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.
Still, my local news prioritized the following headlines on September 9, 2016 to be of greater importance:
WISTV News, Columbia, SC:
WLTX News, Columbia, SC:
Dos Equis introduces its new ‘Most Interesting Man’
Alligator Found at Swan Lake Iris Gardens
The State Newspaper, Columbia SC:
WACH FOX News, Columbia, SC:
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.