By Ronald Ray
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of the Dakota and Lakota Nations of American Indians has been seeking peacefully to block further construction of the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access oil pipeline, which threatens the tribe’s water supply and sacred spaces. The tribe, recognized by the U.S. as a sovereign nation by treaty, thus has earned the wrath of Big Oil plutocrats and, consequently, law enforcement authorities.
In a separate article in this issue we recount the jury acquittal of seven defenders of private property rights, who earlier this year occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, including sons of rancher Cliven Bundy. But unlike that peaceful protest, as well as the famous defense of the Bundy ranch in Nevada two years ago, the Indians have chosen to remain unarmed, despite sometimes facing vicious brutality by police and private security firms, which has included siccing biting attack dogs on protestors, arrests of reporters, and strip searches of arrestees.
The effort to protect the Missouri River—the Standing Rock Sioux’s primary water source—and sacred burial grounds now includes the participation of more than 300 native tribes and thousands of “water protectors” occupying federal land near the pipeline’s route south of Bismarck, N.D.