Standing Rock 3

(My Standing Rock posts are a diary of two trips James and I took to Standing Rock as, with the backing of our church, we protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. The first four posts come from around Labor Day, 2016. The remaining posts come from around Thanksgiving, 2016.)

Let me assure you that despite all the muddy reports about what else happened at the Red Warrior Camp, everyone can agree that the private security folks are the ones who brought German shepherds and chemical spray. They released both weapons on a crowd that had at least one child. And from what I heard from the campers, the dogs were the ones who got so riled that they frenzied. (Perhaps on account of the chemical spray.) We campers heard that they bit anyone they could.

This brings me to my second point. The article says a security agent went to a Bismarck hospital for “undisclosed injuries.” Gee. It’s hard not to be sarcastic here. But let’s not assume anything. Maybe he had heatstroke or something. Let’s just say that if the injury actually came from a protestor, we’d likely have heard about it.

Third, the article claims that no one reported any protestor injuries to the police. Well, you don’t contact the police when you’re at the protest camps. The police have handcuffed campers, and pushed them face-first into the ground. James and I got locked out of our van, and we had to find someone who could actually break in, because… no. No po-po.

Finally, when James and I asked if we could observe a protest, our camp leader said we wouldn’t be allowed to participate unless we had training in non-violent resistance. When we told about the 30 pipeline arrests in Iowa, he asked if the protestors had been peaceful. He told us the media had already alleged there were gunshots and pipe bombs at the North Dakota camps. He said these were lies—and we were inclined to believe him, because all that we witnessed was prayer, song, horse-races, speeches, community picnics, and lots of dishwashing. I will admit that whenever you get 180 nations together, different people will have different ideas about what peaceful protest is. But I would stake my life on the fact that nobody did anything to warrant the atrocity of a dog attack. The protestors took a child to the Red Warrior Protest. They brought a pregnant woman. This was not a war party. The private security agents should receive an investigation. And the mainline media should be rebuked for resorting to one of the oldest and longest-lasting weapons of all—which is defamation.

(Originally posted September 4, 2016)

Standing Rock 2

(My Standing Rock posts are a diary of two trips James and I took to Standing Rock as, with the backing of our church, we protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. The first four posts come from around Labor Day, 2016. The remaining posts come from around Thanksgiving, 2016.)

It’s just before dawn, and I’m sitting in the van we’re using as a camper, while the protest leaders call for volunteers to go to Camp Red Warrior, which is the front-line action site a few miles up the road. Like most of the people here, we’ve decided not to go. Because of our vacation schedule, we’ll have to start our return to Iowa in a few hours. A lawyer has also advised us that if we do indeed witness anything at Camp Red Warrior, we could be subpoenaed to testify on behalf of a trial’s prosecution. And finally, we aren’t heroes. Yesterday’s mace and dog attacks have frightened us.

It’s tough to discern what to do here. Is it worth our protest, to risk arrest? I’d say yes. Is it worth it to risk a bite from a dog who has just bitten two strangers? That is a question we weren’t prepared to answer. The outside media didn’t mention this. At worst—and after some digging—you could find footage of a sheriff pushing over a cuffed man, so that he fell face-first on the ground. We didn’t hear about the police plane and the private-security helicopter that circle the camps during the day. We didn’t hear much about private security at all, or how they are the ones who are using actual weapons against those who have none. We didn’t hear about young men who call themselves warriors, because they are sitting in peaceful protest while a dog could well maim them.

Perhaps events have escalated with the approach of the September 9 court decision. If that’s the case, I fear what will happen in the coming week. Perhaps the media will escalate its coverage as the “authorities” become more violent. Maybe it takes something that salacious to get its attention. Or worse yet, maybe even blood won’t make the headlines, if it comes merely from a Native American.

(Originally posted September 4, 2016)

Standing Rock 1

SD Hills.jpg

 

(My Standing Rock posts are a diary of two trips James and I took to Standing Rock as, with the backing of our church, we protested the Dakota Access Pipeline. The first four posts come from around Labor Day, 2016. The remaining posts come from around Thanksgiving, 2016.)

We arrived at Sacred Stone Camp, which is the prayer camp of the three protest settlements. We unloaded our van of supplies, and by the time we were halfway through, the campers were cheering “Yay, Iowa!” They offered us fresh watermelon. The children especially liked the football we bought. The tribes are trying to erect a semi-permanent settlement here, regardless of what the federal court says on September 9. They are looking for hardware to help with all that—and after a while, they asked if we’d be planning to make a second trip to donate more. There’s a happy, even serene feeling at the camp–but as fall approaches, their need will only increase.

When we asked how we could best help the camp while we are here, they said they need folks to send camp dispatches, like this one. The protestors—or water protectors, as they call themselves—despair at how the local authorities have spread stories about gunfire and pipe bombs. They asked us to show how these protector camps are nothing but peaceful, that they have signs prohibiting guns—despite a citizen’s right to bear guns—to further make their point. When we volunteered to serve as human-rights witnesses on the picket line, they said we would not be allowed even to approach the line, if we hadn’t first been trained in non-violent protest. And when we told them about the pipeline arrests in Boone County, Iowa, their first question was whether those folks were behaving peaceably. 

A sixty-four-year old man, with a prison record, told us that the tribes bear no grudge against the American people. “You’re from a Christian church,” he said. “Your religion is about forgiveness. Tell everybody that the Native Americans have forgiven you your transgressions. We’ve fought wars for you. We have joined your wars, with some of us never coming back, and now you’re taking our water.” He stopped talking then, because he’d begun to weep.

We left the main group, to set up our tent along the river. We watched a black snake catch a fish. A little while later, a young man approached, and offered us a handshake and a cigarette. He was showing us respect, he said, by giving us tobacco. He told us, meekly, that we had camped on a ritual ground, and that he would like us to move. We scrambled with our tent. We lifted it, without taking it down, and carried it up a hill while the wind tried to throw it. We felt that in a way both small and complete, we’d enacted the entire trespass and respectful protest, between settler and Standing Rock Lakota.

(Originally posted September 3, 2016)