Resilience in Resistance -- Water Protectors Prayers Circle Mandan, Turtle Island and Backwater Bridge
By Natalie Hand, Lakota Media Project
1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty Territory, Banks of the Cannon Ball, ND -- On November 24, 2016 thousands of water protectors peacefully protested the Dakota Access Pipeline near the pipeline corridor north of Cannon Ball and in Mandan, ND.
Water protectors gathered in Mandan to raise awareness to residents about the dangers of the pipeline to the Missouri River. Hundreds of water protectors formed a circle at the intersection of Main Street and Memorial Highway and offered prayers, a round dance, and songs.
As the prayer circle continued, word spread that North Dakota law enforcement was raiding the Oceti Sakowin camp. However, it was quickly confirmed to be a rumor spread by a provocateur doing a social media live stream, whom water protectors suspect was planted by Dakota Access in order to disrupt the camp.
In Mandan, individuals spoke about the reported 292 pipeline spills during the year of 2016, posing questions such as, “where will millions of people get drinking water when this pipeline spills?”, and “why was it ok for Bismarck residents to protest the pipeline crossing the Missouri River near their homes, but not ok for indigenous people to protest the re-routing of it one mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation?”. Water protectors consider this to be environmental racism and spoke of how all social changes in America came from civil resistance, such as the Suffergate movement, civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the American Indian Movement’s actions which resulted in many laws being changed in America. These laws include the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, which de-criminalized for example, the Lakota sundance ceremony which prior to the passage of the law could imprison Lakota for practicing their way of life; the Native American Grave and Repatriation Act, which protects the graves and sacred sites of American Indians; forced the stopped fertilization of American Indian women; and the enforcement of sending American Indian children to boarding schools.
Numerous speakers called upon President Obama to halt this pipeline, including many residents of Mandan who questioned his refusal to address the allowance by his administration to use Nationwide Permit 12 to avoid conducting an environmental impact statement.
Water protectors questioned North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, who continues to support the Dakota Access Pipeline and the use of militarized police forces against unarmed water protectors peacefully resisting along the pipeline corridor. Two days ago, Dalrymple went on national television to urge the approval of the pipeline project, citing that $11.8 million has been spent on military-grade warfare equipment such as MRAP’s, LRAD’s, Humvees, percussion grenades, razor wire, 24 hour air surveillance including fixed-winged aircrafts, helicopter, ATV’s, tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons.
From the encampment of 8,000-10,000 Native water protectors and allies from around the world, individuals walked to Turtle Island to light sage and purify the land, water, and air from negative energy emitted by police and pipeline activity. The intentions were to say a prayer for Mother Earth, the sacred water, the spirit of the ancestors and through the smoke to honor the resiliency of their grandfathers and grandmothers but instead faced the brutal water spray from the police.
Water protectors also gathered at the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806 to pray at the blockade created by Morton County law enforcement. This blockade poses a great risk to the lives and livelihood of Standing Rock Sioux Tribal citizens. The blockade includes concrete barriers and rolled razor wire on either side of the bridge which extends 100 feet into the ditches. Vehicles, placed by law enforcement, remain on the bridge weeks after Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeir committed to their removal to provide access for emergency vehicles and citizens to conduct their daily business.
Due to Kirchmeir’s unwillingness to remove the barricade, water protector Sophia Wilansky, who stated she was injured by a concussion grenade (launched from the Stutsman County MRAD by a West Dakota SWAT officer) significantly delayed her access to an adequate trauma unit hospital. Upon arriving in Bismarck, Wilansky was promptly airlifted to Minneapolis for surgery to save her arm. It remains unknown if she will lose her limb.
The water protectors are continually met with violence by militarized Morton County law enforcement, but remain strong and pray for sacred water.