September 20, 2017
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#NoDAPL Live Blog: Veterans Arrive at Standing Rock to Act as ‘Human Shields’ for Water Protectors

Editor’s note: This live blog begins Dec. 1, 2016. For earlier updates, visit our first #NoDAPL live blog, which includes original multimedia from demonstrations at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

3:22 p.m. PST Saturday, Dec. 3: Truthdig contributor Michael Nigro arrived Friday at Oceti Sakowin Camp and shared live video of the snow-covered camp:

 

And if you’re looking for a bit of sarcasm to break up the reports coming in from Standing Rock, check out this video by YouTuber JP Sears, in which he ridicules the greed of oil companies:

 

 

6:30 a.m. PST Saturday, Dec. 3: U.S. military veterans have arrived at Standing Rock to act as “human shields” for the water protectors. Nike Knight reports at Common Dreams:

 

As tensions grow in North Dakota, with multiple eviction orders facing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, U.S. military veterans on Friday began arriving at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp.

The 2,000 veterans, which include Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), plan to act as an unarmed militia and peaceful human shields to protect the Indigenous activists from police brutality.

“I signed up to serve my country and my people and I did that overseas,” Indigenous U.S. Navy veteran Brandee Paisano told the CBC. “I didn’t think I’d have to do it here, on this land, so here I am. This is what I need to be doing.”

The “deployment” is officially planned for Dec. 4-7, but veterans who have arrived early have already taken their stand in front of the militarized police blockade stopping traffic into and out of the camp:

 

The “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock” action has garnered widespread support, with the National Nurses United (NNU) union sending $50,000 to fund their expenses and a popular fundraiser surpassing $800,000 by Friday afternoon.

“We salute the brave veterans who are standing up for the rights of the water protectors, and all of us who support this critical defense of the First Amendment right to assemble and protest without facing brutal and unwarranted attacks,” said NNU co-president Jean Ross.

Also on Friday, water protectors fulfilled a wishlist of supplies created by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department in Mandan, North Dakota, as an act of goodwill.

The generosity was striking, as officers from Morton County have subjected the Indigenous activists to extreme uses of force in recent days—including water cannons in subfreezing temperatures, mace, rubber bullets, and allegedly concussion grenades. One activist is still in danger of losing an arm after being struck with by what witnesses described as a concussion grenade thrown directly at her by police in riot gear.

“North Dakota taxpayers have already bankrolled the Morton County Sheriff Department with approximately ten million dollars for the suppression of peaceful water protectors. Despite this excessive financial support, Morton County officers are asking taxpayers to donate supplies,” said the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Indigenous Peoples Power Project in a joint statement.

“The Oceti Sakowin camp is a prayer camp, and a resilient, self-sufficient community,” the advocacy groups continued. “The camp is full of abundance—in spirit, in humanity, and in resources. Oceti Sakowin has enough to share. Generosity is an original teaching for the Lakota.”The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also pushed back earlier this week against Dakota Access Pipeline company CEO Kelcy Warren, who has claimed that the pipeline would have been rerouted if only the tribe had spoken up sooner, with the release of a recording that showed the tribe had officially opposed the pipeline since at least 2014.

“[T]he recording provides audio from a Sept. 30, 2014, meeting in which Standing Rock officials expressed their opposition to the pipeline and raised concerns about its potential impact to sacred sites and their water supply—nearly two years before they raised similar objections in a federal lawsuit,” the Bismarck Tribune reports.

Meanwhile, since the Monday evacuation order from North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, officials have been threatening those bringing supplies into the camp with exorbitant fines.

The Indigenous activists (and journalists covering their fight) are already grappling with exaggerated criminal charges—which are often later thrown out in court.

The fines and charges are a tactic to dissuade and silence them, the water protectors say.

Yet the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies remain firm in their commitment to their fight for clean water and traditional territory. The New York Times’ Timothy Egan wrote Friday:

“[M]any of the natives at Standing Rock are not bitter, and see this stand in spiritual terms.

