Honestly. I was worried.
Today, I witnessed a couple hundred of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies orchestrate with great savvy demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at the capital city of Bismarck, North Dakota, today.
After the six-hour experience, as the sun was going down, I was impressed but felt in my gut it’ll take a miracle for this passionate-but-small group to overcome the extreme barriers they face. Big oil. Federal government. Court cases.
However, by the time I got back to my hotel, I discovered the US Army Corp of Engineers had just issued a “Statement Regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
It was great news for the Sioux:
“The Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property.”
“While these discussions are ongoing, construction on or under Corps land bordering Lake Oahe cannot occur because the Army has not made a final decision on whether to grant an easement. The Army will work with the Tribe on a timeline that allows for robust discussion and analysis to be completed expeditiously.”
“We fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely, and urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.”
The Sioux Tribe must be extremely gratified by those words. As we heard all day during the demonstrations, “We come in peace, prayer and ceremony.”
How much of a victory is this for the Standing Rock Sioux in blocking an oil pipeline from going so near their primary water source (Lake Oahe, a reservoir of the Missouri River) and their sacred grounds? I’ll find out tomorrow when I interview one of the elders. In the meantime, here’s a rough outline of our experience today.
8:30 a.m.: Arrived at Cannon Ball Camp
9:30 a.m.: Invited to ride with caravans to a demonstration in an unknown destination.
11 a.m.: Pulled into gas station in Bismarck. The store became inundated with demonstrators who needed to use the restroom, and grab coffee and snacks. Police were there, but friendly. Cashiers were also kind. (We later learned only one person was arrested today and it was a female Sioux elder at that gas station.)
Noon: Arrived at Capitol, where our group gathered at the west doors. I was told, “No cameras, we are in prayer.” The group marched to the south side of the Capitol, where the other half of the Standing Rock group marched from the east, and the demonstrators were united.
1 p.m.: Demonstrators marched from the Capitol to an unknown destination. We end up at the federal building that houses the post office. Police in riot gear line up. Standing Rock Sioux pray, speak, and even distribute sandwiches to their crowd. They claim some of their “arrestees” are inside the federal building and demand a report of their well-being. No one ever speaks to them. One bystander yells, “Go home!”. But that’s about it as far as confrontations are concerned.
3 p.m.: Protestors circle back to the Capitol, with the resolve that they’ve made their statement to the state and federal government.