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Eye Witness Report from Standing Rock

Fri Dec 2nd, 2016

A few weeks ago a film was shown at Four Brothers in Amenia on the subject of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its allies fighting the pipeline that endangers their water next to the Missouri River. Fidel Moreno and Rick Kariolic, the filmmakers, were on hand to explain the fight to save water from contamination and the long-standing loss of treaty rights when greed, dominant economic interests and politics want the natural resources on Indian land.  Many tribes- about 300 in number - came together to use the pipeline as a symbol of their long-standing grievances against the federal government. 

Here is an article written for the Millbrook Independent by one of the filmmakers who went back to Standing Rock to film the brave last stand by native protesters who are being forceably removed by the state of North Dakota and local sheriffs and police.

Eyewitness Report From Standing Rock

I am a filmmaker who just came back from Standing Rock a few weeks ago and this is what I saw.

Donations, donations, donations are what the people at the Standing Rock encampment need, the running water has been turned off and in order for the water protectors to continue doing what they are doing, they need help. 

The coming winter will be brutal in North Dakota, the winds are strong and when the cold comes, it can get up to -50F. 

Take a hard look at what we as the collective allow to happen to life’s balance and figure out how to maintain it for future generations. Case in point, Standing Rock Reservation. 

As you may or may not know, the Dakota Access Pipeline, known as DAPL, is funded by investment banks such as, Bank of America, HSBC, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Citibank, BNP Paribas, Sun Trust, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Mizuho Bank, TD Bank, ABN Amro Capital, DNB First Bank of Philadelphia, ICBC London, SMBC Niko Securities, Societe Generale, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Compass Bank, ING Capital. Other investors include Phillips 66, Marathon Petroleum company, Energy Transfer Partners, L.P, Energy Transfer Equity, LP, Enbridge Energy Partners, Sonoco Logistics LP, (this should be an easy fight) have worked with the North Dakota government for permission to run their pipeline under the Missouri river, just north of the Native American reservation, Standing Rock. 

The “Sioux” Nation has opposed the plan from the beginning, as the construction passes through native burial grounds and will inevitably contaminate local drinking water, that of South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and the entire Missouri river basin.    

When originally proposed by DAPL, Tribal leaders countered with an obvious and practical idea: rather than crossing over the Cannonball River—on the edge of Standing Rock— and then crossing back again further south, the pipeline could continue its path from Williston, North Dakota for the entirety of its path. Staying on one side of the river also makes sense from a seismological perspective as this area runs along a major tectonic fault line. With a simple redirection of the project, which happens all the time, the violation of sacred Native American burial grounds as well as the inevitable pollution of significant water systems could be avoided. DAPL has rejected all alternative plans out-of-hand, begging the obvious question: why chance a tragedy when it could have been easily averted from the start?

This is the latest in the disregard of signed Treaties and solemn promises made by the Federal government to the “Sioux” Nation.  For example, The Fort Laramie Treaty (1851). Civil unrest followed almost immediately, by 1858 politicians of the United States had a plan. A month after Minnesota became the 32nd state, Sioux leaders were coerced by virtual imprisonment in DC, until they signed the new Treaty which took away more of their land and gave it to Minnesota.)

To clarify, the Treaties designated the land within the United States as a Sovereign Territory, not a State or part of the United States government, The Indigenous’, as in a separate Nation, like Canada or Mexico, wherein the United States should respect them as Sovereign and US laws should not be enforced in those territories. 

But typically white American greed and weak politicians quickly drove the almost immediate disregard for all Treaties around the country, again specifically, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, for example, during that Treaty time, the good ol’ Western American Gold Rush of 1849 was drawing more and more settlers out West and guess what they found in the Native’s promised lands? Yes, Gold! Unrest and battles ensued from Gold mongers and when Brigadier General Samuel Whitside brought his 7th cavalry and James William Forsyth to Wounded Knee creek in December 1890, 300 members of the Lakota tribe were massacred and Generals of the US Army honored… 

Since the Treaties, which is when the Native Americans made peace with the US government, (Peace was initiated from the Colonies side, submitting to defeat, btw) Again and again lands supposedly protected by Treaty have been taken away and sold by State or federal actions backed by Federal police and rationalized as Eminent Domain. If something like this were done to the U.S or any other Sovereign nation it would be an act of war, but when it is in the interests of Big Oil or other dominant economic interests, Natives have to make due, a true capitalist society.

The current situation, local residents of the Standing Rock Reservation came together and began protecting their land. They would march everyday from a camp a mile South of the construction and block the machines from digging up the land. Once this started to happen the company called in reinforcements of local police and privately hired guns to stop these people from blocking their progress. 

Attack dogs were brought and unleashed on Native “Protectors” at the front line and casualties occurred. This was sufficiently dramatic for national headlines and more people started asking about what was going on in the Dakotas. But there still wasn’t a total discussion in the media. 

This U.S military action did not stop the Protectors. They peacefully held their ground and continued to fight. A call for help was sent to nearby tribes in Pine Ridge and Rosebud, in South Dakota, who in turn brought other Tribes and Nations to stand with them at Standing Rock Other marginalized peoples came from outside the US as this is a familiar fight.  

