Guest Feature: #NoDAPL and the Invisibility of Native Americans in Mainstream Media News


The movement to preserve the ancestral grounds of Native American tribes in the Dakotas is one I can identify with, not only as a matter of humanity, but also because my ancestors who were slaves have had their cemeteries uprooted, destroyed and used as revenue generating properties.  Furthermore, tampering with the water supply is dangerous and could create all sorts of issues should water become scarce or we experience a drought. As an ally to the movement, I wanted to address this issue, but in being a good ally, I recognize those I support must be heard—their own words and experiences and my role as an ally is to just be supportive and silent when they do voice their concerns.  That said, this piece here was written by a dear friend, Barbara MorningStar Paul, who is Native American and who has been on these front lines.  We need to hear this and we need to call mainstream media to task for such an egregious oversight.  Hear what Barbara has to say and then share it with others who also feel the media can do better in its approach to social justice .

               ~A. K. Staggers

My name is Barbara MorningStar Paul and I am a long-time resident of South Carolina. As the Dakota Access Pipeline story moves forward, I have begun reflecting on what is and is not important to national and local news outlets these days. Some people are aware that there is a peaceful camp of over 5,000 people, Native American and non-native, protecting the ancestral lands and sacred waters of the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Over 150 tribes are supporting the protest. This is the largest gathering of Native American tribes in one place in over 100 years. People who were enemies for centuries are praying, eating, and protecting the land together in an amazing, peaceful camp of song and prayer. That number was expected to reach 10,000 by Friday, when a federal judge made a decision regarding halting the pipeline – a suit filed by the Standing Rock tribe. This decision was announced in Washington DC on September 9, where many demonstrators gathered in anticipation of the verdict.  

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and the local county law enforcement have deployed the North Dakota National Guard, supposedly to protect those traveling on the roads near the camp. This is alarmingly similar to other acts of violence towards protesters – Kent State, Wounded Knee, yet local and national media have been slow to cover these incidents of violence, if at all.

The 30-inch pipeline would carry about 450,000 barrels of oil per day.  The pipeline is planned to begin near Stanley, North Dakota, in the Bakken oil fields and end in Patoka, Illinois.  From there, the oil can potentially be sent to the Gulf Coast or shipped to other markets via another pipeline, which is also creating protests and concerns.

The Dakota Pipeline Access, owned by Energy Transfer, Inc. has taken violent action towards the protectors, and has allowed their goons – they call them security – to unleash dogs and mace on innocent men, women and even children. Many people do NOT know, due to a complete blackout by mainstream media, including WISTV, WACH FOX, WLTX and The State Newspaper here in Columbia, South Carolina – our state capital. These “media” also refused to cover a peaceful demonstration on the grounds of our State House in Columbia last month, not even answering repeated press releases and calls to please come.

The situation has now become increasingly dangerous for the people at Standing Rock in the enormous camps set up to protect the water. Native people began this camp last April to protect the reservation from the very probable contamination of the river, from where they obtain all of their drinking water. Make no mistake – not just Native Americans are in danger from this pipeline. There have been 414 pipeline accidents in the US since 2000. That is an average of 26 per year. There have been 18 of these in 2016 thus far. These accidents have caused deaths, injuries and loss of environment and property.

This issue affects every American, everywhere. Seven protectors at the Standing Rock camp were arrested. Thirty people in Ohio– non-native – have been protesting and have been arrested. Al Gore’s daughter was arrested in Boston while attending a demonstration protesting the pipeline. Demonstrations have been, and will continue to be held in numerous cities across the country. Senator Bernie Sanders has been speaking out publicly against the pipeline and has even drafted a bill to reform pipeline procedures for approval. . Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein, stood with the protectors and North Dakota has clearly stated that they plan to charge her with vandalism. But no charges have been filed, nor will they be, against the “security officers’ who allowed their dogs to bite children and maced women and children who had no weapons of any kind, as they were singing and praying to stop the desecration of their ancestors’ burial places. Bulldozers dug up these ancient sites during Labor Day weekend, most likely to instigate violence from the protectors. The only violence came from the pipeline security detail.

