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TRIGGER WARNING: This story contains material regarding sexual misconduct allegations involving a minor.

Indian Country Today

Indigenous artist Walter “Bunky” Echo-Hawk Jr. has been charged with lewd behavior with a child under 16 years old in Pawnee County District Court, according to court documents.

A warrant for Echo-Hawk’s arrest was issued Jan. 10 and he was booked into jail Jan. 14 before being released the same day after posting $10,000 bond. Echo-Hawk made his first court appearance Jan. 18, according to court records. Echo-Hawk is Yakama and Pawnee.

Echo-Hawk denies the allegations, according to court documents.

The allegation stems from an investigation that began in November 2021. According to a sworn statement from a law enforcement officer filed with the court, the victim reported being improperly touched repeatedly over several years starting at about 7 years old.

If convicted of the felony charge, Echo-Hawk could face three to 20 years in the state penitentiary, according to the charging document.

A preliminary court hearing is set for March 15 and Echo-Hawk is being represented by an attorney from Atkins Markoff Adler law firm based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A voicemail left by Indian Country Today to the law firm went unreturned by the time this article was published.

(Related: Silence protects violence, and this silence must end)

Echo-Hawk is an artist and poet, known for his paintings, murals and community-engaged art about Native topics and hip-hop culture. He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts and has exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout the United States and overseas.

The news quickly spread throughout Indian Country, with many expressing disappointment and anger on social media. In some areas, organizations that had worked with Echo-Hawk in the past pulled his artwork.

Dallas Goldtooth, Mdewakanton Dakota-Diné, wrote that his heart was crushed in a Facebook post.

“Our communities deserve far, far better,” Goldtooth wrote. “Our children and women deserve far, far better. These cycles of trauma & violence must come to an end.”

The Seattle Indian Health board has removed Echo-Hawk’s featured work.

“We have collaborated with Walter ‘Bunky’ Echo-Hawk Jr. in the past, and until we know more about the outcomes of this case, we're removing any materials made in collaboration with him or featuring his art,” the organization wrote on social media.

Echo-Hawk has yet to address the allegations publicly and most recently posted on Facebook about his recovery and possible surgeries that may be needed in the future.

(Related: Artist Bunky Echo-Hawk injured, daughter killed in crash)

Echo-Hawk has been recovering from an automobile accident in October that killed his 15-year-old daughter and left him with multiple injuries.

Indian Country Today will continue to follow this story as it develops. 

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This story has been updated with a trigger warning and Walter “Bunky” Echo-Hawk Jr.'s mugshot from the Pawnee County Sheriffs Department. 

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