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Anti-DAPL: Are You a TRAITOR or PATRIOT?

As we see the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) unfolding on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, the question we hear Indians and Non-Indians asking themselves is, “Where do I fall as far as my belief system guides me in this matter ?” “Are the people demonstrating traitors to America, or are they patriots?”

If a person hasn’t already developed strong convictions one way or the other, and wants more knowledge about the DAPL issue, they can spin the dial to KFYR’s 550AM morning show called, What’s On Your Mind. This show will certainly give you more than enough reasons to be positively inclined or in favor of the pipeline. Scott Hennen, the host, his guests, and his listeners will give you an ear full of the arguments that are pro-construction.

By listening to Hennen you will become aware of why American Indians and others camped just north of Cannonball should be arrested. He states quite openly that the Indians should be thankful for the monthly government checks they receive, and inflames listeners with the Fighting Sioux name topic. Never mind the issue is about building a pipeline. In general the show will paint Indians in a pretty bad way, while ranting for the pro-pipeline point of view.

For the opposite view, one has to travel to the campsite and visit with the demonstrators. Listen to the messages of why they feel protecting our natural resources is so important. And if the opportunity presents itself, listen to the leaders spread the word of how spirituality, prayer and peaceful demonstration is so vital to overcoming the seemingly insurmountable opposition.

As far as facts, it is up to each individual to decide what to believe among what is being stated by opponents and proponents of the pipeline and its Texas-based owners. Both sides will use data that supports their stance. For instance, Mr. Hennen’s group cites experts that say the pipelines in America are the safest way to transport oil, and the chance of a rupture of the DAPL pipeline is practically non-existent. However, the tribes at the demonstration camp that come from Montana can share their story of the pipeline under the Yellowstone River. This pipeline breached and spilled between 50 to 100 thousand gallons of crude oil into the river in January of 2015. The many downstream non-Native communities are told the water has benzamine in it so they are advised to not drink the water.

Black and white documented studies indicate the subsurface transportation of oil causes far less air pollution. Standing Rock Sioux (SRST) Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault, II totally understands and agrees; however, he cites other studies that reveal the pollution caused by pipe leakages, though less frequent, is far more devastating in size and containment problems compared to the surface environmental damage caused by trucks and rail. So there is a choice. Do you go for a less-air-pollution approach or side with stop-land-and-water-contamination argument?

The top elected officials, if they are listened to, want the pipeline for its economic advantages. The Chairman of the SRST claims the pipeline has nothing to do with the best economic interest of North Dakota. He believes that pipeline builders will be here and gone in months, which he likens to a puff of smoke in the wind. “The reality is that rail and trucking revenues will decrease,” he said, “which means less business and jobs for North Dakotans.”

Rumors on both sides of the demonstration are plentiful. For example, a rumor going around the pipeline demonstration camp is that the Governor of North Dakota is an investor in DAPL so, it is logically concluded, he wants the blockade of highway 1806. The anti-pipeline citizens believe the Governor must have at heart his own interests or his wallet. Closing the road brings controversy and hardship to the demonstrators and the SRST, which will supposedly cause their spirit to weaken.

The misunderstanding or rumor by the pro-pipeline folks is that the SRST is sponsoring the demonstration, which is not true. The SRST began its opposition two years ago and has now filed an injunction. Many people believe in the tribe’s position and some people began camping in April 2016. Because the position is so widely supported, demonstrators are arriving in droves. To the Standing Rock Sioux, these tribes and people are now guests, and the Tribe must give them basic courtesy assistance. However, all campers know they are on their own and they are asked to respect the tribe’s desire to have everything done in a peaceful and spiritual way.

The official, stated reason to close the road is there is an unsafe environment down the road. At least this is the reason stated and re-stated by the media for the North Dakota officials. The presence and or potential presence of weapons or explosives of some kind is always insinuated.

The Chairman says there is no danger to the general public. “There is no beef with any North Dakota person, law enforcement officer, or construction worker,” he said. “We don’t have any desire to hurt anyone. There are no weapons or drugs allowed in the camp. Our beef is with the Army Corps of Engineers and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Actually our problem isn’t even with these executives because it isn’t their fault that they were born, raised, and educated to be successful at any cost to society. They will do anything for money. ”

In Brazil, the Olympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte lied about being robbed. His words swirled around the world, which made Brazilians out to be a bunch of robbers. In North Dakota, we have a sheriff who made claims about a pipe bomb at the demonstration site. This statement was used to close the highway and fuels negativite reactions because now Indians are terrorists with pipe bombs.

What’s the difference between the swimming hero Lochte and a trustworthy sheriff, who reported information about a pipe bomb? This is very, very important in thinking about who is a traitor or patriot.

The Sheriff’s department has retracted the false pipe bomb report. Nonetheless the blockade has not been reopened. American Indians at the camp continued to be painted as people that should be feared: terrorists. And to illustrate how the public fear works, one of KFYR radio listeners called in and said, “We’ve got to keep those filthy Indians from coming to our state capitol.”

Mr. Scott Hennen and KFYR also broadcast that the road closure is appropriate because what’s going down at the demonstration site is an unlawful protest. The demonstrators are on Army Corps land without permissionwhich means, to pro-pipeline logic, all the demonstrations and activities on Corps land are unlawful.

This is countered by opponents of the pipeline who say the tribe has undeniable rights to be on its own land. It is more than clear that presently the Standing Rock Sioux tribal boundaries are the north bank of the Cannonball River. So obviously the Army Corps or state does not want to upturn that can of worms or legalities. With no arrests, it is obvious that the camp is enjoying camping and praying on the tribe’s own land. So it all depends which side of the lawful fence that a person wants to be on.

In the end, who is a traitor or patriot should revolve around the morality or ethics of the individuals, and the lon- range implications of a pipeline. To many, unfortunately, it may just be based on a red man vs white man deal.

In my opinion, the honest truth of the question is in the understanding of carbon. The production and present use of carbon has such dreadful ramifications for all life in the future.

“ Once there was a case to be made for pipelines, but
that moment is irrelevant and in our history. Many
hoped there would be an easy transition away from fossil
fuels to future sources. But easy transitions rarely happen
in history, instead, industry is hit by a disruptive force
that changes everything, and today its name is the
Standing Rock Sioux.”

Mark Trahant – Independent Journalist

Dave Archambault Sr., is best known as the Indian School Whisper, aka Joe Bucking Horse. He has been a voice for future generations by advocating empowerment schooling models for Indian learners of all ages. He earned a masters degree from Penn State and has headed the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, American Indian College Fund, Sitting Bull College, with experience as Tribal Councilman, School Superintendent, Principal, and currently sits on a BIE grant school and Fort Yates public school board, and is the chairman of the Board for the American Indian Business Leaders organization.