“In the face of this we pray,” Lyla June Johnston, a young Native leader, told me the day after the blizzards blew in. “In the face of this we love. In the face of this we forgive. Because the vast majority of water protectors know this is the greatest battle of all: to keep our hearts intact.”

As CNN‘s Sara Sidner reported: “The only thing that’s going to make protesters leave [...] is if the pipeline is stopped.”

 

11:30 a.m. PST Friday, Dec. 2: “Water protectors,” as they describe themselves, who are engaging in peaceful demonstrations against the Dakota Access oil pipeline project, allege that law enforcement officials are hindering free speech and destroying property.

Last week, Johnny Cree Coe of Pittsburgh stated that police officers were stealing and destroying canoes. “The police came across the river, stole our eight canoes, took them back across to their side, completely destroyed them, poked them full of holes, smashed them all up, and then put up barbed wire along the river,” he said. Watch his interview below:

 

And earlier this week, actor Matt McGorry, a vocal ally of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, alleged that police were using jamming devices to prevent demonstrators from recording media on the front lines of the peaceful demonstrations. New York’s Observer reports:

 

He explained that upon approaching the front lines, his phone said it had no memory left and wouldn’t allow him to take more videos or photos. He said this was never an issue before, and that 30 minutes later when he was further from the front lines, his phone was working fine again. He said this happened two days in a row…

Police jammers are not the only way law enforcement seem to be preventing the protestors from sharing what’s going on. Yesterday, Motherboard reported that the Federal Aviation Administration has set up a Temporary Flight Restriction over a four-mile radius surrounding the Standing Rock protests. This applies only to civilians (law enforcement helicopters can continue to fly over protesters with impunity), which makes it clear this is another effort to suppress coverage.

 

 

Observer also links to a video purportedly showing covert DAPL construction happening in the middle of the night.

11:20 a.m. PST Friday, Dec. 2: The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has issued a statement regarding the situation at Standing Rock.

“We are concerned with numerous reports and testimony regarding the use of military-style equipment and excessive force against protesters,” it states. “We call upon federal, state, and local officials and law enforcement to work together to deescalate the situation and guarantee the safety of protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights.”

“The issue of the pipeline is not just about the pipeline alone, but rather it is about the entire relationship between the United States and sovereign Indian Nations, their rights, traditions and religious beliefs,” Commission Chair Martin R. Castro added. “As we prepare our civil rights report on this relationship we call on Congress to make it a priority to address the problems in Indian country by holding its own hearings to hear from Native leaders about the unmet needs and unmet promises owed to Native Americans by the United States of America.”

Read the statement in full here.

11:02 a.m. PST Friday, Dec. 2: As winter weather begins to encroach on the #NoDAPL encampments, demonstrators are taking steps to fortify the living situations at Standing Rock. A new video from Hive Swarm Independent Media shows how self-named “water protectors” are erecting more appropriate shelter to guard against the harsh North Dakota winter:

 

 

As noted in our first live blog, a recent storm left nearly a foot of snow on the #NoDAPL encampments. On average during the winter months, temperatures fall below freezing, and are often as low as two degrees Fahrenheit.

11:49 a.m. PST Thursday, December 1: The Sioux Nation has sent a letter, signed by 13 tribal chairpersons, to President Obama asking him to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. It reads:

 

Dear President Obama:

We write to demand that you take action to avoid a humanitarian crisis:  Protect our Native people!  As Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, you are about to preside over a human rights disaster on the scale of Selma.

We are the original people of this land, now called America.  There is a reason that these states are called North and South Dakota—we are the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people.  From the dawn of time, these lands have been our home.

Through treaties, our Itancan of the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota Oyate or, in English, our Chiefs of the Great Sioux Nation reserved our lands as our “permanent home.”  When the United States invaded our lands, our people fought wars to save our lands, yet America repeatedly attacked the Great Sioux Nation to steal our lands and destroy our way of life.  Now it is happening again!

