Thousands of US veterans plan to converge on Standing Rock, elected officials praise Army Corps deadline, and Morton County Sheriff’s Department uses Craigslist as vetted intelligence
By C.S. Hagen
CANNONBALL – A flurry of activity followed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threat to Standing Rock that the tribe has 9 days left to evacuate camps situated against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“The letter means nothing to us,” Nick Tilsen, co-founder of the Indigenous People’s Power Project, said. “Indigenous people are here to stay, and we’re not going to move unless it’s on our own terms, because this is our treaty land, this is our ancestral land, and this is where our people have been for thousands of years.”
No one at the camp is fearful, Tilsen said. Months of ceremony and training have eradicated all fear, leaving only a deep love for their people and their land. “Our purpose here is to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
“Any person found to be on the Corps lands north of the Cannonball River after December 5, 2016, will be considered trespassing and may be subject to prosecution under federal, state, and local laws… any person who chooses to stay on these Corps’ lands… does so at their own risk,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander John W. Henderson stated in Friday’s letter.
Despite the deadline, Standing Rock spokesperson Sue Evans said the tribe is determined as ever to protect its land and water.
“The timing of this latest action by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is demoralizing and disrespectful for Native Americans and the millions of peaceful water protectors and supporters in America and across the globe who are standing with Standing Rock to protect the water and 17 million Americans downstream on the river,” Evans said.
The chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Harold Frazier, condemned the deadline, saying the Army Corps “dangerously and profoundly misunderstands the basic function and status of a tribal government and its elected leaders.”
Veterans from around the nation are signing up to travel to Standing Rock on December 5, the final day Oceti Sakowin, or the Seven Council Fires camp is allowed to stand on Army Corps lands.
Governor Jack Dalrymple praised the Army Corps decision, but insisted federal agencies must be responsible for clearing the camps.
“Our state and local law enforcement agencies continue to do all they can to keep private property and public infrastructure free from unpermitted protest activities, and its past time that the federal government provides the law enforcement resources needed to support public safety and to enforce their own order to vacate,” Dalrymple said. “For more than 100 days now, the federal government has allowed protesters to illegally entrench themselves on Corps land and it is the federal government’s responsibility to lead the camp’s peaceful closure.”
The land Dalrymple described is Army Corps land, where Oceti Sakowin was setup. It was originally included in the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty as the tribal land, and taken from the Standing Rock Sioux without consent when it was condemned after devastation from the Pick-Sloan legislation.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp R-N.D., said the Army Corps decision is a relief after more than four months of violence. “The decision by the Army Corps is a needed step to support the safety of residents, workers, protesters, and law enforcement,” Heitkamp said in a press release. “For too long, we have waited in limbo as the decision is put off. This issue needs to be put to rest once and for all for the sake of the safety of our communities.”
Eryn Wise, of the Indigenous Youth Council and niece of Ladonna Allard, the woman who began the movement on Sacred Stone Camp, said sanctioned harm against Mother Earth will not be allowed. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers need to realize that these are children we are protecting… and we will continue to make our stand,” Wise said during a press conference.
She questioned the Army Corps creation of a free speech zone. “I just wanted to clarify for everyone, and you guys correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the United States was a free speech zone.”
Dallas Goldtooth, of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the Army Corps letter was a “disgusting continuation” of 500 years of colonization.
“It’s absurd for us to see such a declaration the day after Thanksgiving, but that’s the state of affairs we are in,” Goldtooth said. “This is the land where our ancestors come from, this is the land where our ancestors dreamed of our existence, of our songs, and of our future lives. In defense of our dreams and in defense of our ancestors we stand strong. We stand strong to protect the sacredness of Mother Earth. We stand strong to defend our rights as indigenous peoples, we stand strong to defend our territorial treaty rights.
“We got this,” Goldtooth said. “This is nothing new to us as native people. We’ve been here before and we’ve gotten through this. These are just intimidation statements, things to put us into a reactionary space, and we refuse to be put into a reactionary space.”
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said the foremost action the Army Corps can take to ensure peace is to permanently deny the easement needed for Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. Additionally, the Army Corps sent its letter to all tribes involved at Standing Rock, and is trying to pressure the tribe, Archambault said.
