The sky was a grey mist shedding down along the mountain peaks as I traveled back through the high gates of Glacier National Park in northwest Montana enroute to North Dakota. This is the second time that I have traveled to the Sacred Stone Camp about 50 minutes south of the North Dakota State capitol of Bismarck. It takes about 14 hours to drive the 2 states, which put my arrival at the camp at just about midnight. I felt I needed to return to see how things would play out after the K9 attacks and the Governor’s call up of 100 National Guard troops. I had heard from my contacts that had been at the camp for the past two weeks that there was a rumor that the Guard would be coming through at 0630 to arrest those protestors on the front lines.
I found where my friends were camped and slept in my car that night to maybe get a chance to cover the possible arrests. As is so often the case in these types of protests, mis-information runs amuck and this was no different. As the sun rose there were no national guardsmen to be seen, except for at the now official military check point along Highway 1806. I had a chance to quickly interview one of the guardsmen asking him if he felt that this could be a violation of citizens’ first amendment rights. Here is my video of that interaction.
The camp itself has grown tremendously since I was last here 2 weeks ago. There are now thousands of people among the 3 camps. It has also garnered celebrity support as well. Leonardo Decaprio and rapper Immortal Technique are there. Black Lives Matters has also sent a delegation. While the vast majority of the protestors are native there is the largest mixture of all cultures that I have yet to see at an event like this. I believe there are some lessons that all of us who are politically active in our own realms can learn.
The optics of the tribes being specifically unarmed even after the dog attacks has really seemed to put the powers that be on notice. As many of you who were either at Bundy Ranch or were closely watching will remember, that also started when unarmed protestors were attacked by the BLM security agents with attack dogs and AR-15’s. These events are two sides of the same land-use-issues coin here in the western United States. We must begin to break down our social differences and stand together as one United people living on the same land to overcome these federal land grabs.
The very propaganda mechanisms that were used to label the protestors at Bundy Ranch as “violent extremists” are also being used by the powers that be to do the same to these native protestors. This commonality offers an opportunity to break down some of our social stigmas on all sides.
Ahead of the new ruling, several hundred protestors held a demonstration in front of the North Dakota State Capitol. They were greeted by about 50-60 riot control officers drawn from the State Troopers, Sheriff and Game Wardens. The event was peaceful and polite on both sides.
There was a lot happening on the legal side of the case. A decision was handed down in a 58 page ruling in which District Judge James Boasberg said federal pipeline developers adequately covered the steps necessary during an assessment of the $3.8 Billion pipeline impact of cultural sites in North Dakota. However, according to tribal elders with whom I spoke the company this past week seemed to intentionally bulldoze over sacred burial sites that the tribe had marked with GPS and physical flags. This is the event that sparked the now viral K9 attacks. Almost immediately after the ruling by Boasberg the Obama administration announced that it would not authorize construction on a critical stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Department of Justice and the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department jointly announced that construction would halt.
“The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved, including the pipeline company and its workers – deserve a clear and timely resolution,” the agencies said in a joint statement. While this seems to be a clear victory for the tribes, it is one that is to be taken with caution, as we know that there is an agenda by the powers that be to wait until things calm down and then move forward with their previous plans. We will have to wait and see how this will play out over time. The Standing Rock Sioux are committed to staying at the site until the company gives up the construction of the pipeline. Yesterday during a prayer ceremony Chief American Horse called on tribal veterans who have gone to protect us on foreign shores, to now come and protect the homeland here in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
While there appears to have been a victory for the tribes, I believe this story to be far from over.
Below please find video of Organizer Dallas Goldtooth explaining what the legal ruling mean for the tribes and other video and images from the protests.