By Jacqueline Keeler
The company’s violence and brutality is a sign that this pipeline is yet another example of the ongoing forced occupation of Great Sioux Nation lands.
Private corporate mercenaries hired by Energy Transfer Partners sicked attack dogs upon a crowd of Native Americans and their allies, including children, on Saturday who were nonviolently trying to stop the desecration of sacred burial grounds and culturally significant archaeological sites by the company constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Six people were bitten, including one child and a pregnant woman, while 30 were also maced by the security team.
The gathering of water protectors was estimated at 300, assembled after the pipeline construction crew abruptly moved three bulldozers to a site nearly 15 miles away — a site identified the day before by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s historic preservation officer as containing cultural and historical important sites.
Native American human remains were most likely disturbed by Dakota pipeline workers — a federal crime. The site is on private land and the Tribe had received permission from the landowner to inspect the area adjacent to the pipeline corridor. Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, in an apparent attempt to avoid a legal challenge, may have acted preemptively to destroy the historic value of the site before a judge could rule on the evidence.
It was a brutal and vicious act.
The land, adjacent to the reservation’s northern border, is within the treaty territory of the Tribe under the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the Tribe retains legal claims to historical sites there.
“They wanted to destroy the proof and evidence; the company knew those sites were there,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal chairman Dave Archambault told the Bismarck Tribune. “They don’t normally work on Saturday and Sunday; we know because we’ve been watching them. They desecrated all the land where the landowner gave us permission to look.”
In response, the Obama administration took immediate action on Labor Day and issued a temporary restraining order against Dakota Access Pipeline construction, noting concerns about the oil company “engaging with or antagonizing” the #NoDAPL resistors warranted a restraining order. This is the first comment of any kind on the situation given by the administration and President Barack Obama has been notably silent on this matter, despite the protest going on since April 1.
In 2014, the Obama visited the very site of the encampment, Cannonball, North Dakota and promised the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe he would be a president who “respects your sovereignty, and upholds treaty obligations, and who works with you in a spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give our children the future that they deserve.”
Many have called upon Obama to honor these promises via social media and even tribal council resolutions, and apparently the video and photos of private security dogs with peaceful protesters’ blood in their mouths finally spurred the administration to some action.
And what does it mean when the state or state-backed corporate conquistadors use dogs and violence to suppress the will of the people peacefully expressed? For many, the brutality of Energy Trust Partner’s hired security forces, with law enforcement’s tacit support and given favorable coverage by the mainstream media, is a sign that this pipeline is yet another example of the forced occupation of Océti Sakówin (the Great Sioux Nation) lands.
“Dakota is our name—it means allies, friends,” Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan elder and founder of the Brave Heart Society who has been camping at the Océti Sakówin camp at Cannonball to oppose the pipeline told TeleSUR. “How can they use it for their pipeline? They are not being allies to us or to our Mother Earth.”
The malicious use of dogs on the people, the allies, the true Dakota, simply underscores the impunity of the corporate power to use other peoples’ lands as they see fit with little or no regard for the wellbeing of people or nations.
The use of violence in the service of American domination has a bloody and well-remembered history among the Dakota/Lakota people of the Great Plains and Minnesota. In 1863, the Dakota rose up as their treaty provisions were denied and their children were starving in what is called the Minnesota Sioux Uprising. They were quickly put down and 4,000 fled to join their relatives among the Dakota and Lakota and Nakota bands in the Dakotas and in Canada. Thirty-eight Dakota men were hung by President Lincoln in the largest mass hanging in U.S. history in Mankato, Minnesota.
And this latest assault with dogs by an oil company on Océti Sakówin and their allies takes place exactly 153 years to the day since the Whitestone Massacre which occurred on September 3, 1863 not far from the present day protest at Cannonball, North Dakota.
Brave Bull Allard recalls what her great-great grandmother, Mary Big Moccasin, a Santee survivor of that violent attack (Big Moccasin’s father was one of the 38 hung at Mankato) remembered about that day:
“The attack came the day after the big hunt, when spirits were high. The sun was setting and everyone was sharing an evening meal when (Colonel) Sully’s soldiers surrounded the camp on Whitestone Hill. In the chaos that ensued, people tied their children to their horses and dogs and fled. Mary was 9 years old. As she ran, she was shot in the hip and went down. She laid there until morning, when a soldier found her. As he loaded her into a wagon, she heard her relatives moaning and crying on the battlefield. She was taken to a prisoner of war camp.”
This history of violence begs the question, what was Manifest Destiny? What was the United States of America built on? Is it this genocide and impunity, this belief that everything here, everything belonging to the nations of people that already were here, even their very lives, are free for the taking? Has everyone who came to America come here to partake in this barbarism?
