— John North (@elnortej) November 23, 2016
“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clear and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The perfumed flowers are our sisters, the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and the man, all belong to the same family.” ~ Chief Seattle
When I hear about the violence currently taking place in North Dakota against the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters, my heart aches.
However, it also swells with pride to know that there are people on this planet willing to stand up for what they believe in; who stand strong against those who churn up the earth without a thought or care for the sacredness of the land.
The tribe, along with supporters that include more than 90 Native American tribes, are attempting to prevent the construction of a $3.7 billion pipeline (which would run within half a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation) as they have cause to believe it will endanger their water supply and damage ancient burial and sacred prayer sites.
The pipeline’s planned route is close to the northern boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and the town of Cannon Ball, which means it would cross the Missouri River immediately upstream, potentially endangering the reservation’s drinking water and threatening sacred sites.
A highly-militarized police force began the offensive on Sunday, November 20th against the unarmed anti-pipeline water protectors as they attempted to clear burned-out military vehicles that have been used as a blockade since October 27th. The water protectors were concerned as the blockade was obstructing access by emergency services to the Oceti Sakowin encampment, which serves as a base for demonstrating against the pipeline reservation.
The blockade also prevents vehicles from accessing the construction sites further down the highway. The bridge, which is on Highway 1806, is the most direct route from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to Bismarck, North Dakota. A barricade was erected behind the vehicles and it forces traffic to take an approximately 20-mile detour.
Police and other security officials have been standing guard behind the barricade since the end of October.
This latest violent incident took place with no media presence, so the only accounts are personal ones or the Facebook Live video feed filmed by Kevin Gilbertt.
Recent reports have stated that law enforcement groups used tear gas, water hoses, rubber bullets and percussion grenades to try to move the Standing Rock water protectors off the land.
The temperature was freezing, reported at 26°F/-3°C, making hypothermia and frostbite an immediate danger.
According to Jade Begay, a spokeswoman for the Indigenous Environmental Network, one hundred and sixty-seven people were injured and seven were later taken to the hospital.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told mainstream media outlets that the protesters had set fires near and on the bridge and claimed that water cannons were only used to put out fires, however, the video clip below clearly shows the water cannons forcibly being used.
Angela Bibens, a coordinator with the Water Protector Legal Collective, which monitors the group, explains:
“I am Dakota. Water is my first medicine. We believe it to be our first medicine. They used our medicine as a weapon. The temperature here last night was 23 degrees. They knew what they were doing…They used it to inflict pain and suffering on the water protectors.”
Linda Black Elk, a member of the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, said:
“What it was like was people walking through the dark of a winter North Dakota night, some of them so cold, and sprayed with water for so long, that their clothes were frozen to their body and crunching as they walked. Every once in awhile you could hear someone scream who had been hit by a rubber bullet.”
“They were attacked with water cannons. It is 23 degrees [-5 °C] out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people.”
Following the clash Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old from New York, underwent surgery after her arm was severely injured by what was believed to be a concussion grenade.
Wayne Wilansky, Sophia’s father, stated that his daughter would need multiple surgeries to regain functional use of her arm and hand:
“All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand.”
The graphic images can be seen here.
Morton County, N.D., Sheriff’s Department sheriff’s department denied using concussion grenades and suggested that Wilansky’s injury was caused by explosives allegedly used by the “protestors.”
Tribe leaders are going through court to try to prevent the construction under the Missouri river from taking place, but Energy Transfer Partners, state that the opportunity to reroute the pipeline has already passed with the company’s CEO, Kelcy Warren, explaining to the Associated Press, “There’s not another way. We’re building at that location.”
Pipeline construction is almost complete in North Dakota, but Energy Transfer Partners still lack the final permit to drill under the river. On Tuesday, November 15th the company filed papers in court asking to have a judge force the government to allow it to begin drilling immediately. Energy Transfer Partners and its subsidiary, Sunoco Logistics Partners, announced they are seeking “judgment declaring that Dakota Access Pipeline has the legal right-of-way to build, complete and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline without any further action from the Army Corps of Engineers.”
Pipelines are a real and serious concern as oil spills are not rare occurences. Sunoco Logistics (Energy Transfer is the parent company of Sunoco and the pipeline company who are responsible for constructing the Dakota Access pipeline) have had a recorded 200 leaks on their pipes since 2010.
In total there were 3,000 pipeline spills in the US between 2010 and 2015.
Sundance grounds and village sites, held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne are also in the path of the Dakota Access pipeline.
“Erasing our footprint from the world erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end; it is that simple. 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?” ~ LaDonna Bravebull Allard
“The ground on which we stand is sacred ground. It is the blood of our ancestors.” ~ Chief Plenty Coups, Crow
On November 14th the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a statement calling for more time to review the construction plans.
At the beginning of November, Barack Obama spoke to Nowthis, saying:
“We’re monitoring this closely and I think as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans, and I think that right now the army corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”
There have been no official words from the president since.
Native Americans have experienced centuries of broken promises and seizures of land. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe needs the world’s eyes open, so that we can see the suffering they have endured for far too many years, as well as what they are going through (once again) to protect their culture and historic land.
It is imperative that we keep their plight in the spotlight, and to reiterate that the people out at Standing Rock are not protesters they are protectors—protecting water and land.
They are praying, meditating and chanting in a peaceful way to stand up for what they believe in and defend sacred land.
Standing Rock medics are in critical need of the following items:
- Milk of Magnesia
- Wool socks
- Wool blankets
- Space blankets
- Hand warmers
- Trauma kits (portable)
- Suturing kits
- Straw bales
Supplies can be shipped to:
Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council
P.O. Box 1251, Bismark ND, 58502
or if you are shipping via UPS or Fed Ex, please use the address:
220 E. Rosser Ave. 1251, Bismark, ND, 58502″
Follow regular updates on Facebook.
Find out how to participate in protecting the sacred land.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: John North/Twitter
Editor: Nicole Cameron