WACH FOX News, Columbia, SC:

Stars muse over what they’d do as President 

Rapper accused of moonlighting in violent gang pleads guilty

State appeals decision overturning ‘Making a Murderer’ teen’s conviction

George Clooney hits the road for 2,500-mile bike trip 

On the same day these headlines appeared, a federal judge denied the injunction filed by the tribe’s attorneys to stop construction. Later in the day, President Obama, by delivering a joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, put on hold further work on the pipeline and stated “furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.”

This is a huge victory for the tribes, and confirms our President’s promise to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in 2014 where he said, “I know that throughout history, the United States often didn’t give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect that it deserved.  So I promised when I ran to be a President who’d change that — a President who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty, and upholds treaty obligations, and who works with you in a spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give our children the future that they deserve.”

So, did this historic act, by a President make the prime time news? ABC News online? Nope. NBC News online? Nope. CBS News online? Nope. Local news sites listed above? No at all. Lots of information about football, who refuses to stand for the National Anthem, Donald Trump’s latest goofs, and more information about Wells Fargo did, however.

With tomorrow’s 9/11 anniversary, we will pray for national unity, equality, fair reporting and important national coverage. But should we expect it? Probably not.

It is time for the United States to UNITE to support all of our people – not just those with money. Our news doesn’t care. Wake up, America, before it’s too late. Water is life. Our lives depend upon what we allow and what we condone. That’s what this movement has been about. Yet the only national news interest seems to be violence and ugliness. We must stop our tunnel vision and apathy. Now.

***Barbara MorningStar Paul is a native of California who relocated in South Carolina over 40 years ago. She is active in human rights and animal rights issues and owns numerous rescued animals. She is a grandmother and great grandmother who treasure equality and justice for all living things.


“Even Doves Have Pride”: Why The Conspiracy Theories About Prince’s Death Hurt Him and His Legacy

13962829_170471133362657_1149765282014125536_oPhoto by Randee St. Nicholas


When Prince died, I was devastated. It was like losing my best friend. It still hurts and knowing what he struggled with so privately magnifies that hurt tenfold. But my pain has had to take a back seat as frustration and, quite honestly, anger have taken hold of my emotions and my focus. Social media can be as harmful as it is helpful and informative and I have seen on that medium several fan groups and individuals who have circulated unnecessary petitions as of late to uncover “the truth” about Prince’s death and claims of murder under the auspices of conspiracy to steal his master recordings. In particular, they have accused Prince’s former label WB with whom he entered into a mutually beneficial agreement in 2014.

These “advocates” and seekers of “justice” launched their campaigns as early as April 22, 2016, the day after Prince passed away. Some didn’t even wait that long. Many began by by reading more into his last Tweet than he probably meant. Prince could be cryptic at times on purpose and in jest, but most times he actually said what he meant and meant what he said. He advertised most of his Hit N Run (HNR) shows these days via Twitter and they always said the same thing, “just when u thought u were safe”. I followed Prince from the time he opened a Twitter account and I have seen these hints about the HNR shows. His final show in Atlanta was advertised that way. So, then, why was the final Tweet taken down? He likely did it himself before he died. Prince used independent promoter, Lucy Lawler-Freas, to book dates. She has attested to this in interviews and it is on her LinkedIn profile. She’s said she was still trying to secure other venues for the “Piano and a Microphone” tour at the time of his passing. Perhaps he knew he wasn’t well enough to do the next date and needed time for recovery, to include detox and treatment for opiate dependency, and removed the Tweet as opposed to misleading his fan base. Maybe there wasn’t a location booked beyond Atlanta and rather than teasing fans with the promise of a show that fell through, removed the Tweet. As private as Prince was it is highly unlikely anyone else was able to access his Twitter account as I suspect he changed the passwords, daily.

