Report from Standing Rock: 100+ Militarized Police Deployed Against Native American Water Protectors

October 17, 2016

On Saturday, hundreds of people temporarily stopped work at multiple construction sites at the site of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. One person reportedly delayed work for up to six hours by locking to an excavator. At least 14 people were arrested. Democracy Now! began covering the action just after dawn, from the main resistance camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: But first, we bring you this new report of the actions against the Dakota Access pipeline this past Saturday. Hundreds of people temporarily stopped work at multiple construction sites. One person reportedly delayed work for up to six hours by locking to an excavator. At least 14 people were arrested. Democracy Now! team was on the ground. We began covering the action just after dawn, from the main resistance camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! There was just a sunrise ceremony. And right now, after the ceremony, it was announced that three caravans would make their way, not clear to where, but to shut the pipeline down.

UNIDENTIFIED: If you have room, there’s a lot of people here on the front gate who need rides.

AMY GOODMAN: The caravan from the main resistance camp has stopped. There are sheriffs. We see their lights flashing. An MRAP, armored personnel carrier, also here. People are getting out with their signs that say things like "Endangered." You see license plates from the various tribes, like the Rosebud Reservation. And above, we see a helicopter, a yellow helicopter. Can I ask you why you’re out here today?

CANDACE LEBEAU: We’re here for the protection of our water. We’re here for our way of life. We’re here for the unborn. We’re here for the generations coming behind us. It’s pretty sad that we have to do this, but there’s powers greater than this pipeline. There’s powers that’s greater than anything that this money represents. So we believe in our prayer. They tell us this—the non-Native people say seeing is believing. Us Lakota, we say believing is seeing. So it will stop. It won’t connect. That’s our belief. That’s why we’re here.

AMY GOODMAN: So, people have walked down the road, about 100, 200 people. They’re carrying signs that say "Defend the Sacred," "Greed Kills," "We are here to protect the water."

CANDI BRINGS PLENTY: My name’s Candi Brings Plenty. I’m Oglala Lakota Sioux. And I’m part of the Two Spirit Nation.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you tell us about the feather you’re holding, the wing?

CANDI BRINGS PLENTY: This is a feather wing that was gifted to me from Sundance. And this is a medallion that represents the Two Spirit Nation.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you hope will be accomplished here today?

CANDI BRINGS PLENTY: Today, I hope that they can finally feel and hear and see our prayers and to know that we are peaceful, prayerful people and that we are protecting our water for our future generations and for all of those who are also supporting us in solidarity.

TARA HOUSKA: Today we are engaged in peaceful prayer. This is not a riot. We are out here standing up for Mother Earth, standing up for what’s right. So, just lately, the court decided to lift the 20-mile zone that was on either side of Lake Oahe, and so now Dakota Access can continue to construct all the way up to the drill pad. The Army Corps of Engineers permits are still pending, still being reviewed. But as of right now, they are full-steam on board going through these lands and building a pipeline.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you tell us where you are right now?

TARA HOUSKA: We’re approximately—we’re just north of the pipeline route, and we are headed—we’re walking all together in peaceful prayer towards the actual pipeline, because these are the lands that we have to protect.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, it was just said that police are amassing behind you. You all have decided to keep walking forward. What are you willing to risk here?

TARA HOUSKA: I think everyone here is willing to risk a lot. This is their children on the line. This is their children’s children. And when your children are on the line, you’re willing to risk just about anything. This is their futures. This is their drinking water. We’re in a place where we’re fracking the remaining water that we have left. It’s madness. It’s absolute madness.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about why you’re out here today?

KEANNA HAGEN: I’m here to pray for the water and save this water for our future generations, and so they have clean water, they’re healthy. And I’m just here to pray.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name, and how old are you?

KEANNA HAGEN: My name’s Keanna Hagen [phon.], and I’m 14 years old.

AMY GOODMAN: And where are you from?

