• Background on Standing Rock Struggle
• Excerpts from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Resolution Opposing Dakota Access Pipeline
• Violations of Federal Law in Pipeline Approval
• We Are Still Here. We Are Still Fighting for Our Lives on Our Own Land – LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Standing Rock Sioux –
• We Are Protectors, Defending the Land And Water – Iyuskin American Horse, Canyon Ball, North Dakota –
• The Vicious Dogs of Manifest Destiny Resurface in North Dakota – Jacqueline Keeler –
Background on Standing Rock Struggle
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal members began protesting the 1,885-kilometre, four state, Dakota Access Pipeline construction by setting up the Sacred Stone Camp (sacredstonecamp.org) along the banks of Lake Oahe in North Dakota. They are organizing to protect and ensure safe water for millions, as the pipeline crosses both the Missouri River and Lake Oahe. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been locked in a battle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from impacting its cultural, water, and natural resources. The pipeline will transport as much as 570,000 barrels of oil each day from North Dakota to Illinois. The Army Corps of Engineers green-lighted several sections of the process without fully satisfying the National Historic Preservation Act, various environmental statutes, and its trust responsibility to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
This is another chapter in the long history of the U.S. federal government granting the construction of potentially hazardous projects near or through tribal lands, waters, and cultural places without consulting the tribe. The current proposed pipeline route crosses under Lake Oahe, just 800 metres up from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. It is not a question of if the pipeline will leak, but when. This is evident from recent oil spills, including the release of more than 300,000 litres of oil near Tioga, North Dakota in October 2013; nearly 200,000 litres of oil released into the Yellowstone River upstream from Glendive, Montana resulting in the shutdown of the community water system for 6,000 residents in January 2015; and the release of 3.79 million litres of tar sands crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in July 2010.
Youth from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe run from their tribal lands in North Dakota to Washington, DC to call for a halt to the DAPL and respect for their treaty rights and for the water and Mother Earth.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed suit in federal district court in Washington, DC against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the primary federal agency that granted the permits needed for construction of the pipeline.
The Sacred Stone Camp supporters grow by the thousands with 280 tribes represented. National attention grows from the broad and increasing support among Indigenous peoples and many others.
– The Dakota Access Pipeline guards, including notorious G4S, known for their inhumane treatment of women and children in detention centres and of Palestinian youth, unleash attack dogs on American Indian water protectors, including women and children.
– North Dakota Governor activates the National Guard to protect the pipeline instead of the indigenous peoples, including checkpoints with armed guardsman requiring all to stop. It was also reported that members of Red Warrior camp have been arrested and that law enforcement check points are photographing people, perhaps to make mass arrests later. Activists are urged to avoid the check points.
– September 9, Federal court denies the Standing Rock Tribe’s request for an injunction. However, a joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior asked for construction to voluntarily be ceased on federally controlled lands.
– The Sacred Stone Camp remains strong and united, preparing to remain through the winter. Support and actions also continue across the country, including demonstrations, gathering supplies and funds, and making the journey to the camp to lend a hand.
Excerpts from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Resolution Opposing Dakota Access Pipeline
WHEREAS, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation was established as a permanent homeland for the Hunkpapa, Yanktonai, Cuthead and Blackfoot bands of the Great Sioux Nation; and
WHEREAS, the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens public health and welfare on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation; and
WHEREAS, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe relies on the waters of the life-giving Missouri River for our continued existence, and the Dakota Access Pipeline poses a serious risk to Mni Sose and to the very survival of our Tribe; and
WHEREAS, the horizontal direction drilling in the construction of the pipeline would destroy valuable cultural resources of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; and
WHEREAS, the Dakota Access Pipeline violates Article 2 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty which guarantees that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shall enjoy the “undisturbed use and occupation” of our permanent homeland, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council hereby strongly opposes the Dakota Access Pipeline; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council call upon the Army Corps of Engineers to reject the river crossing permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline….
(Resolution No. 406-15, September 2, 2015)
Violations of Federal Law in Pipeline Approval
The federal government, including the Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers, gave the green light for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, from North Dakota to Illinois, despite violations of federal law and treaty rights by the energy monopolies involved. While currently there has been a temporary halt to some sections of the pipeline — as a result of the firm stand of the Standing Rock Sioux and hundreds of other tribes and organizations to protect the water and scared burial grounds — the government has not called for ending construction of the pipeline.
Below are treaty rights and federal laws being violated.
Fort Laramie Treaty of April 29, 1868: The Dakota Access Pipeline violates Article 2 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty which guarantees that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shall enjoy the “undisturbed use and occupation” of their permanent homeland, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The U.S. Constitution states that treaties are the supreme law of the land.
Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice: All agencies must determine if the proposed project disproportionately impacts Tribal communities or other minority communities. The Dakota Access Pipeline was originally routed to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck. The crossing was moved to “avoid populated areas,” so instead of crossing upriver of the state’s capital, it crosses the aquifer of the Great Sioux Reservation.
