It was a good try, all of those brave citizens, mostly Native Americans being shot in the face with rubber bullets, being pepper sprayed, being beaten and finally being arrested because of their lawful engagement in peaceful prayer and protest.
By Georgianne Nienaber
A society of thousands that had its genesis in a prayer camp in the summer of 2016 at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers has evolved into something that is almost unrecognizable from those languid summer days.
By Avis Little Eagle and Georgianne Nienaber
A society of thousands that had its genesis in a prayer camp in the summer of 2016 at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers has evolved into something that is almost unrecognizable from those languid summer days. The rhythmic notes of Junior Cuero's bird songs summoning unity and respect were lost in the roar of Dakota Access bulldozers and sonic blasts from long-range acoustic devices combined with the whoosh of tear gas canisters.
Media narratives have been mixed. Those of us who were there witnessed much good and also some very troublesome behavior.
Elliott Rhoades is a member of the Standing Rock Tribe and is a regular columnist with Teton Times. Rhoades is a former Vice Chairman for the tribe, a former tribal councilman, and he is the former Tribal Veterans Service Officer. Here is a portion of a narrative he wrote for the paper.
"I went out to those camps as they were being formed, Red Warrior camp consisted of people who were intent on creating trouble and problems from the start. They intended to disrupt everything and everybody, thus creating problems then decided to leave.
The over flow camp consisted of everyone else who thought they should be a part of this protest, but had no idea of why? Hundreds of people were soon descending on Standing Rock with the intent of taking part in a peaceful, prayerful, non-violent protest to try and stop this pipeline from being completed. Thus putting an end to the route. This was the intent. But as you read, this did not happen"
"There is plenty of fault and blame to go around on both sides. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, jailed and are bound for court off the reservation. Personally, all that was accomplished by getting arrested is that the protesters now will have a jail record, pay a fine and the protest will continue. They did not stop the pipeline in any manner. Court action later, delayed the pipeline easement, but the fight continues in the courts."
Those summer and early autumn days of people living together in an organized community with shared traditions and values are gone. The heavy presence of Big Green Environmental groups as well as opportunistic wolves who prowl cyberspace in search of the gullible and guilty have crushed the birds sent by the Creator. Creator offered the birds to teach the People how to sing and dance and treat each other with empathy and not indifference.
The sun no longer bathes campsites in warm light while people gather together to pray. Instead, a grandmother is found zip-tied to a chair in a tipi, diaperless and surrounded by her own urine and feces. (Source: Bismarck Tribune) Meanwhile a middle-aged man freezes to death behind a building and women die for lack of propane, while Indian women in Pendleton jackets party at Hollywood fundraisers and are interviewed on national television.
It is not surprising that, in an interview with an Oregon student newspaper, Tribal Chairman David Archambault condemned the current situation. "What I saw happen was something that was beautiful. Then I saw it just turn to where it's ugly, where people are fabricating lies and doing whatever they can, and they're driven by the wrong thing. What purpose does it have to have this camp down there? There are donations coming, so the purpose is the very same purpose for this pipeline; it's money." (Source: Daily Emerald, University of Oregon)
As with any society, the protest camps at Standing Rock began with a noble cause-- fighting a pipeline and uniting Indian Nations that had not stood together for one purpose in hundreds of years. But combine time, human nature and a change of season within a microcosm of society that includes good and bad actors, money, envy, and desire for power, and the result is a powder keg. Accountability is a casualty of human nature and internal power struggles. How did a noble society based on prayer and the faith that a Creator was guiding action begin to "implode" upon itself, in the words of Archambault? (Source: January 4 Council Meeting)
Important questions and have been raised by tribal members, donors, and the State of North Dakota. Are monies donated via the Internet reaching the intended recipients? How are donations being applied? Is there an accountability process? Searching for accountability brings to mind Diogenes wandering through ancient streets of Athens with his lamp and searching for one honest man. Diogenes professed that that virtue was a result of action and not a theory. How many theories of social justice and environmental action are professed on the thousands of websites raising money on the backs of the poor of Standing Rock and the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for a paltry 1,000 or so squatters on Army Corps land while tribal members freeze to death on the reservation?
