August 29th – 31st – TOTEM POLE JOURNEY BLESSING
Excerpt from Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline issued August 30th from the National Lawyers Guild.
“The United States has failed to respect the national sovereignty and interests of the Tribe and its people, has failed to respect the nation-to-nation relationship with the Tribe established by treaties, and has failed to properly consult with the Tribe to obtain its free, prior, and informed consent for the construction of the pipeline. We stand with the great many defenders and protectors of ancestral lands, water, and spiritual, historic, and cultural resources at the Camp of the Sacred Stones currently blocking construction of the pipeline across the Missouri River near the Tribe’s land and territory. We applaud the indigenous youth who ran 2,200 miles to Washington, DC, to deliver to the United States government a petition signed by 160,000 people in opposition to the pipeline’s construction.
The 30-inch diameter, 1,172-mile pipeline is proposed by Dakota Access, LLC, to connect the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to other pipelines in Illinois for the transport of approximately 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It has been estimated that the Bakken oil reserves, the largest in the United States, hold in excess of 5 billion barrels of oil and are producing over a million barrels per day. In April of this year, researchers at the University of Michigan found that the Bakken field is emitting about 2 percent of the world’s ethane, about 250,000 tons per year into the air, directly affecting air quality across North America. These emissions, combined with combustion of Bakken oil, are major contributors to the Global Climate Crisis that threatens the well-being of our environment, future generations, and the Earth.
The proposed pipeline route crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Missouri River. The Missouri River is a major source of water for the Tribe. The ancestral lands and water are sacred to the Tribe and its people, and they possess a responsibility to Mother Earth and to future generations to protect these ancestral lands and water.
Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, and its affiliated entities, have a long history of violations of environmental laws including pending lawsuits by the states of New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the City of Breau Bridge in Louisiana over MTBE contamination of groundwater, as well as citations for releases of hazardous materials from its pipelines and facilities in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii. Pipelines leak and spill. In one year alone, there were over 300 pipeline breaks in North Dakota. Numerous pipeline spills of millions of gallons of oil and contaminants into the Missouri River and its tributaries have already occurred. In January, over 50,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana. Oil from the Bakken field is more volatile than other crudes.
The conduct of the US government in its approval of the Pipeline proposal breaches the terms of the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaties between the Oceti Sakowin and the United States. The exercise of colonial power by the United States in approving the proposal further violates the collective human rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its peoples including the rights to self-determination, national sovereignty, and free, prior, and informed consent as to those matters that may affect them, which are secured to all peoples by the Charter of the United Nations, Art. 73; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art. 1, 3 (ICCPR); and specifically to indigenous peoples under the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Art. 3, 4, 11, 18, 19, 27, 28, 32, 37, 40 (UN DRIP), and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Art. 6; and other international instruments that the United States as signed and ratified or have become binding customary international law. By Art. VI, Clause 2, of the United States Constitution these have become part of the Supreme Law of the United States of America.
The pipeline further violates not only the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, but also the collective human rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its people to their spiritual, historic, and cultural interests in their ancestral lands across which the pipeline is proposed to travel, rights which are secured to them by the afore-stated international instruments and law. The proposed pipeline violates the collective environmental human rights of the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to life, health, clean water, and a clean environment, treaty rights secured to them by the Ft. Laramie Treaties as well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 3, 25; ICCPR, Art. 6; the UN DRIP, Art. 7, 24, 29; and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, Art. 1.
In a flagrant violation of environmental justice principles, the pipeline was redirected towards lands near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from its original route north of the drinking water intakes for Bismarck, ND, in part to avoid non-Native lands and communities. This act of racial discrimination placing the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at disparate risk of harm violated their collective human rights as secured by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and violated the Executive Order on Environmental Justice, EO 12898.
On August 10, Dakota Access, LLC moved construction equipment to the proposed Missouri River crossing site adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Members of the Tribe prevented the developers’ earthmovers from digging trenches for the pipeline. Several tribal members and supporters were arrested, including Tribal Chairman David Archambault. NLG attorneys have responded to help with their defense.
