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North Dakota

Leaks and Militarized Policing: Water Protectors are Proven Right

By Michael J. Sainato - CounterPunch, May 30, 2017

The water protectors’ efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline were a historic mobilization of Native American tribes from all across the country coming together in solidarity for the Standing Rock Sioux. The original route of the pipeline was moved from Bismarck, North Dakota, onto Standing Rock Sioux reservation land and sacred tribal grounds.

Despite the overt violation of treaties between the federal government and the Standing Rock Sioux, the pipeline’s construction persisted while mainstream media outlets and Democratic Party leaders all virtually remained silent on the issue.

The void in media coverage was filled by alternative media outlets and citizen journalists. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) were two of the small handful of elected officials willing to speak out on behalf of the NoDAPL fight.Throughout months of living at the Standing Rock camps, water protectors endured constant abuse, violence, and a propaganda campaign from the Morton County Sheriff’s Office and hired security contractors.

On May 27, the Intercept reported, “a SHADOWY INTERNATIONAL mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept.”

Memory, Fire and Hope: Five Lessons from Standing Rock

By Alnoor Ladha - Common Dreams, March 8, 2017

Last week, on February 22, 2017, water protectors at the Oceti Sakowin camp, the primary camp of Standing Rock, were evicted by the Army Corps of Engineers in a military style takeover. A peaceful resistance that began with a sacred fire lit on April 1, 2016, ended in a blaze as some of the protectors, in a final act of defiance, set some of the camp’s structures on fire.

The millions of people around the world who have stood in solidarity and empathy with Standing Rock now stand in disbelief and grief, but the forced closure of the encampment is simply the latest chapter in a violent, 500-year-old history of colonization against the First Nations. It is also the latest chapter in the battle between an extractive capitalist model and the possibility of a post-capitalist world.

Of course, the ongoing struggle will not go down in the flames at Oceti Sakowin. We should take this opportunity to remember the enduring lessons of this movement, and prepare ourselves for what is to come next.

Outcry Kills Anti-Protest Law in Arizona, But Troubling Trend Continues Nationwide

By Lauren McCauley - Common Dreams, February 28, 2017

Rash of anti-protest laws and effort to dismiss demonstrators as 'paid agitators' are 'standard operating procedure for movement opponents,' says expert.

An Arizona bill that sought to prosecute protest organizers like racketeers is officially dead after widespread outcry forced state lawmakers to put that effort to rest, marking a victory for the national resistance movement currently facing a rash of legislation aimed at stifling dissent.

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard announced late Monday that the bill, SB 1142, would not move forward in the legislature.

"I haven't studied the issue or the bill itself, but the simple reality is that it created a lot of consternation about what the bill was trying to do," Mesnard, a Republican, told the Phoenix New Times. "People believed it was going to infringe on really fundamental rights. The best way to deal with that was to put it to bed."

Indeed, the legislation, which would have expanded state racketeering laws to allow police to arrest and seize the assets of suspected protest organizers, made national headlines last week after passing the GOP-led Senate.

However, according to The Arizona Republic, the bill's "fate was sealed over the weekend" as Mesnard "fielded phone calls from the public to complain about the bill. The House leader's personal cellphone number is listed on his personal website. As he listened to the callers, Mesnard realized their belief that the legislation was intended to curb free-speech rights outweighed any merits its supporters might put forward. He carefully read the legislation and by the time he returned Monday to his office, where there were more than 100 messages about the bill awaiting him, he decided he would kill the measure."

The so-called "Plan a Protest, Lose Your House Bill" was the most recent state-level attempt to crackdown on the growing protest movement and opponents celebrated its defeat.

"Thanks to everyone who spoke out against this terrible proposal!" the ACLU of Arizona wrote on Twitter. "Continue fighting for our civil liberties!"

A recent analysis by the Washington Post found that "Republican lawmakers in at least 18 states have introduced on voted on legislation to curb mass protests," which includes bills that would "increase punishments for blocking highways, ban the use of masks during protests, [and] indemnify drivers who strike protesters with their cars."

