TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Overzealous Response To Pipeline Protest Spells Bad News For North Dakota

North Dakota’s Industrial Commission, Gov. Jack Dalrymple and his advisers can take credit for some negative publicity that North Dakota is getting on the national.

I refer to the plight of Native Americans across the country in addressing the Dakota Access Pipeline and its impact on reservations, their people and their long-held beliefs. I applaud their courage in defending the land and rivers and the life that abounds therein.

For the last week, I’ve seen scenes of beauty: great native encampments … a flotilla of canoes on waters abutting and going through native country … miles of marching “protectors,” aka “protesters” in the media world.

What am I talking about? The media world? Up until now, even local and state coverage has been either woefully inadequate or slanted, to the point of lying about what is taking place.

Has North Dakota’s governor flown over the areas involved in our state? Has he toured the affected areas and met with tribe representatives to hear their concerns firsthand? For that matter, has State Rep. Al Carlson of Fargo, holder of the GOP legislature’s purse strings, gone in for personal research?

Only our Creator knows whether anyone from the Industrial Commission has taken the time and effort to go to the affected areas to obtain unfiltered, direct information.

One of our North Dakota papers published a story concluding that it was the Indians’ fault that these things have happened because they didn’t come to the hearings. Come to the hearings? Someone is out of their flipping minds. This pipeline impacts the tribes both directly and indirectly. To expect them to come on bended knee to be “told” what is going to happen is ridiculous.

In my world, if the city (for example) is going to do something in my neighborhood that impacts me, it schedules a “neighborhood” meeting to discuss it. Is it too much to ask that the same courtesy be extended to the tribes?

If there were reservation meetings and no one came, my best bet would be that either (a) no one knew, or (b) notice was not given, or (c) the pipeline folks and our regulators weren’t interested enough to be make the upfront effort to communicate. “Telling” is one-sided communication.

Why should the tribes be worried now? Well, for starters, every time the gas and oil folks have an accident or otherwise screw up, our newspapers report that massive fines have been imposed … but never give the same notice when the fines are suspended. What we hear amounts to eyewash for the people — and points for oil and gas.

An oil train explosion in the city certainly could cause death and destruction. We’ve seen the evidence on the news. But have you seen the video of an oil pipe explosion “under a river?” Google “underwater pipeline explosion in Russia” to see what happened in Moscow just one year ago.

When oil or gas blows, it is always horrific. When it blows on land, it is bad, but it can be cleaned up in time.

When a leak or explosion occurs under a river, there is also instant impact. But the long-range damage of downstream pollution cannot be determined immediately. It takes years and years before it’s fully understood. Pollution and destruction of land and water are the tribe’s major concern. Why is this a surprise to anyone … except, of course, those of us — like me — who do not live on or near a reservation or have never even been on one?

The only thing that’s even close to violence that I’ve witnessed on the news or online is the horseman riding directly into a crowd of lawmen, scattering them. That was unnecessary! Thankfully, the law did not respond as harshly as they could have. They don’t want to be there any more than the protectors want them there. Let’s face it, they’re just doing their job.

Someone is going to write a book on the government overreaction to this peaceful protest in North Dakota. I’ve seen nothing to justify the roadblocks along approaching highways. Nor have I heard reasonable justification of searches of motor vehicles using the roadway or the government’s blocking the use of state and federal highways without cause and or legal authority. And for the sake of humanity, how can they be setting up hardened, battle-worthy barricades like those used to prevent terrorist attacks?

If the non-Native residents of Bismarck-Mandan decided to protest a tax increase or a pipeline placement and gathered in large numbers, would they be treated like criminals or terrorists? Would their communities be walled off like a war zone?

Oops, my bad! Meetings were held long ago on the pipeline’s original proposed route, which crossed the Missouri River 10 miles north of Bismarck. That route was eliminated because of potential damage to the capital city’s water supply. Hmm. Native vs. non-Native? You decide!

Standing Rock has been getting letters of support from tribes across the country. Funds and supplies are making their way here, as well as more supporters. The tribe has also garnered support for an “urgent communication” it has filed with the United Nations, citing human rights violations resulting from the pipeline’s construction.

I’m shocked that the national news media have not picked up on this story for their striking eye appeal alone — the photographic beauty of the encampments, the beautiful native dress, the awesome horses and the increasing size of the gathering. They’ll come with their cameras sooner or later, and then probably focus on the modern-day version of the cavalry Gov. Jack has sent in. But I can always hope they go much further — and focus on the legitimate issues the tribes have raised.

* * *

I just read a 55-page motion filed in Federal Court in Washington for a preliminary injunction to halt the pipeline.

For those who do not think the tribes have legitimate concerns — that government entities have not ignored their own regulations — the Natives have expressed many actual and legal concerns. I invite you, too, to google “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe” and “Dakota Access Pipeline.” You’ll find a detailed and extremely well-researched Memorandum in Support of said concerns.

Some news outlets are turning a deaf ear to all of this. One large publishing group, in particular, has turned its blogger reporter loose without much actual journalistic reporting. He does not supPort my observations at all, to no one’s surprise.

If by now you haven’t noted, I support the Native Americans in this conflict, then I can’t imagine why you’ve read this far.

