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We Have to Keep Fighting: Water Protectors Vow Continued Resistance to #DAPL as Main Camp Is Evicted

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In North Dakota, the main resistance camp set up by Lakota water protectors fighting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline has been largely vacated after protesters were ordered to leave the camp on Wednesday. Police arrested around 10 people. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota governor had imposed a noon eviction deadline for the hundreds of water protectors still living at the resistance camp. Prayers ceremonies were held on Wednesday, and part of the camp was set on fire before the eviction began. Water protectors say the resistance camp sits on unceded Sioux territory under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and that they have a right to remain on their ancestral land. A couple dozen people remain at the camp. The ongoing encampments in North Dakota were the largest gathering of Native Americans in decades. At its peak, more than 10,000 people were at the resistance camp. Earlier this month, construction crews resumed work on the final section of the pipeline, after the Trump administration granted an easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to drill beneath the Missouri River. We go to Standing Rock to speak with LaDonna Brave Bull Allard and Linda Black Elk.

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

AMY GOODMAN: In North Dakota, the main resistance camp set up by Lakota water protectors fighting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline has been largely vacated, after protesters were ordered to leave the camp on Wednesday. Police arrested, we believe, 10 people. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota governor had imposed a noon eviction deadline for hundreds of water protectors still living at the resistance camp. Prayer ceremonies were held Wednesday, and part of the camp was set on fire before the eviction began.

Water protectors say the resistance camp sits on unceded Sioux territory under the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and that they have a right to remain on their ancestral land. A couple dozen people, we believe, are still remaining at the camp. The ongoing encampments in North Dakota were the largest gathering of Native Americans in decades. At its peak, more than 10,000 people were at the various resistance camps.

Earlier this month, construction crews resumed work on the final section of the pipeline, after the Trump administration reversed the Obama administration and granted an easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to drill beneath the Missouri River.

We go now to North Dakota, where we’re joined by two guests. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a founder of the Sacred Stone Camp, which continues. Linda Black Elk is an ethnobotanist and head of the Medic and Healer Council at Standing Rock.

Why don’t we begin with LaDonna Brave Bull Allard? You are—run the Sacred Stone Camp, which is on your property. But the main resistance camp, people were evicted yesterday and arrested. Can you tell us what happened?

LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: So, at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the people were given a 2:00 deadline to leave the camp. And we had like a small snowstorm that came in, and also rain. And right now, to get people out of the camps is almost impossible with the mud. Trucks are stuck, stuck in the mud. People are trying their best to follow, but the weather has not been cooperating. So, at 2:00, we figured they would come in. We went on the hills to pray. And at 3:00, they still had not come in. And at 4:00, we got word that they were coming in. Then, about 4:30 or so, they arrested some media people. And that was about 10 people that got arrested yesterday, mostly all media. And the police and National Guard and stuff backed off and said they would be in the camp at 9:00 this morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, in just a few hours. You’re an hour behind Eastern Standard Time. Your camp, however, Sacred Stone Camp, are people still encamped there?

LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Because of so many people coming in, as we were kind of joking, we’re taking all the refugees from Oceti. I had cars all the way up to the gate. People are coming in with tipis and tents. I think that our camp has quadrupled in the last 24 hours.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people, would you estimate, are on your land? Now, that’s private property. That’s yours, along the Cannonball River.

LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: So we were averaging about 200, when the numbers got really low, and then we had the veterans come in, and they must be a couple thousand veterans, and all the new people. So, I don’t even have an account. There are a lot of people.

AMY GOODMAN: Linda Black Elk, can you talk about what’s happening now and where you see the standoff at Standing Rock headed and why it’s important to you?

LINDA BLACK ELK: Well, you know, the whole reason that I got involved in this, I live on Standing Rock, and my children are from here. They’re members of the Standing Rock Nation. And the whole reason I got involved is because I couldn’t stand to see the legacy that their ancestors have left them to be destroyed yet again or to be threatened yet again. And so, I got involved to protect the water. But, you know, I realize that this is about more than just water. This is, of course, about treaty rights also. This is about the protection of sacred sites. But even more so, as an ethnobotanist, I’ve come to realize that this is about the edible and medicinal plants that grow adjacent to the pipeline, right within the path of the pipeline. You know, this pipeline is akin to cultural genocide. So, you know, I know that I have to stand up and keep fighting.

And yesterday, this eviction from the large camp, you know, it’s just—it’s just a part of the process. I’m not deterred at all. LaDonna isn’t deterred at all. We know we have to keep standing. The Dakota Access pipeline, and the fossil fuels industry, in general, has to be fought on all fronts. So we need these camps here. We need people on the front line. We need people locking down at the drill pad to oppose this pipeline. But we also need people fighting the legal battle. We need people in Washington, D.C. We need people to continue to divest from banks that support the fossil fuels industry. And so, you know, this is just a part of the story. It’s just part of it. We have people who have moved into LaDonna’s Sacred Stone Camp, but we also have people who are going down to Texas to fight the Trans-Pecos pipeline. We have people who are going to Louisiana to fight the Bayou Bridge pipeline and Florida to fight the Sabal Trail pipeline. You know, this is—and even up into Canada and the northern United States to fight Enbridge. You know, we started a movement. We will continue to see that movement through for the sake of our children.

