Jason Van Tatenhove NorthWest Liberty News
The sky was a grey mist shedding down along the mountain peaks as I traveled back through the high gates of Glacier National Park on my way back to North Dakota. This is now the second time that I have traveled to the Sacred Stone Camp, which lies about 50 minutes south of the North Dakota state capitol of Bismarck. It’s about 14 hours to drive the 2 states, which put my arrival to camp at right about midnight. I made a second trip because I felt I needed to return to see how things would play out after the K9 attacks and the Governor’s call up of 100 National Guard troops. On top of that, the word from my contacts, who have been at the camp for the past two weeks, was that the Guard would be coming through at 0630 to arrest those protestors on the front lines. At the time, we were unclear if the report was fact or rumor.
I found where my friends were camped, and slept in my car that night to maybe get a chance to cover the possible arrests. As is so often the case in these types of protests, mis-information runs amok. Sadly, this situation was no different. As the sun rose, there were no national guardsmen to be seen; except for at the now official military check point along Highway 1806. I had a chance to quickly interview one of the guardsmen, so I took the opportunity to ask him if he felt that this could be a violation of citizens first amendment rights. Please see my video interaction below.
The camp itself has grown tremendously since I was last here 2 weeks ago; as now there are thousands of people scattered among the 3 camps. The camp has also garnered some high-profile celebrity support, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and rapper Immortal Technique; with Black Lives Matters sending a delegation as well. While the vast majority of the protestors are native, those who remain compromise the largest mixture of diverse cultures that I have ever seen at an event like this; and I believe that there are some lessons that all of us who are politically active in our own sphere can learn from this assembly.
By all appearances, the optics of the tribes being specifically unarmed, even after the dog attacks, has really seemed to put the powers that be on notice. As many of you who were at Bundy Ranch, or watched the events unfold, will remember, that stand-off also started as unarmed protestors were attacked by, at the time, BLM security agents with attack dogs and AR-15’s. These events are two sides of the same “land use issues coin” here in the western United States.
We must begin to break down our social differences and stand together as one United people living on the same land to overcome these federal land grabs. The same propaganda that was used to label the protestors at Bundy Ranch as violent extremists is also being used by the powers that be to do the same to the native protestors. This commonality offers us an opportunity to break down some of our social stigmas on all sides.
Ahead of the ruling, several hundred protestors held a demonstration in front of the North Dakota State Capitol. They were greeted by about 50-60 riot control officers pulled from the State Troopers, Sheriff Department and Game Warden, respectively. The event was peaceful and polite on both sides.
In addition to the physical protest on the ground, there was a lot happening on the legal side of the case. A decision was handed down in a 58-page ruling by District Judge James Boasberg which stated, “federal pipeline developers adequately covered the steps necessary during an assessment of the $3.8 Billion pipeline impact of cultural sites in North Dakota.”
Despite the aforementioned ruling, the tribal elders whom I spoke with claimed that the company intentionally bulldozed over sacred burial sites as recently as this past week, even after the tribe had marked them with GPS and physical flags. This is the event that sparked the now viral K9 attacks.
Almost immediately after the ruling by Boasberg, the Obama administration announced that it would not authorize construction on a critical stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Department of Justice, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department jointly announced that construction would halt.
“The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved, including the pipeline company and its workers – deserve a clear and timely resolution,” the agencies said in a joint statement.
While this seems to be a clear victory for the tribes, it is one that is to be taken with caution. For we know that there is an agenda by the powers that be to wait until things calm down, only to then move forward with their previous plans. We will have to wait and see how this will play out over time. Regardless, the Standing Rock Sioux is committed to staying at the site until the company gives up the construction of the pipeline. Yesterday, during a prayer ceremony, Chief American Horse called on tribal veterans who have gone to protect us on foreign shores to now come and protect the homeland here in Cannon Ball North Dakota.
While there has been a victory for the tribes, I believe this story to be far from over.
Below please find video of Organizer Dallas Goldtooth explaining what the legal ruling mean for the tribes and other video and images from the protests.