By CHRIS MATO NUNPA
Ho Mitakuyapi, Owasin cantewasteya nape ciyuzapi do! In the Dakota Language, this is a greeting that means, “Hello, my relatives. With a good heart I greet all of you with a handshake!”
On Sunday, Dec. 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not issue a permit for the DAPL to drill underneath the Missouri River. As an Indigenous person, a Dakota man, I was absolutely delighted to hear the news and I rejoiced. One reason for my happiness and thankfulness—no Native person had been shot and killed.
Since the violence, on the part of the neo-Nazi Morton County Sherriff’s deputies, was escalating against the unarmed water protectors, it was only a matter of time before one of our people would be murdered. So, there was a temporary respite with the news of the denial of a permit to DAPL.
As it is, one young woman had her arm almost blown off by a concussion grenade (a war-time weapon), and another teen-age woman lost eye-sight in her right eye when a canister of mace was thrown in her face. This young Indigenous woman is having difficulty getting medical treatment since she doesn’t have insurance or sufficient financial resources.
As of Monday, Dec. 05, DAPL was still there. They still had their planes and helicopters flying low over the Oceti Sakowin (“Seven Fires”) Camp all night. They, DAPL, still had lights shining on the drill pad all night. These are intimidation tactics designed to disturb sleep and reduce morale so that the water protectors will leave camp. However, these scare tactics have been going on for months, and I do not think they will work now.
I am absolutely amazed, but not surprised, at the blatant racial hatred and discrimination displayed by not only the Gestapo-like Morton County Sheriff’s deputies in their violence, in which they appear to take joy against the water protectors, but also by the Euro-North Dakotans. A number of our Native people have been asked to leave places of business, or they wouldn’t sell to them, in Mandan and Bismarck.
One of the Native journalists was followed and intimidated by a man who was wearing a skull mask. Fortunately, he was not hurt. Others are followed and sometimes stopped by white men in their cars and vans. I even heard that in one black van, it turned out that these intimidators were actually police, which is chilling. As I understand, advice is given to the campers: don’t go into town alone and travel the road alone—take one or two persons with you.
The nearby towns of Mandan and Bismarck, in their relation to Cannonball and Ft. Yates, are bastions of racism, discrimination, and white supremacy. Or to use a phrase of one of our Dakota poets, these towns “are stained with hate.”
It reminded me of my Dakota/Lakota/Nakota colleagues who have said to me that South Dakota was their Alabama, their Mississippi. Then, when I was talking, at breakfast in the Prairie Knights Hotel, to a Lakota man, a member of the Standing Rock, about what I heard about South Dakota, he replied, “Well, North Dakota is like our Alabama and our Mississippi, too.” So I will consider South Dakota as Alabama, and North Dakota as Mississippi.
I wish to say that my home state of Minnesota is no slouch, either, when it comes to racism and white supremacy. Minnesota placed bounties on the scalps of my Dakota People ($25, then $75, finally, $200). And they also forcibly removed (“ethnically cleansed”) my Dakota People out of their ancient homelands, Mini Sota Makoce, “Land Where the Waters Reflect the Skies, or Heavens, or Minnesota. The name Mini Sota Makoce is a reference to the thousands upon thousands of lakes in our homelands, of which the state of Minnesota is a part.
Minnesota used concentration camps (“death camps”), forced marches (“death marches”), mass executions, and uttered savage cries—“extermination or removal,” “exterminate the wild beasts” (the Dakota); “utterly exterminate” (the Dakota), or “kill the lazy vermin,” referring to the Dakota)—to name a few of the recorded racial epithets. The above-mentioned acts are genocide. This is what “genocidaires,” perpetrators of genocide, do.
Another thing I would like to mention here is that a number of clergy came up to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the People and with the water protectors in their resistance to DAPL. Several of them went into the State Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., and prayed in a foyer. They were arrested.
One of the things I noticed right away is the “gentle” way they were treated, they were treated differently. That is, there was no beating on their heads with batons, no spraying of mace in their faces, no shooting in the face with rubber bullets or on the bodies with bean bags, no strip-searching of these men of the cloth, no being placed in dog-kennel-like cages, or being kept in jail for several days, like many of our women and men were (including my younger daughter). The clergy were non-violent, just like the non-violent unarmed Native water protectors.
Of course, there were a number of non-Indigenous peoples, allies, who were shot with rubber bullets. One had her arm almost blown away, others were arrested, and appeared in court to fight the trumped-up charges. Some of these white people were treated just like Native Peoples.
In the past 524 years of what I call Wosice Tanka Kin (Dakota for “The Great Evil”), there have been times, along the way, when the Church, and its clergy, worked hand-in-hand, or cooperated, with the state and with the military. They were complicit in the invading, killing, stealing, destroying, occupying, and the exploiting. I was glad that these clergy, in 2016, were trying to be supporters of Standing Rock People, of the water protectors, and of our allies, instead of helping to kill us.
Dr. Cornel West, one of my intellectual heroes, came to the Oceti Sakowin Camp. There were two comments that I will mention here. One was the possibility that the water-protectors group might, eventually, be considered a domestic terrorist group. This would occur with some legal shenanigans by the big oil corporations, the neo-Nazi police, and the state governments. And, later on, this would be done with the full cooperation of the U.S. government under the fascist-type U.S. president.
Dr. West, when asked about what he felt about the Oceti Sakowin Camp, said that he could feel 500 years of resistance and resilience. The Indigenous Peoples there at the camp resonated with that comment.
As I indicated in the opening paragraph, the victory is temporary, and many of our people are saying we need to be vigilant. Energy Transfer Partners have indicated they are committed to finishing the Dakota Access Pipe Line. Some say that DAPL is already starting the drilling under the Missouri River. Others say there is no evidence that the DAPL drilling is occurring.
There is a lot of uncertainty and apprehension as to what is going to happen when the president-elect becomes the president in late January 2017. However, no matter what happens, the water protectors are in this struggle for the long haul, to protect the water, to protect Ina Maka, “Mother Earth,” to protect the animal relatives, to protect the sacred sites, and the burial sites.
Mini Wiconi, “Water is Life!” Ho Mitakuyapi, wopida tanka owas eciciyapi do! “My Relatives, I express my deepest appreciation to all of you!”
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: Huffington Post