Dakota Pipeline Activist: Police Attacks Have “Become the Norm”
When the news surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) broke last month, it seemed everyone wanted to write about it. News spread faster than most stories about grassroots actions — and then seemed to fizzle out.
Where has all the coverage gone?
Since news broke about the continued injustices against the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, media outlets have taken to sensationalizing the story. It seems many publications used the “No DAPL” action to get more clicks, instead of reporting facts or continuing to follow the story.
Much has happened at the Red Warrior Camp in North Dakota. Many people from all over the country have gathered to try to halt the pipeline’s construction.
Fortunately enough, I was able to chat recently with a very good friend of mine, Riley Davis, an activist based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He’s a Black Lives Matter activist, Cherokee freedom fighter and writer. He’s been involved in many direct actions, like the 4th Precinct shutdown after the death of Jamar Clark and the camp-out surrounding the Minnesota Governor’s mansion after the death of Philando Castile.
In our sit-down, we talked about everything from media coverage to further actions — good and bad. This past weekend, Davis took his fifth trip up to the Red Warrior Camp in North Dakota, where he tries to spend his weekends.
Recently, The Atlantic reported that the Obama administration had stepped in to halt the DAPL construction. This, however, was completely false. As it turns out, the Obama administration only lightly suggested stopping. In fact, Obama signed orders for two more pipelines to be constructed in the meantime.
On October 11, ABC News wrote that a federal appeals court denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to block construction of the DAPL. When I asked Davis how he was feeling after hearing the news, he said he felt anxious, adding: “None of us are willing to back down. I know nothing will get us to quit. But as tough as we’re fighting, the opposition is getting more militarized and [they’re] hyping up arrests and charges.”
We continued talking:
WYV: What are some next courses of action y’all are taking?
RD: I’m not sure, exactly. We’re hitting from every angle. Legislation, petitions, farmers and direct action, along with prayer.
WYV: What are some things giving you and others hope?
RD: For me personally, it’s all the support that just doesn’t stop. If anything, it’s growing. … Seeing people continue to show up and take action is helpful … This isn’t just a moment in history, but prophecies coming full circle. The united condor and eagle and the prophecy of the seventh generation defeating the black snake makes me feel like there are higher powers at play here, and it’s not just us.
WYV: With Obama having approved several other pipelines in the future, are y’all planning any actions for those?
RD: I think that, depending on the locations, people are going to pay attention and step up, such as with the Iowa group Mississippi Sand [on the other end of the DAPL]. I think people will be fighting and growing out of places we don’t expect.
WYV: What do you wish folks off the front lines knew about what’s going on?
RD: I wish folks understood that this is more than just trying to stop a single pipeline. It’s about remembering our strength when we come together. This is about educating our children about our history and culture. This is about empowering youth to be stronger than what standards have been set for them. This is about drawing attention to all of the ways we are damaging the Earth. [It’s] about showing people how we can exist without a formal government system, but still work together, despite major cultural differences. There is a lot to be learned from the water protectors of Standing Rock from every age.
WYV: What are some things y’all need?
RD: We currently need bodies and people who are skilled in winterizing temporary housing.
For more information on supplies needed at the camp and how you can contribute, see the camp’s supply page.
WYV: Have there been any more police attacks since militarized police raided the camp during prayer two weeks ago?
RD: It’s become the norm. Basically, if you leave the camp, you put yourself at risk for arrests, which is why we need folks skilled in civil disobedience.
WYV: What are some positive things you’ve witnessed at the camp?
RD: Elders have taught me so much and are so kind … There are all sorts of artists everywhere doing all sorts of work. The cooks amazed me with how well they do, with how little they have to work with. I’ve gotten so close to many people … [they] are resilient and courageous and bad ass! I honestly feel happy and loved even on the stressful, traumatic days.
WYV: Lastly, what are some ways non-Natives can help?
RD: Putting themselves on the front lines, helping with mundane tasks [at the camp], by donating money for supplies. [And also by] not talking back or giving unsolicited opinions to elders.
The actions going on in North Dakota are the biggest gathering of Native American tribes in the last 100 years. It’s folks on the front lines — who have now gone through brushes with attack dogs, raids, arrests and daily interactions with militarized police — who are helping to create a better, safer world.
Media coverage surrounding the DAPL has been very poor. There’s been much misinformation, or no coverage at all sometimes. Publications need to understand that “riding the wave” and sensationalizing topics like this does more harm than good.
Don’t stop raising awareness. Don’t stop sending supplies. Don’t let this fight for safe water and life fizzle out. Don’t let this be just another headline. Respect the elders and the water/land protectors, even if you’re not native. At the end of the day, they’re protecting the very planet we all live on.