“We have an escalating situation where safety is a concern for everybody,” Archambault said. “They’ve given us notice, because they want to reduce their liability when something serious happens.”
The main camp, Oceti Sakowin, is on a floodplain, Archambault said, and leadership is currently planning its next steps. “We’re trying to be proactive for when a situation comes. I don’t think the Army Corps of Engineers will come on the fifth. I don’t think anybody is going to come. The Morton County police would have jurisdiction over these lands if ever there are any crimes taking place. We’re not committing any crimes. If Morton County wanted to, they would be able to come in and move us. I don’t think that will happen.
“What they gave us is a notice that these public lands are no long available for hunting, for fishing, and for recreation, recreation can include camping, but what we’re doing here is exercising our First Amendment right, and we’re not breaking any laws.”
The Army Corps does not have an armed force, so they would have to call in other agencies to forcibly evict. “If it was to happen, we need to be given notice, so we can ensure a lot of the property is not damaged. I don’t think it will be an eviction where forces will come and push people off.”
Tribal leaders reported a total of 748 tribal nations are currently at Standing Rock.
Citing Craigslist as a vetted source for information, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier called the activists at Standing Rock, “paid protesters.”
“The energy these paid agitators and protesters exerted to try and draw our law enforcement into confrontations did not work,” Kirchmeier said. “We will respond in kind to any advances protesters make on our line. It’s their decision and they can bring an end to this.”
His department added they know the protesters are paid from information on Craigslist in New York and Fargo.
“This is from intel that has come into us from people saying they were paid to Craigslist ads in NY and Fargo asking for people to give up their job and get paid to come to Standing Rock,” Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported.
Many activists, journalists, photographers, and even the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have asked for donations to assist actions and basic survival against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but such solicitations do not fit the definition of hiring for protest.
Fargo Police Department reported no actions taken at West Acres Shopping Center on November 18, the day an ad in Craigslist appeared calling for people to quit their jobs, be paid USD 1,000, and converge at the shopping mall. Valley News Live Chris Berg reported on the anonymous advertisement on November 16.
“Someone is soliciting to pay #NoDAPL protesters in Fargo via Craigslist,” Berg wrote. “He is inviting people to show up at West Acres Mall…”
The advertisement gave no indication if a male or female posted the advertisement on Craigslist.
Additionally on November 25, a pro DAPL protest advertisement hit Craigslist. “Let’s support DAPL by shutting down the Main Avenue McDonalds on Friday,” the advertisement read. “I will pay $50 to any adults who show up. Come on oil protectors. This is not a hoax this is real.”
The Fargo Police Department had no records of any responses for a pro DAPL protest at McDonalds on Friday.
Morton County has spent more than 10 million tax dollars in its actions against Standing Rock and Supporters, soliciting assistance from nearly 1,300 officers from 25 North Dakota counties, 20 cities, and nine states.
Veterans for Standing Rock
Michael James, an Absentee Shawnee, the warrior clan of the Shawnee tribe, is a veteran with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s planning to travel to Oceti Sakowin with Veterans for Standing Rock on December 5.
“Mother Earth is calling her children to help,” James said.
One of the group’s organizers, Michael A Wood Jr., is a retired Baltimore police officer and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. On his Twitter account, Wood posted, “We with #VeteranStandingRock are deploying to prevent this state sanctioned violence on peaceful protectors… We look to be 2,000 strong and need to transition into a continuous operation.
“The Cavalry of Peace is coming.”
Veterans for Standing Rock include the U.S. Army, United States Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Coast Guard, and are planning to assemble as a “peaceful, unarmed militia” at Standing Rock from December 4 through December 7, according to the group’s Facebook page.
They have a roster of 2,100 people, and told its members to prepare for mace, sound cannons, sniper guns, rubber bullets, attack dogs, concussion grenades, and the effects of hyperthermia. “Bring body armor, gas masks, earplugs, and shooting mufflers (we may be facing a sound cannon) but no drugs, alcohol or weapons.
“Let’s stop this savage injustice being committed right here at home,” the group’s introduction states. “If not us, who? If not now, when? Are you a hero? Are you honorable? Not if you allow this to be the United States.”
Tribal leadership reported at least 1,500 veterans are scheduled to arrive on December 4.