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Can Standing Rock Victory over Dakota Access Pipeline Inspire Cultural Reawakening?

Some commentators on Dakota Free Press and elsewhere have suggested that the protest by and on behalf of American Indians against the Dakota Access pipeline were a waste of money and media that could have been better invested in solving poverty, addiction, and other problems.

I offer a tentative hypothesis: might this successful political action against corporate colonialism rekindle cultural awareness, warrior spirit, and hope that activists can translate into action back home?

Such is the possibility of cultural reawakening suggested by participants in the Oceti Sakowin protest camp in North Dakota:

[Frank] Archambault founded Iktčé Wičháša Oyáte [A Common Men’s Society] shortly after he arrived, with his five children and grandchild, at the “water protector” encampments in August. He saw that there was work around the camp that wasn’t getting done, and he saw that there were men around camp not doing work. Now the group helps run security and coordinates work crews.

It’s a big change from Archambault’s previous life in Little Eagle, South Dakota, a community of about 300 people within the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. A recovering meth addict, Archambault describes the existence he left behind, before he joined the movement fighting the Dakota Access pipeline: “Sad.”

…“This is like an awakening,” Archambault said as he surveyed the camp from his spot on the hill. “Something I’ve been struggling with my whole life is doing something to be proud of.”

…Before getting involved in the Standing Rock movement, Jasilea Charger, 20, was working at a Taco John’s and living on the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation, in her hometown of Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

On the reservation, she said, she felt “stuck”. She lost friends and family to the suicide epidemic. Her father died before she was born, and her mother has “lost her way”.

…“When I go home, I’m not going to be the same,” said Charger. “People back in our community deserve to know what it feels like to stand strong and pick each other up” [Julia Carrie Wong, “‘This Is an Awakening’: Native Americans Find New Hope After Standing Rock,” UK Guardian, 2016.12.08].

The Great White Bother’s promise to “solve” the Dakota Access pipeline issue “very quickly” bodes ill for the longevity of the water protectors’ political victory. But a sensible President might recognize that the cultural side effects of this victory, the ability of indigenous people like Archambault and Charger to translate this successful experience into practical action back in their communities, could be more valuable than propping up an unnecessary pipeline whose business case is currently kaput.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2016-12-13

    There probably took some cultural reawakening to get this far. There is always preparation before the opportunity comes. Being prepared even though we do not know the future is important. The non violent methods are good for any culture, but foreign to some cultures.

  2. Michael Wyland 2016-12-13

    Who said there was a victory? Sure, a Corps official decided against issuing a permit. But all the court decisions thus far have supported the pipeline and its current routing. Besides, the Trump administration can reverse the Corps official’s decision. Whether administrative or judicial intervention is the means, DAPL is on track to be finished in 2017.

  3. mike from iowa 2016-12-13

    Natives have principles. Dems have principles. Wingnuts have greed and the end justifies the means outlook on cashing in on every natural resource as fast as they can. And of course the safest pipeline ever built that won’t leak-much.

  4. Porter Lansing 2016-12-13

    One solid victory is the gathering of the tribes. Before this protest tribes were like NFL fans. Loyal to their team and competitive with other teams. Now, in the face of adversity and disrespect, tribes have gathered and pertinent issues like broken treaties have surfaced with validity, purpose and direction. Much good will come from this.

  5. MC 2016-12-13

    Many of the issues on the reservations can not be fix by any government program. They have be fixed from within the tribes by tribal members. The government would do best to stay out of their way. It seems the more the government tries to help, the bigger the problem becomes.

  6. bearcreekbat 2016-12-13

    It seems the more the government tries to help, the bigger the problem becomes.

    MC, that sounds like what Reagan used to say, but it seems a non-specific and pretty much meaningless exaggeration. And repeating such such language must undermine faith in our democracy. Indeed, I think it was o who posted a link describing how a country moves from a democracy to a fascist nation. That link stated that about 25% of our young people no longer trust our form of “government.”

    I guess if you no longer have faith in our democracy, then it makes sense to make negative comments about our “government.” But if you value democracy and our “government” perhaps it would make more sense to identify individuals or programs that you disagree with, rather than demean the entire “government” without specifics.

    For example, it appears that Trump is going to be President and that he is going to fill his administration with people who actually intend to dismantle many of our safety net programs. Does that make our “government” evil or worthless or dangerous? Or are the people using our government to achieve these goals the problem, assuming you disagree with such goals?

    Perhaps a more positive and useful approach might be to ask what, if anything, the leaders in our “government” can do to make the IHS work better, or to reduce homelessness and overcrowding on our reservations.

  7. mike from iowa 2016-12-13

    Isn’t there something in the constitution about the gubmint promoting the general welfare? Wingnuts will auger that back when the constitution was written only white, wealthy landowners had rights and so today only the wealthy deserve all the largesse our gubmint can hand to them.