This is not a new story. Look to Big Green.
A 2009 article by Michael Barker, "When Environmentalists Legitimize Plunder," is a roadmap to how the big green NGO's piggyback on environmental movements and literally plunder the hearts and minds of armchair activists by coaxing them into donating.
Green Inc., a 2008 expose by environmental insider Christine MacDonald, reveals how big name environmental organizations are run by overpaid staff, who solicit contributions from predatory companies. The Facebook page, "ExposingFraudsWannabeesinIndianCountry" has a graphic that ties many of these erstwhile Standing Rock players to BIG GREEN.
Greenpeace is one of the biggest of the Big Greens. Look also to its website pages and find post after post about Standing Rock, the youth of Standing Rock, and breathless blogs, such as "My Time at Standing Rock," or "How Your Generosity Is Helping #NoDAPL Camps Keep Up the Resistance."
"(Greenpeace supporters (like you!) donated thousands of pounds of supplies to keep the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline strong.)"
Donation buttons are sprinkled across each page, and people still freeze to death on the windswept plains.
Let's take a look at the Form 990 from Greenpeace. Form 990 is the IRS return of an organization exempt from income tax. 2015 is not available, but a look at 2014 shows $16,639,863 in salaries and other compensations, $859, 398 for un-named directors and trustees, and $ 1,696,850 for travel. In 2014, $33,462,321 came from contributions and grants.
In "Wrong Kind of Green" (December 2016), Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer "demystify the funding and soft power behind this seemingly organic 'grassroots' movement. The veil is lifted as to the price and profits behind the actions and the movement." It is yet another look at how Big Green acts as the trickster, using youth movements to win hearts and minds and donations that never reach the intended recipients.
North Dakota Looks at Fundraising
It is not surprising that the State of North Dakota has interjected Internet fundraising for Standing Rock into the docket of at least one trial.
On December 19, ten water protectors charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct against the Dakota Access Pipeline were scheduled for a joint jury trial in North Dakota's District Court. The trial and jury selection was postponed until January 31, 2017 when presiding Judge Cynthia Feland learned that not all of the defendants had received evidence from the prosecutor, which included aerial videos and photos of the protest site. 65 jurors were called to the small courtroom on the third floor of the Morton County Courthouse. Approximately 35 showed up along with ten attorneys and the defendants. The proceedings were closed due to space restrictions.
In the complaint, filed by Assistant Morton County State's Attorney Brian D. Grosinger, the defendants were charged with attempting to "obstruct, block, harass, alarm and/or prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline from building a permitted access road to DAPL leased property"." on August 11. The alleged offenses took place on Highway 1806 and near mile marker 35. Individual citations ranged from fleeing on foot, to pushing through yellow police tape, pushing an officer, and pushing through a police line. The complaint states, "Objects such as rocks and bottles were thrown at Law Enforcement Officers," but does not specifically name any of the defendants as doing so.
This is the genesis of one of the complaints against water protectors. It is offered in historical context and as a review of where the case stands at this writing. But something else enters this equation. It is a tale as old as time and involves money and the perception of who controls donations obtained through crowd sourced fundraising from legitimate and fraudulent Internet campaigns.
The summary of the proceedings this far and examination of the complete docket offer some context and suggestions of how North Dakota intends to prosecute this case, and more importantly, how the State intends to level potential fines if the defendants are found guilty. The State's brief on this matter raises questions about out of state influences, sophisticated Internet fundraising, and publicity. Who, exactly, are legitimate media and what entities are entitled to collect funds on behalf of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes?
The answers to some of these questions will impact how fines are assessed against the defendants in this case. Residents of Fort Yates and other tribal members will be viewed in the same light as out-of-state co-defendants and the State does not seem inclined at this writing to consider the special circumstances of tribal members or whether or not they benefitted from fundraising.
