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Guest Opinion

Last month, High Country News published a feature story by local writer Jane Hu titled, “One woman took a stand against tribal disenrollment and paid for it.”

The article chronicles how a few tribal politicians and their surrogates persecuted Carmen Tageant, an Indigenous woman who belongs to the Nooksack Tribe and served on its Tribal Council, because she denounced their efforts to exile over 300 other Nooksack Indians from the Tribe.

They burglarized Carmen’s home in rural Whatcom County and stole photos of her in lingerie, which she had taken as a Valentine’s Day gift for her boyfriend sixteen years prior.That was only the beginning.In January of 2016, a Nooksack Tribal employee, LeAndra Smith, posted a photo of Carmen posing with her legs in the air on a fake Facebook profile.

That page bore the name and photo of Keith Williams, a witness involved in the Casey Anthony murder trial in 2008. Using federally funded computer equipment, a cell phone, and the Nooksack Tribe’s data network, LeAndra—masquerading as “Keith”—proceeded to write, post, share, and like hateful statements on that Facebook page about Carmen, like: “Spreading lies and legs,” “Kick that slutbox to the curb,” and “C.U.N.T.”

Carmen soon received messages from predators on Facebook, hounding her for sex and inviting her to meet up at nearby hotels. She feared for her safety, and for that of her seven children, and eventually suffered a debilitating mini-stroke as a result. She was removed from public office. Despite her master’s degree, Carmen could not find other employment because of her damaged reputation and her medical condition.

She was forced to file for bankruptcy.This article explains what happened, and did not happen, for Carmen legally. It explains how available legal processes do not protect victims from cyber bullying or sexual harassment on Facebook, or deter the physical stalking or violence that stems from online attacks.

 

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About The Author
Levi Rickert
Author: Levi RickertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Levi "Calm Before the Storm" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected].