Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji - Stands Up For Them)
In the past few weeks I have heard some of our young people say that the peaceful protests up on the Standing Rock Reservation that are attempting to stop the construction of the pipeline are just like the protests at Wounded Knee. WRONG!
It is apparent that some of them have learned their history of Wounded Knee 1973 from oral propaganda and have not bothered to read all of the books, pro and con, discussing those days of occupation.
First of all the peaceful village of Wounded Knee was invaded by heavily armed, mostly outsiders, in February of 1973 in the middle of the night. The occupants, mostly Lakota, of the community were rousted from their homes and the elderly couple that had been owners of the Wounded Knee Trading Post before selling it were tied to chairs. Clive Gildersleeve, a white man, was in his 80s as was his wife Agnes, an Ojibwe woman. They were terrified to death as the invaders made threats to them and waved loaded weapons at them.
During the 73-day occupation of the village fighting, drinking and drugs were in common usage in the camp and an African American man named Perry Ray Robinson was murdered within the camp. There are rumors of other acts of violence among the occupiers against each other and against new arrivals at the camp. No my friends, it was not a peaceful protest beginning with day one. Back then it was mostly Indians against Indians because the supporters of the tribal government also took up arms against the occupiers.
My fear now, and it is also the fear of some of the protestors at the camps on the Standing Rock Reservation, is that there will be violence leading to the loss of someone's life. The protectors, as they are known, must not resort to violence no matter how much they are provoked by the pipeline contractors or the law enforcement officers.
It has always been my contention that when the American Indian Movement first started in the early 1970s they would have had the support of nearly every Native American in America if they had not started to resort to violence. They failed to follow the successful example of Martin Luther King, Jr. where his followers, although under severe attacks by the police armed with clubs and attack dogs and water cannons, did not resort to violence themselves. Instead they carried out their protests peacefully while maintaining their dignity.
Right now the protectors in North Dakota have national and international support. They have it because thus far, aside from the sad episode of setting cars on fire, they have continued to protest in a peaceful fashion and they are protesting a cause that is at the heart of all peace loving people, protecting our water. They are right when they shout out that water is life. And that is the goal they should follow because all of America except those who believe that "oil is life" will support them.
Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II, has called out to them repeatedly to keep the protest non-violent. The chairmen of all the Sioux Tribes have done likewise. Most of them were young men when Wounded Knee was occupied in 1973, but they have learned enough about its history to know they do not want the same kind violence to tarnish a worthy cause.
The white people of Bismarck, North Dakota objected to the pipeline passing above their city and so it was moved and where better place to move it, at least according to the oil barons, than through the lands of an American Indian Tribe. America will never know the true history of how the sacred lands of the Sioux tribes were nearly destroyed by the great dams that were constructed on their lands many years ago, mostly without their consent. Towns and funeral grounds were submerged beneath the rising waters of the Missouri River when the flow of the river waters was contained by the dams.
The dams were not constructed on the lands of the white settlers, but instead the Indian reservations were once again chosen for this project because the federal government knew there would be little opposition because the Indian people were poor and had little or no political clout to stop them.
This time it is different because the Indian people say "NO" you cannot build something that will contaminate our drinking water and how long ago was it that a similar oil pipeline burst in Montana contaminating the drinking water of nearly 6,000 Montanans?
The protectors of the water should follow the example of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi and they will continue to have the support of most Americans and the support of the rest of the world.
But please to not think that this peaceful protest is anything like the violent takeover of Wounded Knee because it is not and we pray that you do not make it into one.
(Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the Editor Emeritus of Native Sun News Today and can be contacted at email@example.com)