(Note: Shortly after this article was published, Morton County authorities announced a list of over 300 websites ostensibly collecting funds for Standing Rock.
"Tattoos for Standing Rock" netted $144,605. And still people freeze in the snow on the reservation.)
Let's take a look at the State's "Demand for Defense Cost Particulars."
By law, North Dakota can require each defendant with a court appointed attorney to fully reimburse the State for the full costs of their defense following a conviction, assuming a conviction takes place.
The State assumes that the purpose, rightly or wrongly, of the DAPL protests is to drain the State of resources. To date the State maintains it has spent $17 million. The State also maintains that all of the protests are done to "create fake news"" to bring attention, celebrities, both passionate and very gullible people, and finally money--all to be focused on multiple issues of national discontent."
This is the heart of the State's plan to collect attorney fees. This again raises questions that go far beyond this jury trial. Who, exactly, is benefitting from crowd source finding? Are out-of-state filmmakers, celebrities and activists prolonging the protest through a dangerous winter when the Tribal Chairman has asked everyone to go home for their own safety? Will Tribal members who were arrested be penalized because of the actions of out-of-state actors and outrageous fundraising schemes? How can monetary damages be assigned fairly in court? Why should an enrolled tribal member have to pay attorney fees, if convicted, because the State has identified fundraising by out-of-state actors that the defendant will never benefit from?
The money angle has been raised outside of the courtroom. When Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II initially asked protestors to go home after the Army Corps of Engineers refused to grant an easement under Lake Oahe in early December, he suggested that some who were urging people to stay were benefitting from donations.
But how does this financial quandary affect the annual budget of the tribal government, which has borne the burden of support for the main Oceti Sakowin Camp?
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe operates on three budgets. The Indirect Cost Budget is federally funded and pays the salaries of employees through the General Service Administration or federally funded grants. That budget is approximately $4.5 million.
The employee positions that are paid are: half of the Tribal Chairman, Vice Chairman and Council's salaries, (the other half of the elected government's salaries is paid by Casino Revenue), Contracting, Enrollment, Executive Director and Executive Secretaries, Finance, Grants Management Office, Human Resources, IT, Legal Office, Mailroom, Maintenance, Property and Recording. GSA only pays salaries of positions that are Tribal Government support.
The average salary for these positions is $20,000 to $30,000. Tribal Council Salaries of the 17 council representatives and the Vice Chairman is $52,000. And the Tribal Chairman's salary is $80,000. So $26,000 of the tribal council member salaries is paid with Indirect Cost Budget and $40,000 of tribal chairman's salary is paid with IDC budget. The Chairman of the tribe and his right-hand-man, the Executive Director, are the head supervisor's of all tribal employees. Fiscal oversight over all tribal finances is under the Chief Finance Officer of the tribe in the tribal finance office.
The tribe owns 2.3 million acres of land, held in trust on behalf of the 15,000 plus enrolled tribal members. The Tribe's General Fund Budget is $3.6 million and this money is used to provide services to tribal members through employees that serve the people or directly to District Government.
In 2010, the tribal council passed a resolution placing a moratorium on any oil and gas production on the reservation, until the tribe's codes are updated and an Oil and Gas Code is written. The tribal council did this because council members and program directors as well as general membership, saw how much damage the Three Affiliated Tribes was dealing with; damaged roads on the reservation and environmental degradation. Standing Rock was apprehensive that soon oil and energy producers would look to Standing Rock, so the moratorium buys the tribe time to get environmental protection laws in place.
The Casino Revenue Budget is the tribe's largest budget, and the most the tribe has ever generated is $14 million. The Casino Revenue Budget is the profit from the Grand River Casino near Mobridge, S.D. and the Prairie Knights Casino, near Cannon Ball, N.D.