As Common Dreams has previously observed, most of these anti-protest bills have sprouted up in Republican-dominated states that have seen a flurry of demonstrations and civil disobedience.

Solidarity Report from Standing Rock

By Nancy Romer - New Politics, Winter 2017

The struggle at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was one of the major political mobilizations of 2016, combining the demand for Native rights with the call for environmental justice. New Politics asked Nancy Romer to cover these events for us. She was at Standing Rock from November 10-15.

Her initial report and her article on the meaning of the victory achieved on December 5—and the struggle that still remains—have been posted on the New Politics website. Here we print two more of her dispatches from the scene, showing some of the day-to-day dynamics of standing with Standing Rock.

In this report I will try to give you a sense of what it was like to be at Standing Rock. Tonight completes my third day here. The weather has been mostly cold but very sunny. The colors, the sky, but most of all the people are startlingly calm and beautiful. The Standing Rock encampment is defined as a prayer site, a place to contemplate and to appreciate nature, “the creator” (not my words), and each other. The indigenous people here, from just about every tribe in the United States and some from Canada, are so welcoming and warm to outsiders. They repeatedly say how much they appreciate the presence of non-indigenous folks and how they want to share with us. They are strict on the rules: no violence of any kind; no drugs, alcohol, or guns; respect for indigenous ways; making oneself useful.

The vast encampment contains four or five separate but connected camps, some on the Sioux reservation land, others outside. The largest one is immediately off reservation land, Oceti Sakowin Camp; it is the one in which most of the activities happen. The others are either defined by age—elders or youth—or vary by activity. There is a “Two-Spirit Camp” for gender non-conforming people, a traditional and accepted group in Native culture. We spend most of our time at Oceti, but today I took a long walk and visited two of the other camps just to get a flavor of them. “NO DAPL” stands for “No Dakota Access Pipeline,” and signs with the slogan are everywhere, as is the phrase “water is life.” There is a religious feel to the camps and great respect all around. In many ways this is a very old-style indigenous encampment, and in many ways it feels like a post-revolutionary or post-apocalyptic future. The pace is slow though everyone seems to move with great purpose. People jump in and do the tasks that seem to be needed: cooking, cleaning, helping each other to put up a yurt or a teepee, chopping wood, tending fires, washing dishes, and offering legal, medical, or psychological help. Cell and internet service is miserable and probably interfered with by the constant drones that fly above the camps.

On Friday morning, day two of my trip, I attended a brilliantly presented orientation to the camp. One of the presenters was Maria Marasigan, a young woman I know from our shared days in the Brooklyn Food Coalition. It was the best anti-racist training for allies that I have witnessed: It was succinct, not guilt-trippy, and very direct. The three main concepts are: indigenous centered, build a new legacy, and be of use. Presenters shared the Lakota values that prevail in the camp: prayer, respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, humility, and wisdom. For me the most impactful point was respect. They defined that as including slowing down, moving differently with clearer intention and less reactivity. They suggested asking fewer questions and just looking and learning before our hands pop up and we ask to take up space. They clarified a gendered division of behavior and practice, including asking “feminine identified” women to honor traditional norms by wearing skirts during the sacred rituals (including in the cooking tent) and for women “on their moons” to spend time in a tent to be taken care of and rest if they choose. Somehow it seemed okay, actually respectful, not about pollution and ostracism. While I was helping out in the cooking tent—my main area of contribution—an indigenous woman came by with about ten skirts and distributed them to the mostly women in the cooking tent, explaining that cooking is a sacred activity, and we gladly put them on. It served as an extra layer of warmth over my long underwear and jeans. It was not what I expected but it seemed fine to all of us. We just kept chopping away at the veggies.

