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Native Notes: No Electricity Discourages Voting on Pine Ridge

…plus Bear Butte, Trump, and Dakota Access…

Aljazeera visits Donald Morrison on Pine Ridge and finds it’s hard to be an engaged voter when you don’t have electricity or running water:

Donald, 60, has lived on his family’s land his whole life. Time passes slowly in his corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and at no point in his six decades have local authorities connected his family’s miniature community of shacks and trailers to the reservation’s electricity grid or provided them with running water.

They use car batteries and generators for a few hours of electricity a day, and Donald heats up a five-gallon bucket of water on a wood stove to bathe and wash his clothes a few times a week.

…Although Channels Five, Nine and Twelve broadcasted the highly publicised presidential debates between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican counterpart Donald Trump, Donald explains that he was only able to watch the highlights on the news.

“It doesn’t really make a difference to us here,” he says of the forthcoming elections.

With neither Trump nor Clinton speaking to their specific needs, many Pine Ridge residents say they have been forgotten by mainstream society, abandoned by politicians and neglected by state institutions.

After years of pleading with the local tribal government – which administers the reservation on a semi-autonomous basis – and county authorities for running water and electricity, Donald resigned himself to spending his remaining years without either. “I eventually gave up,” he recalls. “They just say they can’t help me. It’s a waste of time” [Patrick Strickland, “Life on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation,” Aljazeera, 2016.11.02].

President Bill Clinton did visit Pine Ridge in 1999. In a 2008 campaign stop on the reservation, he said his wife would, as President, set up a fund to build transmission lines and connect Pine Ridge residents to the grid. Hillary Clinton’s current campaign fact sheet on Native American issues mentions education, health care, economic opportunity, drug and alcohol addiction, and other issues but not basic infrastructure.

Donald Trump hates Indians when they compete with his casinos. He finally got around, hardly a week before the election, to cobbling together a “Native American Coalition” of anti-regulatory Indians who don’t inspire confidence in the Native press. Trump still has offered no concrete policy on Native American issues like getting electricity to Donald Morrison’s house.

Morrison’s neighbors, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, just joined the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho of Oklahoma and the Northern Cheyenne of Montana in spending $1,135,936 to buy 270 acres near Bear Butte to protect the sacred landmark from more biker bars and campgrounds.

Other of Morrison’s neighbors are standing against militarized police and private security firms to prevent Energy Transfer Partners from laying the last few miles of its Dakota Access pipeline across the Missouri River near Cannonball, North Dakota. Dakota Access protestors have gotten President Barack Obama to say that he will let the pipeline dispute “play out for several more weeks” to allow the Army Corps of engineers to look into rerouting (not canceling) the pipeline to be “properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.” Donald Trump owns stock in Energy Transfer Partners and Dakota Access partner Phillips 66; ETP CEO Kelcy Warren has donated $169,800 to Trump, a Trump PAC, and the RNC. Trump’s oil baron energy advisor Harold Hamm will ship his company’s Bakken oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Let’s hope the Cannonball protestors all voted absentee before heading up to North Dakota. Their votes for the second President Clinton may not get Donald Morrison electricity and running water right away, but she’s the only shot Donald has at making progress on Native issues.


  1. Rorschach 2016-11-03 07:24

    What a shame to spend one’s whole life waiting for someone to take care of you, rather than to make something happen. This cradle to grave full service thing isn’t working out so well.

  2. jerry 2016-11-03 08:58

    Yeah Mr. Rorschach, it is good to be white, no?

  3. mike from iowa 2016-11-03 08:58

    The Morton County Sheriff’s Department says one person was arrested for “conspiracy to commit obstruction of a government function.” In a press release, the agency says the protester was buying canoes and kayaks for others to cross the creek.

    This person helps the local economy and they charge him with conspiracy. This was yesterday.

  4. jerry 2016-11-03 09:09

    Kind of gives you the idea of why protectors fight the fight. Those who have so little, know and appreciate the great gift of life, precious water. With that water, you are wealthy beyond means, you can bathe, you can sustain your meager life’s possessions, yourself. Only an Indian, and those that love the lands, understand that fully and completely. This is why suppression of the vote is considered a vote against democracy to those that control the election boards.