On August 15, Dakota Access, LLC filed a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit in federal court in Bismarck, ND against a number of individuals, including the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The suit is an attempt to silence their opposition and to get the pipeline constructed before a federal lawsuit filed by the Tribe in the District of Columbia can be decided on the adequacy of federal consultation with the Tribe. Dakota Access, LLC seeks an injunction against anyone interfering with construction of the pipeline and could add federal contempt charges to existing criminal charges for those who continue to resist construction. A decision on the preliminary injunction sought by Dakota Access, LLC in Bismarck is scheduled to be issued by September 9, 2016. Meanwhile, the encampment of protectors of the land and water and the spiritual and cultural resources of the Tribe, which started with 35 people, has grown to over hundreds [now potentially thousands], with tensions mounting.”
Onto Standing Rock . . .
By John Woodland, 350.org
Totem Pole Journey Day Seven August 29, 2016, Enroute to Standing Rock
By Dr. Kurt Russo, Journey Organizer
The totem pole journey arrives in Bismarck tonight and will spend the next three days on the Great Plains on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The Standing Rock Nation straddles the North/South Dakota borders in the western portions of both states. It has recently been the center of attention with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The dispatches from Standing Rock over the next few days will go into detail of the situation. As a prelude, this dispatch will provide some environmental history of the Great Plains, a bioregion that has undergone significant changes since the arrival of the settlers.
The numbers startle the imagination. Prior to the arrival of the American settlers, 30 million whitetail deer and 15 million pronghorn antelope roamed the Western plains; 400 million black-tailed prairie dogs populated one “dog town” covering vast areas; and 100,000 grizzly bears inhabited every corner of the American West.
The Great Plains was an expanse of grasslands, a unique ecology divided into tall grass and short grass prairies. Native peoples had been hunting bison on the Great Plains for more than 8,000 years, constituting the longest sustained human lifeway in North American history. Some historians place the number of bison at over 60 million animals at the time of European contact. A single herd could number as many as 12 million animals covering 50 square miles. The abundance of game on the Great Plains was such that only on the African veldt in its early settler days has there been anything comparable in recorded history.
This would all change dramatically by the end of the eighteenth century. By that time the total number of bison was estimated at less than 1,000 animals. Speaking of his vision atop the Crazy Mountains the nineteenth century Crow leader Plenty Coups spoke his lament for a changed world: “After this, nothing happened.”
If you count the bison for hides and the antelope for backstraps and the passenger pigeons for target practice, and the decimation of the beaver population, it is conceivable that 500 million creatures died. It is hard to overstate—or even to grasp—the importance of this iconic animal to Native American plains cultures, or the significance of the animal for appreciating the current state and fate of the Great Plains. As a keystone species, their absence had a dramatic effect on the larger ecosystem. The fate of the buffalo was reflected in broader changes in the Great Plains ecosystem and, sadly, with many other species that paid the price—and continue to pay the price—for an irresponsible, unsustainable and, some might say, immoral extraction-based economy.
According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, there are now 612 threatened and endangered animal species in North America, including 84 mammal species, 90 species of birds, and 139 species of fish, as well as 746 threatened and endangered plants. Species losses have been significant for the Great Plains grassland, savanna, and shrubland biome, an area that has undergone substantial land conversion from native vegetation to agricultural lands. By late-twentieth century only 4 percent of the pre-settlement tallgrass prairie remained. Overall the North American prairies, one of the most highly altered grasslands in the world, have declined by an average of 79 percent since the early-1800s.
Heading out to the Camp . . .
By Freddy Lane, Journey Videographer
A Vignette of the Yakama Presentation to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
Nearing the end of their presentation to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, the Yakama Chairman, JoDe L. Goudy, called all of the Yakama children present to stand in front of the Yakama Tribal representatives. The Chairman identified Waussus as the youngest Yakama child present and asked that she wrap the youngest Standing Rock Sioux child in a gift blanket for the Tribe.
I caught up to Waussus, her older brother and sister, and her grandparents as they were leaving the Standing Rock administrative offices.
