At Standing Rock: Oceti Sakowin defy U.S. Army Corps threats

Standing Rock defense against the Dakota Access Pipeline received a new threat when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on Nov. 25 that it planned to “evict” all water protectors from any land north of the Cannonball River. The agency claimed that area as “Corps-managed federal property.”

Then, on Nov. 28, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued an order for all those encamped to evacuate, supposedly due to weather-related safety concerns. Dalrymple is closely allied with fracking and pipeline interests in the state, and has all along shown no concern for the well-being of the #NoDAPL water protectors.

Kandi Mosett, of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IGN), commented in a Nov. 28 press release, “Our intention has always been to be here until the water is protected. We have no intentions or plans to go anywhere.” (tinyurl.com/zkh5gz9)

The land involved does not properly belong to the Army Corps of Engineers, nor should it be subject to the jurisdiction of the state of North Dakota. It is part of the ancestral home of the Oceti Sakowin (the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation). It is also inside the boundaries of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, a treaty with the U.S. that is still in effect.

Since April, encampments have been set up there by Indigenous nations and allies in militant, determined #NoDAPL resistance. The pipeline currently under construction violates Native sovereignty, desecrates sacred burial sites and dishonors historical treaties. The pipeline also endangers the safety of the people, their land and water, as well as the drinking water of the 17 million people downstream on the Missouri River.

Dec. 5 ‘eviction day’ threat

The Corps’ “eviction day” was designated as Dec. 5 — ironically  the birthday of U.S. Lt. Col. George A. Custer, commander of the 7th Cavalry famously defeated by Lakota and other Plains Nations at the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Little Bighorn). The U.S. Army retaliated with more massacres of Native peoples, including one of Cheyenne people at the headwaters of the Powder River on Nov. 25, 1876.

Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier responded to the Corps’s notice on Nov. 26, “I take your letter as issuing a direct and irresponsible threat to the water protectors. It appears to further empower the militarized police force that has been brutalizing and terrorizing our water protectors while imposing the blame and the risk on unarmed peaceful people.” (nativenewsonline.org)

He added, “We will no longer allow our rights as a Tribe or as Indigenous people as a whole to continue to be eroded. This decision, coming on the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday, is not only disrespectful, but continues the cycle of racism and oppression imposed on our people and our lands throughout history.”

The strength of the water protectors’ resolve, and the international solidarity with Standing Rock, pushed back the Corps, which on Nov. 27 denied any plans to “forcibly remove activists,” while hinting that access to the area may be cut off. It is possible that could mean denial of all supplies and of water protectors’ freedom to enter. (Reuters)

Of the renewed threat by the governor, Dallas Goldtooth of IGN said in the same release, “We remain committed to peaceful and prayerful civil disobedience. We estimate there are 6,000 people in this camp, women, children, disabled people, veterans, all here for the purpose of protecting the water. We are now in the heart of winter … and it is terrifying to think that the State of North Dakota is contemplating placing the lives of thousands at risk.”

Leading the resistance

Native women and Two-Spirit people have been at the forefront of the #NoDAPL defense of Standing Rock. They have been disproportionately impacted by sexual exploitation, assault and violence in “pipeline towns” along the construction route.

On Nov. 27, a women’s march of hundreds confronted the concrete barriers, razor wire and construction equipment on Highway 1806 where water protectors had been viciously attacked and critically injured by cops on Nov. 20. Their chants rose up, “Respect our water. Respect our land. Respect our people. Honor our treaties. Mni Wiconi. Water is life. What do you do when your people are under attack? Stand up fight back.”

Calls have also gone out for the immediate release of Red Fawn Fallis, arrested along with 140 other water protectors on Oct. 27. Fallis was brutally arrested while walking away from cops, who then accused her of firing a gun at them. Bystanders assert she had no gun, but the charges could punish her with 20 years in jail.

Fallis had the state charges against her dropped on Nov. 29. However, she was immediately taken to the federal courthouse in Bismarck, where she was charged with possession of a weapon and denied bond.

Red Fawn Fallis was considered a “mother” by many youth at Standing Rock. She often used a four-wheel vehicle to rescue those who needed medical attention during police confrontations. An American Indian Movement member, Fallis is from an Oglala Lakota family dedicated to fighting for Indigenous rights. She is now a political prisoner.

Red Power Media commented Nov. 7 on Red Fawn’s arrest: “To some pipeline protesters, who described [her] as a passionate activist dedicated to peaceful tactics, her detention is the latest sign that North Dakota police are aggressively targeting a growing movement and will go to great lengths to protect a powerful corporation threatening sacred tribal lands.”