I haven't written much about the Standing Rock actions against the Dakota Access Pipe Line lately. It's a very emotional story in the Ché household, for it shows something about the strength of Indian peoples that we haven't really seen since the AIM uprisings all those many years ago.
Some of those AIM activists are now teaching classes on Native American topics in colleges and universities all over the country, and that's one way activism is co-opted. It usually works. This time, however, the authorities appear to be intent on crushing the Indian rebellion with massive force.
In some ways it's a replay of the First Nations uprising in Canada over pipelines and oil extraction and terrible environmental consequences that affected Native Peoples primarily. We didn't hear a lot about it south of the border, but the protests and other actions (some still ongoing) were constant, widespread, and widely supported in Canada and around the world. They were partially effective, but not without cost to individuals and the tribes. Many were arrested and brutalized by the RCMP, and many still face abuse by authorities for daring to stand up to the power of oil interests.
The First Nations of Canada have been partially successful in forcing governments and private interests to pay attention to the interests and needs of the Native Peoples, and to curb their appetites for unfettered resource extraction above all other considerations. I understand some projects have been canceled, pipelines shut down or rerouted, environmental cleanup begun, water contamination halted here and there, and even some compensation provided to tribes.
It's not enough, but it is something. And it took months and months of constant protest and nonviolent resistance to get even that.
Actions against the Keystone XL pipeline were highlighted in this country, and they also involved a lot of Indian/First Nations activists. Ultimately, those actions were successful in stopping that project -- at least for the time being. The Dakota Access Pipeline seemed to come out of nowhere, and apparently it was fast-tracked by the Corps of Engineers and regulators in order to get done before anybody noticed.
The pipeline was originally routed just to the north of Bismark (90% Anglo). The people of Bismark rose up in righteous indignation and insisted the pipeline be re-routed south of their source of drinking water, the Missouri River. So it was done. The pipeline is now routed to cross the Missouri just north of the current boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Cannonball, ND. The Standing Rock tribe claims the land on which the pipeline is being built as Treaty Land, part of the original much larger Reservation that was negotiated in the Treaty of Laramie in 1851, lands that were never ceded by the tribe but were essentially confiscated by the US government in periodic seizures in order to give the land to Anglo squatters -- and the Corps of Engineers among other agencies.
The tribe and their allies claim the pipeline is inherently unsafe, and if it breaks under or near the River, it will contaminate drinking water not only for the tribe but for millions of Americans living downstream. They would prefer that the pipeline not be built at all because it is just too dangerous, but they recognize the counter argument that the way the oil from the Bakken Field is being transported now -- by truck and rail -- is even more dangerous; oil transport trains are called "Bomb Trains" for a reason, after all. Pipelines, while marginally safer than rail or road transport of petroleum, are also vulnerable -- as the recent explosion of a gasoline pipeline in Alabama demonstrates.
The obvious answer is to leave the oil in the ground. Given the way oil prices have collapsed, that may be the ultimate resolution to the issue, but we're not there yet.
The tribe and its allies have formed a number of camps on the Reservation and near it, full of Native and allied activists from the Standing Rock Reservation and from Native communities throughout North and South America. It's a wonder to behold. Thousands have gathered periodically and many hundreds have stayed on. There are actions almost every day.
These are genuine Native American encampments that evoke many of the Natives' prior ways. They are highly spiritualized assemblies of peoples, extraordinary in their discipline and determination. They are called together to pray and to protect the water under the banner, "Water is Life."
They are acting in accordance with Native spiritual principles and under a code of non-violence.
Somehow over the years non-violence has been re-defined as "peaceful," but it's not. "Peaceful" implies passive and obedient. Non-violent activism is deliberately disruptive, often loud, and is almost always met with official violence. A non-violent demonstration -- such as the ones taking place almost daily in North Dakota -- will nearly always be met with increasing levels of state violence, including violent arrests and dispersal tactics, and with false accusations of violence by the demonstrators. (Cf: Occupy; BLM)
The militarization of the reaction by North Dakota -- and other -- law enforcement agencies is spectacular overkill, but much the same reaction happened in Canada when the First Nations activists got in the way of private oil interests. We've seen this script play out before, many times.
North Dakota has been bringing in police from as far away as Minnesota and Ohio under "mutual aid" agreements to "help" with controlling the Wild Indians and their allies. They have engaged in extraordinary levels of violence against non-violent activist, with hundreds arrested and many injured by rubber bullets, dog bites, tear gas, pepper spray, truncheons, and other weapons. At least one horse has been killed by police, and others injured by police or dogs (the police call the horses "weapons.") Drones sent up by the Indians to document the atrocities have been shot at by police. Many of those who have been arrested have been brutalized in custody, kept in kennel-like cages, denied medical attention for injuries or chronic conditions, forced to submit to humiliating searches, and had their property confiscated. They've been charged with "riot" when no such thing has taken place -- though police on some of their rampages can be characterized as rioting against the calm determination of the Water Protectors.
Elders and children have been particularly targeted for brutalization, pour encourager les autres.
The militarized response by police would be startling if we hadn't seen it before, particularly in Ferguson, where police behavior and use of military equipment and tactics against non-violent protest was seen by Americans on that scale for perhaps the first time. It was shocking then.
What also characterized the Ferguson response were constant and blatant lies from the authorities about the "violence" of the protesters. It was fairly obvious that in some cases, provocateurs had been seeded in the crowds, and some of the so-called "violence" was perpetrated by those provocateurs (mainly rock and bottle throwing). But in other cases, the police simply lied about being "fired upon" by members of the crowds of demonstrators or about being "assaulted" by them. They lied about "riots" too. In fact there was vandalism and arson and some instances of looting, but what they had to do with the protests, if anything, remains a mystery. This was also true in Baltimore, and more recently in Charlotte.
