Standing Rock: We are here to protect the water – because we all live downstream – but does eviction loom?
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on Black Friday the imminent eviction of Oceti Sakowin Camp, where the call is out for reinforcements – see story below
by Tarnel Abbott
Oceti Sakowin Camp
under an enormous sky
the river is icing up
thousands of people have come here
to the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers
tents, tipis, trailers, yurts, geodesic domes, school buses …
license plates from all over our country
people from all over the world have come here
many indigenous Native Americans from all nations are here
we are here to protect the water
water is life – Mni Wiconi – Mni Wichoni
this is the cry of this gathering of the tribes – and all tribes are welcome
I had to go there, to North Dakota in late November. In spite of feeling that my ineptitude with tools, my age and decrepitness would make me more of a hindrance than a help. In spite of seeing the contradiction that material aid (my money spent on travelling) if sent directly, could be of more use than my physical presence. Especially since I had a pact with my compañero, Rafa, not to get arrested, in spite of my inclination to be on the front lines. I felt compelled to express my solidarity, in person, with the people who have gathered at Standing Rock to stop the oil pipeline from being placed beneath the Missouri River.
I now realize that I also needed to go there for a renewal of hope.
Water is Life – Mni Wiconi
What kind of a riot is it when one person is arrested, but 167 people are injured, seven to a dozen badly enough to be hospitalized after being attacked by the police? Blunt force trauma, cardiac arrest, hypothermia and decontamination from tear gas and mace, these were the injuries caused by being shot at with high force fire hose or water cannon for four hours in sub-freezing temperatures, being shot at with “less than lethal weapons”: CS tear gas canisters, rubber coated bullets, bean bag rounds, percussion grenades; the arsenal and attitude of a militarized police.
The so-called riot was a police riot against unarmed people who were exercising their right to peaceful protest. In a very predictable manner, law enforcement is telling lies and planting evidence. What really happened the night of Sunday, Nov. 20, on Backwater Bridge was documented by Kevin Gilbertt, the media team at Unicorn Riot, medic Black Elk, Dr. Rupa Marya, Dallas Goldtooth and many others who were at the scene.
People of Morton County North Dakota: Recall your sheriff. He has violated his oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States. We have the right to peacefully assemble. His is the duty to protect and serve the people, not the interests of the new oil barons.
The so-called riot was a police riot against unarmed people who were exercising their right to peaceful protest.
He has committed war crimes. This struggle is not new. The rich have always used law enforcement to protect their wealth even at the cost of human life. It isn’t just Morton County, North Dakota; it is, as my great grandfather Jack London called it, “The Iron Heel” of the oligarchy. It is here, it is now and we are in the fight of our lives.
My friend said that the Oceti Sakowin Camp reminded him of Occupy. It was so beautiful, the way that people were treating each other with love and respect. The peacefulness, the caring for one another, the sharing of resources, people working together and trying to find solutions.
Here was the hope I was yearning for: Young people mostly, but elders and some children, living side by side under the sky and learning how to live with a smaller footprint. Very little trash, horses, dogs, chickens, solar panels, winterizing, straw bale buildings under construction, relatively clean portable toilets, handmade signs, sacred fires, drum circles, compost piles, a school, communal kitchens, daily orientations for newcomers, training films, announcements, visiting celebrities, free stores.
We were welcomed and greeted as we wandered and given a wonderful task by one of the camp leaders: to let people know that they were welcome at the communal structures for warmth in the coming of the cold night.
This camp is an “occupation” by the Standing Rock Sioux, the Oceti Sakowin, whose sacred ground is being desecrated as the pipeline is being built and whose watershed will be the first to be polluted when the pipeline breaks. They are supported by millions of people around the world who sense that this is our last chance to secure the human right to clean water.
Millions of people are sustained by the water of the Missouri River; pipes can and do break. We are all at risk here. You can’t drink oil. Water is indeed life; this is why people are risking bodily harm to protect it. We have to do it for the children, for the grandchildren, for the future generations, for all the biota downstream. WE ALL LIVE DOWNSTREAM.
We have to struggle together, not in isolation, to make a viable world. It can be done, and it will take the whole village to do it.
This camp is an “occupation” by the Standing Rock Sioux, the Oceti Sakowin, whose sacred ground is being desecrated as the pipeline is being built and whose watershed will be the first to be polluted when the pipeline breaks.
What to do now
Spread the word, share the stories, write letters to the editor, make the phone calls to the president, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Amnesty International, the United Nations, the National Guard, your Senators, Congress members, Assembly members. Find out who is funding the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) and cut up your credit card and tell them why they need to divest from this project.
Of course send money. But do go there if you are able to. You must be able to survive deep cold prairie winter. Take Mylar insulation, wool socks and blankets; be prepared for ice camping. I was wearing four layers, and it hadn’t gotten below 27 degrees.
Go to Standing Rock: It is OK to stay at the only nearby hotel, the Prairie Knight Casino or in Bismark, about an hour’s drive from Cannonball, and visit the camp during the day. If you bring love, peace and a prayer for the future, if you treasure life and know that water is life, go there and you will be welcomed by your brothers and sisters.