I compare this to the terms my Dakota ancestors used to describe themselves. Dakota, allies/friends versus Dakota Access—which clearly means access to everything that belongs to us, a latter-day Manifest Destiny, a latter-day expression of this genocidal impunity. And to another term, Ikce Wicasa, variously interpreted as “free” and “humble people.” It may seem odd that a people known around the world by the exploits of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse would think of themselves in those terms—indeed regard those terms as the highest terms of humanity that could be expressed. For them, to be humble was to be truly free. To be allied with each other to preserve the lives, their relationship to the each other and to the Earth was what it meant to be human.
I can’t help but compare Ikce Wicasa to the term “Pioneer” which is derived from the French term for peons, lower class folks who were considered expendable and sent ahead of the regular army as cannon fodder. And I remember the story recorded by my great-great aunt Ella Deloria, a Yankton Dakota ethnologist from elders she interviewed 100 years ago, of how the railroad once dumped white people off in North Dakota with nothing but a box to live in. They were left along railroad lines to act as a buffer between the railroad and the “Indians.” Ironically, it was our people that often had to come to their aid because they were basically left to starve by those railroad tycoons.
There was a term in our language my Lala (grandfather) once told me that meant “that which looks human but is not” and when I look at a photo taken of Energy Transfer Partner’s CEO Kelcy Warren watching a #NoDAPL protest outside his Texas corporate offices on Friday smirking the day before he ordered dogs to bite Native Americans and even children and pregnant women, I can’t help but wish I remembered what that word was.
Because that is what he is.
Tribal Dakota Pipeline Resistance the Start of Something Bigger
This pipeline has sparked a prairie fire of united Native American resistance not seen since Wounded Knee, and a return of the Great Sioux Nation.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe announced via its Facebook page on Sept. 1 that 188 Tribes, or Native Nations, from across the United States and Canada have declared their support for the Lakota/Dakota Tribes’ fight to stop the US$3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline carrying heavy Bakken crude oil from crossing the Missouri River and threatening the sovereign nations’ main water source.
Protesters against the pipeline prefer to be called “water protectors.” Some even objected to a New York Times cover article that claimed they were “Occupying the Prairie”—since all of this land, even that north of the border of the reservation was originally treaty territory. Elders at the camp released a response (We’ve Always “Occupied the Prairie” and We’re Not Going Anywhere) to the New York Times that said, “We are Protectors not Protesters. Our camp is a prayer, for our children, our elders and ancestors, and for the creatures, and the land and habitat they depend on, who cannot speak for themselves.”
On Wednesday, 38 “protectors” were arrested for nonviolent protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, eight in North Dakota and 30 in Iowa. Iyuskin “Happy” American Horse, 26, a young Lakota man among the arrestees, had chained himself to a digging machine for six hours in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience.
This 1,168-mile-pipeline extending across four states from North Dakota to Illinois has sparked a prairie fire of united Native American resistance not seen since Wounded Knee, and a return of the Great Sioux Nation. This is the first time since the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn that all seven council fires have camped together.
The Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota are all members of the Océti Sakówin, the seven council fires, commonly known to most Americans as the “Great Sioux Nation.” Their dialects are distinct but they are all one people. The people of Standing Rock are known as Sitting Bull’s people (the Húnkpapa), but also include Ihánkthunwannaa (Yanktonai Dakota) bands.
According to the 1868 Treaty of Ft. Laramie, the “Great Sioux Reservation” comprised nearly 60 million acres and was roughly the size of the United Kingdom. The Standing Rock reservation is adjacent to another even larger reservation belonging to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Together, these two reservations equal in size to El Salvador or Israel span across two states and constitute the largest continuous land area left to the Océti Sakówin. Four more Dakota/Lakota reservations along the Missouri could also be impacted. This archipelago of reservations is all that remains of their former lands—now in the hands of often hostile state governments.
In July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which had granted the final permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline in federal court. However, on August 24, Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court from the District of Columbia delayed a decision for the Tribe’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction and promised a decision before or on Sept. 9.
The delay was met with disappointment by the 2,000 supporters at the Camp of the Sacred Stones near the site of the pipeline construction site at Cannonball, North Dakota. Thousands more, mainly Native Americans following the protest, registered their concern over social media under the hashtags #NoDAPL and #RezpectOurWater. Despite the huge encampment and an unprecedented intertribal unity unseen before on any issue, there has been little media coverage, especially when compared to the 24-7 CNN coverage of the Bundy family’s armed standoffs with federal authorities.
Sacred Stone Camp is owned by Standing Rock Sioux tribal member Ladonna Bird Bull Allard who is Yanktonai Dakota.
After a 2014 meeting with the Dakota Access Pipeline representatives, Allard recalled in a recent interview with KBOO Radio, “I remember at the end, I walked up to a young woman who was from Dakota Access and I said remember me. I just looked at your maps, I’m the closest landowner. Remember my face. I will stand there even if I stand alone, you cannot put this pipeline next to my home.”
Two years later, she is not alone. The camp is full of supporters averaging between 1,000 and 2,000 tribal members from across the country.
