February 22 At Standing Rock: A Last Beginning
Above Photo: Native Americans march to a sacred burial ground site that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Maybe something positive will result from the dangerously brazen antics of the Trump administration. Perhaps an awakening of consciousness is occuring that would not have happened without the obviousness of Trump’s inadequacies. We may be realizing just how wrong we are in how we are treating our planet and its creatures, including ourselves. It is no coincidence that the first showdown is going to be at Standing Rock. Indigenous people are on the front lines around the world, standing against those corporations coming into the last pristine places on Earth to mine or drill. Standing Rock, however, has captured public attention. What happens there might define the kind of resistance that will continue against the Trump administration’s wrong-headed policies. If the Corp, the BIA, DAPL security and the state militia do as they say on Feb 22, whatever happens, this could be our last beginning for a movement that can stop the destruction of Mother Earth.
February 22 in Standing Rock can be the new beginning if enough of us participate. Joining the peaceful, prayerful Water Protectors on Feb. 21 and 22 in large enough masses will show the world that with courage to choose right decisions and fearlessness to take action in behalf of them, we can protect our waters.
The main camp, which is muddy and being cleared by machines, will likely be empty, but the Sacred Stone camp on higher ground just across the Cannonball River is where people are continuing to hold vigil and will be praying in peaceful resistance.
People who can will come to Standing Rock because they see it not as a last stand but as an act that will begin a new level of resistance — a new level of practicing our highest virtues. If we can get a mass of supporters to the main camp on February 22 and if the militia is emboldened even more now that Trump is their boss, the world will see the resolve of the Water Protectors to hold their position in prayerfulness. With video after video showing such dedication and courage continuing against the illegal, immoral and dangerous police actions, we can reveal the truth so President Trump’s statements about no one complaining about Standing Rock will look even more foolish.
Such video work will hopefully come from media who go to Standing Rock on Feb. 22. The media has been too quiet of late, perhaps out of resignation to the pipeline being built or fear of Trump. News outlets will continue to be misleading of course. While dismissing a study to consider risks for polluting with oil the Missouri river, the Corps is citing a concern about the environment for the notice of eviction. Promoting such false motivation to the public, the Washington Times, famous for its founder’s “desire to fulfill the Will of God” (years before Trump), wrote on February 5: “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday that the camp, located on federal land, would be closed February 22 in order to ‘prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in this area’ at the mouth of the Cannonball River in North Dakota.”
Of course, this is the same concern expressed when the Corps ordered everyone out of camp in its November 25 order for an eviction on December 5:
As stewards of the public lands and natural resources, we have a responsibility to the public to prevent injuries and loss of life,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander, Col. John Henderson. “We must also ensure our precious water resources are free from pollution due to human activities and respect for all who rely on this water for their livelihoods.
The whole of Henderson’s earlier letter received a response from Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier that became the fourth most widely read article published by Native news online for all of 2016. In it he writes:
Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of your letter is your acknowledgement of the stark reality that that the confrontation between our peaceful water protectors and law enforcement could result in death or serious injury, a fact demonstrated by the brutal attack on Sophia Wilansky by North Dakota police last week. But in the very next paragraph you guarantee that further confrontations will occur by promising that these peaceful people will be trespassing on closed areas and you threaten that they will do so “at their own risk” and will “assume any and all corresponding liabilities for their unlawful presence and occupation of such lands.”
If these words forewarned of all brutality by DAPL, state and federal-sponsored terrorism against the Water Protectors previous to the Trump administration, we might imagine what might occur on February 22 when Water Protectors peacefully disobey the eviction notice and sing their prayers into the universe. This possibility only increases the resolve to resist and pray harder. “We have to unify in the face of this adversity,” one young Indigenous activist from the Philippines said last week in a strategy meeting at Sacred Stone. Another person said, “It’s not about Standing Rock anymore, it’s about the world … No matter what happens, even as they’re drilling as we talk, we must all stand up for the water.” Brandy-Lee, a 34-year-old Nakota woman from Canada was recently cited in the Guardian saying, “If we just stand down, that sets a precedent for other pipelines — that they are allowed to go to Indian land and just take it.” “We have the world watching,” she added, “and people are coming back.”
At the same time Morton County Sherriff Kyle Kirchmeier has renewed requests for more US marshals to help close down the camps. With his usual belligerence against the Water Protectors, he was quoted as saying,”Our hope is that the new administration in Washington will now provide North Dakota law enforcement the necessary resources to bring closure to the protests…. This has never been about the pipeline or the protests. This has always been about the rule of law.”
Yet rule of law is exactly what has been violated from the beginning and was punctuated with Trump’s illegal executive order that reversed the order for an Environmental Impact Statement. It is illegal for the exact same reasons the 9th Circuit judges found his executive order banning people from entering the United States to be illegal.
