Almost buried by the national media, and under-reported in the local media, is the story of a people savaged by our European ancestors and by settlers in North Dakota.
I’m sure many of you, like me, attended the old cowboy and Indian movies, where in most cases the Indian “savages” were destroyed just in time by the Cavalry or white settlers … just as the “savages,” without apparent cause or reason, were about to kill, burn, pillage and rape those white folks, who never provoked them.
That, my friends, is the fantasy world we lived in then … and the same holds true today. The Native Americans in North Dakota and South Dakota are still being preyed upon, savaged and ignored.
There is a vast difference now as opposed to back in the day. The tribes pose no threat at all to anyone. But you wouldn’t know that by the way they are still being treated today.
I went to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Tribal Historic Preservation site . If you want volumes of information relating to tribal history, this is one place to find it.
To simplify and condense the story, we now know that, once the Europeans arrived (hereinafter known as the whites), the tribe’s lands, game (especially buffalo) and way of life were gradually at first, and then quickly, destroyed.
America’s native peoples were demeaned, hunted down and killed. They were starved, deprived of their ancestral lands, deprived of weapons and deprived of their freedom, while the good whites claimed they “pampered and cared for them” on reservations, where the livestock had better treatment.
Even today, there is a tendency to look down upon Native Americans. Never mind that they have fought and died in wars defending this country. Never mind that there are still reservations in North Dakota where our government has tolerated living conditions for the occupants that we would not believe unless we see them.
I have never been on a reservation but have heard many sad stories from those who have. I’ve also met many individuals who lived on reservations, both in my professional capacity and as an individual.
I wandered over to watch Judge Paul Benson presiding in Federal Court in a case involving a Native who had been convicted of a serious crime. I was wearing my blue sport coat, gray slacks and tie. As I observed the proceedings a well-dressed Indian, terrifically well-groomed and wearing a great leather vest, touched me on the shoulder and said he wanted to introduce me to “a friend.”
I didn’t realize who the man was at first — not until he told me who he was. It seems he had visited with me many times over the years in municipal court. In his last visit, he said, he had a “come to Jesus moment” and had sworn off alcohol, which had been the primary cause of his many court appearances. Sober, he was a gentle giant; under the influence he was one mean dude.
Once I got over the shock of his new stage in life, we had a nice talk. Then he said, “Come on, I want you to meet my friends.” Before I could even burp, he pulled me thru the door and into the witness room, where it seemed like an entire tribe was present — a lot of men and women of Native heritage who were no fans of the federal government and the U.S. Marshals Service.
It was at this time I remembered my clothing was the same as the marshals wore … and I about dropped over. When I was introduced, I must have truly looked like a real “white man” because I think all the color had run out of my face.
Once he announced who I was, it turned into a very cordial and friendly environment, save and except for one man. My friend, whose real name was Alfred (no last name because I don’t know where he is now), grabbed this guy who had turned away from meeting me and said — in no whisper, I might add — “G*d damn you, I said I want you to meet my friend,” and spun him around.
Those two men were very large, Alfred much larger. When he’d been spun around, the other guy reached out his hand — which I took in my still-gleaming-white hand. I said to him, “Now I know how Custer felt at the Little Bighorn!” That broke the ice. He started laughing, and life was good.
This rambling introduction is to remind you that the Native Americans still need our help and support.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, formerly known as the Keystone XL line, is being built across Native lands. It is slated to go under a water supply near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers. If a leak occurred, it could make it the water useless for any kind of personal use, including irrigation.
Now, what do you think the people of Fargo-Moor head would do if it was suggested that a pipeline be run through our Fargo, under the Red River and on through Moorhead? We already know how explosive the Bakken oil is, and we know the damage a leaky pipeline can cause, as it is already happening in western North Dakota. The dizzy state regulators have been imposing and then suspending fines since 2008, and still the leaks continue.
Remember Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his sons, Ammon and Ryan? They formed an armed group to confront armed federal authorities attempting to collect the BLM grazing fees he hadn’t paid since 1993. There was a standoff — with no arrests. Their friends were all white protesters. Not until much more recently, were the Bundys arrested for continuing to allow their cattle to graze on federal lands.
The Native Americans who are now protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, are unarmed. They came to the protest site on foot and on horseback and have been entirely peaceful. As of this writing, there have been 18.
Hmm, peaceful Indian protesters arrested, while a band of heavily armed whites were not! Double standard?
Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation have asked the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which has issued permits for the pipeline, to reconsider the project and its effect on the Native American communities.
Concerns have been expressed about the Corps’ failure to communicate with the tribes. That is inexcusable.
Protesters from other reservations and from across the country are streaming into North Dakota to garner publicity for the plight of the tribes. You know that big oil, the ones that buy and sell some of our politicians, will fight against the people. Perhaps it’s time for the entire state to stand up with our Native American brothers and sisters who deserve a voice, deserve to be understood, and deserve to be respected.
There’s been an outcry across this nation because UND lost its Sioux sports logo! How about showing the same concern for the real Sioux — and other Native Americans — who need our help and support in North Dakota and South Dakota.
I’m just one person who hates bigotry and racism. I hope many more of you out there care as deeply as I do. The ignorance and racism surrounding our Native Americans and their concerns must stop. Amen.