Wednesday, December 14, 2016

About Those Indians

I often forget that most people don't know much about Native Americans, their culture, their values, their history. And even fewer people know what reservation life is like for many Native nations in the U.S. So what they see in the media has less meaning for those with so little background information.

 The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been actively opposing the permitting and construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline since the tribe first learned of the proposal in 2014. The tribe has voiced its strong opposition ot the company, the federal government, to Congress and to the state.

How many of you know that the Native Americans at the Standing Rock Reservation have been physically blocking the building of an oil pipeline through their land since April of this year? They are protecting the water source of their people and millions more from the possible, even probable, intrusion of oil from a pipeline leak. There are often such leaks occurring that the general public never hear of. Just a few days ago, about 150 miles from where thousands have protested for months that the Dakota Access pipeline could threaten the Sioux tribe’s water supply. A few days ago a pipeline in the western part of North Dakota has spilled more than 130,000 gallons of oil into a creek, This could easily happen under the Missouri River on reservation land.

The Native Americans have always been the protectors of the earth, Mother Earth. They know that all things are connected, that what we do to the earth ultimately effects everything else. They know that all things are related: Miatuye Oyasin. They live very close to Mother Earth and are her protectors. So when someone wants to do that which can harm her, they act to defend her.

Their "protest" at Standing Rock in N. Dakota has been supported by more and more people as the months have progressed. Thousands of people, including members of some 280 tribal nations, have gathered at the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, N.D., to protest the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL) that they refer to as the Black Snake. The Water Protectors, as they have been called, are armed with only prayer and their physical presence blocking the heavy machinery. In response the State has confronted them with military style police and private security personnel in riot gear, armed with guns, water canons, and tear gas.

Activists are protesting the project's potential destruction of sacred sites, as well as the potential contamination of the Missouri River from a pipeline leak. The Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners plan to lay pipe underneath the river, their main water source. The Missouri River also traverses many other areas that draw water from it and it's tributaries.

The State of N. Dakota has colluded with the Energy Transfer Partners to do everything possible to disperse the protesters. They have closed the main road that gives access to the area in an effort to cut off resources. They have assaulted them with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water canons in freezing weather. They have attempted to physically remove individuals by arresting them by the hundreds and taking them to jail. They have intimidated them with attack dogs. Many people have been wounded and requiring medical treatment. Emergency services are blocked by the roadblocks, putting an even greater risk for those wounded by the police and security personnel.

Remember, this is happening here in the United States. And are you aware that Native Americans are natural citizens and supposedly protected by the Constitution? The land they are on was given to them in treaties that are nearly two hundred years old, treaties that have been broken by the Federal Government, letting corporations destroy the earth, destroy their sacred places, take the resources from the earth.

And now the people of Standing Rock have stood up to protect the water source for millions of people, native and non-native people. They do it for all of us, because what damages the earth eventually damages us all. They are resisters with courage and determination. They vow to stay through the bitter plains winter in the face of daily assault by armed police in riot gear. And they daily train all people staying in the camps in nonviolent resistance. They train daily so that they are acting peacefully, even in the face of those who come against them who are not peaceful.

The media has portrayed the Indians as rioter, even though there is ample evidence to the contrary. The Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has ordered his men to do atrocious acts of intimidation. Protesters have been arrested under false pretenses, taken to jail, strip searched elderly and young women, held them without the benefit of hearings. This is not some "heathen" country off somewhere across the globe. This is the U. S. A., home of the brave and the no longer free.

Learn more about what is happening at Standing Rock, support the water defenders, contact your legislators and tell them to respect the treaties and the American citizens on that land. Don't just be a bystander whose silence give permission for this to continue. Yes, the Corps of Engineers have been ordered to refuse permission for the pipeline. AND the Energy Transfer Partners have publicly stated that they will ignore that an continue working on the pipeline. And President Elect Trump has stated that he is in favor of the pipeline. So the likelihood of the order to the Corps of Engineers being continued is small.

Where will you stand when that happens? When the government refuses to protect the most marginalized population it is no longer the government that we have fought and died for over the years. It becomes too much like those foreign oligarchies we hear about on the news .

So what will you do about those Indians? They are us.

“Still, someday, I hope we look back to Standing Rock as the place where we came to our senses. Where new coalitions formed. Where we became powerful together as we realized that we have to preserve land, water, the precious democracy that is our pride, the freedoms that make up our joy. Louise Erdrich 
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