Standing Rock / Oceti Sakowin, ND – Thousands of water protectors and veterans woke up to snow falling on December 5th, the day after the pipeline easement denial. In the early morning veterans amassed themselves at Prairie Knights Casino in Standing Rock, apologized to the Indigenous peoples of the land for their war crimes, and then later that afternoon led a march in blizzard conditions.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) December 5, 2016
The morning forgiveness ceremony featured a one-of-a-kind apology by veterans of the United States of America to the Native Americans for their war crimes and genocidal actions. Below is a short video from the ceremony posted by Salon.
Wes Clark Jr., veteran and son of a former NATO supreme commander, helped organize the veterans who arrived to Oceti Sakowin during the weekend of December 2nd, in what some estimate as many as one thousand strong.
In his speech to Indigenous tribal elders, Wes Clark Jr. stated historical wrongdoings the United States military and government has done to conquer the land from its original inhabitants, using the word “we“:
“We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land and then we took your children and then we tried to take your language and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you, and the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you, we polluted your Earth, we’ve hurt you in so many ways but we’ve come to say that we are sorry. We are at your service and we beg for your forgiveness.” – Wes Clark Jr.
Meanwhile, back at camp, the excitement of the victory of the easement denial seemed to have quelled with the statement from Energy Transfer Partners that they would continue constructing the pipeline despite the ruling. Veterans, who had planned on a Monday afternoon march, quickly made shields to protect themselves in case of police interactions.
Ex-police officer Michael Wood Jr. and Wesley Clark Jr. organized a gofundme page with a call-out to “fellow veterans to assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Dec 4-7“.
By December 7th, they had raised over $1.14 million to go towards “providing food, transportation and supplies for the brave patriots that come and stand with us.” Originally, the veterans were planning on being the frontline of a group that would be “heading straight to the drilling pad” to surround it “arm and arm” to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. That original plan was reportedly diverted by meetings with Indigenous elders as well as law enforcement.
The veterans met with with top-ranking law officials in the beginning of December; and as North Dakota National Guard Major General Al Dohrmann stated, had a “good discussion walked away with a mutual commitment to maintaining peace, showing mutual respect for one another and assuring adequate space between law enforcement and protesters who peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights”.
“Mr. Clark assured us that there was no intent to engage law enforcement or move past the south side of the Backwater Bridge.” – Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) December 5, 2016
Moments before the march, dozens of veterans were preparing shields, body armor, gas masks, and winter clothing for the march. Many members of different Indian Nations who had served in the military were present.
The march, in thick snow with whipping winds of over 50 mph, started on Highway 1806 at the edge of Flag Road in Oceti Sakowin, also known as the overflow encampment. A few lines of veterans linked arms in the front with staffs and flags.
Hundreds more veterans and water protectors followed along in the blizzard towards the police line. Some were on horseback and two fire circles were briefly set up in the snow along the embankments of the highway.
Veterans acting as security, led, trailed, and flanked the march. Some in the front stood in a line facing the crowd to prevent anyone from approaching the bridge.
The ceremony on Highway 1806 featured veteran speakers from the front area of the crowd. A prayer was led by Indigenous dancers in the blowing snow. As the prayer was ending, and the masses on the frontline were about twenty five yards from the bridge, police pulled up behind the barricades beyond the blowing snow.
Police, reportedly after making the deal with the veterans and others days earlier, had pulled back from the concrete barricades that lay immediately north of Backwater Bridge. Upon seeing the headlights, many veterans in the middle and on the sides, shouted, “they’re engaging us, get ready“.
Immediately the veterans moved in closer together and began preparing themselves. The security seemed to tighten up as well and yelled at the veterans to hold their “ground” and that they were turning around in a moment. When they made the order to turn around and head “back to camp“, they doubled up on the marshaling and began chanting “move – forward” in a crowd control manner to get the water protectors and veterans back to camp.
