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Prominent Pawnee artist "Bunky" Echo-Hawk Jr. faces sex abuse charge

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Pawnee County District Court / Facebook
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The Pawnee County Courthouse in Pawnee, Okla.

Content warning: Some information contained in this story may be triggering. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual or domestic abuse and is in need of help, we've listed some resources at the bottom of this story. Please, take care.


UPDATE: A spokesperson for GoFundMe confirmed that the account used to raise money to pay for medical and funeral costs incurred after Bunky Echo-Hawk's accident that tragically took his daughter's life, is no longer active. He is also banned from using the site in the future.

Here is the statement from GoFundMe:

"We know trust is vital to our community and is our top priority. Fundraisers with misuse are very rare, and we take all complaints very seriously. Our Trust & Safety team is dedicated to monitoring fundraisers, investigating fraud complaints, working directly with law enforcement when necessary, ensuring we’re complying with global laws and regulations, and strictly enforcing our GoFundMe Terms of Service."

ORIGINAL STORY:

A prominent Pawnee artist has been charged with one count of lewd or indecent acts to children under 16, a felony charge that could lead to between three and 25 years in prison.

46-year-old Walter Echo-Hawk Jr., who also goes by the name Bunky, was arrested on Jan. 10, 2022 in Pawnee County. He is out on a $10,000 bond and will make his first court appearance in March.

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Walter 'Bunky' Echo-Hawk, Jr.

According to Native News Online, who obtained court records, Echo-Hawk Jr. has denied the allegations and entered a not guilty plea.

Native News Online also reported that the victim originally reported the incident to an Oklahoma Department of Human Services worker on Oct. 5, 2021. That's according to documents filed by the state of Oklahoma in the District Court of Pawnee County.

Echo-Hawk Jr.'s is considered a leader in the Native art world, with works featured in galleries around the world, including the National Museum of the American Indian. He's also held contracts with Nike N7 and Pendleton, and has created murals celebrating Indigenous identity throughout the country. He's also spoken up for and advocated for Native youth.

His father is Walter Echo-Hawk, a prominent Native American rights attorney, speaker and author who is also the President of the Pawnee Nation Business Council.

The allegations against Echo Hawk Jr. have sparked outrage and grief among Indigenous people. Native women are three times more likely to experience sexual violence. Survivors are coming out in force on social media, saying they won't tolerate it.

Muscogee Nation citizen Sarah Deer, who is a University Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas and author of The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America, tweeted, "BELIEVE VICTIMS!! When a famous Native celebrity/artist/is arrested and charged with child sexual abuse in our communities, we tend to jump to fight mode and focus on the abuser rather than the victim/survivors making this journey."

In a statement on Twitter, the Urban Indian Health Institute in Seattle said, "We are deeply saddened by the allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor against Walter “Bunky” Echo-Hawk Jr. Our research institute works tirelessly to address sexual violence against women and girls, and we always stand firmly with survivors."

The Institute also tweeted that they have collaborated with Echo-Hawk in the past, but are removing any materials made by him or that feature his art.

Heather Ahtone is the senior curator for the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City. She said they are removing his work from the pop art section of the gallery in light of the allegations against him.

IllumiNative, an Oklahoma-based non-profit organization that advocates for better representation of Indigenous people in the media, said on Instagram they have taken actions to ensure Echo-Hawk Jr. will not be involved with the organization, or affiliated projects, in the future.

A spokesperson from the Field Museum in Chicago, where Echo-Hawk Jr. has led programs, said they will not be displaying his work in the future.

In October 2021, Echo-Hawk Jr. was in a head-on collision that killed his 15-year-old daughter and seriously injured him. He has since raised more than $160,000 dollars to support his recovery.

For those needing help or if you have been a victim of sexual violence, we encourage you to reach out to Strong Hearts Native Helpline at 1-844-762-8483, Native Alliance Against Violence, Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault 1-800-522-SAFE


If you are a survivor of sexual abuse or domestic violence or are in a situation where you need help and support, here are some additional resources. Take care.

National Organizations:

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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