How 21 Water Protectors Got Arrested at the End of September 2016.
Most Treasured Readers,
Have I told you lately how much I love you? Well, I am telling you now, I love you.
Toward the end of September 2016, just days before I visited the Oceti Sakowin camp at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in North Dakota (see previous blog post), 21 Water Protectors were arrested and spent the night in jail. This is a story about how this could happen in a democratic country, the United States of America, to its own citizens in the year 2016.
I met a lot of incredible people in general and women in particular at the camp, all very strong and smart. One of the most delightful and inspiring was Bea from New Jersey. She had driven herself, along with her precious little canine companion, all the way out there from the east coast. And not only that, she did it while hauling a camper full of supplies. I really do not believe that I would have made it home safely through high winds and a hail storm complete with icy roads had I not met and been so inspired by Bea from New Jersey!
Bea didn’t manage to get to the Oceti Sakowin camp alive with that camper and her beloved rescue dog for nothing! She proceeded to go out with 20 others to check a couple of sites where digging to bury the more than a thousand-mile-long crude oil pipeline was supposed to stop. Shouldn’t somebody go check? I think so.
Lawyers (including and even led by Native American women!) had won a temporary administrative injunction from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit restricting construction on the crude oil pipeline for 20 miles on both sides of Lake Oahe. Further, the Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and Department of the Interior had issued a joint statement requesting that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of the large reservoir Lake Oahe.
Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer, the Texas-based company building the pipeline, has written that concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded. Yet even the federal government has admitted that this case highlights the need to consider nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. I would like to be considered, too. Does my Ph.D. degree in biology qualify for anything? What qualifies Kelcy Warren to state an opinion publicly that gets so much visibility? The answer is money. See, there are two sides to this story: the right side and the wrong side!
For what it is worth, I agree that an adequate environmental and cultural exploration has not been completed since it would show that construction of the pipeline must stop forever and that all the trash must be removed and damage cleaned up as best as possible. So by all means, construction of an unnecessary pipeline could wait while we honestly assess its danger to us all and implement a plan for remediation of the damage that has already been done.
So the energy company was supposed to stop digging at two sites and the Water Protectors went to check. Twenty-one people got into cars and went over to the first site in a caravan. A beautiful and moving ceremony was held at the site that was full of prayer and song and dance and horses and peace. After a while, the Water Protectors returned to the caravan and headed to the second site.
The second site involved a private access road between the dig site and the public road they were driving on. They arrived at an area that was cut for hay about a quarter mile out from the digging site. To avoid the private road, they made sure to walk on the grass only. Upon arrival at the site, the prayer and drumming commenced and the horses rode around.
When the ceremony was complete, the Water Protectors walked back to the cars in a little parking area. They gave water to their dogs. Then the cars reformed the caravan to head back to camp and they sat and sat and sat there waiting. Police were converging from all different jurisdictions. There were sheriffs and city police from Mandan and Bismarck and even a guy with a vest imprinted with “Border Patrol.” What border is he defending in North Dakota? Some other guy named Rick would not give his last name and any badges were covered.
Finally, a woman came down the line saying, “if you want us to leave, then why are you blocking the exit?”
They were informed that they were being arrested for criminal trespass (Class B misdemeanor) on a private road. The “road” is actually a “track.” Half of the “track” belongs to the landowner on that side, and the other half belongs to the landowner on the other side. Apparently one of the track owners called and complained. Wow, did not people call and complain when they dug up sacred burial grounds? But who got arrested and spent the night in jail then?
Bea along with 20 more Water Protectors got arrested. Bea and her friend each had a dog in the car. Rick said animal control would be called! That is a horror for anyone who loves their dog like a child, which is pretty much every dog owner. But thanks Rick for staying with the dogs until animal control came and for assuring Bea that you would do so as she got hauled away. That means a lot when people do whatever they can, which is a lot.
Twenty-one water protectors spent that night in jail for all of us. Thank you and bless you, each and every brave soul. Next morning, Standing Rock paid the $250 bond per person. Bea will have to come back for her trial on December 20th. Or maybe she will just stay and strengthen the stand against oppression.
The project developers say the $3.8 billion project will “bring significant economic benefits to the region that it transverses.” The project developer, Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil, estimates the pipeline would bring an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments as well as add 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs. Temporary construction jobs until the pipeline is built which is scheduled to be completed by end of the year? Is there any accounting of the actual jobs and tax dollars? Are there any guarantees?
And as for the millions of dollars in tax revenue for the states that the pipeline will traipse through (from production areas in North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois): $156 million is only about 4% of the $3.8-billion-dollar pipeline project! Kelcy Warren is personally worth $3.8 billion dollars. He has spent more than $70 million on just two of his at least three properties.
The money never justifies the deed or the dead.
Eminent domain is a tenet of our current legal system whereby the government (which theoretically is the people of the USA) can take private property for public use. I hereby invoke eminent domain to take and protect all water for public use.
Below is a summary of the doctrine upheld that had been used to justify the wars that led to the treaties with the Native Americans:
“We maintain, that the principle declared in the fifteenth century as the law of Christendom, that discovery gave title to assume sovereignty over, and to govern the unconverted natives of Africa, Asia, and North and South America, has been recognized as a part of the national law [Law of Nations], for nearly four centuries, and that it is now so recognized by every Christian power, in its political department and its judicial.” Judge John Catron for the Supreme Court of Tennessee in the case State v. Foreman (16 Tenn. (8 Yerg.) 256, 277 (1835), USA).
Lands were taken under the guise of Christian Dominion. The current “owners” are no longer following Christian practices, so the current ownership is null and void.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth (Psalms 37:9). The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever (Psalms 37:29). Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked (Isaiah 11:4). Wait on the Lord and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it (Psalms 37:34).
Note added Monday, July 6, 2020, a federal court today ruled that the Dakota Access pipeline must shut down by August 5 while the government performs a more thorough environmental review of the project!