  5. Paul Seamans 2016-11-03 09:55

    The church’s 500 year old “Doctrine of Discovery” says that it is the duty of Christians to take the property of non-believing indigenous peoples and develop this property and to civilize these people. This Doctrine has never been repudiated by the church. I think that people on this blog still feel this way.

  6. Paul Seamans 2016-11-03 10:11

    A pipeline fighting friend from Nebraska who has been to the Cannonball camp and volunteered to help in the kitchens has a very interesting thought.

    Is the land that law officers defended so valiantly with pepper spray and rubber bullets yesterday listed as walk-in land designated for recreation purposes? Could a person waltz across that land carrying a fishing pole?

  7. Daniel Buresh 2016-11-03 10:33

    It’s private land. The Cannonball Ranch. No, a person can’t waltz across that land carrying a fishing pole. As far as corp land goes, you aren’t even legally allowed to have campfires or camp on Corp land. I’ve gotten in trouble by federal game wardens while camping on corp land along the Missouri in SD and having a campfire. They said i could stay as long as i was actively fishing but I couldn’t do any of the other activities.

  8. Paul Seamans 2016-11-03 10:59

    Daniel, I’m saying it may have been signed up with government agencies as walk in land. That contract would bind any new owners. The walk in programs are geared towards privately owned land. If the previous owners of the Cannonball Ranch had signed a contract for the walk in program then wouldn’t Energy Transfer Partners also be bound by these contracts?

  9. jerry 2016-11-03 11:05

    Good point Mr. Seamans, very good point. It is all in what is perceived. The man who was charged with conspiracy now has the perfect argument, he was merely a fisherman teaching others the value of fishing. Case dismissed.

  10. Roger Elgersma 2016-11-03 11:16

    A good windmill could help. Pioneers used them for water and electricity. Native need not mimic pioneers but they could show us how good windmills still work. They could charge up their batteries without using oil from that pipeline.

  11. Robert McTaggart 2016-11-03 11:28

    Exactly. Show everyone that you do not need the oil.

    Get someone to provide the vehicles, and someone else to set up the system and its maintenance.

  12. Robert McTaggart 2016-11-03 11:39

    The smaller ones may be less unsightly, provide more power, and fewer bird kills.

    “But researchers have found recently that clusters of vertical-axis turbines, arranged to take advantage of each other’s turbulence, can outperform conventional wind farms. When added to conventional farms, according to a study published this month, they can even increase the older turbines’ output.”

    “Of all the companies that are out there operating these, there have been no reported bird or bat strikes,” Dabiri said.

  13. mike from iowa 2016-11-03 12:02

    Obrien County, iowa has 104 more wind turbines ready to go online. Makes approx 218 turbines in one county.

    They make noise, but it isn’t terribly bad since my hearing is not good.

  14. mike from iowa 2016-11-03 12:05

    Went through Larrabee, iowa on US Hiway 59. DAPL bulldozed land for the pipeline nearly 2 months ago and they still don’t have the pipeline welded nor the horizontal boring under 59 done yet. Doesn’t appear they have the trench for the pipe dug yet.

  15. mike from iowa 2016-11-03 12:06

    Does DAPL have the requisite permits?

  16. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-03 14:35

    Do you have electric power provided by a local utility company?
    Is your water supplied to you by a city service?
    If you require the use of propane or natural gas is it provided to you by a private company?
    Mr. Morrison’s situation isn’t one of ‘cradle to the grave’ care, he is asking for the same basic utilities that you and I have.
    In fact, it sounds as though Mr. Morrison has been living quite independently for most of his life.
    There are many Indians on reservations that live like Mr. Morrison and have a healthy attachment to their land, that is usually all they ask for and to be left alone.
    Now, some will ask why Mr. Morrison won’t move to an area with basic infrastructure, but that is not the point. Mr. Morrison is asking for basic services to his home that would make his life more tolerable.
    There are thousands of Americans that live on their own land and have basic utilities, why not Mr. Morrison?

  17. jerry 2016-11-03 15:43

    Roger, if I may
    Utility company provide power is subsidized
    Water supplied to city service is subsidized
    Propane or natural gas supplied is subsidized

    The cradle to the grave is how we all, each and everyone of us live in America. That would include Mr. Rorschach. In fact, there is a name for it called Western civilization. We had to come up with that action, taken from the Arabs, so we would stop crapping in the streets and causing plagues.