Later that day I attended a direct-action training that was also quite thorough and clear. Lisa Fithian, an old friend from anti-war movement days, led the training and explained how to behave in an action and how to minimize police violence. Lisa, along with two other strong, smart women, one Black and one Native, laid out a plan to do a mass pray-in in town the next day. My friend and travel companion Smita and I both felt that we couldn’t risk arrest and decided not to join that direct action but to be in support in any way we could. At 8 the next morning about a hundred cars lined up in convoy formation at the exit of the Oceti Sakowin Camp, each with lots of passengers—including some buses and minivans—and went into Manwan, the nearest town. The indigenous folks formed an inner circle and the non-indigenous formed a circle around them. The indigenous folks prayed, sang, and danced. The tactic was exercising freedom to practice their religion while protesting the Dakota Access Pipe Line. No arrests were made despite massive police and drone presence. One local man tried to run over a water protector, but she jumped aside; the man had a gun but was subdued by the cops. Lots of videos were taken, and the man was taken to the local jail. 

On Saturday I finally got a press pass, having been requested by New Politics to cover the encampment. That gave me the right to take photos (otherwise not allowed), but with limitations: no photos of people without permission, or of houses or horses, again, without permission from the people with them. I set out to interview people at the various camps and to get a sense of what people were planning to do for the winter. I spoke with Joe, a part Lakota from Colorado who had been raised Catholic and attended Indian residential schools, taken from his parents by the state because it doubted the ability of the Native community to raise their own kids. He said it was brutal. When asked why he was here, he replied, “This is the first time since Little Big Horn that all the tribes are uniting against a common enemy—the black snake—the pipeline that will harm our water, our people. This unity is making us whole.”

Resisting the Resolution: Call to action in support of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and against the Dakota Access Pipeline

By staff - La Via Campesina, February 10, 2017

The epicenter of the struggle to defend our Mother Earth, Water and Nature is currently Standing Rock.

The North American Region of La Via Campesina sends its most sincere solidarity to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the water defenders in their heroic struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and in defense of Mother Nature and their sacred land. 

We demand that the federal government respect the territorial sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  

Finally, we call upon all of our members and allies of the North American Region of La Via Campesina to mobilize, firmly and widely, to stop the repression and violence by the police and the state against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are protecting their water for all of us, as well as their ancestral land, and their sovereignty.

The challenge at Standing Rock

By Sara Rougeau, Ragina Johnson and Brian Ward - Socialist Worker, February 7, 2017

WATER PROTECTORS and supporters of the #NoDAPL movement have been rocked by a series of orders and press releases from the Trump administration and the state of North Dakota in recent weeks. The pronouncements appear to set the stage for the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

While some politicians backed by various oil and gas corporations overstated the implications of these announcements, water protectors are also debating what the pronouncements mean and the best way to continue the fight against the pipeline.

Some movement leaders are calling for continuing the struggle by rebuilding the protest camps, but others, including Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II, have called on protesters to stand down and limit the struggle to a legal battle in the federal courts.

Already on February 1, law enforcement carried out 74 arrests of water protectors establishing a new camp on land belonging to Energy Transfer Partners--and on February 3, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced it would send additional agents to assist local police in clearing the camps, according to the Washington Post.

Standing with Standing Rock

By Marty Goodman - Socialist Action, January 13, 2017

More than bitter winter weather lies ahead for hundreds of Native American nations and their supporters battling hazardous fossil-fuel pipelines on sacred Sioux land at the Standing Rock camp near Cannonball, North Dakota. A far more bitter struggle looms for Native American rights and climate justice with the incoming Trump administration. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for the Department of Energy, is a climate-change denier and sits on boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco, two companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Oil company execs are vowing to complete the pipeline despite a Dec. 4 decision by the Obama administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not give the go-ahead to Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL) to dig pipelines under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a source of drinking water for the Sioux nation and millions downstream. The decision instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental study with community input, a process that could take one or two years.

On Dec. 13, the New York Daily News posted a recording it had received in which Mathew Ramsey, a top exec at Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s parent company, was said to be telling ETP staff, “I’ve got to tell you, election night changed everything.” Ramsey said on the recording, “We fully expect as soon as he is inaugurated this team is going to move to the final approvals, and DAPL will cross the lake.”