This simple ceremonial gesture reminds us all of the critical reason we are making the effort to connect with as many Tribes and people as possible in order to ensure our grandchildren and our grandchildren’s grandchildren have a prosperous life on Mother Earth.
Lummi Nation at Standing Rock
Photos by Nickolaus Dee Lewis
PROFOUND CEREMONY: DAY ONE AT STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
Our arrival into Standing Rock Sioux land brought the tribal police, something that made me a bit uneasy at first because of the “protest” actions that have incited police action in the area since the beginning of August. It turned out that we had a police escort from near the northern boundary of the reservation right into Fort Yates and to the Tribal Administration building. Dr. Kurt Russo, Totem Pole Journey 2016 Coordinator, Fred Lane, TPJ Videographer, and I rode slowly into Fort Yates with Rita Coolidge’s emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace” playing on the CD player. Tears flowed from all of us as we arrived; I acknowledge one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
As we brought our convoy to a stop, Tribal staff and residents of the town flowed out into the street to see the totem pole. Within ten minutes, I had names and contact information for six people who were interested in learning more about the Lummi Totem Journeys. I met LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Director of the Standing Rock Sioux Historic Preservation Office and owner of the land where the Sacred Stone camp is located just south of the Cannonball River. I later learned that Standing Rock Sioux leadership acknowledges Sacred Stone camp and refers to the much larger camp just north of the river as Strong Heart, with acknowledgement of a more activist component of the camp as Red Warrior (more about this later).
Just before noon, the Standing Rock Sioux Council came to order and received presentations from the Seneca Nation, Coast Salish Tribes, and the Yakama Nation. The matrilineal Seneca Nation of Pennsylvania described their experience with the Army Corps of Engineers. A dam was built in 1960 on the Allegheny River that flooded 10,000 acres of Seneca land, burying homes and valuable land under water. Their Chairman said, “We will not let this happen again. We are the ‘never again’ generation.”
The twenty or so members of the Yakama Nation, led by JoDe Goudy made their powerful presentation in full regalia, with children accompanying, and the highlight of the ceremony was the youngest member of their delegation, Wassus, wrapping a blanket around a Standing Rock Sioux infant.
Coast Salish Tribes then made their presentations, among them the Lummi, the Swinomish, the Nisqually, the Puyallup, the Lower Elwha Klallam, the Suquamish Tribe, and the Hoh Tribe. The Swinomish remarked in their presentation to the Council that the notorious police blockade six miles south of Mandan on ND highway 1806 was lifted to allow them to pass. Notable from Nisqually, Billy Frank’s grandson was present and had powerful words of support for the position the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has taken.
Each and every Tribe present expressed unconditional support for the SRST opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Every Tribe promised to leave a flag to reflect their support. As Brian Cladoosby said, “We’ve been at war since 1492. We show the world that we are united, that we speak as one.”
David Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, then expressed his deep appreciation of all the support from the gathered Tribes, saying that the indigenous peoples of the United States and Canada need to “always keep our heads up, be proud!”
After the Council meeting presentations ended, Totem Journey 2016 and 20 or so additional cars from Fort Yates convoyed with several Tribal police cars and Rangers escorting for the 25-mile drive up to Strong Heart camp at Cannonball. The Yakama and Coast Salish Tribes all piled out to walk into the camp with flags flying and full regalia in the case of the Yakama. Intense and emotional moments arose as these gestures of support were comprehended by the people of the camp.
Doug James parked the totem pole in a prominent place near the fires and ceremony circle of the Strong Heart camp as we expressed our greetings and deep thanks for all the camp residents were doing to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and respect and honor Mother Earth. We spent a couple of hours in ceremony, prayer, song, and joyous dancing around the fires as people admired the totem and asked of its travels, history, intended destination, and other details. This can be termed nothing other than a most intense day of emotion and power.
Notable quotes from the speakers during the afternoon festivities came from Chairman Brian Cladoosby of the Swinish Indian Tribal Community, and Chairman Tim Ballew of Lummi Indian Business Council:
“WeBe … WeBe … We be here when they got here; we be here when they gone.”