Two years ago, President Obama, you came to Standing Rock, spoke to our Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people and quoted Sitting Bull, “Let us put our minds together and see what lives we can make for our children.”  Then this year, the Army Corps of Engineers purported to authorize an oil pipeline to violate Sitting Bull’s lands and to poison our waters in the Missouri River—without even talking to our Native Nations about water quality.  Under your Administration, the Army Corps says the pipeline will never spill, even as it presides over BP Louisiana/Gulf of Mexico clean-up, EPA’s poisoning of the San Juan River at Navajo, the oil pipeline burst in the Yellowstone River, the lead in Flint, Michigan, the gas pipeline burst in Alabama, and the list goes on.

Mr. President, in Washington State, the Army Corps stopped the International Coal Terminal in May 2016 because it would interfere with Treaty fishing.  Under our Treaties, we own the land along the River, the bed of the River, and the water in the River.  Our children drink the water in the River.  We cannot wait for the oil to spill and poison our water.  Stop the oil pipeline now!

Colonel Henderson, your Army Corps Commander on the ground, says that he is going to protect our Native people by closing the protest area on the ground where they stand.  He says, he wants to protect our people’s safety, but he speaks with a forked tongue.  We say ?heží okhížata wa? yuhá wóglake.  His Orwellian double talk is a disgrace to America.

Our people have reacted to this plan with righteous outrage and Colonel Henderson provided a troubling response.  He claims that he consulted with tribal leaders about his plan.  We the undersigned are the tribal leaders.  He did not consult with us.  And his response does not deny that law enforcement will use force to cite and arrest persons in the restricted area, which is the most dire threat to our people.  As soon as Colonel Henderson purported to withdraw the permission for the Water Protectors to be at their camp, Governor Dalrymple declared that our people were there on our 1851 Treaty lands trespassing in violation of state law.  The Governor withdrew emergency services for our people, yet the Army Corps claims that its action is for our people’s safety.

On December 5, 2016, Henderson plans to pull the rug out from under our people, and he plans to stand back like a matador while North Dakota state officials attack our people with water cannons, mace, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and perhaps, real bullets.  That will not absolve the Army Corps of guilt.  We say, Mni Wiconi—it means, Water is Life.

It is not right for the Army Corps to give its blessing for North Dakota to attack our Native people for wanting to live.  The last time that the Army had a plan to pacify the Great Sioux Nation, our men, women and children were slaughtered at Wounded Knee; the time before that, Custer died and Sitting Bull was chased to Canada by five armies so the General Sherman could steal our gold.  As President, what do you expect of the Army’s leadership this time?

Crazy Horse said, “One does not sell the Earth the people walk on,” and he fought alongside Red Cloud to protect our homeland.  At the close of Red Cloud’s War, in the 1868 Sioux Nation Treaty, the United States promised:  “From this day forward all war between the parties to this agreement shall forever cease.  The government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it.”

Mr. President, under the Constitution, those words are law, and it is time for you as Commander-in-Chief to enforce the law.  Get the Army out of Indian country.  Stop the oil pipeline.  Protect our drinking water.  Preserve our Native homeland.

Stand up for human rights in North Dakota!

The letter is signed “In Peace and Friendship.”

11:40 a.m. PST Thursday, December 1: The water protectors have another ally in Congress: New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall.

 

In a letter written to President Obama, Udall says:

 

Importantly, the route of this pipeline was changed at least once in response to water pollution concerns from the Bismarck, ND area. Tribal members across the country are thus very concerned that the new river crossing location was chosen without equal consideration of Tribal environmental concerns. As we all know, Tribal rights and interests have taken a back seat for far too long in our nation. ...

Since your Administration’s September announcement, the demonstrations have grown and there have been far too many dangerous violent confrontations between protesters and state and local law enforcement, with serious injuries resulting. One of those seriously injured was a Navajo woman, who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. The vast majority of the demonstrators are peaceful, in line with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s position.

Udall adds that “on several occasions, the law enforcement response has appeared overly militarized and to violate civil rights, including the use of military equipment.”

He urges the Department of Justice and President Obama to “engage with state, local and tribal authorities.”