A society of thousands that had its genesis in a prayer camp in the summer of 2016 at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers has evolved into something that is almost unrecognizable from those languid summer days. The rhythmic notes of Junior Cuero's bird songs summoning unity and respect were lost in the roar of Dakota Access bulldozers and sonic blasts from long-range acoustic devices combined with the whoosh of tear gas canisters.
Media narratives have been mixed. Those of us who were there witnessed much good and also some very troublesome behavior.
Elliott Rhoades is a member of the Standing Rock Tribe and is a regular columnist with Teton Times. Rhoades is a former Vice Chairman for the tribe, a former tribal councilman, and he is the former Tribal Veterans Service Officer. Here is a portion of a narrative he wrote for the paper.
"I went out to those camps as they were being formed, Red Warrior camp consisted of people who were intent on creating trouble and problems from the start. They intended to disrupt everything and everybody, thus creating problems then decided to leave.
The over flow camp consisted of everyone else who thought they should be a part of this protest, but had no idea of why? Hundreds of people were soon descending on Standing Rock with the intent of taking part in a peaceful, prayerful, non-violent protest to try and stop this pipeline from being completed. Thus putting an end to the route. This was the intent. But as you read, this did not happen"
"There is plenty of fault and blame to go around on both sides. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, jailed and are bound for court off the reservation. Personally, all that was accomplished by getting arrested is that the protesters now will have a jail record, pay a fine and the protest will continue. They did not stop the pipeline in any manner. Court action later, delayed the pipeline easement, but the fight continues in the courts."
Those summer and early autumn days of people living together in an organized community with shared traditions and values are gone. The heavy presence of Big Green Environmental groups as well as opportunistic wolves who prowl cyberspace in search of the gullible and guilty have crushed the birds sent by the Creator. Creator offered the birds to teach the People how to sing and dance and treat each other with empathy and not indifference.
The sun no longer bathes campsites in warm light while people gather together to pray. Instead, a grandmother is found zip-tied to a chair in a tipi, diaperless and surrounded by her own urine and feces. (Source: Bismarck Tribune) Meanwhile a middle-aged man freezes to death behind a building and women die for lack of propane, while Indian women in Pendleton jackets party at Hollywood fundraisers and are interviewed on national television.
It is not surprising that, in an interview with an Oregon student newspaper, Tribal Chairman David Archambault condemned the current situation. "What I saw happen was something that was beautiful. Then I saw it just turn to where it's ugly, where people are fabricating lies and doing whatever they can, and they're driven by the wrong thing. What purpose does it have to have this camp down there? There are donations coming, so the purpose is the very same purpose for this pipeline; it's money." (Source: Daily Emerald, University of Oregon)