In the northeast we think our winters are something to brag about. Sometimes six months long, two straight months of bitter cold, the nights not fit for man or beast. Multiply the worst of that by 10 and we might be close to what it is like out here at Standing Rock, Hunkpapa Territory. Good lord, how do these people survive in this isolation and in these severe winters?
Fifty-mile-per-hour winds whipping -14 temps right into the shelter and up my skirt, literally tearing to shreds all around me the tent I just bought for more than $200. I spent two nights at the camp, both nights in my truck, engine on and the heat on high. Next night, I got a room. Welcome to the fight to protect the water.
I visit the camp regularly these days, sometimes twice a day to keep track of the rumors or to find someone for the attorneys who need witnesses in coming liability cases.
A note about cases. Criminal cases were due to begin today, Monday, December 19. Meanwhile, liability cases are being developed and will continue to accumulate: Expect up to 200 cases to be pressed against the State, the Governor, Morton County and the individual security and police personnel identified in alleged wrongful acts. This legal strategy is the revenge that will rain about the heads and shoulders of the criminals protecting the Black Snake. North Dakota just might go broke defending itself, or it will deal and settle. But, I have no doubts that they will pay for their disregard to life and limb of the water protectors. The authorities at this point are engaged in a cluster #$&k, and I can’t wait for the finger pointing and the Nuremburg-worthy excuse, “I was only following orders.” German names proliferate in this part of the state, the rest are NDNs. Coincidence? Racist? Not really, I just have an appreciation for history.
As for the Dakota Access Pipeline’s advancement: There is no advancement at this point. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not entertain any questions of easements without an Environmental Impact Statement, so the project is on hold. The DAPL can only drill up to the federal land area, but not beyond. DAPL does so only to egg on the reduced number of water protectors.
The camp is emptying out after two huge, wicked ball-numbing snowstorms accompanied by deep negative degree temps. Some hardy types are trying to stay, but the reality is that the Corps plans to flood the drill site to discourage DAPL from drilling on Federal lands. When it does, the land where the main camps are will flood a bit. But come a mid-winter thaw or spring, the ice will jam, as it has done forever and the flat lands of the camps will truly flood, with water and huge ice chunks.
In the main camp (Oceti Sakowin) roughly 500 people remain. Maybe 600. In the Sacred Stone Camp, across the Cannonball River, there are another 500 people, maybe. Half of them are camped on the opposing flood plain. Yesterday, Sunday, it seemed as if they were all here at the Prairie Knights Casino Hotel or in Bismarck. It got down to -27 last night not counting the wind chill factor. Holy frostbite alert, Batman.
Even though people are leaving because they like their limbs free of major frostbite, the more recalcitrant are angry with the Tribal Council and Chairman Dave Archambault II, whom they perceive as selling out. People in the Warrior Society left last week but not before dumping an editorial in the Teton Times that was a bitchy tirade towards the tribe and a gloating mess of how only they had been the nerve center of the various actions. It advocated for “direct action,” conflict, and exclusion of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s national government. They even talked bad about the elders.
The SRST has control of the main issue relative to D.C. and the Courts. All actions have ceased and the hosts have asked people to leave because this stage of the war is over. The issues will be dealt with in the courts. No more need for bodies at the camp, and definitely no need for frozen bodies in the middle of winter, which is still a month away. The weather this week is only the appetizer. The heart of winter is not yet here. Brrrrr.
The DAPL hired mercenaries are patrolling around outside the camp on snowmobiles. The dumb fools don’t know there is not enough snow to protect their undercarriage from the rough ground and rocks hidden only inches beneath the light snow cover. Meanwhile, the militarized cops, many from other counties and states, have been staying close to their base. There is some evidence, though, that there are structures being built to house this new sort of cavalry.
I have heard that as many as eight of these law enforcers, these terminators, have quit their posts in the last two months. A Wisconsin force, loaned to North Dakota, was called back last month because the authorities there thought the enforcement effort was out of control and has been acting outside due process, particularly after the catastrophe on the Backwater Bridge on November 20.
If you look at the many Facebook videos of the various actions, as an army of lawyers is doing now, you will see that the police arrest procedures are not the same for these protectors as they are for common folk. Zip ties are used, no Miranda rights read when arrested. Bags placed on the heads of some of those arrested allegedly were removed only when they arrive at a jail, sometimes hours away from Standing Rock. Some arrestees claim they were placed in dog cages in air-conditioned rooms. Add that to an overuse of pepper spray and mace, reckless use of flash-bang grenades and sand bag bullets and rubber bullets….
The legal team is cataloging many people shot in the back as they obey orders to stay away. Others were shot in the face and head, with well-aimed shots too. Of course, in early September hired private security and privately-owned attack dogs were used on protectors, men and women both. The images of the old west flood the minds of those with the genetic memory. That is what scares The People, yet they continued to resist. You have to admire that kind of conviction.
Check these images with the ones you have seen of Gitmo Bay prison, or images of how the U.S. handles terrorists abroad. There is not much difference. Correction: There is no difference.
Somewhere within this mess there has to be a bright and hopeful future for the Lakota and their neighbors. Oy, the neighbors—a good portion of them don’t believe that this resistance can save their future as well. The poor souls.
What will break the mindless attitude of the state, the county and the individual police as identified in action? That would be the coming liability suits and other types of lawsuits having to do with assault, terrorism and abuse of power. These particular cases are different from the arrested defendants. These are the suits of peaceful protectors who carried no weapons, who were not arrested. The police and DAPL security hideously injured them. Daughters and sons of some very pissed off parents and stealthy legal types whose only career is litigation. Legal firms represent them with no less than 120 attorneys whose only job is to litigate. The DAPL and the police authorities, if they have a brain, must be hiding in their attics and cellars, coiled up in a heaping, shit-stained mess.
God help the strangers in uniform who like to hurt unarmed people, people who have angry families and friends with resources. Right when you thought your job is over, the real work begins. Start sending your resumes, boys. Pack your belongings, and put your running shoes on. The hounds are being released.
Ray Cook is ICTMN’s Opinions Editor.