“It’s days like that [referring to May 9, 2016 when the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point near Lummi Nation, Washington] and days like this [August 30, 2016, standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Strong Heart camp] that make it worthwhile to be indigenous.”
9 Washington Tribes Arrive at the Standing Rock Sioux
By Paul Anderson, Journey Photographer
The Black Snake
Totem Pole Journey Days Eight and Nine; August 30-31, 2016
Standing Rock Sioux Nation
By Dr. Kurt Russo, Journey Organizer
There are some who insist that in this era of a collective attention deficit disorder, infomercials passing as news, and government as big-oil business, grassroots activism is a quaint throwback to an earlier time. They believe that such activism is at best a clever diversion for dissent and that the real power rests with a small economic elite, lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations firms.
These cynical skeptics would do well to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the Camp of the Sacred Stones. We did, along with 70 tribal leaders from the Pacific Northwest, Canada, the Eastern seaboard, and the Southwest.
But before heading out to the Camp the journeyers and the tribal leaders stopped at the capitol of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. These tribal leaders were all too familiar with the struggle to protect the land, the water, their sacred sites, and their future generations from the onslaught and outfall of the fossil fuel industry.
They also stood with the Standing Rock Sioux government in their message of peace. The tribal member from the Seneca Nation, the largest of the six Native American Nations comprising the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy, was one of many who spoke of the power of prayer. “We can forgive our opposition and pray their hearts will soften,” he said. “You have many people praying for you all over this land.” As one of the Pacific Northwest tribal leaders put it, “We are the protectors, not protestors. We come in peace and in prayer.” Another leader from the Northwest delegation spoke about a dream one of their tribal members had about what was occurring that day. “She had a dream about what would go on here,” he said as his assistants walked around a large oil painting for the others to view. “She wanted to gift this to you as well as her interpretation.”
The people of the Standing Rock Nation have every reason to take up the fight. The Black Snake would transport approximately 470,000 barrels per day with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels per day or more – which could represent approximately half of Bakken current daily crude oil production. Keep in mind that since 1986 pipeline accidents by even the most conservative estimate have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year or more than 3 million gallons, polluting the lands and waters for years to come.
“Remember the feeling of this day in your Chamber,” the Yakama Nation Chairman asked of the Standing Rock Council. “Remember this feeling of prayerfulness and unity for they will try to divide you from each other. It is what they do. It is who they are. It is an everyday challenge.”
When the visitors were done with their work the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation was moved to speak:
“Men have come up to me, young men who said they were ready to lay down their lives. But I told them, no! We do not want that! We want you to live and prosper and be good fathers and grandfathers . . . This is all being lifted, now, and only good can come from this. I have cried many tears in the presence of the spirit for the prayers are so powerful. And because we all have great love for our Mother Earth. It is the honorable way.”
The entourage was warned that the authorities had blocked the main entry to the Camp, ostensibly for reasons of public safety and security. By one tribal account, however, the authorities said they were concerned about pipe bombs at the Camp. In fact, the tribal leaders spoke about “loading their peace pipes” as part of their prayer ceremonies. This misunderstanding is emblematic of the level of miscommunication, misunderstanding and mistrust—not to mention disrespect—the Standing Rock Sioux Nation leaders face on a daily basis.
The caravan entered the Camp in the early-afternoon of August 30. Over 1,000 people were in the encampment when we arrived, though the numbers greatly increased as the day wore on. Looking around you see on the gently rolling prairie landscape Natives and non-Natives, children, adults, and the elderly. Teepees scattered among tents. A sweat lodge. A Chief’s lodge. A day school for the children. Canopy tents with food and water. An emergency clinic. People in black arm bands signifying local Camp media and those in white arm bands indicating legal advisors. The inevitable line of portable toilets. In one corner were two semi-truck trailers filled with provisions provided by the Yakama Nation of Washington State.
