Last fall, the eyes of the world were fixated on Standing Rock.
Among the images burned into the brains of so many abroad were those of Morton County sheriff’s department, joined by law enforcement officers from across the country, bedecked in military gear and armed to the teeth, brutalizing defenseless water protectors for expressing their first amendment rights and freedom of religion. Eyes were opened when mercs sicced vicious attack dogs on women and children guarding sacred burial grounds with their lives. Folks thousands of miles away watched in horror as they witnessed concussion grenades being thrown into crowds and elders being maced in the midst of sweat lodge raids. People will never forget live stream video picked up by mainstream media, showing hundreds of civilians being shot with water cannons in subzero temperatures by a corporate police state army. Some photos of injuries were judged too graphic to post by social media, as they revealed a young woman with a near severed limb and another who’d been blinded in one eye.
This was not Iraq or Afghanistan. There was no foreign enemy invading our shores. These events occurred in the middle of the United States, on Lakota treaty lands; and the only thing these innocent people had done was dare to stand in the way of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the same one Bismarck, North Dakota residents rejected due to fears it would contaminate their water supply. This war zone created by Dakota Access and Morton County was meant to subdue Standing Rock residents and water protectors and force them to accept an unwarranted risk to their fresh water and the desecration of ancestral graves, under the barrel of a gun.
Here in the states, hundreds of Native Nations and the American public sided with Standing Rock. Scores came to camp along the shores of the Mni Sosa (Missouri River). Others rallied in the local cities, signed petitions, and called the White House. Millions were outraged by the injustice.
Yet who is paying for the corporate police state brutality I just mentioned? You are.
Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), who accepted money from Energy Transfer Partners (the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline) and has been vocal in his support of both the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as the Keystone XL pipeline, has announced that North Dakota will receive $15 million in federal funds to reimburse the state for costs incurred as a result of militarizing Barney Fife and company while they pushed the pipeline through for ETP and engaged in the violent, forced removal of water protectors. Hoeven slid said monies into the Department of Justice’s budget as part of Fiscal 2017 funding legislation.
By the way, Hoeven sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Welcome to Custer’s wet dream.
The distinguished Senator from North Dakota would have us believe his state was alone in its mission to extinguish #NoDAPL. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When Morton County requested backup, law enforcement officials from across the nation came to North Dakota via the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). The Sheriff’s Association also showed up in full force.
New York Daily News writer Shaun King obtained audio where Energy Transfer Partners freely admitted that they worked closely with the Sheriff’s Association, and wow, did they ever. They became one and the same.
Water protectors who lived at camp can attest to ETP and law enforcement’s collusion and fraternization, but the record speaks for itself.
The Sheriffs' Association has a $3.46 million dollar budget, according to tax forms. Some of this funding comes from corporate sources, like TigerSwan. TigerSwan maintains offices in Iraq and Afghanistan. TigerSwan’s CEO is a former adviser to the multinational private security firm, Blackwater. Blackwater was founded by Erik Prince, a Trump campaign donor and the brother of Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education. Besides funding the Sheriff’s Association, TigerSwan is in charge of Dakota Access intelligence and supervising overall security for the company. Tigerswan works for Dakota Access, while funding and partnering with the Sheriffs’ Association.
The Sheriff’s Association purchased military gear from the U.S. Department’s Defense Logistics Agency thanks to the Defense Department’s 1033 program. Think corporate welfare for the defense industry.
Wait, there’s more. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren offered to reimburse North Dakota and Morton County for costs due to defending the Dakota Access Pipeline.
So why are U.S. taxpayers forking over $15 million dollars to North Dakota?
Despite the fossil fuel industry’s wishes, America is not an oil company with an army. We should not be bankrolling our own oppression.
Incidentally, the Dakota Access Pipeline is not even operational yet, and it’s already sprung a leak in South Dakota, just southwest of the Lake Traverse Reservation. End this foolishness.
Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton Wahpeton & Mdewakanton Dakota, Hunkpapa Lakota) is a writer, blogger, biologist, activist and judge.