On October 27, a combination of military-equipped police forces from seven states and multiple counties, at the request of North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, violently forced their way thru non-violent protesters and removed the Treaty Camp (also known as the Frontline Camp, see map). Immediately behind them, providing a stunning display of industrial-military cooperation, construction crews were working.
In the five days since, the joint military/construction operation has completed clearing the pipeline corridor across Highway 1806 all the way to the drill pad, where they will begin tunneling under Lake Oahe (the Missouri River). (This blog post and this article detail how the US Army Corp economically devastated the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Indian Reservations in 1960 when they created Lake Oahe.)
And now, here we wait. The Obama Administration has revoked the US Army Corp permit to go under the river, pending further evaluation– probably “meaningful consultation” with the affected tribes and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (basically, a long permit review process that includes public comment). These steps will take months and almost certainly turn the final decision over to the next administration. When they revoked the permit on September 9, the Obama Administration had asked Energy Transfer Partners (owners of Dakota Access Pipeline) to voluntarily halt construction for 20 miles on either side of the river, presumably for potential re-routing of the pipeline. (The request was voluntary because the feds have no authority except on Army Corp property at the river.) The company completely ignored this request, instead working at breakneck speed, with their violent military escort, to dig right up to the edge of Army Corp lands at the river. In comments on November 1, President Obama was explicitly clear that re-routing is an option.
The use of violent state militias to clear lands of non-violent Native Americans, while the federal government stands by, recalls dozens of historical events. Most prominently, the massacre at Sand Creek was carried out by Colonel John Chivington and a militia from the
State of Colorado. Unable to find the actual Indians they were looking for (who had killed several white settler families), they targeted Black Kettle’s peaceful camp of elders, women, and children, camped under an American flag and a white flag of truce. The result was an estimated 100-200 dead. Chivington and his Colorado militia celebrated with a parade through downtown Denver, holding Native scalps and other body parts aloft for all to see. Likewise, the genocide in California was largely a state enterprise, with volunteer militias attacking Native villages, enslaving the children, and getting reimbursed by the state for their expenses.
In this case, the state militias at Standing Rock appear to be heavily subsidized by surplus US military equipment, which has been liberally bestowed upon law enforcement agencies across the nation in recent years (see video trailer above). While federal laws regarding tribal consultation and environmental review have proved no obstacle for the pipeline, it appears that public pressure and concern for the Standing Rock Sioux has at least spared them live ammunition.
The commitment to non-violence of the protesters at Sacred Stone Camp, the headquarters for the movement, can be seen both in the video footage above and in this sign posted at the entrance to the camp. For a more complete account of life at the camp, see this thoughtful blog post.
My new post explains why the Dakota Access Pipeline no longer makes economic sense:
Here are my previous posts on Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline, which focus more on the history and current status of the conflict on the ground: