As Veterans for Standing Rock bow in an apology to Native Americans, Energy Transfer Partners said their plans will not be changed
By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Fargo city leaders asked the state for a peaceful resolution Monday, while veterans from across the nation apologized for colonialist behavior, bowing before Native Americans in Standing Rock.
Energy Transfer Partners reported it didn’t care what the US Army Corps of Engineers said. The Dakota Access Pipeline will carry on.
More than 2,000 veterans travelled to Standing Rock over the weekend, according to Veterans for Standing Rock’s Facebook page. Their arrival assisted Standing Rock and the tribe’s supporters in its fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to activists, and an apology made by the veterans to Native Americans helped heal old wounds.
“We came, we fought you, we took your land,” Wesley Clark Jr., son of retired General Wesley Clark Sr., said. Clark Jr. is one of the organizers of the Veterans for Standing Rock. “We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain… and then we took your children, we tried to take your language. We didn’t respect you. We polluted your earth. We hurt you in so many ways, and we’ve come to say we are sorry. We are at your service.”
The group then took a knee, bowing before Native Americans. Some kneeling choked back sobs. The hall was silent when Chief Leonard Crow Dog placed a hand on top of Clark’s head, saying all was forgiven.
“World peace,” Crow Dog said. “We will take a step, we are Lakota sovereign nation. We were a nation and we’re still a nation. We have our language to speak. We have preserved the caretaker position. We do not own the land. The land owns us.”
According to some estimates more than 12,000 people are currently at Oceti Sakowin, or in nearby shelters as the second snow storm in as many weeks hit the area.
On Monday, one person was arrested and charged with criminal trespass after he allegedly crossed Backwater Bridge. The arrest total is now 566, according to Morton County Sheriff’s Department.
“This is the kind of stuff that re-escalates things, and then he brings the attitude right along with it,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said. Laney has been working as operations chief for Morton County since August.
Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics said the decision made by the US Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday to reject the easement proposal for crossing the Missouri River at Lake Oahe was a “purely political action.
“For more than three years now, Dakota Access Pipeline has done nothing but play by the rules,” a press release made available by Energy Transfer Partners reported. “The White House’s directive to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.
“As stated all along, [we] are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this administration has done today changes that in any way.”
Politicians around the Peace Garden State echoed Energy Transfer Partners condemnation. Few congratulated Standing Rock on its win.
Congressman Kevin Cramer R-ND., called President Obama lawless.
Morton County Chairman Cody Schulz hopes the federal government sends in troops to clear out the camps after President-elect Donald J. Trump takes office.
Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley, a frequent naysayer against Standing Rock and its supporters has also spoken on radio shows such as the Flag and on Rob Port’s SayAnything blog damning the protests and reporting activists have nobody to blame but themselves for injuries or hardship.
Wrigley dropped hints to the Fargo City Commissioners on Monday that Morton County still needed Fargo’s police support against No DAPL activities.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, it is not a protest,” Wrigley said. Assaults on police, illegal activities, illegal camping on lands owned by the Army Corps do not constitute a protest, he said. “The protest has now gone up to about 7,000 people, the state of the situation remains very tense, and I don’t see it being resolved anytime soon.
“Nobody wants there to be a humanitarian disaster out there. They’re in tents, in yurts… It’s cold, it’s snowing.”
Allegations against excessive use of force by law enforcement, are only on social media have not been substantiated, Wrigley said. He made no reference to the dozens of lawsuits filed by the Lawyer’s Guild Mass Defense Committee and other law firms. All reports of activists injured have not been substantiated, Wrigley said. He praised law enforcement for holding their ground.
“Law and order has to be maintained,” Wrigley said. “There have been more than 500 arrests, the reason there are not four times that amount of arrests is that we are so outnumbered. We have a 3.8 billion dollar infrastructure project, and it is critical, not only to our economy, but to our way of life.”
Fargo Police Chief David Todd said all city police officers are now home in Fargo.
“Before we send out any more assistance we’re going to see how the decision [Army Corps easement denial] plays out,” Todd said.
At no time during confrontations did Fargo police, the state’s largest police force, use pepper spray, rubber bullets, or water cannons on activists, Todd said.
Morton County asked every department and police chief in the Peace Garden State for help, Todd said, and nearly every department responded.
Every Fargo police officer who went to Morton County volunteered to go, Todd said. “I did not force anyone to go. I have been to Morton County twice… and at times I’ve stood with them on the line as the protests occurred. Many of the protesters are peaceful, and we have supported their First Amendment rights.”
Todd also asked Wrigley for prompt reimbursement of Fargo’s costs during the controversy.
Few voices spoke in defense of the Native Americans: City Commissioner John Strand was one.
“We are very proud of our law enforcement here in town,” Strand said. He is in his third year on the Native American Commission, and said to his knowledge, he knows of no one who advocates violence against police. “The folks I know do not endorse or support unlawful behavior. They stand in prayer and they stand peacefully. To my knowledge it is as spiritual as it is anything else.”
He didn’t divulge into the politics behind the project, but said the public deserves transparency, Fargo police deserved honor and respect, as well as Native Americans. He asked members of the Native American Commission to stand, and he thanked them. A round of applause filled the city commissioners’ room.
“I join in thanking the law enforcement and thanking the Native American leadership for being Americans, and participating, and being engaged, and standing for what you believe in, and for advocating for peace for prayer, and advocating for a higher consciousness for all of us as we move through this.
“I am an eternal optimist – that we will come out of this better for it. There will be an opportunity after this is all done to step up our relationship with our native communities and with each other.”
Mayor Tim Mahoney agreed, saying that Fargo would support peaceful means in the future.
“We on the commission support the fact that we have a strong Native American Commission, and we listen to them, we listen to their thoughts, and we listen to any of their suggestions in our community,” Mahoney told Wrigley. “We know that you and the governor have a tough task before you, we’re all concerned that somebody might get hurt.”
More than 7,000 people against North Dakota’s forces is “just asking for a disaster,” Mahoney said.
“If there’s some way we can help with a resolution, we would be happy to do that. We would like a peaceful resolution, and we will support that 100 percent.”