Standing Rock and supporters march on Dakota Access, turned back by law enforcement
By C.S. Hagen
CANTAPETA CREEK – Activists defending water fought from inside a near-freezing creek Wednesday in a three-pronged attempt to gain access to Dakota Access Pipeline drill pad.
Early Wednesday morning, activists built a makeshift bridge to span a sixty-foot section of the creek, but law enforcement destroyed it, sparking another standoff.
“Protesters are trying to gain access onto private property also known as the Cannon Ball Ranch,” Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported in a press release. “Law enforcement witnessed a group of protesters building a hand-made, wooden pedestrian bridge across Cantapeta Creek. Officers responded and ordered protesters to remove themselves from the bridge and notified them that if they cross the bridge they would be arrested.
Activists chose to swim across, some standing in the chill waters for hours. Canoes paddled people back and forth. They formed a line along the creek’s bank, many with hands in the air, wrapped in space blankets for warmth, as law enforcement sprayed mace and pepper spray. Guns rose when anyone attempted to climb the muddy banks. The creek turned to a milky color from the amount of toxic sprays used to disperse the activists.
Activists at Oceti Sakowin, or the Seven Council Fires, are trapped; any access to the Dakota Access Pipeline has been blocked. Highway 1806 remains shut down. The police barricade and two DAPL truck skeletons block the highway on the north side of Backwater Bridge. While hundreds of activists attempted to cross Cantapeta Creek, more than 100 others faced off with police along Highway 1806.
The Cantapeta Creek, a tributary to the Missouri River, separates activists from the pipeline route. According to drone video footage, the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline has already reached the Missouri River banks, the United State’s longest waterway.
Tristan Hartwell, an Arapaho from the Arapaho Red River Indian Reservation, said the water felt frozen. She emerged from the creek shaking. “The creator had an eye on me, and I’m doing this for all the people,” Hartwell said.
“Corporations have no right, we have the right to peacefully protest,” a Kansas schoolteacher named Lynne Hunter said. Sitting in a folding chair, umbrella in hand, she lectured law enforcement from the native side of the creek, “This is America. This is not Russia. You can back down.”
Activists doused bandanas with apple cider vinegar to ward off some of the sting from mace. Medics ushered in bottles of a milk of magnesia mix to help those hurting from the pepper spray and mace. Emergency vehicles responded to the standoff as well.
The air was pregnant with burning sage from smudging; pepper spray at times turned acrid on the tongue, leaving lips dry. Drums beat. Activists sang songs, cheering when someone volunteered to enter the cold creek. Some sat in the mud, hands folded in prayer. A third group attempted to draw law enforcement away by staging another action around the creek’s bend. One police officer fainted halfway through the standoff.
Andy Kader was given a hero’s ovation when he stumbled from the creek after staying in the water for more than an hour. He helped swimmers back and forth, made sure logs from the activists’ floating bridge didn’t impede progress.
Shaking wildly, wrapped in a space blanket near a roaring fire, medics reported he had a light case of hypothermia.
“I didn’t feel the cold because of the drums and the prayers of the people kept me going,” Kader said. One foot from the water, however, he couldn’t walk. Activists assisted him to a fire. Kader is a Mohawk, from the “People of the Flint” tribe. A large man, tattooed arms, he spoke quietly as he tried to sip water. His hands shook, making the sips difficult.
“Our water is so badly polluted from where I come from,” Kader said. “It’s already beyond repair. If I could do my little part to help my brothers and sisters from having their waters polluted as ours, it is the least I could do.”
As law enforcement began pepper spraying the activists in earnest, Pete Red Bear knelt along the native side and began a song on an elk flute. He didn’t play traditional songs, he played how the spirits led him, he said.
“They are very brave,” Red Bear said. “We’re all here to protect the water for all life.”
Adam Karls traveled from Sweden to assist Standing Rock. “For me this is like science fiction. This is another world for me, another planet.
