Militarized police advance on Highway 1806 blockade; confrontation imminent
By C.S. Hagen
CANNONBALL – Energy Transfer Partners is attempting to pull Morton County’s legal strings. A statement released by the Texas-based company on Tuesday demanded activists to vacate company-owned lands, or face the consequences.
“Lawless behavior will not be tolerated,” the company stated. “Alternatively and in coordination with local law enforcement and county/state officials all trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land.”
In a move many call unlawful and controversial, Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, quietly purchased 6,000 acres of the Cannon Ball Ranch on September 22, claiming it was needed as a buffer zone for their 1,172-mile-long oil pipeline.
On Sunday, hundreds of activists moved tipis and tents directly into the pipeline’s pathway, and under their own eminent domain laws reclaimed the land in question that was originally theirs according to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. Devastating national disasters that came after the 1944 Pick-Sloan Plan for building flood controlling dams along the Missouri River eventually led to a condemnation suit in 1960 that gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers title to lands in the immediate area.
The Cannon Ball Ranch was established in 1883, and was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999. The 20 parcels of the Cannon Ball Ranch previously owned by David and Kathy Meyer, are lands the Standing Rock Sioux claim are sacred, filled with burial grounds, and also where attack dogs led by DAPL security personnel bit at least half a dozen activists.
Seven archaeologists from the State Historical Society of North Dakota conducted a pedestrian survey of a portion of the area, and determined there were no human burial grounds on the land.
“The inventory recorded ten locations where rodent-to-bovine-sized mammal bone fragments and teeth were present,” Chief Archaeologist Paul Picha said in a September 21 report. “No cultural material was observed in the inspected corridor. No human bone or other evidence of burials was recorded in the inventoried corridor.”
An area map provided by the State Historical Society of North Dakota shows the area in question, somewhere between the Meyer’s former land, now purchased by DAPL, its proximity to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ land, and the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Recently, Hollywood movie stars, including Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, and Shailene Woodley, who plead not guilty on Wednesday to misdemeanor charges in Morton County District Court, have been speaking out against the Peace Garden State’s tactics.
“This just has to stop,” Ruffalo said in an Indigenous Environmental Network live feed after being turned away by police barricade near Cannonball. “We’re going to win. I just want to say for anyone with money in this pipeline better start pulling that money out now, in another couple of months they’re going to lose their shirts, because we’re going to kick the crap out of this thing. In a peaceful way.”
“Not only is it an environmental, but it’s a problem in terms of social justice,” Sarandon told activists at a rally in Los Angeles.
Reverend Jesse Jackson also traveled to North Dakota Wednesday to show support to the activists. “I am proud to stand with the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to say enough is enough,” Jackson said in a press release. “I ask the government to keep its promises, to protect the sacred sites of the tribe and the water that million of Americans count on to survive.”
“We have the resources, we have the manpower to go down and end this right now. We have that ability,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said. “But what we did today was go down and reach out to the camps.”
Laney, who serves as Morton County Sheriff’s Department operations chief, said he approached the activists at the roadblock, and told them to clear the highway, go back to the Seven Council Fires camps, because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t have a problem with them being there. “And then let’s talk.
“They said absolutely they’re not going to leave, they’re going to draw their line in the sand at 1806. They’re going to make their stand there.”
“Our message was simple, remove the illegal road block, move off the private property, and return to the camp on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said. “Unfortunately, I am very saddened by the response of the protesters’ spokesperson. He repeatedly told our group they we’re ‘not moving’ and that they would hold their ground at the north encampment which is on private property.”
He said the Morton County Sheriff’s Department is being depicted as the jack-booted thug, looking for confrontation. “But we don’t want a confrontation. We’re trying everything we can to not have to do that. We’re having our hand forced, and at some point rule of law has to be enforced. We have to defend rule of law.”
Kirchmeier has been in contact with tribal leaders, Laney said. The two-month long misconception that Kirchmeier took ceremonial peace pipes for pipe bombs is wrong. Tribal leaders, Laney said, told Kirchmeier that pipe bombs were being made in the camp.
Since early August, nearly 270 people have been arrested, many of whom were stripped, on misdemeanor and felony charges.