AMY GOODMAN: LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, we spoke with you at Sacred Stone Camp when we went to North Dakota, and also at the main resistance camp. This court case that’s scheduled, a hearing for the 27th, can you explain what’s expected to happen there?

LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: The court cases that are coming up, I think there are more than just one on the 27th. There are others that are coming up. Right now, they are just trying to, as again, make them follow the law, to do a complete EIS—

AMY GOODMAN: Environmental impact statement.

LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: Environmental impact statement—and to stop the construction, to sit down and talk. We understand that no matter what we do or say at this moment in time, we must stand by what the legal people are doing. You know, I always tell people, we are doing our best to follow the law, but we are also doing our best to stand up against injustice. And because they did the evictions, they thought they would stop the movement. All they have done is enhanced us. All they have done is made us understand what kind of limits they would go to. We know that when you are on the right side of justice, you continue to stand in prayer and nonviolent resistance, you will win.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain, Linda Black Elk, the fires that were set, some said, to return the land, the resistance camp, to its original condition, before they were evicted? Is that true?

LINDA BLACK ELK: Well, you know, it’s true that controlled burning is certainly a part of the Lakota culture traditionally. You know, the Lakota would burn large pieces of land in order to get certain plants to grow and to enrich the soil. I can’t say that that’s the—that was the goal of the people who set those fires. I think a part of it was just that they didn’t want to see—you know, when people came to camp, when people came to Oceti, they came for the long haul. There were people who built their lives in camp, who even would go to work every day from camp and then come back. You know, they had their families there. You know, it really was about creating a sustainable community where people could live forever. People weren’t putting foundations into the ground, but they were building homes, you know, in Mongolian gers, in traditional Lakota tipis. And so, I think people didn’t want to see their beloved homes taken or confiscated by the same people who are attacking us and oppressing us.

North Dakota has—you know, I’ve said it many times. North Dakota has lost its mind. I’m just a mom, and I’m a teacher. And yet I can tell you dog breeds that have attacked me. I know the difference between tear gas, CS gas and pepper spray, and the difference in the way that those feel. I know how to spot infiltrators and agent provocateurs. You know, I know these things. I’m just a mom, you know, in the Dakotas. I’m just a mom on Standing Rock, working to protect her children. And I know things that I never in my wildest imagination thought that I would have to know. And so, you know, I understand the sort of panic and grief that people were going through. When they burned those structures, part of their hearts were in that. And yeah, it’s just—you know, it’s a continued legacy of oppression by the United States government.

AMY GOODMAN: Was anyone injured in the blaze? We heard two children, a 17-year-old and a seven. Have you heard anything about that?

LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: So, we know a 17-year-old girl was injured—no 7-year-old—when a propane canister blew up that was inside one of the buildings. I will tell you that with what had happened at the front lines when the people came in, and they came in, and they broke up tipi poles and tore down the tipis, they did horrible things to the property. And so, people at Oceti said they did not want that to happen to their property. As you know, each one of a tipi pole is sacred, and how the tipis go up. And so, they were just bulldozing and breaking up these tipi poles, and people did not want to see that.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about legislation. In North Dakota, the state House of Representatives has advanced a bill that would allow companies to conceal spills of oil, natural gas and contaminated water. House Bill 1151, passing overwhelmingly, would end a requirement that fossil fuel companies report spills at well sites of less than 10 barrels, or 420 gallons. What do you know about this?

LINDA BLACK ELK: So, you know, we’ve heard over and over one of the arguments for the Dakota Access pipeline: People keep telling us that pipelines are by far safer than traveling over the road or traveling over rail. Well, the issue is, is that pipeline spills don’t get reported at the same rate as those other methods of transportation. And so, we know that—you know, it’s not illegal to leak a little bit of oil, right? It’s not illegal for these pipelines to leak a little bit. So what I know is that that’s always been going on. They have just legalized it and made it so that these companies, who are putting money into the pocketbooks of North Dakota politicians, don’t have to report it. So, you know, they’re friends, and they’re going to keep doing things for each other. That’s all the more reason that we have to stand up and resist.

AMY GOODMAN: So, as we wrap up, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, what is next?

LADONNA BRAVE BULL ALLARD: We continue to stand. We continue to educate. We will be everywhere to let people know that there’s a better way to live, there’s a better way to live with the Earth, with green energy, and that it’s time for us now to start divesting from fossil fuel, because we must save the water. We must save the water.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, also runs the Sacred Stone resistance camp, and Linda Black Elk, medic and healer and mom, part of the Medic and Healer Council at Standing Rock, an ethnobotanist.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Madison, Wisconsin, to talk about the new EPA administrator. While he was approved last week, thousands of emails have just been released from the Oklahoma Attorney General Office. He was the Oklahoma attorney general. We’ll speak with Lisa Graves about what’s in them. Thank you. Stay with us.

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