These conspiracy theories and petitions do, however, point to a reality the creators of such fail to acknowledge: they are struggling to accept his death as a horrible accident that resulted in the death of one of the most beloved and most brilliant artists of a generation who, like many, hid a very real problem from the public and from friends. That has me coming to the resolve that many of these “advocates” retreated from Prince in the 1990s and feel guilty for doing so because now he is dead. No petition or Facebook fan group is going to change any of this; and no petition will bring him back.

We have to accept what director/producer Charles Ferguson has observed, “Prince was…human. He was ultimately killed by the collision between his perfectionism and by his shame about having flaws, and by society’s hypocrisies: the pressure to appear effortlessly spectacular in performance (which destroyed his body); to use dangerously powerful drugs to manage his pain…and to never, ever show weakness.” People have endlessly and impetuously quoted one of his signature songs to say that this, his death, “is what it sounds like when doves cry,” but I think people have only listened to that song in part; the part that only concerns them and their emotions about his life and his death.

Prince was a private man because he was a proud man. Even the most insecure among us have pride and pride is a very fragile thing. When I was a kid, people teased me for being a Prince fan, friends, family, everyone. They thought he was weird and by association, so was I. But I have never wavered in my fandom and appreciation of him and his art. Not ever and I am proud of that; it is why I can look at his life and see a man who was imperfectly perfect and perfectly imperfect. I can be proud of that and I can live with it. However, those raising the speculation that his death was part of a conspiracy strip away the very thing that keeps his legacy alive: his pride. It was his pride that made him fight the industry for control of his art. It was pride that kept him going through with the release of Emancipation and subsequent tour even though he just suffered the most immense pain one could imagine. It was his pride that let him perform through agonizing hip pain for years. And it was pride that prevented him from seeking help until the very the end and concealing his inner turmoil from those closest to him.

I can see why he hid things, no matter how detrimental to his well-being, and respect him for it because we all hide things. This is a very human thing to do and Prince was, if nothing else, human. He was just like us and said so in a 1985 MTV interview. I don’t care how he died. We all die, eventually, and the circumstances are all different. What I care about most is how he lived. Did he smile when butterflies touched his skin? The song “Glam Slam” tells me he did. Did he cry on days when he missed his son? “Comeback” tells me he did. Did he randomly quote James Brown lyrics in casual conversation like I randomly quote his lyrics in casual conversation? “Gett Off” affirms this for me. When he was younger, did he “sit out on the stoop” to “just watch all the cars go by” like so many of us do as children and teens, especially in the African-American community? According to “Reflection,” yes, he did. He was just like us. He did all the things we so-called normal people do and that includes hurting, physically and emotionally. For whatever reasons he had, Prince was hurting and it was his pride that prevented him from seeking the help he needed. This is the case with most people. He wasn’t alone. He was human.

So many people who knew him over the years talk about him being “moody,” up some days and then way down on others, genius often works that way. But do we know that when he was alone in a room by himself, that he was okay? Was he lonely? Maybe. It is possible to have friends, close friends, and parties, etc. and still feel incredibly lonely. I know that feeling. I have had it more than I care to admit, but sometimes I revel in it because it stirs creativity. I wonder if he was the same. Basically, Prince, “I wonder u”…I always have, I always will and I will always wonder why you left us so soon, not the how, but the why because I was not prepared for it.

But that is MY issue to resolve and it is not the duty of the State of Minnesota.

No matter how many petitions or letters to governors or historic landmark committees, there will never be an answer about the circumstances of his death that makes sense, it hasn’t been true for Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston. All the more reason the legacy and the art Prince left behind should be respected and not defamed by conspiracy theories that have little to no merit. People who claim to advocate for Prince feel they are doing the right thing and may have good intentions, I get that, but they are unwittingly chipping away at his dignity. And he doesn’t deserve that. The more we learn about his private use of painkillers, the more we engage in the act of usurping his pride, and that is no one’s place. We have to remember the desperation with which he sang that line in “When Doves Cry” and just let our dove have his pride and his wings…even if it hurts us to do so.