School starts at #NoDAPL camp as pipeline resistance digs in for long haul

Tiffany Baker with her daughter at the Camp of the Sacred Stones near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. "I brought her here so she can witness history in the making. She sang earlier with her class, here, in front of everyone. It was really beautiful to see her to do that, to sing for all the different tribes and nationalities here," Baker said on Facebook. Photo by Dallas Goldtooth

It's back to school time across Indian Country and that includes the Camp of the Sacred Stones in North Dakota.

The Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa, or Defenders of the Sacred Water School, held its first classes on Monday morning. The effort is geared primarily to students ages 7-18 but parents have been encouraged to bring their younger ones and older youth are being asked to help facilitate.

"It's been beautiful to see all the people stepping forward to help and support the school in anyway that they can," Alayna Lee Eagle Shield, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, wrote on Facebook in announcing the new initiative.

The curriculum is centered around indigenous language and culture. In addition to Lakota classes taught by Eagle Shield, students will learn about leadership and history from Layha Spoonhunter, a nationally-recognized youth leader from the Wind River Reservation, and traditional foods from Winona Kasto, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, according to the first week's schedule. Each day will end with a youth council.

The school is another sign that the thousands who have gathered near Cannon Ball [Facebook | Twitter | GoFundMe] intend to stay as long as possible as they continue to resist the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe established the camp in April and it has grown in size and prominence as Indian Country rallies to the cause.

Posted by Alayna Eagle Shield on Sunday, August 21, 2016

"The Standing Rock people have an inherent right to protect their homelands, their historic and sacred sites, their natural resources, their drinking water and their families from this potentially dangerous pipeline," Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation, the largest in the U.S., said in a statement last week.

Members of the Cherokee Nation Council, which passed its own resolution in support of Standing Rock, traveled from Oklahoma over the weekend and presented Chairman Dave Archambault II with a blanket at the camp. Delegations from the Crow Tribe, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and the Yakama Nation also traveled to the site over the weekend, marking the latest in a string of visits that continues when the Lummi Nation arrives on Tuesday as part of the Totem Pole Journey.

So far, more than 130 tribes -- or nearly a quarter of all federally recognized tribes -- have passed resolutions or sent letters of support, according to an running list maintained by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. More than 40 organizations and institutions, ranging from the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians to the National Congress of American Indians to the United Tribes Technical College, also have expressed solidarity.

“United Tribes Technical College stands in solidarity with the peaceful demonstrations and leadership that are founded in prayer,” UTTC President Leander “Russ” McDonald said in a announcing that the 20th annual Tribal Leader's Summit next week will include a session about the pipeline. “Our mission as an educational community within the city of Bismarck is to help our students recognize the importance of tribal sovereignty and leadership. We have an historic learning opportunity taking place right before us.”

Chairman Archambault is hoping to tap into that well of support as a key part of the 1,172-mile pipeline remains in limbo. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not granted an easement for construction at Lake Oahe along the Missouri River.

In a call to action on Monday, Archambault asked allies to lobby the Army Corps, Congress and the White House in hopes of blocking the easement. The site in question is about a mile from the sacred camp.

"The tribe will continue to advocate for justice regarding the protection of our waters and sacred sites through litigation, and through a broad and coordinated outreach program to the media, to Congress and to the states," Archambault said in a statement.

Old Coyote addresses Red Warrior Camp.

Posted by Crow Nation News on Monday, August 29, 2016

While the reaction has been extremely positive in Indian Country, officials in North Dakota continue to try and undermine the tribe's efforts. Except for a string of arrests that occurred at a pipeline construction site, there have been no major incidents of violence or trouble at or near the camp.

But that didn't stop Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley (R), who served as a federal prosecutor during the Bush administration, from calling the camp "unlawful" in a sit-down with The Grand Forks Herald last week. He accused pipeline resisters of committing "hundreds of criminal acts" and repeated wild assertions about the alleged use of lasers that were said to have been pointed at aircraft flying over the camp.

"Trespasses have been documented. Threats on law enforcement, both on social media and in person," Wrigley told the paper, without providing evidence.

Wrigley -- who once told Congress that tribes shouldn't be provided with information about criminal declination rates in Indian Country -- even said people who rode horses around police committed a crime even though no one was harmed. The manner in which the horses were displayed is a traditional way of greeting among the Lakota people.

"I've spoken with the people who were on that line," Wrigley told the paper, referring to officers -- who were mainly from the Morton County Sheriff's Department. "They were beyond threatened."

Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) signed an emergency declaration on August 19 to address "public safety risks" and the North Dakota Highway Patrol continues to restrict travel to and from the site even though no major problems have been reported.

The Dakota Access Pipeline would start in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota before crossing into South Dakota. From there the route goes through Iowa -- where the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Meskwaki Tribe have raised objections.

The pipeline path ends in Illinois and backers say it would carry about 470,000 barrels a day. It has the capacity to carry up to 570,000 barrels a day or even more, according to Dakota Access.

The pipeline does not directly cross any reservations but it goes through territories ceded by tribes through treaties. It also goes through historic tribal sites, including a burial ground in the northwest part of Iowa.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has asked a federal judge for a preliminary injunction to halt construction on the project. A ruling on the motion is expected on or before September 9. A hearing and rally took place in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday.

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