The water protectors taking a stand against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) invoked 1851 Treaty rights on Sunday October 23 over unceded territory as authorities intensified their militarized crackdown and arrested 127 people.
“Today, the Oceti Sakowin has enacted eminent domain on DAPL lands, claiming 1851 treaty rights,” said Mekasi Camp-Horinek, an Oceti Sakowin camp coordinator, in a statement. “This is unceded land. Highway 1806 as of this point is blockaded. We will be occupying this land and staying here until this pipeline is permanently stopped. We need bodies, and we need people who are trained in nonviolent direct action. We are still staying nonviolent, and we are still staying peaceful.”
According to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, protectors have blocked the road at the intersection of Highways 1806 and 134. The North Dakota Department of Transportation has closed highway 1806.
Morton County sheriffs, along with other law enforcement in North Dakota as well as Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s builders, are having a tough time making the case that those opposing the project are violent lawbreakers.
In what would appear to be a textbook example of what not to do in response to citizens’ expressions of free speech, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department backed by North Dakota Governor Jack Dalyrmple continued to ratchet up displays of military-style police force. Despite claims in press statements and conferences insisting they are responding appropriately to violent protestors, social media postings continue to tell a very different story.
Morton County sheriffs claimed on Sunday October 23 to have shot down an unmanned aircraft (drone) because it flew at a helicopter that was assisting police in surveillance in a threatening manner, and claimed that a drone was flying directly above officers, according to a media release. Video from Facebook, however, showed police aiming guns at and shooting down a drone as it appeared to be quite a distance away from them.
The day before, on October 22, 126 people were arrested and charged with rioting and other offenses, according to the Morton County Sheriffs Department, and an additional person was arrested on Sunday. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said during a press conference that arrests reflected the latest show of unlawful tactics that he attributed to those he called protesters. Some of the water protectors had attached themselves to property at a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site using bicycle locks and makeshift handcuffs.
Kirchmeier also claimed that protestors were only hit with pepper spray after attacking an officer. However, video of the alleged riot shows a police officer spraying protectors with pepper spray after screaming at them, “You’re all under arrest!” There didn’t appear to be any indication that the officer had been touched by water protectors, although they did shout at him. Kirchmeier claimed that protectors placed their hands on the officer.
Kellie Berns, who was present at the action, told the Bismarck Tribune of seeing people being pepper-sprayed and thrown to the ground and described law enforcement as being more aggressive than usual.
So many people have now been arrested that Morton County is sending defendants to jails in other counties. Cooper Brinson, staff attorney at the Civil Liberties Defense Center, described police actions at Standing Rock as “out of control,” according to MintPress News.
Water protectors, including Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II, have been routinely strip-searched in police custody even though they have been charged with trespassing, a misdemeanor.
Although there have been police reports of stolen and slaughtered cattle in the area, police have failed to prove any connection to the water protectors in these crimes.
Bizarrely, however, Kirchmeier seems to be encouraging local farmers and ranchers to carry firearms. He said that carrying guns in the area is “warranted” for citizens to protect themselves.
U.S. Senator John Hoeven met with members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week asking them to approve the final easement for the pipeline. He also told members of the Corps that the people of North Dakota need the issue to come to an end and that it is causing too much stress for locals who live in the area, according to KFYR-TV.
On October 23, water protectors declared that they were enacting eminent domain on Dakota Lands, claiming rights from the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and set up three blockades on Highway 1806.
Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier joined the protectors and told them he would ask the tribe’s lawyers to file for eminent domain on the intended route of the Dakota Access Pipeline that crosses through sacred and culturally significant land, including burial grounds. Frazier also promised to send people from Cheyenne River to support the water protectors’ actions and said he would urge leaders of other tribes to do the same.
Archambault said he supports filing for eminent domain, and the Tribal Council is deliberating over the decision. As of Sunday evening, however, water protectors had removed one of the blockades after negotiations with law enforcement, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Kichmeier told the Tribune he was “pleased that “common sense prevailed” when protesters took down the block on Highway 1806 but criticized the day’s events, calling them “outright unlawful.”
“We have never ceded this land,” said Joye Braun, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement. “If DAPL can go through and claim eminent domain on landowners and Native peoples on their own land, then we as sovereign nations can then declare eminent domain on our own aboriginal homeland. We are here to protect the burial sites here. Highway 1806 has become the no-surrender line.”
On Sunday evening she told ICTMN that protectors would remain at the blockade throughout the night.
Archambault called the police tactics an assault on First Amendment rights.
“The militarization of local law enforcement and enlistment of multiple law enforcements agencies from neighboring states is needlessly escalating violence and unlawful arrests against peaceful protestors at Standing Rock,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “We do not condone reports of illegal actions, but believe the majority of peaceful protestors are reacting to strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement.”
He also expressed disappointment that higher-up officials had not stepped up to assert those rights.
“We are disappointed to see that our state and congressional delegations and Gov. Jack Dalrymple have failed to ensure the safety and rights of the citizens engaged in peaceful protests who were arrested on Saturday,” he said. “Their lack of leadership and commitment to creating a dialogue towards a peaceful solution reflects not only the unjust historical narrative against Native Americans, but a dangerous trend in law enforcement tactics across America.”
Archambault called on the U.S. Department of Justice to “investigate the overwhelming reports and videos demonstrating clear strong-arm tactics, abuses and unlawful arrests by law enforcement” and called for “an injunction to all developments at the pipeline site to keep ALL citizens—law enforcement and protestors—safe.”