As some observers have pointed out, at least to some extent these unfortunate actions appear to have been provoked by police. It appears that law enforcement is trying mightily to provoke a violent response by the Water Protectors in North Dakota as well.
This is apparently counter-insurgency doctrine used nearly universally in this country in response to civil unrest, particularly against "peaceful" protest (ie: non-violent, not necessarily "peaceful" at all).
Get them to do something not "peaceful" and almost any level of crackdown violence is justified, no?
And if the activists won't cooperate, lie about them. Provoke, precipitate, seed with provocateurs. Do anything to shut down the activists and interfere with their efforts.
From outside looking in, that appears to be what's been going on as the militarized response to the Water Protectors intensifies.
And the police over and over again are showing themselves to be cowards and bullies, scared to death of these Indians and their allies, and becoming more and more violent and brutal as a result of their fear.
Cowards and bullies, the lot of them.
Yes, well. That's pretty much how America's Imperial Storm Troopers behave around the world. They are so jacked up and fearful of their adversaries and enemies that they routinely slaughter innocents, non-combatants, anyone and everyone who gets in their way or who might do so, and this behavior inevitably leads to blowback and even fiercer resistance by the target population. Inevitably.
Even the British back in the hey-day of their brief Empire knew that such behavior by their own conquering armies and mercenaries and police would inevitably produce the kind of blowback that they ultimately could not resist. Nevertheless, they routinely employed extraordinarily brutal and bloody tactics against their restive colonial subjects -- with inevitable results. The Empire self-immolated and collapsed.
On the other hand, their American descendants seem to have no self-awareness about these things and their inevitable consequences, even when they encounter them at home and abroad. It doesn't seem to occur to them that their cowardly, violent, and bloody behavior toward their "subjects" precipitates the blowback they experience and leads to their defeat due to the resistance and refusal to comply by their targets.
The police in this country seem to have adopted this failed military counter-insurgency doctrine in their repeated efforts to deal with nonviolent civil unrest, activism and protest. It is failing just as the military is failing world wide, and for much the same reason. This cowardly violence against nonviolence driven by irrational fear -- which is induced by training and commanders -- has an inevitable consequence. And it isn't victory for the cowards. Just the opposite.
The Water Protectors in North Dakota have developed a world-wide support network. While there isn't a lot of coverage of what's going on in this country (and much of the coverage there is merely parrots official lies), notice has been taken outside the country and support has been growing exponentially. The Water Protectors have been able to raise millions of dollars through online donations, money that's being used to support the camps and provide legal defense for those who have been arrested. Thousands have assembled in the camps from time to time to engage in both community building and activism against the pipeline and to protect the water for themselves and millions of others. The permanent camps host at least 600 and often more activists, even as North Dakota's fierce winter begins.
A campaign to use Facebook to emphasize support for the Water Protectors led to more a million people signing in to FB with their stated location "Standing Rock" no matter where they were in the world. Go Fund Me efforts have raised millions of dollars to support the Water Protectors.
And now word is circulating that the pipeline may be rerouted away from the Standing Rock Reservation or... maybe... it could be canceled altogether.
That remains to be seen, but at least there is "talk."
Part of the frustration of all this is that the Bundy led armed insurrectionists in Nevada and Oregon seem to be able to get away with their actions against the Big Bad Gubmint, whereas unarmed Native or black protests are met with some of the most ridiculous threats and militarized police responses imaginable -- to protect a corporate owned pipeline. This is an almost perfect example of what cowards and bullies our police have been allowed to become. If their targets are unarmed they feel they can use any level of force they want, and the more intimidating they appear to be (with their MRAPS and LRADS and assault rifles and riot gear and whatnot) and the more violently they suppress the protest the better. Whereas if they are confronting an armed insurrection, they stand back, adopt a modest and nonthreatening posture, they negotiate, they blandish, persuade, take their time, and avoid confrontation at all costs -- at least until they are literally shamed into taking some kind of action to end the standoff. They allow the Bundys to run essentially roughshod over the very concept of law, the very idea of order.
It's been said that the Bundys and other militia types are allowed to get away with their insurrections because they are White. That may be true. I tend to think it's more because they represent a real -- armed -- threat to the authorities, whose prime directive is Force Protection. In other words, as long as the authorities believe they are under no particular threat, they can and will behave as violently as they want against protest and civil unrest. If they detect a real threat, they will back down, retreat, negotiate. Their primary interest is to protect themselves first, after all.
Standing Rock Water Protectors say they need firewood for the impending winter. Send it if you can, but they will accept money in lieu of goods and services. Log into Facebook, if you use it, stating your location as Standing Rock. A delegation from IAIA in Santa Fe went to North Dakota about a month ago, and another one may be organized shortly. Individuals from New Mexico are frequently going to ND to stand with Standing Rock. They may not be able to stay more than a few days, but it is important to demonstrate solidarity.
And so it goes.
This is an important struggle for all of us. While Ms Ché and I cannot be there physically, we have been there in spirit. We support the activists and the camps.
[I'll add some links in due time, but for now, just Google Standing Rock and see what's going on, both from the Native perspective and from the point of view of the cowards and bullies trying -- and failing -- to suppress the Water Protectors.]
Linkies: Please watch the embedded videos. You will see just what sort of cowards and bullies the brave warriors are up against.
Unicorn Riot has been covering the actions at Standing Rock and elsewhere for many months. Check it out:
Police & Military Attack Oceti Sakowin Treaty Camp from Unicorn Riot on Vimeo.