The wind is howling outside while I sit warm and snug in my new tipi. Snow is building up by the minute, making any outside task difficult and in some cases impossible. People all around me are sheltering where they can with others to conserve heat. Elders and children are all inside being looked after. The men are delivering firewood, gas and food to them. This is what being part of a village was like back before European settlers came. We can hold out as long as supplies can be sent to us from time to time.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has imposed as many inhumane restrictions of the camps as he can in an attempt to evict people from Standing Rock in the dead of the North Dakota winter. A mandatory evacuation was ordered after months of population growth and preparing for winter. Some gave up their homes, jobs and security to come here and stand against the tyranny of big oil and a government who is still breaking treaties at will.
How can any rational thinking official think he can evict them in the dead of winter in North Dakota? Winters here are some of the harshest in the country. It will get below 0ºF soon. The river is frozen over and roads impassable. I just heard security close all camp roads after 1806 was closed. We are here now.
Today, Bismarck Tribune posted an article saying that people caught bringing in supplies to the camps could be arrested with fines as high as $1,000. Hotels told travelers that no rooms would be rented to DAPL protesters! A hardware store owner told campers he could not sell them propane by order of Morton Co. Sheriff’s office.
These are the same racist traits that existed here when the US Army came to starve the Lakota and others from their lands. First they cut off any trade with the natives, then later killed off the buffalo used for food. Hides were used for clothes and building materials for tipis. The bones were made into jewelry or tools.
The US government took all of that away from them with no more thought than this governor is showing today. I lay in my tipi and can almost imagine General Custer coming across the hills to wipe us out. Today’s Custer is Sheriff Kirchmeier and the new DAPL gang is the 7th Cavalry.
Recently, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the water protectors who were assaulted by the militarized police forces from many different communities. I like to call them the DAPL gang. They are lawless in their tactics using weapons and gases on people who are the rightful owners of this land where the Dakota Access Pipeline crosses. It was never bartered for nor any compensation was given. It was taken under eminent domain when Lake Oahe was built.
As a result of the dam's construction the Standing Rock Reservation lost 55,993 acres (22,660 ha), leaving it with 2,300,000 acres (930,000 ha). Much of the land was taken by eminent domain claims made by the Bureau of Reclamation. Over and above the land loss, most of the reservations' prime agricultural land was included in the loss. The regions where the populations were resettled had soil with a higher clay content, and resources such as medicinal plants were less prevalent.
The loss of this land had a dramatic effect on the Indians who lived on the reservations. Most of the land was unable to be harvested (to allow the trees to be cut down for wood, etc.) before the land was flooded over with water. One visitor to the reservations later asked why there were so few older Indians on the reservations, and was told that "the old people had died of heartache" after the construction of the dam and the loss of the reservations' land.
As of 2015, poverty remains a problem for the displaced populations in the Dakotas, who are still seeking compensation for the loss of the towns submerged under Lake Oahe, and the loss of their traditional ways of life. The Dakota people were given three choices: Leave, Swim, Drown. No consultation or treaty negotiations took place.
Americans need to realize that this is about far more than a pipeline. It’s about a racist governor who is politically linked to the pipeline and his appointed militia desecrating ancestral burial grounds, polluting water, and walking all over the people’s right to be free on their own land.
Most Americans 50 years old or older remember the Civil Rights era. It is taught in history books in school as something we should never forget or repeat. Here at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation I am witnessing something far worse than that. Not since the 1800’s has this degree of racism been shown. I pray that history will not be repeated as it was on Dec. 29, 1890 at a little church overlooking Wounded Knee.
Sunday night, November 20, 2016 I saw somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 people wounded, gassed, and sprayed with water from a canon in subfreezing weather. It’s a miracle someone wasn’t killed that night. One young lady did lose an arm when a concussion grenade went off near her. Many people were first-hand witnesses but according to Morton Co Sheriff’s office it didn’t happen. The second story from them was it happened when she tried to use a homemade bomb that didn’t exist. Then the story from them was it happened somewhere else. They spat out so much misinformation it was almost comical if it wasn’t so serious.
Now the DAPL Gang wants to evict us in the dead of winter with the roads impassable. I ask each of you who read this to contact your local media and demand they cover the story. Contact all of your elected officials and demand an end to the aggression shown by Morton County and the DAPL Gang. Contact your local law enforcement and demand they not participate in the gang’s activities and if they are already here, demand they stand down and go home immediately.
Call, write, email, and fax the White House to step in and stop the pipeline and demand a full EIS of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Enough is enough!
John L. Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeeper, located in Tuscaloosa County Alabama. I am the enforcement and advocacy branch of the Friends of Hurricane Creek. Photographer / videographer, I have dedicated my life to exposing the truth about pollution and lack of accountability by the industries and agencies who use our waterways as waste conduits.