Political or Physical?
“Don’t die for the wire, live for it.” Regarding Dakota Access PipeLine’s concertina wire, this was advice I heard passed along between some young natives around Oceti Oyate fire another snowy night between singing, drumming and prayer. It’s obviously a question weighing heavy. What symbolic act can heal these youthful hearts?
Honestly I go to the frontline so infrequently that I’m not the best one for a report from there and I can tell you it’s been because I’ve simply been disgusted by the actions there which lead to arrests. Becoming injured by the cops and security doesn’t appeal to me and I’m pretty sure these welts and bodily damage don’t lead to eliciting any kind of symbolic victory for our side.
The native folks will tell you this has been 500 years in the making. The oppression of a people is palpable in this area and I’ve seen the effects of it myself. Akichita is the Lakota term for warrior or soldier and there is a pride surrounding it that takes into account the familial/tribal aspect that non-natives will never be able to fully understand. The solidarity isn’t just for show.
The frontline is a friction point in more ways than one but not just between cops and water protectors, there’s also contention between our people over what the point of it all really is here. What is our battle?
We’re walking this tightrope here in terms of the public relations invoked—how does the public view water protectors? Physical battles against the property of DAPL’s security forces become detrimental to our cause. We can’t lose access to the hearts of the world right now. It’s the reason our cleanup of camp is so important. We’re dealing with the leftovers of thousands of people who are long gone and all eyes are on us. Bob Dylan says to live outside the law one must be perfectly honest. It’s still a pigsty at Oceti Sakowin camp and all those tent poles, propane canisters and plastic bottles will be floating down the river if thaw comes too rapidly in the spring. That’s what’s called an environmental/PR disaster.
The casino recently hosted a two day conference presented by the United Nations on “Indian Treaties”. Their indigenous representatives were here to talk about indigenous rights around the world and to take testimonies from our water protectors, mostly with injuries sustained at the frontline at the hands of nasty spirited and overzealous cops and security officers.
I was happy to accompany my new friend Shara to the meeting as she’s a descendent of Iron Nation who signed the famous Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. Her family standings make her a signatory for the Lower Brule band of the Lakota people which is the tribe generally called Sioux. The evening before the conference she and I encountered a passionate and confrontational young warrior type who hastily divided himself from us by dismissing us as political after use of the word “treaty”. He’s young but he’s not dumb. He’s a guy that I’ve talked to before and I hesitate to say his name here because 2 days later he was involved with some trouble between our people at camp and the DAPL security forces, allegedly getting shot at. I believe he’s been banned from camp as an agitator.
Shara says without treaties there would be no Lower Brule people or Sioux nation. At least it’s an effort at peaceful coexistence. Water protectors have started to step up efforts to police our own as trouble makers like him are the reason the Backwater Bridge keeps highway 1806 barricaded and closed to traffic. It’s the reason the Tribal Council has asked us to leave. With Trump’s latest announcements to overturn (?) the environmental impact studies required of DAPL we may see some abrupt about faces from the council. This complex fight, is it political or physical?
frontline image credit: Craig Roth