Jim Kent: The real truth about the #NoDAPL resistance movement

Pacific Northwest tribes lead a delegation to the #NoDAPL resistance camps near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Photo by Paul Anderson / Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey

Lakota Country Tells Its Own Story With The Truth
By Jim Kent
Lakota Country Times Columnist

Lakota Country is on the move – along with members of other tribal nations – as it gathers at the Missouri to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I should just say “another pipeline” because that’s what it is. And they do keep coming, don’t they? Environmental issues.

The Keystone XL pipeline, uranium mining in the Black Hills, the Powder River Basin military training area…the list goes on when it comes to power-brokers impacting individuals and the environment.

I was discussing this topic with an elder rancher recently. He’s been “fighting the good fight” his entire life, standing against those who would take, impact, destroy, pollute, denigrate or compromise the land his ancestors first settled in the 1880s.

Tribal flags fly at the #NoDAPL resistance camps near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Photo by Paul Anderson / Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey

Land he is “a steward of” only. Land he’s fought to protect as he’s also stood beside the Lakota when they’ve gathered to defend treaty lands.

Yet whether a white man on acreage acquired through the Homestead Act or Lakota on lands guaranteed by their treaty…it’s all our land. Just as the sky is “all of ours” and the waters, too.

Not in the possessive “who has the deed” or “the rights to” sense, but from the perspective that everything and everyone on this planet is interdependent and, therefore, subject to repercussions from the impacts experienced by any one person, parcel of land or waterway.

It’s for this reason that 2,000 Native Americans have gathered near Cannon Ball, North Dakota to protest the placement of a pipeline under the Missouri River.

Jewell James, Master Carver of the House of Tears Carvers, looks out at the #NoDAPL resistance camps near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Photo by Paul Anderson / Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey

I know. The potential hazards are obvious…and quite likely given the number of crude oil and natural gas pipeline spills: at least 3,300 since 2010. That translates to over 500 each year and more than one every single day.

Unfortunately for us, contamination of the environment is of much less concern to power-brokers and their “lackeys” (see: “your local politician”) than their profit margins or re-election funds. That’s why pipelines continue to be built.

Nor have the 80 deaths and nearly 400 injuries accompanying those spills been sufficient notice to curb the zeal of pipeline czars.

You’d think they lived on a different planet with so little concern for the effects of their actions. They don’t. But they do live in another world; one where the smell, touch and taste of money supersedes all and the belief that we each share the land, water and sky with one another is an alien concept.

Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe L. Goudy leads a Pacific Northwest tribal delegation to the #NoDAPL resistance camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Photo by Paul Anderson / Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey

As I read the first reports of Lakota tribal members converging on the planned Dakota Access Pipeline site I was reminded of the grass roots takeover of the Red Cloud building.

It was in the winter of 2000. This was before Facebook. Before cell phones with cameras and smart phones with videotaping capability. And just as personal computers were starting to find their way into most everyone’s home.

It was a time when “getting the story out” to the masses was entirely dependent on the whims of mainstream media. It was a time when I contacted every major newspaper to pitch the story and was ignored. They didn’t need “someone at the scene” – least of all some writer they’d never heard of.

They could cover the issue from hundreds or even thousands of miles away…which is why they never accessed the truth. And just as with those gathered along the Missouri right now they could print rumors about firearms in the Red Cloud Building, when the only “weapon” present was the sacred pipe: the canupa.

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But even with mainstream media largely ignoring the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters their story is still getting out. It’s being told, for a change, by the people themselves. Through the hundreds of postings and dozens of videos the world is present with those at Sacred Stone Camp.

People around the globe are witness to the unnecessary blockade of roads by local law enforcement. They can vouch for the peaceful association between protesters and police. They can testify to the solidarity of a people standing to save the water for us all.

For as much time and space that’s wasted on social media with petty postings and sophomoric rants, the communication medium is now being used to tell the story of a movement. The journey of a people. It’s being applied as a tool to bring the entire planet to the banks of the Missouri. It’s being utilized as a cultural portal to the public-at-large.

And it’s succeeding in telling the truth to the masses – which is an unusual opportunity for most Native Americans.

(Jim Kent is a freelance writer and radio producer who lives in Hot Springs. He is a contributing columnist to the Lakota Country Times and former editor of The New Lakota Times. He can be heard on South Dakota Public Radio, National Public Radio and National Native News Radio. Jim can be reached at kentvfte@gwtc.net)

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