The situation around the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, which has been largely glossed over by much of mainstream US news media, appears to be disturbingly and dramatically indicative of the true dynamic – between citizenry on one hand and law-enforcement and state powers on the other – when the giant corporations (i.e: the real ‘government’) see their enterprises threatened by human rights and pesky native peoples.
When thousands of Native American citizens, joined by other indigenous peoples and a number of activists from different parts of the country, camped in North Dakota to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their ‘water protectors’, they have been met by a highly militarised contingency, including tanks and a no-fly zone.
The people, protesting in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, tried to block access by the construction teams and were met with an excessive response. The police response to what was basically an unarmed group of people was apparently so excessive that even some people in favor of the construction project have expressed their disapproval on Twitter and social media.
There have been over 140 arrests, reportedly, and dozens of people being injured. Some protesters were reportedly shot with rubber bullets, sprayed with mace, and kept in dog kennels.
As Claire Bernish reports, the indigenous community and their fellow protesters – including women and children – have also been met with mercenaries and vicious attack dogs from the private security firm guarding the construction project. The private security firm has been operating alongside state and county police and the New Mexico National Guard.
This brief on-the-ground report (see video above) by Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network (I.E.N.) to Thom Hartmann’s programme captures the tone and distressing nature of the operation, in which state-sponsored intimidation and violence appears to be being used against the population of the land for the sake of a corporation.
The pipeline, intended to run under the Missouri River, is seen as a serious threat to the Standing Rock Reservation’s water supply, as well as for the safety of the drinking water supply for around 18 million people who could be adversely affected by the pipeline.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the corporation supervising the project, apparently has a terrible safety record involving leaks and spills. The Standing Rock Sioux are not only concerned about the risk to the water supply, but are against the violation of sacred land and have also filed court documents pertaining to sites of cultural and historic value being situated in the planned path of the pipeline.
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had already – a month ago – called on the United States to immediately halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, in recognition of dire and direct threats to the drinking water, burial grounds and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux people.
The mainstream media in the US has mostly neglected these events where possible, while the the Hillary Clinton camp has declined to comment on the matter and Donald Trump, it turns out, is an investor in the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.
However, Bernie Sanders has joined the protest in calling for the pipeline to be halted and there is still strong expectation that President Obama may do so.
But, essentially, what plays out in North Dakota is an illustration of the corrupted dynamic that presently exists between the people in a land – and not just Native Americans or an indigenous community, but really any occupants of any area of land anywhere in America – and massive energy companies or corporate interests.
If the question is ‘Who’s Side Does the State or the Government Take – the Corporate Interest or the People?’, then really everyone should be watching what transpires very closely with the Standing Rock Sioux to see the answer.
And, although the issue never once came up in three Presidential Debates or any of either candidates’ speeches and campaigning, the Standing Rock Sioux and the many protesters who’ve stood in solidarity with them have essentially been attacked and suppressed by over-militarised forces funded by American tax-payers and for the sake of Oil Barons and corporations.
A petition to ask President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline can be signed here.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also has a PayPal fund, through which donations can help with emergency and sanitation needs, food supply, legal costs and other necessities.
There is also a Go Fund Me page, for the same purposes here.
Image credit (top of page): Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.