatedly touched inappropriately by Echo-Hawk, 46, between “from the time she was 7 or 8 until 11 or 12 years old,” but that she didn’t realize what was happening was sexual in nature until she got older.

Echo-Hawk has denied the allegations, calling them “blatantly false,” according to a statement from him provided to Native News Online by his attorneys.

“While some may choose to prejudge the facts of the situation, I know the type of person I have been throughout the entirety of my life,” Echo-Hawk said in the statement. “I would ask for the public to kindly respect the privacy of my family during this difficult time, and I eagerly look ahead to a full vindication upon the court’s review of the facts.”

Echo-Hawks attorneys also said in a statement to Native News Online cautioning the public to “remember the role that due process plays.”

“While we recognize the public interest surrounding aspects of this case, it is important for observers to understand that we only just today set the date for the first evidentiary hearing,” the statement reads. 

Pawnee County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones told Native News Online that his office is bound by a code of ethics to only file changes that they believe they can win.

“We would not have filed a case if we didn’t believe there was compelling evidence to prove the charge that we filed,” Jones said.

District Attorney of Pawnee County Mike Fisher, told Native News Online that the purpose of a preliminary hearing is “to establish for the courts that there's reason to believe a crime is committed and reason to believe that the one charged is the one who committed it.”

“That’s the only burden the state has at the preliminary hearing,” Fisher said. “So we'll let the evidence speak for itself.”

The felony charge Echo-Hawk faces— lewd or indecent acts to children under 16— is punishable by three to 20 years incarceration. 

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Jenna Kunze
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Jenna Kunze is a reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Smithsonian Magazine and Anchorage Daily News. In 2020, she was one of 16 U.S. journalists selected by the Pulitzer Center to report on the effects of climate change in the Alaskan Arctic region. Prior to that, she served as lead reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines, Alaska. Kunze is based in New York.