Myron Dewey, a filmmaker and journalist who helped bring worldwide attention to the concerns of Native Americans battling an oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, has died in a car crash.
Dewey, a citizen of the Walker River Paiute tribe, died Sunday when his car crashed in rural Nevada, the Nye County Sheriff said. The 49-year-old had posted images on Twitter a day earlier of a military installation in central Nevada where he and other members of local tribes have long protested against plans to expand a bombing field of the US Navy.
Dewey has been acclaimed for his live footage of the 2016 protests on the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Reservation, which straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. His images of Native Americans sprayed with water cannons in freezing weather have been seen by hundreds of thousands after appearing online and in the news.
He then co-directed the documentary “Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock”, which described the motivations of the protesters – to preserve the environment and to fight for clean water.
Friends and relatives have said they will remember Dewey for his commitment to standing up for Native Americans, for being a dedicated friend and family member, and for the authenticity of his work.
“He was able to show a perspective and a point of view that was simply ignored due to the systemic oppression our people have suffered since we have been here,” said Dewey’s cousin Lance West. “It was his story to tell, and only someone like him could share it in a way that really spoke to us.”
Dewey was among a group of Native American journalists arrested during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests when he filmed company employees building the pipeline. The Morton County Sheriff accused him of stalking private security officers with a drone video recorder, but prosecutors ultimately dropped the charges.
His images of the front lines of combat were one episode in a long career chronicling Indigenous and environmental issues across North America.
Dewey founded media production company Digital Smoke Signals, which has produced work on schools on reserved lands in Nevada and on tribal land management practices in the Pacific Northwest.
In recent months, he has participated in protests against a proposed lithium mine near the Nevada-Oregon border and the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation. Environmentalists and local Native Americans oppose the project, saying it would desecrate land that the northern Paiute and western Shoshone consider sacred and have negative environmental impacts on residents of the area.
Dewey, who resided primarily in Schurz, Nevada on the Walker River Paiute Reservation, began his career as a wildland firefighter in Nevada. He has also worked as a professor, teaching courses in film at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and in digital media at Northwest Indian College in Washington State.
He is survived by his wife, Deborah Parker, and five children.
“Every breath was a struggle for his people,” Parker told Indian Country Today, noting that Dewey was also passionate about sharing his experiences as a Native American residential school survivor. “He didn’t want to be silent when the others wanted him to be. He didn’t want the atrocities to go unnoticed or go unrecognized.