Stand with Standing Rock protest in San Francisco, November 2016. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Stand with Standing Rock protest in San Francisco, November 2016. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Indigenous people and ‘water protectors’ were cleared out of the Oceti camp this week following Trump’s go ahead to the DAPL reports Kara Bryan

Water protectors ‘voluntarily’ left the Oceti Sakowin camp this week as authorities moved in, fearing further police brutality. The Governor of North Dakota issued the ‘emergency’ evacuation order citing ‘safety concerns’ due to record snowfall. But a defiant few refused to vacate the land, risking military force and certain arrest to make a final desperate plea for solidarity as they made their last stand at Standing Rock.

Dramatic scenes ensued as water protectors wept, prayed and sang.  Symbolically torching tee pees in a final act of defiance rather than allowing them to be bulldozed by authorities, sending plumes of smoke billowing into the afternoon sky. Shortly after came the exodus to awaiting ‘amnesty vehicles’ as activists said their goodbyes to the camp that has been both home and Utopia for so many, for so long.

Those who bravely remained to defend the land faced off an army on their own land, until they were arrested and forcibly removed the following day. Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, a convoy of more than 100 law enforcement vehicles including armoured personnel carriers, Humvees, helicopters, bulldozers and more than 200 police and national guard, and even FBI, were watched by 4,000 people on a live stream as they moved through the camp until the live feeds were insidiously cut imposing blanket censorship on the forced removal of the remaining protestors. Morton County Sheriff’s Department claim 33 arrests were made including two journalists. Over 750 non-violent protestors have been arrested since August.

Over the last ten months, the Oceti Camp has been home to thousands of non-violent activists and environmentalists from across the globe who have flocked to the camp to support the indigenous tribes in their fight against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). More than 500 tribes stood in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. The pipeline was rerouted from Bismark to just north of the Standing Rock reservation in violation of the long forgotten Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 in which the land was promised to the ‘Oceti Sakowin’ or Great Sioux Nation. The tribes argue that the pipeline threatens water resources and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux. It is on this sacred land that indigenous Lakota people were slaughtered in their hundreds at Wounded Knee in 1890.  Now, over a century later, white men are still pillaging the land. 

The protestors had seen a temporary victory under the Obama administration when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers insisted on a review of the potential environmental risks and refused to grant Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, a vital easement under the Missouri. But after the transition in government, in a cruel twist of fate and unprecedented abuse of power, Donald Trump, reversed the decision approving the easement, signing an executive order to resume work on the Dakota access pipeline just four days after taking office.

Trump hurriedly sold his shares in Energy Transfer Partners before taking office to avoid accusations of corruption but at the very least, the $100,000 in campaign contributions he received from CEO Kelsey Warren went some way to securing the $3.8 billion project’s continuation.

Despite a short-lived victory, the Standing Rock demonstration will be remembered as one of the most poignant protests in recent history, capturing the hearts and minds of people all over the world.The water protestors’dignity in the face of oppression and continued non-violent conduct despite several shocking incidents of police brutality has inspired millions.

But the Standing Rock protest represents more than just the fight against the DAPL but is a weathervane indicative of growing dissatisfaction withecological crises generated by the corporate love affair with fossil fuels, the relentless rape of the environment and solidarity with broadermovementsopposing the ugly face of capitalism. Where police, no longer concerned with arresting criminals and defending the innocent,are increasingly militarised; executing black people on the streets with impunity and serving as the militant arm of Corporate America.

The camp has since been completely cleared with many fleeing to regroup at nearby Sacred Stone camp on the indigenous reservation. The pipeline will be operational in a matter of weeks, maybe even days, and oil will flow. But although the protestors have been removed from the Oceti Camp, the fight is far from over.

The Standing Rock Sioux have issued a rallying call to demonstrate in Washington on March 10th and asked people to stand in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of the world for future generations and send a clear message to Corporate America.

Only when the last tree is cut down and the last fish is caught and the last stream is poisoned, will you realise you cannot eat money.

Kara Bryan

Kara Bryan is a writer and activist and regular contributor to the Counterfire website. She is a member of Counterfire and Stop the War