Book details NoDAPL side of anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement

Book details NoDAPL side of anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement


Title: "Standing With Standing Rock — Voices from the #NODAPL Movement"

Editors: Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press 2019

Editors Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon have assembled 29 passionate contributions to this book, "Standing With Standing Rock — Voices from the #NODAPL Movement," including several poems and four interviews. Some nouns in Native language are used throughout, with the authors nicely setting forth their English meaning. The Standing Rock Reservation is home to the Lakota people. The main NoDAPL camp was named Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires, for the Four Council Fires of the Dakota people, the Two Council Fires of the Nakota people and the Lakota Council Fire.

One thing is abundantly clear from reading these 29 contributions to this book — Energy Transfer and law enforcement from the very first moment LOST the public relations battle. The pipeline was completed, but the damage was done and the narrative was set. This is what the world knows about DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) — “The most powerful state in the history of the world, with its military and police hand-in-hand with private security forces, waged a heavily armed, one-sided battle against some of the poorest people in North America to guarantee a pipeline’s trespass. That Water Protectors held out against the ritualistic brutality of tear gas, pepper spray, dog attacks, water cannons, disinformation campaigns, and 24-hour surveillance is a pure miracle and a testament to the powerful resolve of the Oceti Sakowin, Indigenous peoples, and their allies. Yet the wounds inflicted are long-lasting and descend from a longer history of colonial violence.”

This book makes no scholarly attempt to be objective and present both sides. Indeed, the only comment I could find even remotely touching on what would be an element of the other side is this comment: “After seeing DAPL crews tear up the earth, Water Protectors broke through a wire fence and attempted to shut down bulldozers,” which is what I believe is the main contention of Energy Transfer and law enforcement. After that brief concession, the author continues the NoDAPL worldwide narrative: “Security forces then deployed pepper spray as well as dogs. Some handlers charged Water Protectors, releasing their hold on dogs so that they could attack freely without restraint. … large German shepherds sank their teeth into the bodies of Water Protectors to the point at which blood could be seen dripping from the dogs’ mouths.”

Although the author does not state the Energy Transfer/law enforcement position, it is my understanding they contend dogs running loose without collars were from the camp, the security dogs were collared, leashed and always under control of their handlers, and that blood was on the noses of the dogs after they had been hit with clubs with nails sticking from them. Nevertheless, this is the narrative the NoDAPL people quickly got out to the world through social media and national news. Energy Transfer and law enforcement lost the PR battle at this point.

“While there is still great ambiguity on the legal front in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, on the societal level there is no question as to the enormous wins that continue to bear fruit. Global consciousness expanded, and exponentially, because of Standing Rock, as light was cast on a plethora of environmental issues, global injustice, Indigenous right, and human rights. Seeds of consciousness were planted in camp and far beyond camp, as onlookers throughout the globe observed the movement while learning and being inspired from their electronic screens.”

Environmental issues were important to the Water Protectors and NoDAPL, but it cannot be looked at “as an environmental issue. Too often we think of indigenous peoples as natural environmentalists. We are not. We happily engage in the worst forms of extractive industries, yet maintain our rights to the lands that we’ve relied upon for thousands of years. Reducing indigenous nations to natural environmentalists leads to the misguided assumption that environmental justice will resolve legacies of colonialism.”

The main issue for most of the writers is sovereignty. “Indigenous Peoples demand to be made whole, that is, to have our pre-1942 self-determination actualized, however much colonizers breach it. In addition to compensation, both land return and decolonization are the sine qua non for restoring Indigenous Peoples’ wholeness.” Aside from this statement as to sovereignty, none of the authors specifically state the full extent of their claims, but in the case of Standing Rock, several authors claim the land in the treaties of 1851 and 1868. Among other land in Nebraska and Montana, the 1851 treaty lands included all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River and North Dakota south of the Heart River and west of the Missouri River. The 1868 treaty lands include Sioux County, North Dakota, and all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River.

The articles are quite thought-provoking, but this book is not a page-turner. Reading many of the articles, I felt like I was again slogging through less-than-scintillating law school anti-trust law lectures. They are well footnoted. When this book is published for sale it looks like it will have an index, which will be useful. If you want to read a complete explanation of the NoDAPL protest, this will be a book you will want to read.

Bob Wefald is a retired North Dakota State District Court judge, former attorney general and a retired Navy Captain.


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