“What I see is healing of Native nations,” Allard told teleSUR. “What I see is an amazing event that I could never have imagined in my whole life.”
The Missouri River Tribes, like all tribes really, have a painful and difficult history with the federal government—and the Army Corps of Engineers in particular. In the mid-20th century the Corps built dams on the river almost exclusively on tribal lands, flooding hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farm land effecting 23 Tribes and displacing 1,000 Native American farmers, and of course to benefit white farmers.
The name of the camp stems from this historic of violation of tribal sovereignty and land and treaty rights, which yet again seems to be happening.
“When I was a child the river used to create this whirlwind and it created round sandstones,” Allard recalled. “And when the Army Corps (of Engineers) came with the Pick-Sloan (dams) and flooded us the river no longer made round sandstones but the people always called it the place where they made sacred stone. So that’s why I named the camp after the original name of the place.”
Today, environmental disasters in the form of oil spills await if this project is allowed to go through. Allard said that in North Dakota the Tribe has counted 200-plus pipeline breaks, including the Keystone Pipeline spill in 2011 that spilled 400 barrels of oil and a 2010 spill from an Enbridge Line 2 that released 3,784 barrels of crude oil with only 2,237 barrels were recovered, which foreshadows the environmental devastation awaiting the tribes if the Dakota Access Pipeline is allowed to be completed.
“Right now, because oil spills are happening north of us, we’re pulling fish out with tumors and sores and some really bad things coming out of the river,” said Allard. “But right where we live they’re planning on putting that pipeline under the Missouri River—underneath a burial ground because there’s an island right out there they have to cross. They are planning to go 82-feet down into the bed of the river.”
By the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s estimates, it will take less than two minutes for a pipeline break to bring heavy Bakken Crude Oil to the Tribe’s Early Head Start building and less than five minutes to reach an elementary school. Then 15 minutes to reach the Tribe’s water intake.
“We get all our water from the Missouri River and we will be without water. And I keep asking who is going to come to help us? Who will come when we have no water?” said Allard. “You go down and ask the Diné people (the Navajo Nation was downriver from the Gold King Mine spill last year) who came? They have had no water since it destroyed their water system. Who is helping them? You have to remember our bodies are 70 percent water everything in the world is water, water is life.”
This week, the Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez arrived on Allard’s land and planted their Tribe’s flag in a line of flagpoles representing Native Nations. The Navajo Nation is the largest Native Nation in the United States with about 350,000 tribal members and a land base the size of Ireland. At least 2,000 Navajo farmers were affected by the Gold King Mine spill in the Animas River last year.
Despite the peaceful nature of the encampment, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple (R), Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley and Morton County Sheriff Kirchmeier have accused the protestors of being violent and unlawful. The sheriff actually claimed during a press conference that “water protectors” were armed with pipe bombs. None of these claims have been substantiated by observers including the ACLU who sent the governor a letter threatening legal remedies for First Amendment rights violations of nonviolent protesters. Chairman Archambault was himself arrested and has been hit with a temporary restraining order to stay away from the construction site. He issued a statement critical of the governor’s inflammatory language, noting that the only pipes were canunpas, traditional pipes used for prayer.
The state’s continued blockade of Highway 1806, the main road used by tribal members to reach Bismarck, North Dakota for shopping has been criticized as an undue burden on the Tribe. This week Amnesty International called for the U.S. government to protect the “protectors’” human rights to freedom of expression and assembly, while the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called for a “fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to resolve this serious issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses.”
This stand by the descendants of Sitting Bull’s band has been both prayerful and political, a mix once explained by the late Vine Deloria, Jr., Standing Rock tribal member and a prominent historian and critic, famous for his landmark 1969 book “Custer Died For Your Sins.” In his book “The Nations Within,” he stated that “the people” for most Native nations had its origins in “religious events such as the coming of a primordial holy person who gives ceremonies, rituals and prophecies contributing to tribal identification as a distinct people.” This origin gave even “the idea of the treaty”—seen by Europeans as merely a legal, political instrument of International Law—a sacred basis.Archambault encapsulated this when he said:
“Opposite is the Ihanktonwan camps, my people’s camps, and on the Cannonball side, we have the Mandan camps … there are also ceremonial sites and burial sites and medicine rocks and origination of people sites. There’s so much history right there that I can’t understand how the state and the federal government doesn’t understand how important these areas are to Native people—they are the center of who we are. Our footprints in the land. Our hearts are in that land. We can tell you the history of all of these sites, who put them there, how they got there, why they are there, why we go there to pray.”
He went on to tell tribal members that he plans to continue to build on the traditions and unity the fight stop the Dakota Access Pipeline has brought about. And Allard plans to keep the camp going and to create a culture camp for kids.
”Once we win the pipeline we have a camp where kids can learn about culture, tradition and language,” she said. In the meantime, “We are asking everyone to come stand with us and every prayer is welcome. We protect the water.”