This past Saturday afternoon word began to get around the Standing Rock encampments that earth movers were excavating on the Dakota Access pipeline construction site by North Dakota Highway 1806. The construction workers were in fact destroying a stretch of land that Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had told a federal district court the day before was an ancestral burial ground.
Purposely, Energy Transfer Partners, the company that owns the pipeline, leapfrogged 10 miles from the where construction workers were excavating on Friday to the place of the sacred burial site on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Apparently, they read the documents and decided to destroy the burial sites to turn them into a non-issue in court.
Because it was Labor Day weekend, the Standing Rock encampments had swollen to over 4,000 by some estimates. The supporters were there as land protectors. They were there willing to give up free time to lend their support to fight against oppressive acts against indigenous people. Many have their own stories of how their tribes in their localities are fighting government–or have fought-intrusion on their tribal lands.
Standing Rock is providing a voice for a new generation to tell the government “enough is enough.”
Many American Indians view the Standing Rock encampment as among the largest American Indian solidarity gathering in history. Americans Indians have come from all directions of Indian Country. Among the land protectors are people Aztecs from Mexico and First Nations people from Canada.
So on Saturday, as word spread through the encampment of the dastardly act of disrupting ancestral grounds by the oil company, some 300 men, women and children left what they were doing at the encampments and went to the site. Some marched together; others drove to get there quickly. There was a sense of urgency to stop the crime against the ancestors.
Once there, they witnessed the earth movers in action. They went over fence to ask the construction workers to stop. They were not armed. They were only armed with a warrior spirits to say “enough is enough.”
Upon arrival at the construction site, there was no police presence, except for a North Dakota State Patrol helicopter. However, sitting in vehicles were members of a private security company hired by Energy Transfer Company. Inside of the vehicles were also dogs – pit bulls and German shepherds
The security company employees then got out their vehicles to ambush the American Indians defending the ancestral burial grounds. Many of the American Indians put their hands in the air as if to say “I am unarmed.” Some looked for other makeshift weapons, such as wooden survey stakes with orange flags to ward off the dogs.
I was not present, but have spoken several who were present. Their accounts were all consistent: This was a peaceful act that turned into violence because of the dog attacks. Had I been there, I would have picked up a survey stake if I could not have found a larger stick to ward off having an attack dog bite me.
By evening, the county sheriff had put his spin on the event. He told the media that was widely reported in North Dakota that the “protesters” had turned violent and had weapons and now wants to prosecute those who broke the law. He said several of the private security guards had received injuries. Eyewitnesses have reported the security guards were bitten by their own dogs.
The destruction of sacred places containing ancient burial sites, places of prayer and other significant cultural artifacts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe should be deemed a criminal act by Energy Transfer Partners. The Dallas-based oil company should be criminally liable for what it did on Saturday.
The purposeful act to destroy the sacred places is a very sad commentary on what corporate America thinks about American Indian tribes in this country.
Bringing out dogs to attack peaceful demonstrators in North Dakota are echoes of the dogs used by law enforcement in Birmingham, Alabama to contain peaceful demonstrators during the 1960s. Fast-forward to now, it is apparent the white racists of North Dakota think very much as did the Southern racists of decades ago.
American Indians have every right to be angry about what transpired on Saturday at the Dakota Access pipeline construction site.