KEANNA HAGEN: Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name, and where are you from, and why are you here today?

IRENE YEH: Irene Yeh. I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I am here because—to be honest, I didn’t know why I was coming. I felt a calling, and I came. I showed up. And I’m finding more and more that it is about the bigger picture for all of humanity. I believe we’re all interconnected. And it’s about water, because I’m thinking about Flint. I’m coming from Michigan. I’m thinking about Flint. I’m thinking about Detroit, Kalamazoo. And I’m thinking allies, front lines. Poor people, working people are affected the most, but eventually it’s going to affect all of us, so we need to come together. The tribes, hundreds of tribes, have connected their histories, connected around this one purpose—to save the water, to protect sacred sites and to protect our future generations. And I just, as an ally and an outsider, but an ally, I like to support that.

DAVID MONTGOMERY: My name is David Montgomery. I’m from California. I’m Mono, Chukchansi and Pit River. My mom’s Paiute-Shoshone from Stillwater, Nevada. And I’m here to defend everything that we stand for as a people. And I think that, you know, a lot of people have been through a lot of things from all nations, and this one, I think it’s time for us to reclaim our status here and put the natural law back in order to save all—all people that live here, in the world, for that matter. But I feel really passionate about it, the love here for my people and all the people that come through and experience it. They all take something home that’s really sacred. What we’re doing here is really, really important, and all the world needs to know about it, because this is for all the world. And we need to change our way of thinking, our thinking patterns. There’s more than one way to live. And the one that we’ve been shown through these corporations is—it ends; it doesn’t go on forever.

PROTESTER 1: OK, we’ve got some updates. We have a police blockade behind us, a few miles, one mile behind us. They’re blocking the road. They’re not letting any car pass this way.

TARA HOUSKA: We’re looking at a police blockade right now. They’re blocking the roads, blocking these water defenders from going into a public road.

PROTESTER 2: Police liaison, escort these women to the front with two security. And we’re going to ask for permission to go through the line so we can all go and pray. This is what we’re here for. We are here to pray for the land that has not been touched yet.

AMY GOODMAN: Scores of police officers are here with batons, some with rifles. The police are in riot gear, helmets, shields. They’re saying, "Walk no further, or you will be arrested."

PROTESTER 3: You should be ashamed of yourself for your behavior today. You drink the water, as do the children, and your children will suffer. Energy Transfer Partners and Kelcy Warren, the CEO, needs to know the DAPL is endangering us all. We are an endangered species, as are you, and we stand here to protect you, as well, today. You should be ashamed of yourselves for showing up as we pray, with your batons out, trying to intimidate and harass us. But guess what. Our prayers are stronger than your weapons.

PROTESTER 4: I’m here for my grandchildren, for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, for your grandchildren. Will you hit us with those wands? We are women. We are unarmed. We are here to pray for you. Do you feel good holding those wands against a line of women? We are unarmed. Go back home and tell your wives, your mothers, your grandmothers, that you are prepared to hit women with batons for exercising our right to free speech, our right to freedom of religion, our right to protect our land. You go home and you tell your mothers that. See how they feel.

PROTESTER 5: A lot of us live off these lands. We hunt from these lands. We eat from these lands. We live here. Could you protect them, or they destroy it? What you gonna do when there’s no more grass growing, no more river flowing, no more wildlife, no more game to hunt? What you gonna do? Are you going to depend on the government? Are you? No, you’re not, because they’re going to backstab you just like they’ve backstabbed us. Think about it. All you nonwhite people in there, think about it. Think about what the white man has done to your ancestors, what he’s done to our ancestors. I’m not scared to come say this to you guys. I come with no mask. This line, this security, it don’t intimidate me. I’m a warrior! I will defend my people and my land, my home, Standing Rock!

PROTESTER 1: Myself, in death, in prison, they will never finish the pipeline. Never!

BRANDON SAZUE: My name is Brandon Sazue. I’m chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe.