Due to the DAPL protest, the tribe's casino revenue is now under $9 million. The Casino Revenue Budget pays for tribal loans taken for infrastructure on the reservation, including district streets, housing construction and renovation, water infrastructure, the construction of Headstart buildings in the districts, and the tribe's insurance for the districts. It is used to match federal grants for Disaster Recovery, Food Distribution, and matching grants for other tribal programs.
Since the tribe has made assurances on paying the loans for the infrastructure projects, and used collateral to guarantee the loans for the infrastructure projects, the tribe will prioritize its obligations to the banks in order to keep the tribe in good standing.
Tribal programs that are funded by Casino Revenue include: Elderly Needs ($1500 that is allocated to elders 70 and over on the reservation); Gaming Commission; Paleontology; Health Plan; Solid Waste Disposal; Water and Sewer; Child Protection Services; Elderly Protection Program; Indian Child Welfare Act Program; Lake Oahe Group Home; Nutrition for the Elderly; Tribal Historic Preservation Office; Tribal Veteran Service Program and Youth Employment. All programs subsidized by Casino Revenue will take a direct hit when there is a Casino Revenue shortfall.
Due to the DAPL protests, a $4-$5 million Casino Revenue shortfall will have far-reaching and catastrophic affects on the people of Standing Rock. Services will be cut, lay-offs will happen, and money that is needed to heat homes, feed families, and repair housing are going to take direct hits - whole families are affected when the bread-winners of their families are no longer employed.
On December 6, 2016, Chairman Archambault issued a press release, telling everyone to go home. The objective had been reached and the DAPL was stopped pending a new Environmental Review and discussion of alternate routes. The future of the pipeline could not be predicted, but coming storms and prospects for a brutal winter would put camp residents in jeopardy and further strain reservation resources.
We deeply appreciate all the people who supported us with their presence, but when this storm passes, it is time to dismantle the camp and return to our homes. If the camp stays where it is currently located, people are risking their lives. The current weather is severe, making travel impossible. If the camp stays, we run a risk of further provocation from local law enforcement. Once one person is hurt or property is destroyed, that will lead to more outsized actions by law enforcement. The longer the camp stays, the greater risk we run of seeing further violence at the hands of law enforcement and potential injury to our supporters.
Our great leaders of the past would never put the people at risk of harm, especially women and children. I don't want anyone to be living in an unsafe environment. We need to stay in prayer, believe in our prayer, and begin our journey home in prayer. I believe in my prayers and in the Creator. Take the lessons we learned here and apply them at home -- unity, peace, prayer.
In subsequent meeting and conversations, Archambault continues to stress that the continued presence of the camps threatens water quality of the Missouri River. The camps are located on a flood plain and the winter so far has dropped record snow.
On January 11, the Bismarck Tribune reported, "The anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protest encampment is situated in the bull's-eye for a potentially severe spring flood. As snowfall totals mount, state officials are dialing up their warnings.
Bismarck has never recorded higher year-to-date snowfall at 57.3 inches and the State Water Commission, through the state's Joint Information Center, reports the situation means "a significant safety risk to people and property at that location."
The Oceti Sakowin main encampment is located on the flood plain where the Cannonball River and Cantapeta Creek meet the Missouri River/Lake Oahe."
What the Tribune did not report is the amount of waste, including human feces and animal manure, now buried under the snow. Garbage is not being picked up on a regular basis. The Tribe stopped paying for Porta Potties and water delivery and garbage disposal when the Chairman issued his statement asking everyone to go home.
On December 19, before the last snows, horses were wandering at liberty through the camp and horse manure was everywhere. Anyone who has owned a horse and kept it confined in pasture knows that the manure and urine gets compacted in the snow, creating slurries of waste in the spring. Imagine what will flow into the Missouri when the spring floods arrive.
Gullible people, who are still donating money are only prolonging misery and inviting the inevitable environmental catastrophe.