Now with many eyes on the pipeline construction you would think DAPL might relent and save face, no. They know their history and they know what is necessary to win. They first cut off the drinking water supply at the camp and then snuck in earlier and dug, against federal orders. In darkness they breached the Native lands and exhumed a sacred burial ground, the protectors came soon after and began jumping in front of the bull dozers, making sacrifices of their bodies, tying themselves to machinery and pleading with the workers to stop. Again the police came and made more arrests, this time also sending in the National Guard. Yes the United Stated National Guard in a Sovereign Territory. Imagine if the land were a Jewish cemetery or on a Mormon tabernacle, how this scenario would not have happened!

The Natives now are fighting for not only their drinking water but also for their desecrated sacred burial sites. Sacred is not a term to use lightly, when something that is held sacred by a group of people which then is ruined, kind of gives those people a reason to band together to fight against the oppressing side.  At this point over a hundred Nations and Tribes have come to their aide and DAPL continue to have the National Guard on site so they can continue with progress. The people of the land were not at a standstill and would not fall for more tricks, they enlisted about (Shades of the Little Big Horn!) 60 horsemen on horses, rode up to the front lines and started riding circles around the Guardsmen until they backed off, enabling further halts of construction. If you haven’t seen it, go to youtube and watch! 

Soon after, the Natives had representatives and groups from over 300 nations and growing, talking about peace between them and solidarity, something that has never happened in history before.

In the Federal courts, representatives of Standing Rock are pushing for a cease order and continually getting denied, appeal after appeal, the courts uphold DAPL’s right to continue their pipeline. It seems Standing Rock has reached its doom, giving all the power to DAPL to do whatever they think is in their right. On September 1, 2016 a federal judge, Judge James Boasberg, allowed the construction to continue… Minutes later, the Departments of Justice, Interior and Army, announced a voluntary pause of all construction activity within 20 miles of the site.  A small battle is won for Standing Rock, but from the history, one would believe it would not last. 

The only chance for the Native American Nations is to appeal to the interests of the United Nations, which they are doing. In a 2007 United Nations resolution, A Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples was passed which states “Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace, and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any act of violence” Source: UN Declaration On The Rights Of Indigenous Peoples, Article 7, Section 2. The vote on this resolution was 144 in favor and 4 against. The 4 against were Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.  All 4-member states that voted against have their legal origins as colonies of the United Kingdom and crushers of the Indigenous peoples.

One would hope that this more recent creation of the United Nations could help. Help not only for Indigenous peoples and those at Standing Rock Reservation, but also for everyone that gets their drinking water from the Missouri River. If the pipeline goes in, it will break, this earth is not stagnant and has proven that for many a pipeline breaks all over the country. Haven’t heard of many or any at all? That’s because only a couple thousand gallon spill is not national news worthy these days, tell that to these counties dealing with spills in 2016 alone (Freeman, South Carolina; West Columbia, Texas; Sulphur, Louisiana; Sioux City, Iowa; Wabash County, Illinois; Tracy, California; Ventura County, California; Shelby County, Alabama; Sweetwater, Texas;) Compared to the BP disaster where 5 million barrels spilled in 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico (operated by the contractor Halliburton), these numbers are nothing and no reason to cause alarm for these great pipelines. The pipeline owners make agreements with local governments and make sure they are rewarded for their use of the land. And! It provides a cheaper cost to consumers for gasoline since it is local and fewer taxes have to be passed down. It’s a win win, right? That is until a break in the pipeline and it destroys communal lands, these numbers are argued by the pipeline and oil companies as needing only local remediation on land that was largely the gift of local governments.

Then who wins? 

A remediation process may take considerable time with uncertain improvement. A glaring example of how uncertain remediation is, once again, the massive BP oil spill. Remediation consisted in part of spraying a chemical dispersant COREXIT (1.84 million gallons) that is emulsified into tiny oil droplets that in theory can rapidly be degraded by bacteria and prevents oil from accumulating on beaches and marshes. Since then however, studies have been shown that the dispersant is toxic to marine life and when mixed with oil increases its toxicity…  Yay! In other words, its not really “cleaned up” it is swept under a nano rug where it will stay being absorbed by all life around it, until??? But, we get cheaper gas! Because it’s drilled locally! Green right?! Why pay the middle east when we can have our own people saving and profitting….

Spills of toxic chemicals are an issue all over the United States, towns all around are seeing epidemics of cancers from contaminated drinking water sources, West Virginia, Michigan, New York, yes even further down the said Missouri river in Coldwater Creek, North County, Saint Louis, Missouri. 

These kinds of issues are why Standing Rock is so important and why anyone who cares for the future of our children should lend a hand and help this fight. 

Women leaders have taken the call for their duty to protect the water, Nations of Tribes have banded together and continue to grow to fight these injustices, at this time, right now, is one that this land has never seen before, not only tribes but also people from every color and denomination are all joining hands to fight for our Mother Earth, if she is destroyed, we have no other option, our children’s children are doomed. 

Remember the kitschy “We Are The World” unity of the 80’s? Well guess what? We are the world; we are the only ones who can make a better place. So let’s start giving! 

How can you help? Well, you can start by sharing this article with your friends. You can call your local and national government representatives posing questions and demanding public answers especially right now when they are running for election.  Have a discussion with your family, your church, have a town meeting and make sure those meetings are published and available for all who were not able to attend so they can see what was talked about. 

For me, I can only hope that what I have learned from my years of rapid growth can help reach others to find their diamond in the rough.

I am currently working on a documentary of the Standing Rock situation will continue my little battles. After reading this I hope you might care a little more about the core of Standing Rocks’ battle and get involved.


(Rick is a filmmaker who owns a house in Pine Plains)