In the center of the Camp was the gathering area for the speakers. Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation was among the first of the tribal leaders to speak. No stranger to battling oil pipelines, he is a legendary orator and prominent figure in the struggle against the Kinder-Morgan pipeline in British Columbia. Standing in the shadow of the totem pole he gave heart and hope to the assembly:
“From time out of mind we have been the protectors of this land. Now we are called upon to stand up, stand together, and stand strong. We know, no money can feed us like the spirit and the spirit needs Mother Earth, and she needs us, all of us—NOW! It is the job of the leaders to help give hope for the future, for that is what leaders do. But you are all the ones who will carry that hope into a day of victory for our Mother and the future generations.”
After Rueben finished one of the Yakama leaders took his place to speak:
We have a place called Celilo Falls. It is a special place for us, like this is for you. And then the Corps of Engineers told us they needed to build a dam so the Falls would no longer speak or help our salmon. Before they closed the dam floodgates that day they poured concrete over all those little canyons in the Falls. Why? Why do they do these things? They never asked us. They just… did it. And when it was done they called in the Wall Street of the West because it made so much money for them.
The speeches went on for five hours as the tribal leaders gave encouragement and moral as well as material support to the Camp. Near the end of the day Brian Cladoosby, the charismatic Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe of Washington State and President of the National Congress of American Indians, rose to speak:
We know about the Black Snake: its head is in Houston and its heart is in Washington , DC. But where now is Black Eagle [President Obama]? Did he not stand among your people, and hold your children, and speak good words to you, and drink your water, and eat your food? Where is Black Eagle now when he is needed?
Cannonball River Encampment
Photos by Paul Anderson, Journey Photographer
Click on image below to be taken to the full album.
Determination, Defiance, and Peace: Day 2 at the Standing Rock Sioux Nation
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
We did not arrive at the Strong Heart camp until early afternoon on August 31st. We spent a few hours just interacting with camp residents. We talked about the Lummi Totem Pole Journey 2016; the history of what Jewell James has done in the past with his totem journeys to New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. in the wake of the tragic September 11, 2001 attacks; the design and elements of the pole that was in the Strong Heart camp near the prayer circle; and we heard and told lots and lots of personal stories.
I took photos of all the flags, many of which had been added since we were at the camp on August 30, including the Lummi Nation flag.
Totem Journey 2016 is an experience of unification, of “One Heart, One Mind.” It is an experience of education, bringing information to people who may not be aware. It is an experience of love and power. And it is mostly joyful in the camp. I learned about how young children learn to drum, by imitating their parents, listening to the songs, watching and joining into the activity, sometimes just with a fly swatter for a mallet.
I must include one remarkable quote from a man whose name I did not get and who was talking about the spirit of the camp and its people: “The contentment of the heart is what we speak.”
Later in the afternoon, the camp organized an event so the Totem Journey delegation (which includes Jewell Praying Wolf James, Master Carver of the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers, Doug James, Jewell’s brother, Fred Lane, videographer of the Totem Journey, Phil Lane, Hereditary Chief of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, Cedar Parker, Tsleil-Waututh Nation of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Rueben George, also of Tsleil-Waututh Nation and son of Dan George) could make formal presentations about the journey, enabling Jewell to tell the story of the pole.
Deborah Parker, Cedar Parker’s mother and Tulalip Tribe member, also spoke and told a story of something her son said to her earlier in the day: “’The Creator wants us to feel the Earth, and that’s why we’re here.’ And that’s a beautiful teaching from my six-year-old son. He knows why we’re here. He can feel why we are here, his little feet touch the Earth and he knows why we are here! He knows why we took the journey here, and he’s not missing school because this IS his school, right here. And you, my dear relatives, he’s watching each and every one of you and how you care for the land.”
The words from Phil Lane, Rueben George, and Jewell James were especially powerful in this sacred location, and they spoke so forcefully that other camp residents from down below the prayer circle came up to hear what they were saying. They spoke eloquently of our overuse of fossil fuels, the damage it is doing to the planet, to the animals, and to the people.
Totem Journey 2016 is on a mission to connect with people, to tell the story of the pole, to talk about everything we know of the use and abuse of corporate power, particularly as it is reflected in the fossil fuel corporations, and to be present in solidarity with the people we meet who all want the same thing: a living, breathing Mother Earth for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and for all future generations.