The bottom line is that money and greed are winning the struggle, while clean water and the hopes of prayer and unity are losing. The remaining "water protectors" seem to be protecting their own egos.
Did the Creator intend this?
A Facebook post by "Wiyaka Zi Wicasa" and used in part with his permission, offers a sober and historical view of the Standing Rock Protests, who is involved and who should be the ultimate arbiters. He speaks of unelected "leaders" and false agendas that rely upon money. He also speaks of a Spiritual directive that has been ignored.
He talks of prayer and offers an admonishment.
"Do not disturb the resting places of the Ancestors who themselves are telling the people. No confrontation. To pray. That we are a peaceful and non-violent encampment. Do not bring trouble to those in prayer."
"For all of the violent protestors (and there has been violence and destruction of private property): "The Ancestors have TOLD you not to disturb them. For disturbing them there are consequences. You who have disturbed them will learn the consequences directly."
"I'm glad that those who aren't of the same heart and mind as my people are going home. They need to take the garbage they brought with them as they leave our Treaty Territory. Now we will not have to worry about them bringing trouble to our Spiritual Leaders, trouble to our Elders, trouble to our Women, trouble to our Children, and trouble to our Allies."
"You're welcome to stay. So don't think I'm telling you to leave. All will follow the directives of the Traditional Leadership and Legitimate 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty Representatives. Conduct yourself as a guest should when in the home of another."
A powerful message.
On Dec. 14, the district of Cannon Ball, located nearest to the camp, had a meeting and voted "To direct the Standing Rock Tribal Council to close down the Sacred Stone Camp and use the Law Enforcement and funds raised, to send people home."
Cannon Ball District members have been unhappy with campers who speed through the community with campers who are not involving the community, when the camp is located in their district. They are unhappy as well with the fundraising going on by all camps -- Oceti Sakowin, which morphed into Oceti Oyate, Last Real Indians, Sacred Stone, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth (and many others), as well as individual campers.
On Jan. 4, the district motion was taken up at the Tribal Council and the full council voted, 8, yes, 1, no, 2, not voting, 5 excused and one late, to close the camps, a signal that campers had worn out the welcome and that the Stand With Standing Rock call for action had expired.
Chairman Archambault said 10 acres of land has been set-aside for a Sustainable living community, to show others that it can be done. Those holding on to the Water Protectors to protect their fundraising, are urging campers to move to the 10 acre plot, a move that the Cannon Ball District as well as the tribal government, is not encouraging at this time.
(Note: Since the initial publication of this article, cleanup has begun at the former Oceti Sakowin Camp. On February 1, authorities arrested and evicted 74 people from private property.)
Editor's note: Standing Rock Tribal Member Avis Little Eagle, has served as Councilwoman, Vice Chairwoman and Councilwoman-at-large for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
She is a 1987 graduate of Sitting Bull College and attended Black Hills State University where she majored in Mass Communications with a minor in Native Studies.
She began her career as a journalist in 1990, working at The Lakota Times Newspaper. She eventually worked her way from newspaper reporter to managing editor at the newspaper, which later became Indian Country Today. She reside's in McLaughlin, S.D., where she also is the publisher of the Teton Times, a newspaper covering the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations.
Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, The Ugandan Independent, Rwanda's New Times, India's TerraGreen, COA News, ZNET, OpEdNews, Glide Magazine, The Journal of the International Primate Protection League, Africa Front, The United Nations Publication, A Civil Society Observer, Bitch Magazine, and Zimbabwe's The Daily Mirror. Her fiction expos- of insurance fraud in the horse industry, Horse Sense, was re-released in early 2006. Gorilla Dreams: The Legacy of Dian Fossey was also released in 2006. Nienaber spent much of 2007 doing research in South Africa, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was in DRC as a MONUC-accredited journalist, and has been living Southern Louisiana investigating hurricane reconstruction and getting to know the people there since late 2007. Nienaber is currently developing a documentary on the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, and continuing "to explore the magic of the Deep South." She is a member of the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.