    Mr. Morrison, and many folks that live in scattered sites throughout the vast lands of ancestral homes, try as best they can to live. They are on land plots that were either deemed not worthy for homesteaders or to tied up in family lineage to try to unravel.

    Should Mr. Morrison be granted the human rights to clean accessible water, yep
    Should Mr. Morrison be granted the human dignity of the simple access to power for his lights and to protect his meager belongs, yep again.
    Should the governments who claim responsibility for Mr. Morrison and his land rights do its job to seek these basic human needs, yep again.

    Roger, this is your homeland, I only add to what you say as I am also ingrained in these lands and love them and all of the people who live there, both Indian and non-Indian with deep respect.

  18. Douglas Wiken 2016-11-03 17:35

    Interesting that tribes can find millions to buy a few acres of land near Bear Butte, but can’t figure out how to get water and electricity to homes on the reservations. Of course, there was Abe Lincoln who became President coming from a cabin with only candles and maybe a well they dug themselves. The rest of us all walked uphill both ways to school and had blizzards nearly year around…or at least too many of us bitch about past that way.

  19. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-03 18:27

    The Bear Butte land purchase wasn’t made by the Oglala Sioux Tribe. What other tribes do with their money is no one’s business.
    Mr. Morrison’s concerns and the Bear Butte land purchase aren’t remotely related.

  20. jerry 2016-11-03 18:41

    It is interesting to me that a state like North Dakota can find the money to pay for out of state police to come to North Dakota and then ask the taxpayers to cover the expense that they have incurred. It is interesting to me that a state like South Dakota can find millions to fund economic development on failed business, but cannot find the money to fund Medicaid Expansion, a sure windfall. How do all of these things work, jerry wonders?

  21. mike from iowa 2016-11-03 18:49

    Doc-I have yet to see any bird fly into one of these 260 feet tall behemoths and it is for certain with 20 feet of concrete anchoring each one, they won’t be jumping after the birds.

  22. Rorschach 2016-11-03 20:32

    Donald’s tribal government has failed him. It has failed to deliver to him a hookup to the tribal electricity grid. It has failed to deliver to him a propane tank and the propane to go in it. It has failed to deliver to him a hookup to clean water. It has failed to deliver to him the motivation to take part in the national election. It has failed to deliver to him car batteries and a generator – but somehow, someone has delivered these things to him. Until someone delivers stuff to him he will sit in his “miniature community of shacks and trailers” in a state of resigned surrender and stubbornly do without.

    Don’t we all know a “Donald”? Someone who has given up on life and just exists from day to day until it’s time to die. The “Donald” you know isn’t necessarily Native American – might be any race, male or female. “Donald” knows that the world is large and full of things that might be obtained by someone sufficiently motivated. He/she just doesn’t care.

  23. mike from iowa 2016-11-03 20:36

    Doc, I had a Bald Eagle bounce off the windshield of my Jeep a couple years ago. Still got the crack to prove it. Eagle could flap his wings but couldn’t get airborne. Game Warden told me it had a broken back and would have to be euthanized.

  24. Robert McTaggart 2016-11-03 20:41

    Mike, I guess you can count that as a moving window :^) ?

    I’ve talked to folks around here closer to the wind turbines. Bird strikes don’t happen a lot, but they do happen.

  25. jerry 2016-11-03 20:46

    I hit a Turkey Buzzard once in the Badlands. I thought I would have to kill the animal as it really hit hard from flying up and running into me. My wife was watching as we backed up and we expected the worse, turns out the Turkey Buzzard was not hurt whatsoever and after clearing the cobwebs, took off flying with his partners. Tough birds. But pesticides kill millions and millions of birds each year. Bird strikes on windmills total anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 max. That is a lot of birds for sure.

  26. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-03 20:53

    The Oglala Sioux Tribe does not have a electricity grid, power is provided in his area by Lacreek Electric.
    The Oglala Sioux Tribe does not own a propane business and natural gas is not available on the reservation.
    In what sounds like a remote area where Mr. Morrison lives, private wells are required.
    What Rorschach calls shacks, Mr. Morrison calls a home that doesn’t come with mortgage.

