Standing Rock Tribal Elder BJ Kidder makes his case. Photo: Yes! Magazine/Paulette Moore Standing Rock Tribal Elder BJ Kidder makes his case. Photo: Yes! Magazine/Paulette Moore

Once again protest within the movements points to a wider challenge to US power and capital, argues George Mueller Waite

Having pushed the planet’s ecosystem to the brink and achieving irreversible damage through pollution, oil tycoons in the US have decided now is not the time to start a transition to renewable, sustainable energy sources. Instead they are seeking to create a new $3.8billion pipeline through the sacred burial grounds of North Dakota. The pipeline is on a direct collision course with the Missouri River, the only water supply for Native Americans based in the area. The pipeline itself is not permitted near the river and yet over the course of the last few months it has been inching ever closer.

In 2009 President Obama stated: ‘I believe Washington can’t and shouldn’t dictate a policy for Indian country….You will never be forgotten as long as I am in this White House’. He also stated: ‘We are not going to go through the motions and pay tribute to each other, then furl up the flags and go our separate ways’. Like most Obama promises, when push comes to shove, a very different tone becomes apparent. The President’s plan subsequently became  ‘let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans’.

Are you used to empty Obama promises yet? The pipeline is a clear and plain violation of US /Native America treaties and should be immediately shutdown. Further adding insult to injury, Obama created false equivalency when commenting on the shocking behaviour of the police. He said: ‘There’s an obligation for protestors to be peaceful and there’s an obligation for authorities to show restraint’.

One of the methods used by those protesting (or ‘protecting’ as they prefer to term it) at Standing Rock is civil disobedience such as chaining themselves to bulldozers ripping apart the graves of their own people. Their protest is one founded on peace; not one of aggression. The police – on the other hand – do not know, or appear to care what restraint means.

Private security personnel hired by Energy Transfer Partners have used attack dogs, rubber bullets, mace canisters, concussion grenades, water cannons (fired in sub-zero conditions) and tear gas. All these weapons can be fatal if fired at close range. To make these events even more shocking, drones being used by the protectors to film the events have been shot down and journalists are increasingly being targeted.


The situation has been gradually intensifying until it reached a climax last weekend, resulting in hundreds of serious injuries. One horrific case involves 21 year old activist Sophia Wilansky who, after having had a concussion grenade throw directly and intentionally at her, is currently undergoing surgery in an attempt to salvage her arm. Sophia’s radial and ulnar arteries have been completely destroyed. Her radius has been shattered with a large piece that is missing. A section of her medial nerve is gone and all muscle including soft tissue between the elbow and wrist has been obliterated. Sophia is now facing a battle to keep her arm – a battle she will be lucky to win.

Predictably, the Standing Rock Protest has been overlooked by the mainstream media in the US due to the Presidential election. Neither Trump nor Clinton unsurprisingly wanted to discuss the Standing Rock situation. President-elect Donald J. Trump, in fact, has invested $500K to $1million in the pipeline. The only candidate to have visited Standing Rock is Dr Jill Stein, who ran on a progressive platform for the Green Party. It seems clear at this point that the establishment – both political and private – could not care less for the needs of ordinary Americans but only for themselves.


This is clear as any person or group that doesn’t fit with their agenda is censored. This has become undeniable with the social media site, Facebook, attempting to remove several significantly important videos reporting the protest and police brutality taking place at Standing Rock. If Standing Rock were a Christian burial ground and Evangelical Christians were being treated with such belligerence and hostility there is no doubt we’d be seeing Tea Party-style protesters shouting about how their right to protest 24/7 on news coverage. However, these aren’t white angry men. These are the marginalised ‘other’.

What’s happening at Standing Rock is a struggle that should concern everyone on the planet. It is not just a struggle between indigenous people and big corporations. It is a stand against the destructive creed of neoliberalism and its consequential destruction of non-traditional Western culture in the quest for great profits. Their constant pushing of the corporate agenda has stopped them asking where the line is of the atrocities they can get away with. They think we accept that profit and gain is the sole aim of society and everything else can take a backseat.

The thousands of people at Standing Rock and the thousands of supporters, sympathisers and advocates across the globe are declaring ‘NO!’ They are sending a decisive message that there is more to life than the establishment’s insatiable lust for oil. The battle between corporations and the people in North Dakota may yet be the launch pad for a revival of the US left in the wake of Trump’s electoral triumph.