The Stone Spirit encampment began back in April with 50 people. By August, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chair David Archambault II wrote in the New York Times that it was “a spectacular sight: thousands of Indians camped on the banks of the Cannonball River, on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. … The Indian encampment on the Cannonball grows daily, with nearly 90 tribes now represented.” As summer slides into fall, the protesters — or protectors, as they call themselves — plan to stay through the winter.
The looming menace that the protectors stand against is the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), already 60 percent complete. As Archambault describes it:
“The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline, owned by a Texas oil company named Energy Transfer Partners, would snake across our treaty lands and through our ancestral burial grounds. Just a half-mile from our reservation boundary, the proposed route crosses the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for millions of Americans and irrigation water for thousands of acres of farming and ranching lands.
“Our tribe has opposed the Dakota Access pipeline since we first learned about it in 2014. Although federal law requires the Corps of Engineers to consult with the tribe about its sovereign interests, permits for the project were approved and construction began without meaningful consultation. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation supported more protection of the tribe’s cultural heritage, but the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners turned a blind eye to our rights. The first draft of the company’s assessment of the planned route through our treaty and ancestral lands did not even mention our tribe.”
At least temporarily, DAPL has been stopped at Standing Rock. A series of court rulings allowed it to proceed, then halted part of the construction, then halted more. The Obama Administration has stopped construction on public lands near Standing Rock.
In August, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency and on September 9, he called out the National Guard. Energy Transfer Partners has sued tribal leaders, accusing them of blocking access, trespassing, and threatening DAPL workers.
“Guards and protesters clashed. Pepper spray and guard dogs were deployed; reports indicate at least several protesters were bitten, at least one of them a child. In remarks that have echoed for many our southern civil rights struggles of the 1960s, local cops have consistently accused the protesters of starting all the trouble by throwing rocks, using flags as weapons and brandishing “pipe bombs” (later corrected to “peace pipes.”)”
The New York Times also described the protesters as peaceful:
“Weapons, drugs and alcohol are prohibited from the protest camp. Children march in the daily demonstrations. The leaders believed the reports of pipe bombs were a misinterpretation of their calls for demonstrators to get out their wooden chanupa pipes — which have deep spiritual importance — and pass them through the crowd.”
Local law enforcement arrested one protest leader and held him without bail on a misdemeanor charge. They also issued an arrest warrant for Democracy Now producer Amy Goodman, and arrested Unicorn Riot videographers covering the protest. Democracy Now reports on arrests September 13, after the Obama Administration halted construction on public land and asked Energy Transfer Partners to stop construction on private land:
“Video shows police in full riot gear carrying assault rifles at the site of the protest. Among those arrested were two journalists with the outlet Unicorn Riot. Construction was halted for hours, as two people locked themselves to heavy machinery.”
Other parts of the pipeline are also under protest: in Iowa, residents vehemently opposing the pipeline have tried to block construction and dozens have been arrested. Fifteen Iowa landowners are suing, saying that forcibly taking their land for the pipeline by eminent domain is a violation of the constitution. Eminent domain is used to take land for a public purpose. Attorney Bill Hanigan told Democracy Now that this taking is not for a public purpose:
“Dakota Access is absolutely a private company. It’s a multibillion-dollar corporation owned by about five other multibillion-dollar corporations….”
Hanigan acknowledged that the Supreme Court has allowed eminent domain to be used to benefit a private corporation, but the pipeline does not meet the public purpose criteria:
“Here, in Iowa, we don’t have—we don’t have economic development to repair a blighted community. We’ve got—we’ve got farmland that doesn’t need repair.”
Despite the best/worst efforts of the pipeline company and North Dakota officials, the tide may be turning. On September 16, a North Dakota federal judge dissolved a temporary restraining order previously granted to DAPL against a number of water protectors. On September 17, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit to use federal land for the Stone Spirit encampment. On September 13, hundreds of demonstrations in cities across the world expressed solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. Ron Meador writes:
“Given the Obama administration’s newfound willingness to give it more federal review, announced last Friday, it seems at least possible that the 1,172-mile pipeline, said by its owners to be 60 percent complete already, may seriously falter and even fail.
“It also appears probable that the unity of tribes across the U.S. in support of the Standing Rock Sioux will persist long beyond their ad hoc collaboration of the moment, regularly described as exceeding in size and power the alliance preceding the Battle of the Greasy Grass 140 years ago. (And we know how that one — aka the Battle of the Little Bighorn — turned out.)”
If you want to support the Standing Rock Sioux and water protectors at the Stone Spirit Camp, go to standingrock.org and click on the Donate DAPL Fund link.
September 20 UPDATE: I just received a link to Linda Black Elk’s EXCELLENT list of reliable places to donate and description of how and why to support protesters/water protectors. It is here on her Facebook page and dispels many rumors and misconceptions. https://www.facebook.com/lindablackelk/posts/1227119794017374
By now, everyone who reads this blog has heard about #NoDAPL, the protests in North Dakota over the Dakota Access Pipeline. The issues are either very simple (NO to all pipelines, everywhere, end of story) or quite complex. Yeah – I’ll go with quite complex. So this is part 4 of a series of posts on various issues around #NoDAPL. Here are links to the other posts, updated as I continue the series: