- LaDonna Brave Bull Allardco-founder of the Sacred Stone Camp that launched on her land on April 1 to resist the Dakota Access pipeline.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a co-founder of the Sacred Stone Camp that launched on her land on April 1 to resist the Dakota Access pipeline, recalls the day security guards working for the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray. She says construction continues despite a court ruling asking the company to stop, and describes current organizing efforts at the camp.
Watch our previous interview with Allard: “Standing Rock Sioux Historian: Dakota Access Co. Attack Comes on Anniversary of Whitestone Massacre”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we turn to the ongoing movement to stop the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault has called on the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to oppose the project, saying the United States has failed to honor the tribe’s sovereign rights and treaty land. He spoke in Geneva.
DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: While we have gone to the court in the United States, our courts have failed to protect our sovereign rights, our sacred places and our water. We call upon the Human Rights Council and all members, all member states, to condemn the destruction of our sacred places and to support our nation’s efforts to ensure that our sovereign rights are respected. We ask that you call upon all parties to stop the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline and to protect the environment, our nation’s future, our culture and our way of life.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Last week, a federal appeals court officially halted construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe along the Missouri River. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said this ruling will give the court more time to rule on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an emergency injunction against construction over concerns it could destroy sacred sites and burial grounds. The emergency injunction was filed by the tribe after a lower court rejected a request for an injunction the previous Friday.
AMY GOODMAN: This latest ruling now makes mandatory the Obama administration’s request that Dakota Access voluntarily cease construction along that same 40-mile stretch. The 1,172-mile pipeline has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of hundreds of other tribes, as well as environmental activist allies from across the U.S., Canada and Latin America.
For more, we’re joined here in New York by LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, founder of the Sacred Stone Camp, an encampment established in April to resist the Dakota Access pipeline. She’s here in New York to speak at the United Nations this week.
It’s great to have you back on Democracy Now! We played our first interview with you, LaDonna, when we were out at the Sacred Stone Camp. It was you. It’s on your property that that first resistance camp was founded on April 1st. Now, thousands of people have expanded through four camps to resist the Dakota Access pipeline. First, can you tell us about this latest news and what is happening? When we were there, there was not an injunction on building the pipeline, but at this point the Obama administration has weighed in, and now this court, an appeals court, has weighed in.
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: So, with President Obama’s decree, it was to voluntarily stop construction. Now, with the new—new report is they gave us 20 miles on either direction of the Oahe. But Dakota Access is currently working. It is working 24/7, continually, to put in the pipeline. And so, although they cannot construct in the area of 20 on the east side and west side of Lake Oahe, where the—a drill is to go in, they are still constructing. I keep an account of where they’re at, what they’re doing, and things have gotten really, really difficult there at the tribe because of what is happening on the governor’s level, the county’s level, the sheriff. And so, we just—
AMY GOODMAN: What’s happening?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Well, the issue of the arrests, I think there are 40 arrests now, at this point, the arrests of the media, and the whole issue of blocking any access to media for us to get any word out, the inventing of, I guess, just blatant lies that there’s violence happening. There’s all this stuff. That’s not what’s happening down in the camps. I think what’s happening in the camps is healing and empowerment of the people. I see song and dance and sharing and families and children. So much more is happening there than what is—we’re allowed with the press right now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And is it conceivable that the government is just deciding to wait out the encampments and hoping that eventually the numbers will dissipate, and then that section of the pipeline can be constructed later on?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: I believe that’s so, because they think that we cannot handle the winter. I’m from North Dakota. Winter is nothing. We are already preparing. We know how to survive in the winter. And who is staying? Oh, the grandmas, all the grandmas who are saying they’re staying, because the water is so important, their children and grandchildren are so important. We have been here for thousands of years. We’re not going anywhere.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about September 3rd, that Labor Day weekend. We went to Sacred Stone Camp and interviewed you, the first person—what is it that you said when you stood up April 1st to start the Sacred Stone Camp?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Oh, I don’t remember.
AMY GOODMAN: Whether you are one person doing this.
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Oh, yes. Well, I told Dakota Access that if I’m the only person standing, I’m standing. They will not build this pipeline. I have personal reasons, though, you know? You know, my son is buried there. And I’m just a mom. But in my mind, I can’t conceive anybody to build a pipeline next to my son’s grave. So, like I tell everybody, it’s not some grandiose “save the world.” It’s just a mom. So, that’s just on my personal side. But did you see where I live? Oh, my god, it is so beautiful. I mean, every day the buffalo are out there. The eagles are out there. I love my river.
AMY GOODMAN: The Cannonball River, where you live. And you are a descendant of the—of Sitting Bull.
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Well, no, I’m not. I am descendant of Tatanka Ohikita, Brave Buffalo. But I’m part of Sitting Bull’s people.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Were you surprised by the enormous response that occurred to the encampment from Native peoples around the country and around the hemisphere, really?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Overwhelming, shocking, amazing. That tells me that world thought needs to change now. That tells me that people are saying no more. You know, how it is to live our lives, we spend a lot of time with people saying we’re this, we’re that, we can’t do this, we live in a world of extreme racism where we exist. And I think we’re at the point now which is no more.
AMY GOODMAN: On September 3rd, after we interviewed you at your camp, that’s on your property, the Sacred Stone Camp, we went over beyond the resistance camps, because hundreds of Native Americans were going to plant their tribal flags in an area where the pipeline was being built—they didn’t think it was being built that day; it was Labor Day weekend—but to, in a ceremony, to take that stand. But when they got there, they saw the bulldozers in action, bulldozing the very sites that your tribe, that the Sacred Stone—that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had designated, had said was burial grounds and sacred sites. I wanted to go to that moment and ask you about what happened after that, the security guards working for the Dakota Access pipeline company attacking the Native Americans with pepper spray and with their dogs.
WATER PROTECTOR 1: This guy maced me in the face. Look, it’s all over my sunglasses. Just maced me in the face.
WATER PROTECTOR 2: These people are just threatening all of us with these dogs. And she, that woman over there, she was charging, and it bit somebody right in the face.
AMY GOODMAN: The dog has blood in its nose and its mouth.
WATER PROTECTOR 2: And she’s still standing here threatening us.
AMY GOODMAN: Why are you letting their—her dog go after the protesters? It’s covered in blood!
VICTOR PUERTAS: Over there, with that dog. I was like walking. Throwed the dog on me and straight, even without any warning. You know? Look at this. Look at this.
AMY GOODMAN: That dog bit you?
VICTOR PUERTAS: Yeah, the dog did it, you know? Look at this. It’s there. It’s all bleeding.
AMY GOODMAN: So, there we see the dog’s nose and mouth dripping with blood, and they’re attacking the protesters. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, you were there, as well.
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Yes. We had got there—let me back up first. You know, just two days before, we marked all those burials and sacred sites, and then we submitted them to the judge. And the judge notified Dakota Access. So when they stopped construction 40 miles away and drove up to take out those burial sites, it was absolutely shocking for us.
You know, when I got up there, you know, I remember my friend, she was just crying. And I was like, I couldn’t believe they were doing that. And so, people were hollering, and that man had just pepper-sprayed everybody. And I was just like, “Oh, my god! What is happening here?” And I remember the dogs and stuff. That big grey-headed dog was on this side, and that woman was siccing dogs on this side. And I was standing in the middle there, and I was like, “What do I do?” And so I closed my eyes and just started praying. I just stood there and prayed. And I thought, “Where am I? Is this America? Is this really happening?”
And I opened my eyes, and the people were getting in their trucks. I had no idea at that time the horses were coming to protect us from behind us. And as I stood there, I think it’s still very shocking to me, because people were hollering, and people were crying. And these guys finally started to get their dogs and put them into their vehicles, and the dogs tried to bite their owners. It was just chaos. And so, they finally started leaving. And I looked at that ground. I was like, “Oh, my god! Who does this? Who comes and just digs up those graves?” It’s almost inhuman to me. I don’t understand it. I can’t understand it.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And so, the point I think it’s important to underscore, that you had already provided to the court the list of the burial sites that you thought were sacred sites that should be preserved. And the company, before the judge can even render a ruling, then goes in on the weekend to destroy those very sites.
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Yes. And that’s what I keep on telling peoples is why are these people out there protesting. It’s because of these things. It’s because of what’s actually happening out there on the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: So the court ruling, which follows President Obama’s three-agency executive order, from the Army, from Interior and Justice, that says the Dakota Access pipeline, for the time being, cannot build and is not going to get a permit under the Missouri River, which provides water to what? Something like 10 million people. There were people from the Pine Ridge Reservation, for example. They’re saying that that’s the water they use in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. But now the protesters, or, as you call them, “the protectors,” are going beyond the 40 miles, because the pipeline company is still building. And they’re locking down 70 miles away. Can you explain what’s happening? And what is happening to those that engage in nonviolent civil disobedience?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: So, the pipeline is still being built. They’re still putting the pipe in. And although they’re not in that radius, they’re still going. So, the thought is, “Well, look, we put all this pipeline in. We spent all this money. You should give us the permit.” And each day that the pipeline stops, each day their stocks go down. I tell people that this is not about just this pipeline. It’s about the water. It’s about the water. It’s about having the right to live our lives. It’s about being able to make sure my grandchildren has clean water. To me, it’s just like common sense. And so, we must—we must stop this.
AMY GOODMAN: What is the North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple’s stand on the Dakota Access pipeline?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: I can only talk about the press releases that the governor has sent out, that they have said that we are doing all these things that we are not doing—there are pipe bombs, there are violence—there is none of this, that I see, anywhere—and calling in the National Guard, calling in additional police, for no reason.
AMY GOODMAN: How do the checkpoints affect you, the setting up of checkpoints all around the resistance camp area?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Every given day, it’s different. So, there are some days that we cannot pass, and they make us go around. There are some days that they let us pass. They do—everyone that goes through the checkpoint is—their license plate is taken, and their facial recognition is taken, and so they are putting together a database. A lot of the people that are going through the checkpoints are people who are the teachers and nurses and doctors that work down on the reservation, that have nothing to do with the camps, but they are also being put in the middle of this. And I believe now the governor is asking the federal government to pay the money for all of this action.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how are you coordinating the resistance camps? Is there a coordinating council that’s been established? Or is each camp pretty much autonomous in terms of how it decides what it’s going to do?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: So, I know that the large camp, they have the Oceti Sakowin camp, that are trying to establish a base. But when you have so many different nations—I think we’re 200-and-some nations now, plus—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Right. That’s why I ask, yeah.
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: —plus all the other people that have came in. For the tribal nations, I think there’s just something in our head that makes people go to each of their areas, and there is this traditional law, old law, that people are following. I have seen amazing respect happening, each nation coming in, in their way, announcing, coming in with song and dance, our groups welcoming them. I think what’s happening on the ground is something that we have never seen ever.
AMY GOODMAN: Your tribal chairman, Dave Archambault of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was just in Geneva speaking, calling for protection of your sacred ground and saying this is an international issue. I know that a non-Native activist, Bill McKibben, has called on Hillary Clinton in an open letter to take a stand against the Dakota Access pipeline, like so many politicians were called on to take a stand against the Keystone XL. Ultimately, after years, President Obama vetoed it. Are you making a call to Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? There was a presidential candidate that was there, who ended up getting a warrant for her arrest, right? Jill Stein of the Green Party, protesting. But are you calling on the major-party candidates to take a stand on this, Trump and Clinton?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: I think we have to. I think that if you are running for president of the United States, your first and foremost would be to protect the land. Your first and foremost would be to protect the water for the generations that are coming. That should be a priority—how do you protect the people, not how do you protect corporations.
AMY GOODMAN: How long will these resistance camps continue?
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: We’re in a process of healing. I don’t think it’s going to end. We have only just begun. We are fulfilling prophesy now. The prophesies our people told a hundred years ago are coming to pass. I see them before my eyes. Nothing is going to go back. We can only change. My whole idea is to have the world change their worldview, that maybe we can live with the Earth instead of destroying the Earth. And I’m hoping that all people can get that message.
AMY GOODMAN: LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, thank you so much for joining us, member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, founder of the Sacred Stone Camp, the original resistance camp, historian of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Thanks so much for being here in New York and in our Democracy Now! studio.
LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: And thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.