    Somewhere in our history the direction of the country changed and Dems took notice of the poor and the elderly and all others not filthy, stinking rich. Government safety nets have allowed our nation to advance, for the most part, but, we still drag the wretched refuse of rethuglicans into the future where they sure as hell don’t want to be. Now they believe they have the power to undo all the good of the past and restore the Drumpf’s of the world to their rightful thrones.Sad.

  8. mike from iowa 2016-12-13

    A voyage of self discovery is always compelling, unless it is told by a billionaire who claims he only borrowed a million bucks to get his start in life.

  9. MC 2016-12-13

    bearcreekbat ; We do not have a democracy. We have a representative republic. Another name for democracy is mob rule. I would like to think we are a long away from mob rule, although at times I wonder.

    The Government, has enabled the Native Americans for far too long. And just look at the result. If they wanted a house, they didn’t earn it or build it themselves, the government just gave it to them. There is no pride in ownership, there is no accomplishment. Generation after generation of this and they become a broken people. We have only ourselves to blame.

    Now if the #noDAPL protest instills a sense of pride, a sense of worth. Then great! Don’t depend on the US Government for help, do it yourself. Buy your own land, build your own home, grow your own food. It will have a much sweeter taste any anything the Government has to offer.

  10. John 2016-12-13

    Yeah, sure. Tell me how that works when the appointee as the Energy Secretary is on the DAPL board.

  11. bearcreekbat 2016-12-13

    MC, good point on the republic vs democracy distinction. Either way your comment disparaged our government, which raises the question – do you support whatever you believe to be our current form of government?

    If so, then maybe it would be more logical (and in your personal interests) to refrain from comments that denigrate our government by claiming, without evidence or actual analysis, our system of government can only make things worse by trying to address problems.

    If you don’t support our current form of government (as a republic) and argue that our current Constitution is a deal breaker, you have the right and moral duty to seek a change in our form of government. In that case, your comment that our current government will only make things worse by helping is at least consistent.

    On the other hand, if, as a public official, you actually believe our government is okay, then it seems odd that you would be comfortable telling your constituents that our current form of government as a republic only makes things worse when addressing a local or national problem.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2016-12-13

    A few weeks ago I worked with a graduate student from Aberdeen, Scotland on tribal/state relations.
    Among her many questions was, what causes the distrust between the state and tribal governments.
    MC brought the problem to surface with his comment about tribal members getting free housing without having to work or pay for them.
    MC’s comment was a typical stereotype that is repeated over and over.
    Truth to tell MC, there is no such thing as free housing on any reservation, NONE! If you applied your logic to the real housing problems everyone would have a nice new home and there wouldn’t be a severe housing shortage.
    Tribes don’t even operate housing programs on the reservation, an independent housing program does that, but it doesn’t handout free houses. The tribal housing programs manages numerous rental houses throughout the reservation. Additionally, the housing program manages home ownership properties that are built on tribal members private land and are paid for by them.
    My sister has worked for over 10 years with the Partnership for Housing that helps potential homeowners clean up their credit and find outside lending sources. The program has found great success, but they have limited resources.
    Tribal housing is no different from cities and towns in South Dakota, many municipalities that have high rise apartment buildings owned by the city or county.
    Sorry to have gotten off on such a tangent, but MC thinking needed to be corrected and stereotypes need to end.
    MC can offer any opinion he has about Indians and I’m certain I’ll be able to correct his thinking.

  13. MC 2016-12-13

    The govenment itself is not at fault, not entirely. There is federal program after program with more money, and even more money to fund more program.

    Until the heart of the problems is solved, all the programs and all the money is just a waste.

    Only the tribes and tribal members can truly fix the heart of the problem. Until then the United States has a treaty to fulfill. Until the tribes fix what is broken, the United States will continue to house them, to feed them, to heat their homes and provide medical care.

    Getting back on topic (sorry Cory for straying) If a sence of pride come out of these protests, that would be great. It might give the tribes the boost the tribes need

  14. Porter Lansing 2016-12-13

    Thanks , Roger. I was going to respond to the comment that N’dn’s get free stuff. You’re better and way more valid. MerryChristmas, my friend.

  15. jerry 2016-12-13

    Roger thanks for your post, if I may, MC, one of the problems is there is not enough money to effectively run any program. IHS has never ever had the funds needed to operate facilities. Poor diet that brings about diabetes as an overwhelming cost. To now really receive treatments and referrals for outside treatments, being diabetic seems to be the gateway for healthcare. More funding is desperately needed, that is not only targeted, but also geared towards prevention.

    What would “fix” the problems on the reservations is an honest government to government approach to the promises made in the contractual treaties signed. You mention funding as your eye of the problem with housing. As with all housing that is governmental rentals, if you do not have the resources, your rent is less. The more you make, the more you pay. In this equation, the renter is always squeezed on the reservation because of many issues like jobs. You may have a job that is either seasonal or it may be tied into tribal government. When the government changes in elections as an example, you may well loose your position. Of course, these are just the opinions of a mad man that sees things in a belligerent way towards the disrespect that is given to “them”.

  16. Roger Cornelius 2016-12-13

    Merry Christmas Porter and thank you.

