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Still Not Thanking Native Americans

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Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 13, 2016
Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 13, 2016
(Image by (Fibonacci Blue Flickr))
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Late Sunday night -- at the start of Thanksgiving week -- Native American protesters were attacked by law enforcement agents near the site of the Dakota Access pipeline, a project that Native Americans and environmentalists have been trying to block.

Police and other security forces deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, percussion grenades and water hoses to stop about 400 protesters from crossing the Blackwater Bridge on state Highway 1806, about a mile from an uncompleted section under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir, where work has been on hold by order of federal agencies.

"As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions," the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council said in a statement posted on Facebook. One hundred sixty-seven people were injured and seven were taken to the hospital, according to Jade Begay, a spokeswoman for the Indigenous Environmental Network.

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Sunday's standoff began around 6 p.m. local time, when a group of about 100 "water protectors" attempted to clear burned out trucks that were blocking the bridge, which is on the most direct route from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to Bismarck, North Dakota. The trucks have been in place for several weeks, and law enforcement has constructed a barricade behind them, forcing all traffic to take an approximately 20-mile detour.

"The purpose of this action was to do something to remove that barricade because it's dangerous," said Begay, a member of the Tesuque Pueblo and Dine', who has been at the Standing Rock encampments since September. "That barricade poses a danger not just to everyone at the camp, but also to Cannon Ball and other communities that are south."

"They're using that barricade as an excuse for us not to be able to lawfully protest," said Frank Archambault, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from Little Eagle, South Dakota. "We got word that the drill is now on the pad so tensions are high right now."

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The 1,200-mile, four-state pipeline is intended to carry oil from western North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois. But construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline has been protested for months by the Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation lies near the pipeline route and there are fears a leak could contaminate the drinking water. They also worry that construction could threaten sacred sites.

Cheryl Angel, an Elder member of the Rosebud Nation, was an eyewitness to what happened Sunday night [Nov. 20] in sub-freezing weather with water hoses.

'Security' forces stationed at the Dakota Access pipeline construction spray protesters with pepper spray.
'Security' forces stationed at the Dakota Access pipeline construction spray protesters with pepper spray.
(Image by (Photo by Tim Yakaitis))
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Cheryl Angel: I'm a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. I am Sasusaku, Lakota. I currently live at Cannonball, to support Standing Rock, in their efforts to save the water that millions of Americans [depend upon]. [On the evening of November 20th], after a day of prayer and ceremony at all three camps, our security attempted to open the bridge by removing the burnt out trucks that the North Dakota authorities had put there themselves, and had started on fire themselves and left on the bridge.

So our security forces tried to remove them from the bridge and the North Dakota authorities then decided to escalate their presence by calling in a militarized vehicle, and I'm going to say ... maybe 100 more law enforcement vehicles. There were so many you couldn't even count them. You need to understand that ... what separates the tribe from the pipeline area that's being excavated is the Cannonball River. At some points it's about 40 feet wide, at other points it's only 20 feet wide. But there is a bridge that connects between those two lands, those two boundaries. And that's where the armored vehicles were parked that were already burnt out.

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Dennis Bernstein: And, in terms of what happened... we understand that a number of people were wounded with these tear gas canisters. We understand that they were using water hoses in, I guess, 20-25 degree [Fahrenheit] weather. Tell us more about that kind of violence. So people can really, you know, get a human face on what's going on there.

CA: I felt like I was in a war zone. I had ... been called to a meeting so I was heading for the meeting. I could hear young warriors running through the camps, saying "Everybody to the north bridge." So everybody answered the call. They got in their vehicles and they drove to the north bridge. So both sides of the road had cars facing north. People were walking on the sides of the road.

The DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) being installed between farms, as seen from 50th Avenue in New Salem, North Dakota. August 25, 2016.
The DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) being installed between farms, as seen from 50th Avenue in New Salem, North Dakota. August 25, 2016.
(Image by (Tony Webster Flickr))
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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)
 

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