- To the medical fund for Sophia Wilansky, the water protector hit with a concussion grenade who lost all the flesh on her arm from elbow to wrist, at https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs?rcid=da6d662ea87d4bff9d4f4ed0af33168b
- To the UCSF MniWiconi Health Clinic Partnership at Standing Rock, at https://crowdfund.ucsf.edu/project/2913
- To Oceti Sakowin Camp, at http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/donate or paypal.me/ocetisakowincamp or by mail to Oceti Sakowin Camp, P.O. Box 298, Cannon Ball, ND 58528.
Get help: The Oceti Sakowin website urges you to
- Contact your members of Congress; go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
- Contact Presidential Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, at 202-456-3182 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Army Corp of Engineers Assistant Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, at 703-697-8986 or email@example.com to tell them to rescind the permits granted to Dakota Access
- Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit: 202-761-5903.
- Sign the petition to the White House to stop DAPL.
Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:
- Energy Transfer Partners Executive Vice President Lee Hanse, at 210-403-6455, Hanse@energytransfer.com or 800 E. Sonterra Blvd, Suite 400, San Antonio, Texas 78258
- Energy Transfer Partners Vice President Glenn Emery, 210-403-6762, Emery@energytransfer.com or 800 E. Sonterra Blvd, Suite 400, San Antonio, Texas 78258
- Energy Transfer Partners Lead Analyst Michael (Cliff) Waters, 713-989-2404, Waters@energytransfer.com or 1300 Main St., Houston, Texas 77002
Donate supplies for winter: See the Camp supply list, at http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/donate
Stay in touch: If you’re on social media, these hashtags will help keep you up to date on all the news coming out of the camp: #HonorTheTreaties #NoBakken #OcetiSakowinCamp #OcetiSakowin #SacredStone #STOPDAPL #MniWiconi #SacredWater #NoDAPL #RezpectOurWater #StandWithStandingRock.
Tarnel Abbott is a social justice and environmental activist who lives in Richmond, California. A former librarian, she was the 2006 winner of the Zoia Horn Intellectual Freedom Award. She is one of Jack London’s great granddaughters. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Army Corps of Engineers plans to evict Dakota Access protest camp
The announcement comes as dozens of protestors were arrested at a Bismarck mall on Black Friday
The Army Corps of Engineers announced plans on Friday to evict the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota, saying anti-pipeline protestors have until Dec. 5 to leave. The camp is a key site in the ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a controversial $3.8-billion pipeline project that would run through the only water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
The pipeline protestors – who call themselves water protectors – face arrest if they don’t vacate the camp in time, Col. John Henderson of the Corps said in a letter delivered to Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II on Friday. Citing weather and safety concerns, Henderson claimed the decision was “necessary” to shield the public from “the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area.”
In a statement issued in response to the letter, Archambault II said that the tribe was “deeply disappointed” by the decision but reiterated their commitment to protecting the water supply and opposing the pipeline’s construction, particularly the section that would impact the Oahe Lake. “The best way to protect people during the winter, and reduce the risk of conflict between water protectors and militarized police, is to deny the easement for the Oahe crossing, and deny it now,” he said.
The Dakota Access pipeline is a 1,172 mile project that would move close to half a million barrels of crude oil per day through the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois. The project would run under a portion of the Missouri River that sits less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
For months, tribal members and Indigenous activists concerned that a spill could devastate the tribe’s sole water supply and destroy sacred sites have been protesting the pipeline’s construction, amid increasing tension between law enforcement officials, who have deployed tear gas, attack dogs and water hoses against hundreds of protestors. According to NBC, a protestor was hospitalized after a grenade nearly blew off her arm.
Meanwhile, more than 30 protestors were arrested at a mall in Bismarck, North Dakota, on Black Friday, in a rally planned to coincide with the busiest shopping day of the year. Chaotic video footage captured of the incident shows police arresting dozens of protestors, many chanting “Water is Life.” (Watch below.) At one point, they appear to hurl a woman to the ground.
“They just grabbed that woman by the hair; they pulled her down by the hair,” someone says.
Last month, more than 140 people were arrested and dozens injured after law enforcement officials deployed pepper spray and bean bag shots to remove protestors from a camp; earlier this month, police officers pepper sprayed dozens of protestors standing waist-deep in water and shot at least two with rubber bullets.
“My kids get maced every single day,” Eryn Wise of the Indigenous Youth Council told ThinkProgress’ Laurel Raymond. “They tease me and say that the mace doesn’t hurt as bad anymore. I wash it out of their hair, and I’m sick and tired of having to use the water that we’re fighting for to wash the pain off of them.”
The Army Corps of Engineers announced plans on Friday to evict the Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota. The camp is a key site in the ongoing fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Prominent environmental organizations have condemned the aggression, as well as the recent announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“This attempt to dislodge water protectors from their own lands as they stand up for their rights and protect their heritage is a disrespectful and disappointing decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” the Sierra Club said in a statement following the Army Corps’ announcement. “If anyone should vacate this land, it is Energy Transfer, the company recklessly pushing this pipeline. The Sierra Club continues to stand with our tribal allies as they peacefully organize in this historic effort, and it is clear we are all determined to continue to keep up this fight in the weeks and months to come.”