OCETI SAKOWIN TERRITORY—On Thursday, September 8, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple officially activated the National Guard to assist security near the site of the demonstrations near Standing Rock, alarming many campers, water protectors and supporters at the Oceti Sakowin camp along the river.
“When we first heard about the possibility of the National Guard coming, it was almost trauma response,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktowan elder, who was present when the word came down. “A lot of people went numb because the idea of the military came in.
“To an average non-Native person, that might feel safe,” Spotted Eagle told ICTMN. “To us, it feels really familiar, and it personally takes me back to the Whitestone Massacre. But we know how to handle these situations,” she said. “We pray. We support and listen to each other, and seek consensus to know that we are safe. We all play a part in deciding what’s best for the people.”
While North Dakota officials are increasing police and military presence in the area, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe maintains that their efforts to protect their water and burial grounds are grounded in prayer and peace.
In a radio address on KLND Radio, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II encouraged all visitors and supporters to remain peaceful and prayerful.
“Thousands of people, from members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, tribes across the nation and First Nations in Canada, to non-Native supporters in the United States and around the world, have stood in solidarity against the harm and destruction caused by the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Archambault said. “We have stood side by side in peaceful prayer.”
With a federal court ruling only hours away on Friday, September 9, anticipation was heightened in the camps.
“There is a lot at stake with the court decision tomorrow,” Archaumbault said. “We call upon all water protectors to greet any decision with peace and order. Even if the outcome of the court’s ruling is not in our favor, we will continue to explore every lawful option and fight against the construction of the pipeline.”
Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, also spoke with ICTMN regarding the National Guard presence.
“I am the Keeper of the Sacred Bundle, the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, and I am asking people to pray with us right now. From day one I’ve been doing ceremonies down at the camp, and still, keeping peace,” said Looking Horse.
“We have spiritual people here, and families, and elderly people, and now they’re calling the National Guard in on us after bulldozing over our sacred sites, as the police stood by and watched.
“There are a lot of manmade laws about the environment. We’re in modern times where there are so many laws,” said Looking Horse. “But I’m asking people to do whatever you can to help. I call on all nations of the world to help us. We are people of prayer. We are peaceful people.”
Gov. Dalrymple said at a press conference that the National Guard has been called in only to keep all drivers and pedestrians safe. He said the Guard will be assisting state and county police in notifying drivers on Highway 1806 traveling south that there may be pedestrians on the road and that cars may be parked on the side of the road.
Winona Laduke, executive director of Honor the Earth, said, “You are not George Wallace, and this is not Alabama. You do not have the right to block roads, deny people water, attack people with dogs, or deploy military forces on a peaceful prayerful encampment. We are done being treated like second-class citizens.”
Chairman Archambault said he spoke with the governor about maintaining safety for all people, and that the National Guard will not be entering the camps.
Even amidst the heightening tension, Spotted Eagle said, “We are living in important times. I remain optimistic. We are in a time of history that we have all prayed for, and there is no going back. We can only go forward. I’m happy to be alive today.”