Standing Rock supporters living with record snowfalls and freezing temperatures remain undaunted
By C.S. Hagen
BISMARCK – North Dakota National Guard units, 1,300 law enforcement officers, 585 arrests, and 22 million dollars apparently isn’t enough for the Peace Garden State to stop Standing Rock’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, politicians report.
State politicians are now calling on the Bureau of Indian Affairs to help remove activists from camps along the Cannonball River.
“We want more BIA law enforcement officers working with our state and local law enforcement to move protestors off the Corps land in an orderly way,” Senator John Hoeven R-N.D., said.
All of Hoeven’s guns are blazing as in the same breath he admitted to “working forward” with President-elect Donald Trump’s Administration on the pipeline project, with the US Department of Interior nominee Ryan Zinke R-Mont., and with the BIA’s new director Bruce Loudermilk to discuss the quick dispersal of activists against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is a federal agency established in 1824 under the jurisdiction of the US Department of the Interior.
Hoeven’s petition to add more officers to the standoff between law enforcement and anti-DAPL activists is in preparation for potential spring floods, which according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Michael Mathews is still months away. Snowfalls have reached record depths of 55.3 inches this winter for the Bismarck area, Mathews said, and old man winter shows no signs of slowing down.
The State Water Commission reported a growing potential for spring floods of the main Dakota Access Pipeline camp location, putting the activists camped there at risk, State Engineer Garland Erbele said.
Mathews could make no predictions about spring flooding. “It’s too early to tell,” Mathews said. “We don’t have much in the way of snowfall for the next couple of days. February stays pretty cold, and usually that goes through March or April, sometimes even May. It’s just too early to tell.”
“It would be a pretty big hardship to take that on right now,” Winona Laduke said of Hoeven’s petition to clear the camps. Laduke is a longtime environmentalist, economist, and two-time vice presidential candidate for Ralph Nader’s Green Party. She is also the executive director for Honor the Earth, a non-profit advocate for indigenous environmental support.“Most of the native people have a long understanding of weather patterns, and wise decisions will be made by people who have lived there for thousands of years.”
“I think this is just a total inappropriate overreaction of our US government and military, it continues the mismanagement that started with Governor Dalrymple in calling out the National Guard,” Barry Nelson said. He is an organizer for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition. “The tradition continues.”
Although Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II has asked for activists to return home, hundreds remain at the camps along the Cannonball River in below freezing temperatures.
“It appears that the new management at the camp have it under control, why not trust them?” Nelson said. “They’re demonstrating some realistic and reasonable approaches to this, we should trust their instincts. Why not going down and show some concern? No, let’s just lob something from Washington DC.
Like a much anticipated prize fight, heavyweight North Dakota, pitted against welterweight Standing Rock, has delivered blow after crushing blow, and yet the tribe refuses to go down.
From the beginning of the controversy, former Governor Jack Dalrymple has lied to HPR Magazine about meeting with Archambault on a regular basis. The former governor also declared a state of emergency in August 2016, utilizing approximately 1,300 officers from 25 North Dakota counties, 20 cities, and nine states have been used to keep anti-DAPL activists in check. Half truths, falsehoods, and some truths have been reported on both sides of the front lines. An unarmed activist was placed on Morton County’s Most Wanted List and later arrested for disarming a fully-armed infiltrator in November.
Activists have been torn from prayer circles, maced, pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, bean bags, beaten with clubs, on lands the Standing Rock Sioux still claim as their own. Men and women have been arrested, “branded” with numbers using magic markers like cattle, or Nazi inmates during World War II, and then thrown into dog cages. Hundreds have been injured. Many more lack proper legal counsel.
The list continues. Another uppercut was delivered to Standing Rock on January 5 when Hoeven was elected chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, according to a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs press release. After attempting to thwart Native American voices from the DAPL controversy’s beginning, the blow was called a cheap shot by many.
Hoeven, a former North Dakota governor, an active supporter of the Keystone Pipeline and the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, said he was honored to serve on the committee, but added two of his top priorities were to address job creation and natural resource management issues on native lands.
“One would assume with Indian affairs you would have someone who would have genuine concern of Indian people,” Laduke said.
Despite Standing Rock’s win on December 4 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access Pipeline, the easement needed to drill across the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the tribe has had few legal victories to celebrate.
As Trump prepares to take office on January 20, threatening to dismantle President Obama’s work, and reactivating pipelines across the nation, few activists appear worried.
“It’s happening fam,” attorney and long term activist Chase Iron Eyes said. “We’re going to defeat an empire. We have nothing to lose but the poverty imposed on us. We have nothing to gain but our dignity.”
As Trump promises a better tomorrow by nominating white supremacists and oil tycoons, Senator Heidi Heitkamp R-N.D., issued a statement asking for North Dakotans input.
“Any president should be able to nominate those who he feels will best serve in his administration,” Heitkamp said. “It’s critical for me to hear from North Dakotans and I encourage folks to visit my website to share their comments and offer questions they have to help make sure the nominees are prepared to lead our country.”