Police did not interact with the crowds of people on December 5th. When the prayer ceremony was finished on the bridge, as the blizzard continued, a group of six veterans battled 50 mph winds to bring a large flag of the United States of America from the Backwater Bridge into Navajo Nation’s camp in Oceti Sakowin.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) December 5, 2016
Below is a short video of the flag being paraded from Hwy 1806 to the Navajo Nation camp. We asked why those veterans were helping and why they were at Oceti Sakowin.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) December 7, 2016
When Unicorn Riot spoke with the veterans, it was clear that they were not convinced the recent Army Corps easement denial will stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and suggested the funders pull their money out.
Throughout the week, the cold weather has become increasingly more extreme in North Dakota.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) December 6, 2016
While rumors swirl about the veteran trip, the veteran organizers have recently come under fire from other vets, one of them calling their actions this week “deplorable“, claiming that they have left swaths of veterans stranded at Fort Yates and other sites. Large numbers of veterans had left the encampment by December 7th.
While many water protectors recently sought refuge from the weather on the 5th and 6th in The Pavilion at Prairie Knights Casino, hundreds of more continue to stay on the frontlines in Cannonball, North Dakota, braving the extreme weather conditions, fully knowledgeable about the polar vortex that is arriving in the next few days.
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Below is Unicorn Riot’s coverage of the [#NoDAPL] anti-Dakota Access Pipeline struggle from early summer 2016 to present:
March – May 2016
- March 29th, “Tribal Citizens Prepare to Blockade Bakken Oil Pipeline“.
- April 3rd, “Tribal Citizens Build Camp in Path of Oil Pipeline“.
- May 5th, “Sacred Stone Camp Resists Dakota Access Pipeline“.
- May 27th, “Dakota Access Pipeline Blockade Enters 2nd Month“.
- After covering the camp in the spring of 2016, Unicorn Riot returned to Standing Rock Reservation on Wednesday, August 10th, when Standing Rock tribal members and allies blocked the entrance to the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site.
- On Thursday, August 11th, a dozen or so people were arrested blocking the construction site entrances.
- Day 3, Friday, the fight to protect land & water intensified around the construction sites of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- On the 4th day, the pipeline resistance encampment swelled and prepared for more action.
- Monday, August 15th, land defenders stormed the construction site halting construction, and the next day construction was halted as well.
- August 17th saw State Police begin checkpoints, roadblocks, and psyops as protesters united to defend water.
- August 24th, camps prepared as Federal injunction hearing looms.
- Camps Organize to Stay as Injunction Postponed.
- On August 31st, Non-Violent Direct Action Stopped DAPL Construction for Over 6 Hours.
- September 6, indigenous water protectors swarmed Dakota Access Pipeline site, stopped work
- September 7, Uŋpa Nuŋpa was interviewed about ongoing #noDAPL actions
- North Dakota highway patrol refused to release email correspondence with Energy Transfer Partners
- September 8, ND National Guard took over Dakota Access Pipeline checkpoints
- Friday, September 9, US Govt. overruled federal judge and requested pipeline construction halted at Lake Oahe
- Meanwhile, cultural activities continued at #NoDAPL camps despite more arrests/warrants
- September 13, 20 were arrested during #NoDAPL lockdown, including 2 Unicorn Riot journalists
- September 14, direct actions continued against Dakota Access Pipeline while legal repression intensified
- On September 16 a federal judge dissolved the unconstitutional temporary restraining order Dakota Access, LLC had filed against Stranding Rock tribal members
- September 19, as solidarity protests spread nationwide, the federal appeals court ordered construction temporarily stop on Dakota Access segment as Solidarity Protests Spread Nationwide
