Standing Rock Chairman says ‘time to go home,’ Bismarck Police investigate altercation
By C.S. Hagen
CANNONBALL – Blizzards and biting Arctic winds are all in a winter day’s work for most North Dakotans, but to the unprepared the cold can become a struggle between life and death. Due in part to winter conditions this week the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has asked everyone at Oceti Sakowin to go home.
The main road into the camps against the Dakota Access Pipeline has been blocked for weeks, forcing travellers to the area down a longer, winding road. The Backwater Bridge, not more than a spear’s throw from the camps, has become a militarized zone complete with cement impediments, razor wire, and armed police.
“We have no need for water protectors and anyone to put themselves in unsafe environments,” Chairman Dave Archambault II said. “It’s time now, it’s time to go home. It doesn’t do us any good to live in an unsafe environment. It’s okay to go home. If it’s needed in the future, you’re welcome to come back.”
Additionally, Archambault believes Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access Pipeline, will not endanger the company’s situation by breaking the law and drilling without an easement across the Missouri River.
“We have a winter storm, we have cold weather coming. If they violate that easement it’s going to threaten all the investors’ monies.”
Archambault is grateful for the help it has received against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but said the US Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to deny easement, citing that a full environmental impact assessment was needed, cannot be overturned overnight, even if it is President-elect Donald Trump’s top priority, Archambault said. His current job is to convince state and national leadership that the Army Corps’ decision was the right decision, he said.
“If they do drill, which I don’t think they will, they don’t have an easement. What they will do is try to drill right up to that easement just to get a reaction out of water protectors, because a decision was made by the Corps of Engineers, and it was the right decision. They’re trying to convince everyone that this is a wrong decision, and the only way they can do that is if we do something, if we try to commit a crime, like hurt somebody, hurt law enforcement, take over a pad. When we do something like that, it’s an illegal act.”
The Indigenous Environmental Network said they support the chairman’s wishes, but recognize the fight is far from over.
“We are not abandoning our relatives here in Standing Roc,” the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a press release. “In fact, it is escalating and the stakes are even higher. We are stronger than ever, filled with even more hope and more prayer, and no matter who is in the White House, we will continue to follow our original instructions as Indigenous Peoples to defend land and to protect water.”
Not everyone agrees with the chairman.
Attorney Chase Iron Eyes, who ran for congress this year, and has recently become more active in the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline, said people who are capable of withstanding the elements should stay.
“Some people are standing down, packing up, leaving, calling the easement denial a victory while DAPL moved to force the court to allow it to drill,” Iron Eyes said. DAPL owners, which include Energy Transfer Partners, have filed a suit in federal court to force the Army Corps to approve the easement. The hearing is scheduled for Friday.
“The roadblock is still up, militarized presence by DAPL ongoing,” Iron Eyes said. “It’s never been easy. I get it. Be safe, those who are infirm go home, but the reality is thousands are staying and they’re here sacrificing for us because DAPL won’t stand down. They need our courage right now, not our doubt. We help when it gets tough, we don’t run.”
Iron Eyes didn’t fault Archambault for petitioning everyone to go home. “You must remember the chairman is concerned about protectors’ safety. He is the chairman and he’s looking out for all elderly, disabled, children, and others in the camp.”
A Bismarck altercation
A native person going by the name of Shiyé Bidzííl on Facebook was ambushed on Wednesday by two people thought by some to be police officers while at the Ramada Inn. A man in a skull mask approached the vehicle Bidzííl was in, warning them to go home.
“Take your protesting asses back home,” the man said in the video. “All you mother f*cking protesters go home. Us North Dakota people are going to f*ck you up, every f*cking one of you.
“We know who you are too. We follow you too. We f*ck your wives at home, we hope you like it. Go ahead. Threaten us. Keep it up. You threaten our people?”
“This is for real sh*t guys, this is not f*cking joking around sh*t. They blocked us in,” Bidzííl said in the video.
A man he identified as Chris trapped them and refused to let them go, Bidzííl said. Not until bystanders interfered did the two masked men leave. In his video reports Bidzííl said he plans on going to Bismarck to press charges against the people involved.
“What I’m going to do is going to tell the story about what I was doing up there by myself,” Bidzííl said. “I wanted to document what was going on with all of us indigenous people.”
He had difficulty getting a room during the latest blizzard because of his appearance, Bidzííl said.
“When we were up there for three days stuck in the blizzard, we couldn’t get a room,” Bidzííl said. Hotel management said they had no rooms, but he had heard from others that they did have vacancies. “I asked this lady is there a room, and she said no. I asked her was it because we had fatigues on like this? She kinda looked at us all scared, and I realized that how I looked at those guys walking toward our vehicle, in her eyes that is how she thought of us.
“She didn’t have to think like that, but that’s how much fear is running around Bismarck right now, and racism, that stuff is all real.”
The Bismarck Police Department is investigating the case as an altercation, according to a Bismarck Police Department press release. A bystander also filming the incident was threatened along with two other victims. One of the victims involved was followed around town.
“The suspects in this case have been identified and are actively being investigated,” the press release stated. “There have been several rumors circulating that the suspects were police officers. This has been determined to be false.”
Police are also trying to re-contact the victims, and are asking for help in putting the victims in touch with police.
Shortly after the incident, the international network of activists and hacktivists Anonymous released a warning to Morton County Sheriff’s Department saying “Operation Morton” is now engaged.
“Your acts of violence, threats, and torture upon the protestors and water protectors of the North Dakota pipeline have gone too far,” Anonymous stated. “The two officers who threatened the protesters in the parking lot now have 48 hours to turn themselves in, or we will expose all their information publicly.”
License plates of vehicles involved were identified, Anonymous said. They also demanded that officers involved in hurting activists with tear gas, pepper spray, concussion grenades, and water cannons be held responsible.
Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley said to the Fargo City Commissioners on Monday that reports of activists injured by law enforcement have not been substantiated. Excessive use of force by law enforcement is only commentary by social media, Wrigley said.
North Dakota Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Jamie Olson said Highway 6, the only main road leading into Standing Rock, is mostly cleared, but high winds are forcing snow back onto the roadways in some areas.
“There’s certainly an improvement over the last couple of days,” Olson said. “They’re all drivable, but there’s still going to be some areas where there will be snow and ice. It’s not a perfect road.” She advised to slow down, don’t use cruise control, and be alert. Road conditions can be found on a travel information map at www.dot.nd.gov.