Read Part One – Mni Wiconi – Part One – Prelude to Standing Rock
The Black Snake is coming. There is a Lakota prophecy that a zuzeca sape (black snake) will come and cross the land. It will bring with it destruction and devastation. It will poison the water. It will destroy the world. It will be the end of times.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is the Black Snake with the potential to pollute the waters from the upper reaches of the Missouri River all the way to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. This pipeline crosses over 200 waterways, including the Mississippi River. Somehow, it must be stopped.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETA), the Dakota Access Pipeline’s (DAPL) parent company, has claimed that Standing Rock Reservation’s tribal governance never expressed opposition to the pipeline nor participated in the routing process. Yet, Tribal Chairman David Archambault II, had expressed the tribe’s opposition as early as September, 2014, as soon as they learned about it. There is a lot of disinformation out there seeded by ETA and their allies in industry and government.
On April 1, 2016, tribe member Ladonna Allard Brave Bull established the Sacred Stone Camp on her property just south of the Cannon Ball River. It was the first of the water protector camps. Soon, this resistance camp grew and more camps were established north of the Cannon Ball. Oceti Sakowin Camp is just across the river from Sacred Stone. That is where I went.
I am not sure exactly when I found out about the DAPL protests. In my circles, there are many people that are environmentally and human rights oriented. We tend to share news of issues that need to be addressed. What I do remember are all the discussions about why the DAPL resistance was getting virtually zero media coverage. DAPL had been protested as early as 2014 in other states, including by Native American tribes in Iowa affected far downstream of Standing Rock. Keystone pipeline protests had generated large amounts of press and those actions had actually helped stop that pipeline. Maybe there were more rich white landowners affected by Keystone, not just Native American tribes. As an aside, many think that DAPL will be carrying some of that oil originally destined for Keystone. In any case, it seemed that no one in the media cared a bit for what was happening at the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers in North Dakota.
Until violence and police overreach started entering the picture in a big way. Then, it barely made the cut, but some mainstream outlets started carrying the news when someone got hurt. One of the first big confrontations was caught on video on September 3rd. It shows pepper spray being used against water protectors. Dogs were unleashed, as well, and numerous people were bitten, including a child. Dogs should never be used this way. The outrage started growing exponentially. Finally.
The tipping point for me came a few days before Thanksgiving when water cannons were used against water protectors at night in 26 degree temperatures. This is so beyond the realm of reasonable I have trouble comprehending it. The increasingly militarized police forces have also been using rubber bullets aimed at faces, concussion grenades, and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) against protesters. People have been seriously hurt, including one woman who almost lost her arm and had to be medevaced to Minneapolis. Hypothermia cases have gone through the roof as temperatures drop. Hitting people with water cannons in sub-freezing weather is simply inhuman. I thought the first picture I saw of police with Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and armor was taken in Afghanistan.Wow.
It is very frustrating to see things like this and be unable to help. One feels helpless. The water protectors have generated a lot of outside support. This is a fight that affects all people. Water is necessary for all people. Folks from all over the world have gone to Standing Rock and/or helped from afar. I wanted to do my part. Sitting at home posting about it was doing nothing. I am an action person. What little money I could afford to donate would not go very far. I needed to actually be there, hands on, real, and personal.
Two days after the now infamous water cannon and concussion grenade incident, my friend Liz Rabban tagged me in a post on CNN, Veterans to Deploy to Standing Rock. I read it. I read it again. I shared it. I became obsessed. There were a bunch of veterans who felt like me. Standing Rock needed me. I needed Standing Rock.
Boots on the ground was less than two weeks away. Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was 1700 miles away. I have a job. I have very little money. There was no way I was going to be able to make this trip. But, I needed to. I was compelled by unseen forces.
Thank you, Liz, for thinking of me when you first saw this story.
Stay tuned for the continuing story.
Tags: Black Snake, Cannon Ball, Corps of Engineers, Dakota Access Pipeline, DAPL, dog, Energy Transfer Partners, Ft Yates, Indian, Lake Oahe, landgrab, long range acoustic device, LRAD, militarized, Missouri River, National Guard, native American, NODAPL, North Dakota, oil, pepper spray, pipeline, police, protest, Standing Rock Indian Reservation, sustainable, tribe, veteran, Warzones, water cannon, water protector