  27. jerry 2016-11-03 20:54

    There are many things that bother me about the Mr. Morrison story but the one thing that sticks to me is the fact that he has given up. That seems to be the tale of the tape in this election of folks that have just said that they feel left out. They feel left behind and have the wish to declare that their participation in the democratic system of voting makes no difference one way or the other. Then you know full well that democracy is not for everyone in this society, it is for the chosen ones. It is for the chosen few not only at the state and national level, but as Mr. Morrison points out, at his own tribal governments failure as well. We continue to mock Mr. Morrison and those like him of all race and gender with our denial of basic human rights like clean water and healthcare. I wonder when and if Mr. Morrison even gets to make the journey into seeking medical care or if he is like so many of the rest of the forgotten poor, just left to die on their own.

  28. grudznick 2016-11-03 22:09

    The Borehole. Why has nobody proposed moving The Borehole to this Cannonball Land? There is a ready supply of protesters with nothing better to do, land upon which apparently you can do anything including steal private property and burn it and even prevent others from using or accessing public lands, AND, having The Borehole would, by definition, preclude that land from being able to be criss-crossed by pipelines and such.

    It’s a win-win-win-win-win.

  29. Robert McTaggart 2016-11-03 22:18

    Probably because the geology or hydrology underground is different there. The goal of the initial borehole engineering is to study a test drill in the simplest geology possible before moving on to a test drill of a more complicated geology. The latter is more likely for the ultimate location of any deep borehole disposal due to politics and transportation issues.

  30. grudznick 2016-11-03 22:31

    Dr. McTaggart, these people do not let science get in their way with pipelines, so I suggest having The Borehole at least consider moving there, to the Cannonball Land, would start more talking about why we need The Borehole somewhere, even if the real scientists who understand this stuff know we would never dig The Borehole in such complicated geology.

  31. leslie 2016-11-03 23:45

    Rohr, wiken you two are as predictable in your deprication of Indian people.

    “shame to spend one’s whole life waiting for someone to take care of you, rather than to make something happen.” Rohr, you shame people and generalize, and Wiken you have the audacity to hope that Abe Lincon was better than any Indian because of some fable about reading by candle light. can you imagine the resources available to abe and his family as they matured in Illinois? Not even close to being hunted to death in the sand hills, badlands, chalk hills, Big Hole, Wolf Mountains ect. a couple generations ago. what were your great grandparents taking advantage of in county roads, water, power, heat, food, while they were so admirably pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. you two may as well join grudz in his never ended search for enlightenment. And I know you know better Wiken. JMO

  32. leslie 2016-11-04 00:17

    from an old article: On an ideal planet cattle would be restricted to our green eastern states or returned to the greener continent from which they came, leaving the arid West to the animals that are native to it. But the interlopers are here now—about 45 million beef cattle roam some 870 million acres, more than two thirds of the land mass in our seventeen westernmost states. These animals live on roughly 200,000 cattle ranches. Many of the biggest are financially marginal sideline investments run by wealthy enterprises…. Most, however, are run by small ranching families whose primary asset is land the profitability of which is questionable—for running cattle or doing anything else.

    those blizzards Wiken struggles uphill through every year are predicted by NOAA, and state highway trucks with $1-4 million per storm, is sure comforting, waiting around for somebody else to take care of you, rohr said….

  33. Mark Winegar 2016-11-04 05:18

    When “many Pine Ridge residents say they have been forgotten by mainstream society, abandoned by politicians and neglected by state institutions” its time to open our hearts and vote for change here in South Dakota.

  34. mike from iowa 2016-11-04 07:50

    There is a ready supply of protesters with nothing better to do, land upon which apparently you can do anything including steal private property and burn it and even prevent others from using or accessing public lands

    Typical right wing nut job talking points. Not enough white robes and cross burnings.

  35. mike from iowa 2016-11-04 07:54

    The goal of the initial borehole engineering is to study a test drill in the simplest geology possible before moving on to a test drill of a more complicated geology.

    Lay a couple million wingnuts on top of each other and bore through their heads. Nothing to see there. How much dimpler could it be?

  36. Robert McTaggart 2016-11-04 08:25

    Grudznick: True, the pipeline would likely avoid any borehole footprint. But they would probably avoid several other things as well. Such as a computational center powered by wind and solar (which would only do the heavy number crunching when the energy would be available). Could support some jobs even.

    Mike, the only thing I prefer to have drilled through people’s heads is a great idea ;^).

  37. ronald fuchs 2016-11-04 08:50

    where is the facebook share on this post?