Pipeline Safety Act and Clean Water Act: Dakota Access Pipeline has not publicly identified the Missouri River crossing as high consequence, though it provides water for more than 17 million people. The Ogallala Aquifer must also be considered a “high consequence area,” since the pipeline would cross critical drinking water and intakes for those water systems. The emergency plan must estimate the maximum possible spill (49 CFR§195.452(h)(iv)(i)). Dakota Access Pipeline refuses to release this information to the Sioux.
National Environmental Policy Act: A detailed Environmental Impact Statement must be completed for major actions that affect the environment. Also, the Army Corps of Engineers must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act for the permit for the Missouri River crossing. The way agencies get around this is to provide a lesser study, a brief Environmental Assessment (which Dakota Access has done). A full Environmental Impact Statement would be an interdisciplinary approach with the integrated use of natural and social sciences to determine direct and indirect effects of the project and “possible conflicts… with Indian land use plans and policies… [and] cultural resources” (40 CFR §1502.16).
Executive Order 13007 on Protection of Sacred Sites: “In managing federal lands, each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sites.” There are historical ceremony sites and burial grounds in the immediate vicinity of the Missouri River crossing. The Corps must deny the Dakota Access Pipeline permit to protect these sites in compliance with Executive Order 13007.
(Photo: J. Eagle)
We Are Still Here. We Are Still Fighting for Our Lives on Our Own Land
On this day, 153 years ago [September 3, 1863], my great-great-grandmother Nape Hote Win (Mary Big Moccasin) survived the bloodiest conflict between the Sioux Nations and the U.S. Army ever on North Dakota soil. An estimated 300 to 400 of our people were killed in the Inyan Ska (Whitestone) Massacre, far more than at Wounded Knee. But very few know the story.
As we struggle for our lives today against the Dakota Access Pipeline, I remember her. We cannot forget our stories of survival.
Just 50 miles [80 kilometres] east of here, in 1863, nearly 4,000 Yanktonais, Isanti (Santee), and Hunkpapa gathered alongside a lake in southeastern North Dakota, near present-day Ellendale, for an intertribal buffalo hunt to prepare for winter. It was a time of celebration and ceremony — a time to pray for the coming year, meet relatives, arrange marriages, and make plans for winter camps. Many refugees from the 1862 uprising in Minnesota, mostly women and children, had been taken in as family. Mary’s father, Oyate Tawa, was one of the 38 Dah’kotah hanged in Mankato, Minesota, less than a year earlier, in the largest mass execution in the country’s history. Brigadier General Alfred Sully and soldiers came to Dakota Territory looking for the Santee who had fled the uprising. This was part of a broader U.S. military expedition to promote white settlement in the eastern Dakotas and protect access to the Montana gold fields via the Missouri River.
As my great-great-grandmother Mary Big Moccasin told the story, 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 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 in Crow Creek where she stayed until her release in 1870.
Where the Cannonball River joins the Missouri River, at the site of our camp today to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, there used to be a whirlpool that created large, spherical sandstone formations. The river’s true name is Inyan Wakangapi Wakpa, River that Makes the Sacred Stones, and we have named the site of our resistance on my family’s land the Sacred Stone Camp. The stones are not created anymore, ever since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the mouth of the Cannonball River and flooded the area in the late 1950s as they finished the Oahe dam. They killed a portion of our sacred river.
I was a young girl when the floods came and desecrated our burial sites and Sundance grounds. Our people are in that water.
This river holds the story of my entire life.
I remember hauling our water from it in big milk jugs on our horses. I remember the excitement each time my uncle would wrap his body in cloth and climb the trees on the river’s banks to pull out a honeycomb for the family — our only source of sugar. Now the river water is no longer safe to drink. What kind of world do we live in?
Look north and east now, toward the construction sites where they plan to drill under the Missouri River any day now, and you can see the old Sundance grounds, burial grounds, and Arikara village sites that the pipeline would destroy. Below the cliffs you can see the remnants of the place that made our sacred stones.
Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.
Again, it is the U.S. Army Corps that is allowing these sites to be destroyed.
The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.
If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?
Today, on this same sacred land, over 100 tribes have come together to stand in prayer and solidarity in defiance of the black snake. And more keep coming. This is the first gathering of the Océti Sakówin (Sioux tribes) since the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Bighorn) 140 years ago. When we first established the Sacred Stone Camp on April 1 to stop the pipeline through prayer and non-violent direct action, I did not know what would happen. But our prayers were answered.
We must remember we are part of a larger story. We are still here. We are still fighting for our lives, 153 years after my great-great-grandmother Mary watched as our people were senselessly murdered. We should not have to fight so hard to survive on our own lands.
My father is buried at the top of the hill, overlooking our camp on the riverbank below. My son is buried there, too. Two years ago, when Dakota Access first came, I looked at the pipeline map and knew that my entire world was in danger. If we allow this pipeline, we will lose everything.
We are the river, and the river is us. We have no choice but to stand up.