- September 21, #NoDAPL noise demo demanded freedom for jailed water protector Olowan Martinez
- September 22, water protectors disrupted the annual meeting of the North Dakota Petroleum Council
- September 25, water protectors planted trees on DAPL construction site
- In Iowa on September 26, a non-violent direct action from the Mississippi Stand camp stopped DAPL construction for the day
- September 26, a caravan of water protectors stopped work at DAPL site
- September 27, militarized police arrested 23 water protectors in DAPL work stoppage
- September 29, a #NoDAPL solidarity action took place at MN Enbridge office
- October 3rd-4th saw the “Toxic Tour,” Governor debate disruption, and water protectors attend their court arraignment
- October 4, we learned North Dakota Governor Dalrymple’s email inbox was full of support for #NoDAPL
- October 5, Buffer Zone Holds as Caravans Continue to Disrupt DAPL – New Felony Charges
- October 7, 6 Arrested in Iowa #NoDAPL Action, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 8, Iowa Water Protectors Blockade DAPL Drill Site Twice in 24 Hours
- October 9, Federal Appeals Court Rules to Allow DAPL Construction
- October 10, 27 Arrests After Water Protectors Pray at DAPL Site on Indigenous People’s Day
- October 12, Lockdown Stops DAPL Construction in Iowa, 3 Arrested, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 14, Emails Show North Dakota Budget Bureaucracy Behind #NoDAPL Policing
- October 16, Direct Actions Continue to Stop DAPL Construction in Iowa and North Dakota
- October 17, Four Unicorn Riot Journalists Face Charges For Covering #NoDAPL
- October 17, Water Protectors Blockade Highway in Bismarck, Some Charges Dropped
- October 20, As DAPL Construction Advances, Water Protectors Continue Direct Action
- October 22, Water Protectors’ Prayer Walk Ends up with 127 Arrests, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 23, Law Enforcement Attack Private Drone as Water Protectors Erect Blockade & New Winter Camp
- October 24, Mississippi Stand Blockades Iowa DAPL Drill Waste Site, Drilling Stops
- October 25, Records Release: Morton County’s Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Assistance Agreement
- Hundreds Flood Minneapolis City Hall to Demand Local Sheriff Withdraw from North Dakota
- October 26, Tensions Rise as Pipeline Construction Nears #NoDAPL Blockade
- October 27, Police and Military Attack Oceti Sakowin Treaty Camp
- November 1, #NoDAPL Solidarity Rally & Sit-In in Minneapolis Prods Sheriff into Removing Deputies
- November 1, DAPL Resistance Continues Despite Advancing Construction
- November 2, Police Attack Water Protectors Defending Sacred Sites
- November 5, DAPL Construction Nears US Army Corps Land While Still Lacking Permits
- November 6, Water Protectors Attempt to Reclaim Sacred Burial Site, Demonstrate in Cemetery
- November 8, Dakota Access Announces Plan to Drill Under Missouri River Within Weeks
- November 11, Dakota Access Pipeline Work Stopped As Water Protectors Storm Site; 30+ Arrested
- November 14, #NoDAPL Water Protectors March on ND State Capitol after Caravan Disrupts Construction
- November 14, Mississippi Stand Goes Inside Pipeline and Shuts Down DAPL Construction
- November 14, Army Corps Delays DAPL Easement
- November 15, “No More Stolen Sisters” Demonstration Blockades DAPL Man Camp; 25+ Arrests
- November 16, Despite Army Corps Statement, DAPL Moves Horizontal Drill to Missouri River Crossing
- November 17, Demonstration in Bismarck-Mandan, Cass County Deputies Beat Man Bloody
- November 20, Police Attack Unarmed Water Protectors w/ Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and Water Cannons; 300+ injured
- November 21, Land Defense & Water Protection Actions Ripple Across Turtle Island
- November 22, Hundreds Target U.S. Army Corps Building in St. Paul w #NoDAPL Message
- November 22, Anonymous DDOS Munitions Vendor After Sheriffs Attack #NoDAPL
- November 22, #NoDAPL Water Protector Faces Possible Loss Of Her Arm After Police Attack
- November 24, Water Protectors Bridge onto Turtle Island; Mandan Thanksgiving Street Feast
- November 25, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Announces Intent to Close Oceti Sakowin #NoDAPL Camp
- November 29, Excessive Force Lawsuit Filed Against Morton County Sheriff for November 20 Bridge Assault