  38. Rorschach 2016-11-04 09:28

    As usual leslie, you missed my point entirely. My point was not about Native Americans at all. It was about people of all races who believe that everything in life is owed to them and who choose to sit around doing nothing but complaining.

  39. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04 12:02

    Ronald Fuchs

    If you share this post to Facebook and Twitter, I will too.

  40. mike from iowa 2016-11-04 12:11

    Mike, the only thing I prefer to have drilled through people’s heads is a great idea ;^).

    I thought it was, Doc. :)

  41. mike from iowa 2016-11-04 12:15

    Go clear to the bottom of the home page and you can find Facebook and Twitter where you can share.

  42. MD 2016-11-04 16:29

    It is easier to digest the pipeline protest when you realize that it is not about the pipeline. When you have a group that has been systemically marginalized for years and give the opportunity to combine forces individuals that can help them push their message (anti oil groups), they will jump on the opportunity. They chose this as a battle because they had the support. They want a chance for voice and they are getting it. Instead of a tear jerker, third world, end cap news article about life on the reservation every election cycle, they can have pride in standing up for something. The solution to this dilemma can be found easier when we take this into account and I don’t think the leaders negotiating this are (especially the federal government).

  43. grudznick 2016-11-04 17:10

    MD is righter than right. These protests are not about the pipeline, then are just about protesting for the sake of protesting, then the out-of-staters come in to “help the Indians” and start to get violent and behave in ways the nice Standing Rock residents would not. Because they want to protest something. They don’t care what.

  44. mike from iowa 2016-11-04 17:26

    I don’t think that was what MD said at all, Grudz. How can you even hint at protectors of the water when gravy taters occupies every waking moment of your time?

    Just keep yapping. You have that right.

  45. grudznick 2016-11-04 17:42

    Mignon Mike, because you are not from South or even North Dakota, you shall be happy to hear that gravy taters do not occupy every waking moment of my time. Actually, I often think of pork sausages, raised in CAFOs located right there near you in the smaller part of Iowa. Usually link sausages.

  46. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04 17:50

    mike who is from iowa and a friend of the protectors in North Dakota please tolerate grudz, he knows not of what he speaks.
    Fortunately no one has to be a Standing Rock or from North Dakota to support the protectors, there is universal support for keeping our water clean.

  47. grudznick 2016-11-04 18:02

    Mr. C, you know darned well our water is clean. Throwing Molotov jugs and shooting at people is not going to make it any cleaner. And it is not the Standing Rocks doing that, it is the out-of-staters who have gone to the Cannonball to rabblerouse and start fights. I, for one, expect this is going to end badly.

    And now we have giant wads of herion being found in motels here and it is not good at all, and pepper balls are being shot at cars in Mr. H’s town. The world is becoming insaner and insaner.

  48. jerry 2016-11-04 18:04

    Big oil has bought the heroin into this area. The money generated from the oil workers in North Dakota corrupts us all.

  49. MD 2016-11-04 18:10

    It is not protesting to protest, its protesting at the accumulation of small injustices that have occurred over time and have 1) reached a boiling point and 2) found an environment in which their protests will be heard.

  50. grudznick 2016-11-04 18:12

    It’s possible protesters have bales of the demon weed on hand, and balls of that heroin stuff as well. I am told we have clowns terrorizing the streets. Trump and Hillary are conspiring to take over. Crazies are taking over district 30, and soon the legislatures will be overrun with ill-informed madmen. It is bad. Very bad.

  51. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04 18:42

    Just how in the hell do you know that it all the out-of-state protestors causing the violence at camp?
    Where is your empirical proof?

  52. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04 18:45

    The reason that America is becoming insaner and insaner is because of republicans like grudz.
    I’m waiting for the day when grudz has an original thought.

  53. grudznick 2016-11-04 20:06

    There are few original thoughts, Mr. C, but I will work on one for the Sunday breakfast speeches.

    And if it is not the out-of-staters causing riots and shooting at people and throwing Molotov bombs, then it would be the in-staters. Probably rabble-rousers from Jamestown or Rugby. Tough thugs there in Jamestown.

  54. Roger Cornelius 2016-11-04 21:13


    I have seen more violence stirred up by the North Dakota police and their out-of-state of goon squads.

    There are reports of reporters and protectors being shot by rubber bullets and hosed down the goons while being forced into a lake.

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