* * *

Finally, those of you in Minnesota need to take your own governor and legislature to the woodshed. Just like in North Dakota, the branches have fought so ferociously that little has been accomplished for the state.

There is no excuse for the Minnesota Legislature to have failed to provide funding for Moorhead’s badly needed railroad overpass and infrastructure needs. Promises made and not kept … boy, that sounds familiar to someone from North Dakota!

A shout-out to Jim Shaw for writing another column in The Forum that I wanted to write. He’s a good friend, but he’s sure making a habit of that.’

OK, now that I’m off the clock, it’s time to kill the weeds in my freshly cut lawn and to wonder how so many grew so fast. Amen.

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Tom Davies

Judge Tom Davies wielded the gavel in Fargo's Municipal Court for nearly 40 years, the longest term of any elected official in the city's history, until health problems forced his retirement in 2012. Born in Grand Forks, the UND business and law graduate has lived in Fargo since 1956, when his father, Ronald Davies, was appointed a federal judge. The outspoken, irreverent jurist remains an insatiable consumer of news, sharing his observations in Moorhead's weekly newspaper, The Extra … and now here on the Fish blog. As a child, Davies delivered the Grand Forks Herald and sold them on the street corner.

32 thoughts on “TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Overzealous Response To Pipeline Protest Spells Bad News For North Dakota”

  1. Thank you so much for your kind words and humor. Couple of things though your Honor….”the arrests were, I thought, excessively brutal, the female Native being taken down, face first, that was unnecessary, the posturing and riot-control formations….if, the ND police were doing their jobs, then so too were the akicita on horses. Lakota People are renown for their horsemanship, your remarks here were lacking. Next, you point out, then, the checkpoints, the walls manned by tnose same ND police personnel “doing their jobs?”and, finally, ND Health Dept.,pulling out medics, and MORTON County Bd. Cutting off the water, the Gov. and his 2nd making misleading and unnecessary even inappropriate statements as did the Sheriff…..”

  2. Any government dealing with another needs to have a cultural anthropologist on staff. You stated the charge on horseback was unnecessary. It is a traditional greeting when warriors of two factions face each other. It acknowledges the worthiness of the opponent and states that they are equal, that no one is beneath the other.

    1. Agreed… tsan tsun’s rules of war states similarly … might have misspelled that, but general’s rode out to meet before battle in many war’s in many countries for many years…. knight’s, kings, ect… chiefs and general’s… but media and government influnce, show the story they want you to believe…. think for yourself people!!

    1. First the information given to the Judge has to be accurate. And what is given from the ND representatives/lawyers/police is bent to their own wishes, finding a way to blame the Natives for everything, including lying outright about people being shot in the back, water cannons, explosives. So, WHERE is the information for the Natives coming from. They get to take it in the chin AGAIN. Not ok in my book.

  3. Thank you, Mr. Davies.

    US short-sighted greed and inhumanity in its own backyard…. My heart goes out to the first people.

  4. Thank you for writing this article and the truth as I see and witness it on social media. I only hope others will read and understand the truth of this protest protecting the water. I support their cause and right to stand up for their Tribe/Nation and those down stream in the other states. It’s proven by the other erupted pipelines in other states that it’s hazardous to the water!
    I live in Oklahoma where we now have surpassed California in the number of earthquakes due to fracking.
    I’m enrolled with the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Once again thank you Mr. Davies!

  5. Native people attempt to educate everyone. To see an attempted understanding may change our collective minds about Mother Earth.
    Paydamiye (Thank you God bless)

  6. Thank you! I was thinking the same thing! This is going to go down in history and someone is going to write a book, it was in Crazy Horses prophecy that his people were going to bring representatives of all races together and they would be brothers and live in harmony and it is happening right now! and they are gonna depict how they were treated that led up to this.

  7. Appreciate your much needed view. Yes, a point for the first american natives, yet, in my own opinion, unbiased. As you seen, hands on, researched and photographed. A huge thank you. Not only from the Indian protector’s nationwide, but for the non Indians that are not skilled or trained to protect in our indigenous teachings for centuries.

  8. Your Honor Tom Davies thank you for writing this article. The more I read the more concerned I become. I am very happy I found your article

  9. Thank you. Thank you for your words and respect for our People. Just returned from Standing Rock Sacred Stone Camp.
    Pinagigi. ….. your eyes are open.

  10. What’s the plan for the winter season? I heard it’s coming up winter soon. Is it gonna get messy and muddy with vehicles in wet weather or snow? I wouldn’t have a clue myself. I’m from New Zealand. (Land of The Nuclear Free Cloud!) =) There is a good strong drive going on it seems. Lets keep it up there!

  11. Bismarck and Mandan did something and worked with the government well before the proposed pipeline was in place, the natives had the opportunity and decided that waiting until well after the deadline and then rioting was a better plan.

    Also oil lines already run under the Missouri river if you’re so deathly afraid of an underground pipe and it’s water effect, as opposed to an oil train explosion burning people/firefighters alive.

    And here is another fun piece:

    So the human remains that appeared out of magic ONE DAY before the construction were definitely magical in nature. Someone must have died after using their Flux Capacitor equipped DeLorean and gunning it to 88mph…..OR the sites were made up as a last ditch effort to stop the construction which was already setup and surveyed? Which makes more sense?

    Sorry for using facts and logic to spoil your fun.

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