By Vi Waln
The drama and sensationalism drummed up by major news sources continues to cloud the real issue of why there is a huge gathering of human beings in North Dakota. The Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin and Rosebud Camps were formed to show support for the Missouri River and all her tributaries. The human need for clean water to live should not be turned into a political issue.
There’s really nothing political about our need for clean water. You either want clean water or you want an oil pipeline, that will eventually leak, buried under the Missouri River. Please don’t get sidetracked by all the irresponsible news reports skewing the real issue behind the stand against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).
For example, take those ridiculous press conferences hosted by the DAPL protectors working in the Morton County Sheriff’s Department. Water Protectors cringe when they see those press conferences go live on social media from the news outlets in Bismarck, North Dakota. That is, the video footage shared by Indigenous media sources working from within the Water Protector camps has debunked a lot of the public statements made in those press conferences.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department recently had to take down their Facebook page. Since a lawsuit based on their use of “excessive force” was recently filed against the department, they had to scrub information posted on Facebook that wasn’t completely accurate. So, they had to rush to remove pictures and posts about their encounters with Water Protectors. It’s called covering your ass.
Still, the social media manager for their Facebook page must have forgot that the internet remembers everything. Thus, a skilled hacker could easily find and repost all the “deleted” information removed during the Morton County Sheriff’s Department Facebook hiatus. In any case, screen shots of the “deleted” material taken by devout NoDAPL Facebook users might soon appear as part of the Court record in favor of the Plaintiffs.
This week’s visit by thousands of veterans in support of the Water Protectors has also drawn fire from media outlets. In the rush to provided “balanced” coverage, many newspapers ran stories about veterans who were not in support of their comrades showing up at the Water Protector camps. Veterans were quoted as not wanting to get involved in politics.
Yet, when one joins the military, they must take an oath which includes the following statement: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” There’s really nothing political about defending your people against enemies. You either fight the enemy or you don’t.
The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees all of us the right to peaceably assemble anywhere in this country. The Constitution does not give law enforcement the right to abuse people who are peaceably assembled. Maybe if Morton County’s army wasn’t so violent, the veterans would not have had to travel to North Dakota.
The video footage taken by Indigenous journalists, who are providing continuous coverage of what is going on near the Water Protector camps, are the main reason why our veterans felt the need to travel to North Dakota. The violent actions by the militarized police force at the Backwater Bridge were all caught on video. Their actions are those of an enemy. Soldiers swear to defend “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Tribal and non-tribal veterans grew tired of seeing their unarmed relatives violently attacked by the police, National Guard and DAPL mercenaries.
There have also been attempts to quash the video coverage released by Indigenous journalists. In fact, one drone was hacked and stolen by the police. In addition, video footage shows members of the militarized police force in North Dakota shooting at drones operated by Indigenous journalists. They obviously don’t want to see anymore drone footage showing the world their propensity to engage in violent acts against unarmed citizens.
Indigenous journalists are growing in numbers. Yet, there will always be someone out there wanting to silence the real voices we represent. We have to stand strong. We are here to offer the perspective our ancestors didn’t get to voice during the bloody wars fought on our homelands in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We are tired of reading the one-sided stories written and filmed about us by those living outside of our world. I encourage my fellow Indigenous journalists to continue documenting our living history reports from Standing Rock. The world needs to read our stories. The world needs to watch our video.
We have to get the truth out there for everyone to see. It’s no fun covering controversy, but if we don’t do it, the non-native journalists will. We are weary of seeing their sensationalized news coverage.
Wopila to all Indigenous journalists for providing a service that is often thankless and always dangerous. Don’t let the fools who want to kill the messenger stop you from reporting the truth of what is really happening in Indian Country.
I also want to say Wopila to all the Water Protectors who sacrificed much in the NoDAPL fight. The announcement from Tribal Leaders on December 4, 2016 regarding the Army Corp of Engineers’ (ACE) intent to deny the easement for DAPL was welcomed by many humans across the globe. Apparently, an environmental impact study will be done and other routes considered.
Still, considering a different route doesn’t mean the pipeline is dead. The ACE announcement can only be viewed as a small victory in the ongoing war against big corporations who think nothing of raping Mother Earth. Remain vigilant relatives. Keep praying.