I went to Standing Rock Reservation in early December for a few short days to support the Water Protectors at the Oceti Sakowin Dakota Pipeline Resistance Camp. It was a powerful and rewarding trip on a number of levels. I am still processing it all. I went for both personal and altruistic reasons. I was compelled to go, as a veteran of America’s foreign wars and as a human being. Hard to explain. I will try.

Oceti Sakowin Camp December 2016

Part of Oceti Sakowin Camp during my time there in December, 2016

I have always been an environmentalist and a supporter of indigenous rights and the keeping of local knowledge across the world. You can see many posts that reflect this attitude on the blog. I am also a really crappy materialist. I have long followed the struggles of Native Americans against us, their colonial oppressors. I remember when Leonard Peltier was unjustly convicted of killing two FBI agents and he is still in jail 40 years later. America’s foremost political prisoner whose case has been flagged by Amnesty International. Why he has not been pardoned is a mystery. Just one of many insults against the First Nations.

I have been against fracking and most pipelines as long as both have existed. We don’t need more oil, we need more sustainable energy sources. Alternative energy is here now, no excuses. Fracking is environmentally disastrous and pipelines always leak, regardless of what the corporations or their government protectors tell us. While I was at Standing Rock in North Dakota, a petroleum pipeline leaked a few miles from my house in South Carolina. Kind of ironic. All kinds of messed up. Transport by truck or rail means fewer gallons spilled if there is an accident. Pipeline leaks often go days before being detected and the pipeline companies always say they have no idea how their “failsafe” leak detection systems never seem to work.

Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline – Mni Wiconi

Literally, there is at least one cause worth supporting in resisting and stopping this pipeline for everyone, unless you are simply an elitist corporate shill who cares about nothing but money. I have been following this since the camp started in Spring of 2016.

The tribe’s message is that this is about water. Water is life – Mni Wiconi. Water for all creatures and plants. But, it goes far beyond that. Pick your cause. It is here.

  • Water quality
  • Environmental degradation
  • Colonial oppression and human rights
  • Failure of US to honor treaty obligations
  • Racism
  • Corporate greed and control
  • Government overreach
  • Militarized police forces and human rights
  • National Guard used to oppress US citizens in the US

I am sure I have left stuff out. Truly insane and makes me ashamed to be an American and a US Army veteran. I mean, my time in Iraq and Afghanistan had already made me ashamed of what we do in the world, but this brings it right to our homeland. Our own people. And the greed, it just keeps on growing and growing and growing. They call the pipeline The Black Snake. Yes, it is.

Let’s just assume for a second that the pipeline is actually needed, which it is not. Alternative energy, remember? Anyway, the original route took the pipeline north of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. Being north, of course, it put Bismarck downstream of leaks until it passed south on its way to its end 1,172 miles away in Illinois. This northern route was dismissed because of concerns over water quality that would affect the largely WHITE population (92.4%) of Bismarck in the event of virtually certain leaks (all pipelines leak). Looks like there are not enough minority neighborhoods in Bismarck to justify ruining the water quality there.

So, moving the route to within a half mile of the Standing Rock Reservation and running it under Lake Oahe/Missouri River near Cannon Ball was the obvious solution. Screw the Native Americans again, we’ve been doing it since initial European contact, why stop now? Yet, as the pipeline crosses at the upper reaches of the 231 mile long lake, hundreds of thousands of other people’s drinking water would also be affected. Clever, but Bismarck is safe and far upstream. All good for them.

Then, there is the question of who really owns the land north of the Cannon Ball River, the river currently being part of the “recognized” northern boundary of the Standing Rock Reservation. Yeah, yeah, I know this treaty stuff is old news and no one cares. According to the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, that northern boundary extends much farther north, so the pipeline is actually crossing a large part of Sioux territory, all the way to the Heart River. This territory also includes sacred gound.

1851 Treaty of Ft Laramie boundaries. This land is in five states.

That never mattered to the government or white settlers, of course. Especially after gold was discovered. It is always about greed with us white folks. In 1868, another Fort Laramie treaty significantly shrank the boundaries, but retained the Heart River as a northern border in what is now North Dakota. By federal Congressional legislation in 1877 and 1889, more land was taken, essentially resulting in current boundaries (Cannon Ball River in the north). The tribe never agreed to any of these land grabs. No surprise there, of course.

1868 Treaty of Ft Laramie boundaries. The unceded terrorities were a very grey area, but still went to the Heart River.

The final ironic insult prior to the Dakota Access Pipeline was the building of the Oahe damn and creation of Lake Oahe by the Corps of Engineers in the early 1960s. This dam, built on the Missouri River in South Dakota, just north of Pierre, extends 231 miles north to Bismarck, North Dakota, and destroyed Standing Rock Reservation’s best land, fertile agricultural bottomlands, and the tribes only timber resources. The Corps of Engineers took 56,000 acres of land by condemning it without consulting with the tribe or paying for it. Of course they did. People were forcibly relocated. A mini Trail of Tears. Just another shameful episode in the abuse of First Nations in America.

Lake Oahe from Mobridge South Dakota entering Standing Rock Reservation

We entered Standing Rock Reservation from Mobridge, South Dakota, about 72 miles south of the Cannon Ball River upstream. Getting ready to cross Lake Oahe/Missouri River.

Now Energy Transfer Partners and its pals in the Corps of Engineers and state and federal governments still plan to drill under the upper reaches of this huge and relatively pristine lake. What does a sane person do in the face of shit like this? For me, they go to Standing Rock.

ETA, their minions, and their bought and paid for government lackeys expected everyone to roll over and allow it to happen. This is what normally occurs in these cases. Money always wins. Almost. Yet, in April, 2016, something started that they have not yet been able to completely stop.

Stay tuned for the continuing story from my vantage point.

Check out the official Oceti Sakowin Camp Facebook page


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