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United Nations Investigates Scandalous Treatment of Demonstrators

United Nations investigates alleged human rights abuses against peaceful water protectors at site of Dakota Access Pipeline construction site.

Richard Broken Nose is a spiritual leader from the Pine Ridge reservation. On Wednesday, October 26, he and Leonard Little Finger, one of the Oglala’s most revered elders, came to pray with the water protectors near the Cannonball River. The next day, October 27, tension in camp was whirling. The state of North Dakota was arming and massing a large strike-force eight miles to the north.

A call went out in the main camp, Oceti Sakowin. Everyone was asked to go north to the new Treaty Camp along Highway 1806 because an army of sheriffs and National Guard troops were advancing toward it. The Treaty Camp site was located in the path of where the pipeline would cross the highway. Broken Nose and Little Finger decided to go. This is the story they told:

When they arrived, the confrontation was beginning to unfold. They built a quick altar on the pavement of Highway 1806, and began praying in a traditional Lakota pipe ceremonial manner.

Suddenly, they were surrounded by combat-ready militia. The small number of protectors taking part in the ceremony was maced. Broken Nose took a heavy blast of mace in the face as he let the ceremony. Blinded, he nevertheless managed to stumble back to his vehicle. After recovering somewhat, he went back to get his elderly wife. In all the spiraling confusion around him he searched for her. To his complete dismay, he learned that she had been arrested.

On Saturday, October 29, two United Nations rapporteurs flew into Bismarck to investigate the violent activities taking place at Cannon Ball: Grand Chief Edward John (Tl’azt’en) and Roberto Berrerro (Taino). The arrival of these two human rights observers was in response to the Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II’s recent trip to the United Nations in Geneva. Archambault pleaded for help from the UN and for relief from the state and federal government’s mistreatment of the Nation’s political and human rights.

United Nations rapporteurs Grand Chief Edward John and Roberto Berrerro. Credit: Courtesy Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

In a meeting held Saturday evening at the Prairie Knights Casino, the rapporteurs told SRST Chairman Dave Archambault II, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier and others, that thanks to the power of “social media,” they were able to witness a whole afternoon of what appeared to be violations of international law.

SRST Chairman Archambault noted that the violations mentioned and seen by the UN representatives were all too predictable. “I called the Governor of North Dakota, the Department of Justice, Interior, the White House, everybody, asking that they try to intervene and restrain the aggression that was about to happen,” he said. “It seemed that it was going to be a senseless use of force that would result in a bully beating. And now we have outside UN professional observers who, I have no doubt will report to the world that the afternoon of Thursday, October 27, was like the police and National Guard hitting fish in a bathtub with a club.”

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The SRST nation and their supporters are facing a desperate oil corporation that stands to lose a contract if oil isn’t delivered by January 1, 2017. Unfortunately, the UN rapporteurs have no ability to correct the wrongs of a governmental process that leaves American Indian legal rights and status at peril.

The SRST nation has every right to litigate and voice its opposition to the DAPL pipeline. In its research, the Standing Rock Sioux has found the Energy Transfer Partners Corporation has built leaking pipelines wherever they laid pipe. Presently, the company is involved in four lawsuits—Tribe’s stance and fierce opposition is being heard in the ears of many, many Americans who also value the environment.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Frazier stated that under the 1851 and 1868 Treaties, Sioux tribal nations have a legal basis and right to be on the disputed land where the pipe is being placed. Language in Section 4, subsection 2 of the Enabling Act of 1889, which formed the state of North Dakota, states “the forming States do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title …… to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian or Indian tribe(s).” Sections that follow also declare that that tribal consent must be acquired for that anything involves tribal land. To date, none of this constitutional law language has been amended or changed.

On Sunday, October 30, the UN rapporteurs hit the field to investigate first person accounts from the water protectors. The human rights observers task is verify the personal accounts of the demonstrators who were seen hit with batons, maced, shot with rubber bullets, blasted with sound cannons, struck by bean bags shotguns, and randomly arrested. Their report will include all 141 people were charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and/or inciting a riot. They will listen to accounts of how they were all strip searched.

Pete Caposella, water rights attorney said, “There is no legal justification for the way the demonstrators are being handled by State law enforcement and courts. I’ve been involved in protests. As recently as last year I was in a highway protest shutdown in Virginia. The courts slapped everyone on the hand as far as a penalty, and certainly no one was strip searched. After all, the DAPL demonstrators are being arrested for a crime against property. It is not a crime against a person. There is a big difference as far as treatment and due penalties. ”

What’s the difference between a protest on public highway in Virginia and a protest that took place on a North Dakota public highway? The difference is, apparently, why one state has drawn the attention of the United Nations for investigating Human Rights violations.

In the eyes of the world, a UN report of the atrocities that occurred at Standing Rock carries a lot of weight. The United States is a world leader. It boasts a democratic government that respects the rights of all its citizens to life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness. A negative United Nations report will beg for a response from the federal government for the mounting injustices that the DAPL pipeline demostration is bringing to the attention of the world. 

Photo: Courtesy Sacred Stone Camp

Militarized police gather against unarmed water protectors.