Dave Meyers is the owner of 8,100 acres that the DAPL pipeline will be crossing to get to the Missouri River or Lake Oahe. During the last week of August, he was wondering if there was any Indian graves that might be disturbed by the construction of the pipeline.
To satisfy his curiosity, he asked Tim Mentz to assess the “corridor” route that was going to be used to host the buried pipeline. Dave Meyers was fully aware that an environmental assessment (EI) had been performed by the State Historic Preservation Office, however, these are non-Indian experts, whereas, Tim owns a company called Makoche Wowapi. His business consults Tribes regarding their archeological inheritance. In addition, Tim previously worked as a Tribal and State Historic Preservation Officer since 1985.
With Tim’s knowledge and skill, he walked the area as allowed.
On Sunday, August 29, 2016, Tim and his sons found 82 significant historical marking, of which 27 were grave locations. “ We found two places where rocks were set in a circular pattern with openings to the west, as well as other effigy designs.” Every site was professionally identified and precisely charted by computer for exact location by GPS.
To the untrained eye, walking the prairie on Mr. Meyer’s property everywhere is tall grass with some stone outcroppings now and then, but Tim Mentz’s trained eyes discovered shapes that just could not have happened in nature. In fact, the stones had to be placed by the hand of thinking men. Intelligent men, who wanted to convey a story or to leave traditions of significance for the people.
The next four days were spent documenting each specific site and interpreting the cultural significance. On Friday, September 2nd, 2016, the SRST filed in district federal court in Washington, DC to request an immediate injunction to halt a construction path that was steadily approaching the site that was just revealed.
DAPL lawyers and management were duly notified of the court action. In hours, a knowing and willful act of treason to North Dakota historic preservation laws and ancient Indian ceremonial grounds unfolded.
“ The corridor work was many miles away from the historic site that was identified.”, said Chairman Archambault. “ The next day after we filed, which was Saturday, September 3rd, the construction workers and equipment leap-frogged ahead and bulldozed the site. When I heard this news, I felt my heart cave. This was so very important to stopping everything. ”
Initially, a few supporters walking along highway 1806 heard the sound of heavy equipment and went through the fence. They saw several bulldozers scrapping the ground. As word spread in the “Spirit Camp” that corridor work was active and coming, more demonstrators hurried to the area, in spite of trespassing and the jail time worry. They formed a human wall in order to stop the massive machinery. When this happened, mace and attack dogs came to the rescue of the bulldozers by DAPL’s militia or their own kind of French Foreign Legion.
But the protectors were too late to protect. The site of ritual, fasting, and graves were completely gone.
Ursula Young Bear was one of the first demonstrators to arrive at the scene. “It appeared to me, that pipeline security and the Sheriff’s department were working together on this because the cops stood and watched us get attacked and did nothing from afar.”
Tim Mentz had to sit down when he was told what happened.
“North Dakota lost a major piece of history.”
According to Tim, the sites were a very important part of Lakota/Dakota oral history. “ We were told about Bear Medicine Man and how the earth was marked with symbolism. Stories go with and are remembered by the teaching-stones inlaid in the ground, which should withstand the test of time.”
The teaching-stones are about the size of teapots and since our people had not developed a written form of language, they had extra ordinary recall but for practical purposes stones - little, big, and real big were used to remind the people of age old knowledge to be handed down. Stones were sometimes colored to convey a needed meaning and other formations reflected star knowledge, as it was believed, “What is above, the heaven and stars, is also down below too.” These simple markings on the earth had not just one meaning, but consisted of many reminders of how to be.
As far as burial sites, our people didn’t bury anyone in dirt. They were placed on scaffolds so the body could be given back to Mother Earth, however, the scaffold place was marked. Tim Mentz found 27 such final marked resting places before DAPL deleted their sanctity.
All the sacred markings are now part of huge overturned mounds of dirt containing random once hallowed stones. They now symbolize nothing but desecration for money. The upside to such ignorant behavior is Indian Nations are completely accustomed to the treatment and somehow have survived because of a good prayerful spirit.
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.