AMY GOODMAN: What is it that you object to the most about the Dakota Access pipeline?

BRANDON SAZUE: They’re going to poison our water. They are tearing our lands up. They are desecrating it. They have no morals up here. It’s all about money. They’re even taking from the farmers.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think you will stop it from being built?

BRANDON SAZUE: Oh, yeah, with my life.

TARA HOUSKA: My name’s Tara Houska. I’m the national campaigns director of Honor the Earth. I’m also an attorney, a tribal attorney. And what we’re seeing is the militarized response to peaceful people who are praying, who are singing, who are trying to protect the lands and waters for us all. You know, we’ve seen they’re calling us—they’re calling this, this peaceful prayer, a riot. They’re calling us the terrorists. They’re the ones who are armed. These are unarmed men, women and children who are—who want nothing more than to protect their own waters and protect it for all future generations. We pray for those who prey. We do. We pray for those who prey. We’re praying for their children and their children’s children. This response is so excessive to what we’re doing here. Every person here is unarmed.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you tell us about—has there been an action right beyond where they are, where the pipeline is being built?

TARA HOUSKA: There is an action to actually stop construction. They went out early this morning. You know, there are folks that are actively preventing construction, active construction, in a safe and nonviolent way. You know, nothing that we’re doing is violent, yet they’re sending out—we see overhead there’s helicopters, police helicopters, Dakota Access helicopters, you know, constant surveillance over people that want nothing more than to protect the water and the land for us all.

AMY GOODMAN: The Native American water and land protectors, hundreds who walked up to the site, just beyond which we believe people have locked down at an excavation site for the pipeline, are now walking back. They said they came in peace, and they are leaving in peace. One of the signs that they carried as they walked away: "Imagine the end of the pipeline." I’m Amy Goodman, here in North Dakota.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, we’ll speak with Dave Archambault, chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has sued the federal government over the Dakota Access pipeline. We’re broadcasting from in front of the Morton County Courthouse and jail. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: "Warrior of the Sun" by Indigenize. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from Mandan, North Dakota, just across the street from the Morton County Courthouse and jail, where more than a half-dozen people will be appearing in court today on charges related to the ongoing resistance to the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Roughly 140 people have been arrested in total amidst the ongoing resistance. Just behind us, there is a monument of the Ten Commandments on the courthouse property, just in between the courthouse and the jail.

Well, we’re turning right now to the legal resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline. On October 9th, a federal appeals court rejected a bid by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to halt construction on part of the Dakota Access pipeline. The ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals paves the way for the Dakota Access company to resume construction on private lands adjacent to Lake Oahe on the Missouri River. A decision on whether the pipeline can proceed under the river rests with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Standing Rock Tribe argued construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline is destroying cultural artifacts and sacred sites, including a sacred tribal burial ground that was bulldozed September 3rd—that’s Labor Day weekend—when Dakota Access pipeline guards unleashed dogs and pepper spray on Native Americans. Since then, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others have set up an encampment across the street from the bulldozed burial ground. They call it the Sacred Ground Camp. This is Nathan Yellow Lodge Jr., a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

NATHAN YELLOW LODGE JR.: We’re standing up here where the dogs attack took place, which was—once was the front lines, when—now they call it ground zero.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve set up camp here?

NATHAN YELLOW LODGE JR.: Yeah, I’ve been here since September 3rd.


NATHAN YELLOW LODGE JR.: I feel that I’m needed up here. And there’s nothing more, nothing less. I really like being where I’m at, because this is my home turf.

AMY GOODMAN: The appeals court ruling means the Dakota Access pipeline company can continue construction up until, but not under, the Missouri River. Following the ruling, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of hundreds of indigenous nations who have gathered at the Standing Rock Reservation said they’ll continue to fight the Dakota Access pipeline. Dave Archambault, chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said, quote, "We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred places are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline," unquote.

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