Today, we honor all those who died or lost loved ones in the massacre on Whitestone Hill. Today, we honor all those who have survived centuries of struggle. Today, we stand together in prayer to demand a future for our people.
(September 3, 2016)
We Are Protectors, Defending the Land And Water
Our elders have told us that if the zuzeca sape, the black snake, comes across our land, our world will end. Zuzeca has come — in the form of the Dakota Access Pipeline — and so I must fight.
I am Sicangu/Oglala Lakota, born in Rosebud, South Dakota, and writing from the frontline of the movement against the pipeline in Cannon Ball. I have been holding this ground with my Standing Rock Sioux tribe relatives since the spring. I am defending the land and water of my people, as my ancestors did before me.
The $3.8bn pipeline project is proposed to carry approximately 470,000 barrels per day of fracked oil from our Bakken oil fields, 1,172 miles [1,885 kilometres] through the country’s heartland, to Illinois. The pipeline will cross the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers, where it threatens to contaminate our primary source of drinking water and damage the bordering Indigenous burial grounds, historic villages and sundance sites that surround the area in all directions. Those sites that were not desecrated when the area was flooded in 1948 by the construction of the Oahe dam are now in danger again.
I have seen where their machines clawed through the earth that once held my relatives’ villages.
This week, I have witnessed pipeline construction tear its way toward the waters of the Missouri river which flow into the Mississippi, threatening to pollute the aquifer that carries drinking water to 10 million people. I have seen where their machines clawed through the earth that once held my relatives’ villages. I have watched law enforcement officials protect the oil industry by dragging away my Indigenous brothers and sisters who stood up for our people.
The fact that Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, would use the word “Dakota,” which means “friend” or “ally,” in the name of its project is disrespectful. This pipeline is a direct threat to all Dakota, Lakota and Nakota people, especially our future generations. And we are not the only ones. We know that burning this oil is changing our climate and Indigenous people all over the world are bearing the brunt of the catastrophes that causes.
This pipeline poses threats strikingly similar to those posed by the now defeated Keystone XL, but has received a fraction of the attention from mainstream media and big environmental groups. On July 26, we were surprised to learn that the North Dakota permits were approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to run the pipeline within a half-mile of our reservation. My tribal leaders have said that this was done without consulting tribal governments, and without a meaningful study of the impacts it will have. This is a violation of federal law and, more importantly, of our treaties with the U.S. government — the supreme law of the land.
It was my Ina, my mother, who first told me of this struggle. With my Ina, ciye (older brother), and tunwin (aunt) we have joined our Standing Rock relatives to face this new storm. For the past month, we have stood with Standing Rock in solidarity, we have prayed, we have cried, and we have also laughed, even when we thought it impossible to do so.
I never thought I would be on the frontline of a fight like this. I grew up admiring Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and my ancestor American Horse, for their courage and leadership in battle against their oppressors. Now I am fighting alongside their descendants, my relatives from all seven tribes, against the very same oppressors.
It saddens me that the government time and time again continues to ravage my people with the same treatment and attitude, only different weapons. But why should [we] be surprised? This is the definition of insanity — to go through the same situations over and over believing the outcome will be different.
This camp was created as a last defense for the water that our communities depend on to survive. I have watched our numbers dwindle down to the single digits, and now we have swelled to over 300 people in just a few days. Hundreds more are on the way right now, as other tribes gather resources to send people and supplies.
This historic battle is bringing the Océti Sakówin together like nothing has ever before. The Hunkpapa, the tribal band of Standing Rock, are now joined by the Oglala from Pine Ridge, the Sicangu from Rosebud, and relatives from Crow Creek, Cheyenne River, and Yankton, as well as Dine and Ponca relatives from the south, Ojibwe relatives from the Great Lakes, and countless others. From all across the country, tribes are bringing us shelter, food and most importantly, prayers.
To have all this unity of tribes standing together in solidarity before my eyes is a beautiful sight. Our tribes now live together, eat together, and pray together on the front lines.
We are not protesters. We are protectors. We are peacefully defending our land and our ways of life. We are standing together in prayer, and fighting for what is right. We are making history here. We invite you to stand with us in defiance of the black snake.
(The Guardian, August 18, 2016)
The Vicious Dogs of Manifest Destiny Resurface in North Dakota
Private corporate mercenaries hired by Energy Transfer Partners sicced attack dogs upon a crowd of Native Americans and their allies, including children, on September 3 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 [24 kilometres] away — a site identified the day before by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s historic preservation officer as containing important cultural and historical 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, 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 well-being 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.
In an article for Yes! Magazine, 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 [September 2] 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.
Jacqueline Keeler is a Navajo/Yankton Dakota Sioux writer living in Portland, Oregon. She has been published in Salon, Indian Country Today, Earth Island Journal and the Nation. She is finishing her first novel “Leaving the Glittering World” set in the shadow of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State during the discovery of Kennewick Man.
(TeleSUR, September 6, 2016)