Vulture capitalist and President-elect Donald Trump has declared his support for the pipeline and is personally invested in DAPL for up to $1 million. Also invested are many of the corporations of Trump’s billionaire pals, such as Chase Morgan bank, the Bank of America, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo—which alone has invested $467 million. The pipeline will extend 1170 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through sacred Sioux land to Illinois and ultimately to the Gulf Coast. The cost is $3.7 billion.

A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe contends that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal laws in allowing the pipeline to be dug under Lake Oahe. If the Army Corp’s permission to dig is restored, or if the federal court in North Dakota accepts DAPL’s arguments, pipeline construction could resume.

North Dakota’s laws are the strictest when it comes to allowing out of state public defenders to represent “water protectors” facing charges in court, now totaling at least 550. The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) of the National Lawyers Guild provides legal support but is overwhelmed and urges the state to relax its guidelines. Seventy-five North Dakota lawyers have been assigned 165 cases, but an additional 264 water protectors remain without lawyers.

The WPLC has also called for the dismissal of State Attorney Ladd Erickson for his inflammatory comments in court, referring to water protectors as staging “fake news” and “simply props for videos of stage events.” The hearings have been postponed, and the Trump administration’s actions will ultimately determine the continued relevance of the lawsuit. Whatever happens, the first rule of capitalism will still apply: ‘laws are meant to be broken’ … if they stand in the way of profits!

Originally, DAPL was to traverse an area close to the mostly white Bismarck, some 50 miles distant, but when the plan encountered opposition, the pipeline was rerouted to Standing Rock. DAPL is in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the treaty of 1868. In the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of acres of Sioux land was seized to make way for a dam, with little or no compensation. In the treaties, the Sioux agreed to keep the area undeveloped and for hunting, but it is now ravaged by fossil-fuel polluters.

Demonstrating corporate contempt for the environment, a recent examination of oil spills in the last 30 years revealed over 8700 pipeline spills. On Dec. 13, two hours from Standing Rock, a pipeline spilled an estimated 176,000 gallons of crude into the Ash Coulee Creek. Sunoco Logistics, DAPL’s future operator, has the worst safety record of all. According to government statistics, it has had over 200 leaks since 2010. Last October, a Sunoco gas pipeline ruptured in Pennsylvania, spilling 55,000 gallons into the Susquehanna River.

The outrage at Standing Rock is a continuation of 500 years of the rape of Native American rights through massacres, racism, land theft, and forced displacement. DAPL is a textbook case of environmental racism and is in violation of international laws and agreements on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Standing fast at Standing Rock

By Lois Danks - Freedom Socialist, December 2016

Indian-led encampments on Standing Rock Sioux territory are digging in for the North Dakota winter. They are determined to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. And they are not alone, as thousands upon thousands join their bold struggle to save planet resources and peoples.

Already they have won a temporary victory from the government to halt the digging, but Dakota Access is moving equipment to tunnel under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. And the Norway-based bank DNB has sold its pipeline assets and may terminate loans.

The construction, which was fast-tracked without a full environmental review and without the knowledge and consent of the Standing Rock Sioux, is planned to carry half a million barrels of oil every day. A spill would poison the water supply and farmlands of the Standing Rock Indian reservation and of 17 million people downriver.

Since April the largest Standing Rock camp (Oceti Sakowin or the Seven Council Fires) has welcomed hundreds of tribes and dozens of delegations including the Two Spirit (LGBTQ) delegation and Labor for Standing Rock. At times the camp swells to over 7,000 people dedicated to halting the pipeline construction.