Zygmunt Plater, a professor of environmental law at Boston College is one of many who agree. He cites a Supreme Court decision showing that Trump’s administration has not provided adequate evidence for the reversal, just like it could not provide adequate evidence that any immigrants on the banned list had committed terrorism.
All of this means that the rule of law is being ignored by the Trump administration but not be ignored by all of us. Our successes have to be with our lawyers and legislators. However, the law is inspired subjectively via the contagion of courage. It is not time to think naively nor to be afraid of Trump supported retaliation. Even Dave Archambauldt now admits he was too trusting that the Trump administration would follow the rule of law. So we are mostly all in solidarity again, at least in principle. Standing Rock is the place where we can show we are not afraid of Trump’s use of militia on us. It is where others just say no and change sides like many of the state police have done after serving at Standing Rock.
This is not to suggest the source of fear is not real. Trump’s Hitleresque attitudes are in fact dangerous and his tweets are emboldening police to be even more inhumane. Arrests are also real with some Water Protectors facing trumped-up felony charges for allegedly inciting a riot. Jenni Monet, a courageous reporter who watched last Wednesday when dozens of peaceful protectors stood in a circle, singing and praying in a camp on higher ground as the police handcuffed each person, was herself charged with rioting. Add to this that increasing numbers of BIA enforcers who are planning on coming for the eviction, and the news about how FBI terrorism task forces are now labeling Standing Rock activists as enemies of the state, and one can understand why many feel we should leave the battle to the lawyers in the courts.
However, the battles in the courts would not likely have resulted in the Obama administration’s reversal memorandum, even if it was not done with great determination and support. It was the 15,000 Water Protectors making a statement for all the world. If another truly peaceful, prayerful stand results in more injuries, this may be the price we have to pay for a much worse fate that lies ahead for all of us.
If it is too difficult for the readers of this piece to make the difficult journey to Standing Rock in time for Feb. 22, keep on the phone calling congresspersons. Watch YouTube so you can see what is happening before cameras are confiscated and posts are erased.
And “pray.” Prayers with the loving intention of preserving our Earth for future generations interact with the universe. When enough people send off similar vibrations, things happen. The power truly is in the people on many levels and we have already seen that the loving courage such as that maintained for a year at Standing Rock is contagious (as I have written previously). With courage, everyone can do something to help motivate more and more congresspersons and lawyers to act according to their highest virtues.
My reference to prayer is relevant as relates to the Feb. 22 D-Day because of the Trump administration’s continual references to a government-wide initiative to respect religious freedom so Americans could “express areas of their faith without reprisal.” Indigenous spirituality of course is not seen as relating to this initiative. Even the famous comparative religions scholar, Huston Smith, ignored Indigenous spirituality his entire university career until he realized how he had misunderstood. Almost all his work since his retirement has been about Indigenous spirituality. Indigenous spirituality sees the protection of the river and life around it as being part of one’s “religious duty” surely as much as others might respect Scripture. This spiritual piece must be in all our minds to overcome the frustration, anger and fear. Wesley Clark, Jr. is working to organize the interfaith community and is organizing a group to march in DC.
Veterans Stand for Standing Rock is reported to be sending veterans to help pray and be there to protect children and other vulnerable people if absolutely necessary. They will primarily pray, however.
I want to be clear with this appeal for people around the world to show up at Standing Rock in saying that the violence of the government forces will likely be worse than ever. According to continuing reports from Myron Dewey, under the Trump administration a new level of anti-Indian meanness is occurring. A woman was beaten with a baton for arguing against a police officer. Police urinated on sacred items that were confiscated from Native people before they were burned. The Bureau of Indian Affairs headquartered at the Prairie Casino is now standing hard against its own people. The FBI is there making trumped-up profiles on people who show up as well. The courts will not be just, and Water Protectors will likely be falsely accused of felonies. Myron rightly warns that what is happening at Standing Rock now is a preview of what is coming to your town next. This is why we must have many people to witness it all. This is why we must do this action with more compassion and respect than ever, to show that even with our anger against what is happening against us, we can stay strong to our higher values.
I close this piece with a quote from Chase Iron Eyes, one of the true leaders of the water protection movement at Standing Rock who is facing up to five years in prison for just speaking the truth. His words were stated in a Refuse Fascism interview with Carl Dix: “Yes, I think we all need to be ready … if you can come to Standing Rock we will welcome you and we will accommodate you. February 22 is the date that the Army Corps set to evacuate forcibly. They didn’t use those terms but they are declaring that the camps need to be evacuated on February 22. So that’s gonna be a day of reckoning for everybody there. If you can’t come we are going to call for some sort of direct action across the country in support of the people who are on the front line there, who may face an armed state.”