“Here in this country they’re still talking about the history – make America great again, but for us, America was never great. You have to deal with your history. I have many white friends in the US, and they don’t care about this. They’re only talking about the drunk Indian, the lazy Indians, because they don’t know the history.
“They’re part of an organized structure that wants to divide everybody,” Karls said. “This is environmental racism.” Before his trip to the Peace Garden State, his friends said he was about to travel to the “Mississippi of the North,” he said.
Trump’s recall for the American Dream he sees as a joke. Many European nations are dealing with their racist pasts, for instance Germany, he said. “The American Dream works best for white rich people. I am so pissed off at my white American friends because they don’t care about this. They get angry when I talk about the past, the dirty past of the US.”
The director general for the National Association for the Advancement of Indigenous People, United Nations Human Right IPO, Tushka Humoc, said he can only sit and wait for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and supporters to “do the right thing.
“We actually came out here to hopefully provide some remedy to this situation in an international venue,” Humoc said. For now, he can only take pictures; conduct interviews, and report back to the United Nations.
“The UN can’t do anything, because they’re US citizens by law,” Humoc said. “The moment they remove themselves from being US citizens by law, then the UN can step in and do something, because the UN has to protect the foreign nationals, whose lands are being occupied by the United States. As long as the United States has these people under BIA, they’re adhesion by Congress, so the federal government controls every aspect of their lives.”
He’s calling out for a deliberate change among indigenous people in the United States.
“They should immediately within 72 hours develop a new trust, submit it to BIA, nothing changes except the power. And now we can move these people [law enforcement] off these lands, it’s really that simple.”
Former Oklahoma Senator Enoch Kelly Haney, full-blooded Seminole and the only Native American to serve on Oklahoma Legislature, said Standing Rock’s stand against big oil has the potential to become “very dangerous.”
As an artist, he crafted a four-foot-tall bronze statue for the tribe, naming it “Standing His Ground,” and is based off the native Dog Soldier’s custom of “pinning” themselves off with sacred arrows when making a final stand, usually against greater odds.
“This is their last stand,” Haney said. “And I do hope this does start some kind of precedent in law.”
President Obama this week announced his administration was watching the Dakota Access Pipeline situation, but wanted it to “play out for several more weeks,” he said, but also stated future plans might include a reroute.
“Given the recent escalation of violence by protesters, letting the situation ‘play out’ is quite literally putting lives in danger,” Morton County Sheriff’s Department reported.
Some activists, frustrated by being trapped, said that perhaps lives is what it may take to stop the pipeline. An argument erupted among the younger generation activists after elders recalled the activists from the Cantapeta Creek.
“Our warriors need to buck up,” an activist said.
“Are you scared to die?” another activist asked.
“No, I am not scared to die.”
“If they start killing innocent people you really think that the US is going to let them build that pipeline?”
“What’s your plan?”
“Let’s all go up there, let’s all go back up there.”
A bystander intervened. “If you don’t know what’s going on, go back to camp. We’re keeping them from working when we stand our ground. Let people do what they feel is right in their heart. Don’t have all this warriors fighting each other; that’s what they want. We have to keep the unity strong.”
The Red Warrior Camp posted in an official statement said they are putting their bodies and lives on the line.
“If you live on this land, breathe the air and drink water, this is your fight too,” the Red Warriors Camp reported. The services date for the Dakota Access Pipeline is January 1, they reported.
“We are calling for two months of sustained waves of action targeting the Army Corps of Engineers, investors, pipeline companies, security firms, and elected officials who are behind this project. We need to hold these institutions, corporations, and individuals accountable and put pressure on them to stop this pipeline.
“Additionally, recognizing that we are being charged with illegal activities for simply protecting the water, we are taking back our power and charging the pipeline companies, banks, and individuals behind this project with crimes against humanity and crimes against Mother Earth. The Dakota Access Pipeline is in direct violation of the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights, most especially in regards to the right to security of person, the right to not be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”