By CHRIS MATO NUNPA
For most of this year, since April 2016, the Great Sioux Nation has gathered, along with its allies and supporters, to protect its treaty lands, with the sacred waters, the animal relatives, sacred sites, and burial sites, from the “Black Snake” (the Dakota Access Pipe Line, DAPL). In the past several months, the population of the Oceti Sakowin Camp (“Seven Fires”) has gone to 10,000 people.
The pipe line was originally planned to cross the Missouri River, north of Bismarck, N.D., but due to concerns by the good Christian white folk about contamination of the city’s water supply, it was re-routed to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the sole water supply for the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Peoples, as well as for tens of thousands of people downstream.
As of Tuesday, Nov. 29, North Dakota officials have moved to block supplies from reaching the Oceti Sakowin Camp, threatening to use fines to keep the protectors from receiving such crucial supplies as food (“Starve the Natives”), building materials, and even portable bathrooms (“Kill the Buffalo,” a historical reference to the policy of killing the buffalo in the 19th century to starve the Native peoples). Officers will stop vehicles that are believed to be headed for the camp and tell them that they are committing an “infraction” and that they could be fined thousands of dollars.
Clashes with the police have gone viral (see the Facebook pages of Myron Dewey and Shiye Bidziil.) The FAA is banning the use of drones by the media at Oceti Sakowin Camp, while the state government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are permitted to fly their drones, planes, and helicopters. So unfair! However, what’s new?
Some of the dirty tricks are the following: Many Bismarck hotels are turning away guests to prevent them from coming to the camp. There have been rumors that DAPL has purchased all the empty rooms at the Prairies Knights Hotel in Ft. Yates, N.D., to keep the elderly from getting a room at the hotel to keep warm.
Psychological and Cyber Warfare: People have been reporting that their cell phones are acting oddly, e.g., batteries dying without warning, apps malfunctioning, browsers seizing, messages disappearing, strange noises during calls. There have even been reports of car batteries dying.
The North Dakota governor has issued a warning that emergency services, i.e., ambulance and fire, will be denied to the camp. In the past two months, November and October, the Morton County Sheriff and Deputies, along with law enforcement personnel from other states, DAPL Security with attack dogs, military mercenaries, and the North Dakota National Guard, have brutally and viciously attacked peaceful, prayerful, and unarmed Standing Rock water protectors.
The water protectors have endured humiliation, being attacked by dogs, beaten with batons, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, shot at with bean-bag pellets, shot with rubber bullets on the head and face, shot at with concussion grenades, LRAD sound cannons, water cannons during freezing weather, arrested, body marked with numbers (shades of the concentration camps), cavity-searched, held in dog kennels.
Must our people pay the ultimate price of death before we put a stop to this brutality by fully militarized law-enforcement personnel? This violence by the Gestapo-like police reminds me of a phrase used by Hitler, “uneven combat,” to characterize the U.S. genocidal programs against the Indigenous Peoples of the United States.
On Nov. 28, a lawsuit was filed by the Water Protector Legal Collective/NLG (National Lawyers Guild), Oceti Sakowin Camp, in the United States District Court, District of North Dakota, Western Division. The suit seeks an emergency order, enjoining Morton County and Stutsman County, DOES 1-100, from curtailing the plaintiffs’ First and Fourth Amendment rights by using highly dangerous weaponry.
As tensions rise, many of the Indigenous Peoples, and their Allies, are expecting heightened violence from the state, and are preparing for “mass casualties.”
Afterward—I found myself getting depressed writing down what is happening with my people at Standing Rock. However, what is happening is a microcosm of the historical past and of contemporary times re: Indigenous Peoples and the US. government and its states, and re: the Indigenous Peoples with the Canadian government and its provinces.
It’s not new—it’s been happening for 524 years. Even though there has not been an Indigenous person shot and killed, like the 8 million murdered by Columbus, when he came, it would not surprise me if some of our people are murdered, beginning Monday, Dec. 5 [the governor’s deadline for people to evacuate the camp].
Chris Mato Nunpa, Ph.D, is a retired associate professor in Indigenous Nations and Dakota Studies at Southwest Minnesota State University. Mato Nunpa is a Dakota name and means “Two Bear.”
Photo: Andrew Cullen / Reuters