North Dakota's Public Bank Was Built for the People: Now It's Financing Police at Standing Rock

By Matt Stannard, YES! Magazine - December 14, 2016

In 1918 in Bismarck, North Dakota, populist socialism won big: The Nonpartisan League, a political party founded by poor farmers and former labor organizers, captured both houses of the North Dakota Legislature. Farmers had been badly hurt by big banks charging double-digit interest rates and by grain companies that operated every elevator along the railroad route, underpaying and cheating the farmers. In response, the new government created the publicly owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) and the North Dakota Mill and Elevator. Both institutions epitomize American public cooperativism, creating democratic checks on private interests' ability to manipulate financial and agricultural markets. The Bank of North Dakota, in particular, created a firewall against the destructive practices of Wall Street banks, a firewall that went on to protect the state from the worst effects of the financial downturns of the next hundred years.

Nearly a century later, in 2016, that same bank lent nearly $10 million to local law enforcement to fund their response to protests near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The millions in loans provided by BND allowed the police to double down on suppression of the Standing Rock Sioux's resistance to construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. They have used harsh detention measures, injury-causing rubber bullets, and water cannons in freezing weather in an effort to demoralize and disperse water protectors, whose chief political actions were praying and nonviolent civil disobedience.

North Dakota's leadership has bound the state's economy up so tightly in fossil fuels that it has forced itself to subsidize the security costs of energy companies. In fact, the energy industry has come to expect subsidization for its costs and easy externalization of its negative impacts.

A public bank created to empower small farmers and protect common people from outside interests was used to silence indigenous and environmental opposition to outside interests. How did this happen? And what's the takeaway for those who point to public banking as a key solution to breaking the power of Wall Street?

Nurses Donate $50,000 to Aid Veterans Stand with Standing Rock

By Charles Idelson - Common Dreams, December 2, 2016

As Third Delegation of RN Volunteers Heads to North Dakota
RNs Call to President Obama, Attorney Gen Lynch to Intervene

National Nurses United today announced that it is donating $50,000 to support U.S. service veterans who are assembling this weekend as peaceful, unarmed defenders for the water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota who are enduring military style police assaults for opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, herself a decorated veteran, will be joining with the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock mobilization to support the protectors and help raise public attention to the growing human rights emergency that has emerged at the protest site in the face of increased attacks.

The NNU donation will assist a delegation of Navajo veterans from Arizona and New Mexico who will join the veterans gathering this weekend. Through NNU’s Registered Nurse Response Network, RN volunteers have worked with Navajo First Nation members before, providing first aid in September at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, AZ.

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock plan a deployment December 4 to 7 of 2,000 veterans of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard who intend to “defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation of the militarized police force and DAPL security.”

Concurrently, NNU is dispatching its third delegation of RN volunteers Saturday to stand in solidarity with the water protectors and their supporters.

“We salute the brave veterans who are standing up for the rights of the water protectors, and all of us who support this critical defense of the First Amendment right to assemble and protest without facing brutal and unwarranted attacks,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

In a letter last week to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, NNU urged the Department of Justice “to promptly end the militarized response to Standing Rock water protesters and immediately stop the law enforcement use of military grade weapons and equipment that comes from the federal government.”

Nurses also support the call by tribal leaders on President Obama to deny the easement for the pipeline and “to protect the water for Standing Rock citizens and the 17 million people downstream”  as well as the call on North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple to “stop the constitutional and human rights violations that are happening at Standing Rock.”

A combination of police agencies in apparent collaboration with DAPL private security contractors have reportedly used rubber/plastic bullets, tear gas grenades, pepper spray, sound cannons, and water cannons in sub-freezing temperature against those who oppose construction of a pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux and allies say threatens water resources and ancestral sacred sites.

One protester, 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky, has faced the loss of an arm after being hit with a police concussion grenade, according to the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council.

NNU volunteers will also be on hand this coming weekend. One RN headed to the site this weekend, Amy Bowen, said she is “committed to exhausting every effort to help save our environment and take a stand for our most basic human necessity: clean, oil-free water.

“I, along with other nurse volunteers with RNRN, will stand in solidarity to support the water protectors,” Bowen said.

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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