At 2pm Central Time today, the camps at Standing Rock will be evicted.
The legality of this eviction notice is seeping with controversy, and many Water Protectors have state they are willing to die for this cause.
The Lakota’s sovereign rights are in jeopardy, and the Trump administration seems hell-bent on dismantling any rights the indigenous peoples have managed to maintain since colonization began.
Many are praying for an answer to arise from challenging the courts. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has recently joined a motion to halt the drilling that was filed by their neighbor to the south, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe – both of which are sovereign nations protected by treaties with the United States.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse has asked for prayer today in regards to the impending eviction at Standing Rock. In the Dakota language, to pray is Wacekiya, or “to address a relative”.
“In Dakota/Lakota we have a term called Taku Skan Skan. That which is holy and moves-moves,” describes Jacqueline Keeler, Diné/Ihanktonwan journalist, in a recent Facebook update. “It’s another form of the sacred, of Wakan Tanka. Taku Skan Skan moves through the universe, it moves us and makes things happen in the world. It is how we are part of the wakan. That is what is happening here. The prayer is being carried further into the world.”
The Importance of the Message
Digital Smoke Signals, an indigenous media group that has been on-site documenting the events at Standing Rock, has been keeping its Facebook page updated with news and videos from other sources. On February 15th, Digital Smoke Signals reported yet another incident of law enforcement silencing the media, writing “Morton County just shot the last drone which was a DJI Mavic live on FB.”
The censorship of media and journalism at Standing Rock has been an issue since day one, seemingly in an effort to keep the world from knowing the violence Energy Transfer and Morton County have promoted in order to construct the pipeline.
As the Digital Smoke Signals continues to raise funds on GoFundMe to replace its drone, it shares the viral Oceti Sakowin Camp video in a post titled “Indigenous women of Standing Rock issue heartbreaking plea for help ahead of evacuation”. The video, shared on Monday by social justice journalist Shaun King, drives home the idea that Standing Rock isn’t just about clean water or environmentalism – it’s also about a legal battle for treaty lands that have never been conquered.
As one woman states:
“In the history of colonization, they’ve always given us two options: Give up our land or go to jail. Give up our rights or go to jail,” one woman says in the video. “And now, give up our water or go to jail. We are not criminals.”
In short, the federal government continues to violate international law by issuing permits without tribal approval and by evicting Siouan members from land that is still legally their treaty right to occupy.
Analyzing the Legal Issues Behind the Pipeline
The Great Sioux Nation is an enormous tract of land encompassing much of the Dakotas. It was defined in the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. This is the same land claim that has made Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, the Keystone XL pipeline, etc. an undying controversy.
With the #NoDAPL movement, Keeler always stresses the importance of tribal consultation and sovereignty as the core issues, not so much water and “keeping it in the ground”. While those latter issues highlight the risks of letting the pipeline through the treaty lands, the priority is to have Standing Rock’s sovereign rights acknowledged and restored or else history will continue to repeat itself.
In an interview with Unauthorized Disclosure earlier this month, Keeler describes the treaty history of where the Standing Rock dispute is happening. She continues by putting North Dakota’s use of military force into perspective:
“The United States is still a colony. It’s a colony without portfolio. It doesn’t have a homeland. It broke away from Great Britain, its actual homeland, but it doesn’t have a homeland. Its lands are basically made up of other people’s homelands, other nations.”
Keeler has always impressed me with her ability to put Indian policy and current events into a raw and honest perspective. She describes the use of tanks and law enforcement at Standing Rock as a militarized occupation which has physically manifested itself for the first time in a long time, but which has symbolically existed for centuries.
In a meeting December 2016 in Fort Yates, North Dakota, Keeler and I spent hours sharing notes of everything we had been researching, from 150 year-old treaty language to the US Army Corps of Engineers permitting process. We concluded – as many of us have – that the USACE claims its right to approve of permits in the waterway on account of the Lake Oahe dam and its jurisdiction; however, the legality of the dam construction remains contested. The way the treaties read, the Army Corps is out of its jurisdiction to be issuing such a permit. It should be the tribe in control.
With time ticking away, and with very few other options left, it seems that prayer is the only answer – prayer that Taku Skan Skan is in fact moving, and that all the energy poured into Standing Rock will come through on the side of the tribe.
What you can do:
Perhaps the most important piece right now is for everyone in the world to share this information. Share the interview, share the videos, and share the truth. Not the false claims that the camp is polluted and trashed. Not the false claims that, because this fight is happening just north of the Reservation line, it isn’t a valid argument. Not that this is some environmentalist battle taken out of proportion. The outcome of this standoff might very well forever shape the future of indigenous rights – for better or for worse.
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Photo Credit: Getty Images