Welcome to The Sioux Nation
Scott Rowland • November 29, 2016 • Progression •
“When one moves away from nature, their heart becomes hard”
Winter is setting across Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is overseeing the front line while Dakota Access is preparing their drill. Back at camp, prayer begins at sunrise. Unarmed water protectors leave to guard the Missouri River soon after. Are you educated in Direct Action? No? Visit the mess hall and prepare for the day. There’s more organization from the Oceti Sakowin, commonly know as The Sioux, than most expect. Orientation begins at 9 a.m. Welcome to The Sioux Nation where no one is standing down.
On April 1, Sacred Stone Camp was formed in opposition to a $3.7 billion divestment from the Sioux Tribe’s resources. Dakota Access, an oil company funded through the Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, has decided to lay their pipeline in the Black Hills of Dakota regardless of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The Lakota people have expressed concerns matching an inevitable fate of contamination seen around the world. But their dismay has been met with disregard, or worse.
The resilience and passion of the Sioux Tribe has incited a close dedication and widespread awareness of what’s taking place in Cannonball, North Dakota. They have established a pro-active, unified set of protocols for standing against Dakota Access.The past six months have resulted in active safekeeping of the Missouri River and Lake Oahe by upholding the values of the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires. Peaceful, well-planned action has brought solidarity to their cause.
Last week, stinger grenades, tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons deployed in 26 degree weather were used to deter the protectors from diligently guarding their primary water source.
District Commander John W. Henderson of the Army Corps of Engineers responded to the incident, saying, “I am closing the portion of the Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River to all public use and access effective December 5, 2016. This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions.”
All of this turmoil for a projected 1,172 miles of pipeline which will transport up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day. At 42 gallons per US barrel, an estimated 23.9 million gallons of oil will run daily. With so much pipeline being built, there isn’t much hope for avoiding environmental or even humanitarian issues when the pipeline starts leaking or bursts.
According to Dakota Access, “Pipelines are the safest, most efficient method of transporting natural resources, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. There are over two million miles of active pipelines across the country, all carefully regulated by state and federal safety standards to provide critical infrastructure for energy development.”
- Fatality or injury requiring in-patient hospitalization
- 50,000 USD or more in total costs (measured in 1984 dollars)
- Highly volatile liquid releases of 5 barrels or more or other liquid releases of 50 barrels or more
- Liquid releases resulting in an unintentional fire or explosion
In the last five years, over 1,000 “significant incidents” of crude oil spills with 7 million gallons of lost oil have been documented. The Deepwater Horizon offshore rig’s explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 released 87 days of non-stop oil which spewed directly into the ocean. Dakota Access, Enbirdge Energy Pipeline, Sabal Trail. They’ve all fed the public with the same taglines: “Pipelines are safe! Pipelines create jobs. Pipelines benefit the consumer.” They’ve done a great job at playing socially correct.
Aside from the politics of big oil, there’s a pivotal movement being fortified at the Oceti Sakowin camp. The Seven Council Fires are unified for the first time since the Battle of Little Bighorn of 1876, known to the Sioux as the Battle of the Greasy Grass. More than 300 distinct tribes from around the world are represented on site. Hands marked with lawyer’s phone numbers in permanent marker walk side-by-side to the front line daily. The UN is even recognizing the potential for crimes against humanity. DAPL’s tactics are beginning to work against them as the Lakota continue counting coups until the world stands in solidarity for the right to water.
For the Sioux Tribe, success means staying the course, listening to their elders and honoring their values. Whether at camp or protecting the Missouri River, intentional support is shown through prayer. Know your role and respect tradition by attending meetings and orientations. Be compassionate with those who need help or guidance. Express honesty in your commitments and be prepared to implement them. Give more than you take, for generosity is essential for anyone visiting Standing Rock. Humility will grant you respect from the elders and organizers. And through wisdom you will begin to absorb the ways of the Lakota.
“It’s all about being prayerful and peaceful,” Chairman Dave Archambault II of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in an interview with Vice. “It’s not about a confrontation. We started this to protect our water. We were told by our youth, by our elders, and by the spirits that if you fight this with prayer and peace you will defeat it. But if you use violence, natural law’s going to take over and it’s going to go underneath this river, and it’s going to threaten the water.”
Oceti Sakowin is well-marked as a place of prayer and ceremony. One of its intentions is to show non-indigenous arrivals how to be respectful at gatherings, especially at the sacred fires, which are always burning. Observe their rituals, but be aware that if you’re willing to participate, wait to be invited. Grab two small leaves of cedar and a pinch of tobacco. What are you thankful for? Offer it to the fire and savor the warmth. This is a place for humility, honorable reception and preparedness.
A younger member of the Sioux Tribe describes being maced eight times, tased six times, beaten with batons, discriminated against and arrested for protecting the waters of his native land. His attitude speaks of joy and hope for the future of his home and his people. He sings of a recently lost relationship while the water protectors gather to pray before heading to the front line. As they begin, we remove our hats and see tears roll down his face. That’s when we begin to understand. Mni Wiconi.
Ways to help:
There’s a need for cooks, servers, medical professionals, construction workers, a cleaning crew, transport drivers for the elders and so much more than any one of us could offer. While they can always use edible and wearable goods, monetary donations and volunteer hours are well needed. If you can help, now is the time to stand true to your commitments.
Pipeline incidents from 1986-2013
Video Credit: Richard Stover PhD