    MC, what you didn’t answer is the stereotyping that you and other South Dakotans insist on spreading.

    Indians tribal governments are funded by the federal as per the Howard Wheeler Act.
    Tribal income also comes from leased Indian lands to farmers and ranchers, many who don’t feel the need to pay their leases and for many years the BIA has mismanaged that income.
    Yes tribal governments receive grants for various programs managed by the tribe, many of these programs also operate in city, county and state levels as well. Many of these programs for cities and counties are funded by block grants, but tribes receive direct funding.
    I gather some of my observations come from the comments from the Rapid City Journal where commenters post much of the same thing MC does. When there a news article about tribes getting some form of grant for a tribal programs, the comments are like MC’s and many are vindictive and cruel.
    When there is an news item that the School Mines or other such entity receives a federal grant, there is absolutely no criticism or comments.
    If the federal government ceased sending money to this welfare state you would not have an economy to talk about. I imagine that blue states that have to send South Dakota money are getting pretty damn tired of it.
    Who receives more government handouts, MC, the state or the tribes.
    I will not debate medical care with you, that is treaty right and obligation.
    Those that receive food stamps have to meet the same guidelines as anyone else. In fact it has been pointed on this blog numerous times that Whites receives more food stamps than any other ethnic group.
    Your next complaint is heating, again tribal members receive the same Energy Assistance that South Dakota citizens are eligible for. Some tribes even have their independently operated energy assistance programs.

  17. jerry 2016-12-13

    Reawakening should also be taking place with those who see such a huge conflict of interest that real estate may be given away to satisfy outstanding loans by foreign creditors like China, for example. Mother Jones has a very good article up on this. Here is a nugget from that article

    ‘All of Trump’s top properties—including Trump Tower, the Trump National Doral golf course, and his brand new luxury hotel in Washington, DC—are heavily mortgaged. That means Trump maintains critical financial relationships with his creditors. These interactions pose a significant set of potential conflicts because his creditors are large financial institutions (domestic and foreign) with their own interests and policy needs. Each one could be greatly affected by presidential decisions, and Trump certainly has a financial interest in their well-being.
    Below is a list of all the financial players that Trump owes money to and how much Trump directly has borrowed from each one. This roster is based on publicly available loan documents. According to his own public disclosure, Trump, as of May, was on the hook for 16 loans worth at least $713 million. This list does not include an estimated $2 billion in debt amassed by real estate partnerships that include Trump. One of those loans is a $950 million deal that was cobbled together by Goldman Sachs and the state-owned Bank of China—an arrangement that ethics experts believe violates the Constitution’s emolument clause, which prohibits foreign governments from providing financial benefits to federal officials.”

    We are asleep at the wheel with Daugaard, Michels and that burr headed feller driving the wrecker, headed in the wrong direction, towards the defeat of a democracy.

  18. Roger Cornelius 2016-12-13

    Excellent points Jerry.

    Although temporary, the victory over DAPL is important to tribes across the country. The water protectors know they may need to return to Standing Rock after dumb dumb is sworn-in and are prepared to do so. This temporary victory also represents about the only time tribes have won over a private business and the federal government.
    What has been gained or learned from Standing Rock? A sense of self and what a multiple group of people, both Indian and non-Indian, can achieve together.
    In my near 70 years there is nothing compared to what the brave souls in Standing Rock achieved, the unity shared and earned is everlasting in Indian history.
    Hopefully some of these achievements will trickle down and reinforce the tribal way of life and how to solve problems.
    The greater question for me is, have the owners of DAPL learned anything by the power of tribal resistance or will they continue with their arrogance?

  19. John 2016-12-14

    Roger’s spot on. The rejection of the DAPL easement is temporary. Trumplestiltskin is nominating Richard Perry for Energy Secretary. The same Dick who had a ranch with that name, who campaigned to eliminate the Energy Department, who sits on the board of the company pushing the DAPL pipeline.

    Yet some of you think the Age of Aquarius is here; that we’re embarking on Kumbaya, a new cultural awareness. Don’t tell Mr. Jackley what you’re smoking. And, please, move past the junior-high wishful thinking for we cannot afford the luxury of idle thought.

    I’m not throwing away my SHOT!
    and neither should you

  20. mike from iowa 2016-12-14

    The Government, has enabled the Native Americans for far too long. And just look at the result. If they wanted a house, they didn’t earn it or build it themselves, the government just gave it to them. There is no pride in ownership, there is no accomplishment. Generation after generation of this and they become a broken people. We have only ourselves to blame.


    CROW HORSE: You know, Ray, when we were kids, we used to
    play cowboys and Indians? I was always Gary Cooper. I didn’t want to be an Indian. Government boarding school made sure of that. Cut off my hair, washed my mouth out with soap when I spoke my own language. My own language, Ray. (Ray meets his eyes) When the A.R.M. warriors came here it was like an awakening. Got the people proud of their heritage, their elders, the language. And you call them enemies. Tough call all the way around, ennit, Ray? You just keep on doing that. Tomorrow morning I’ll have Leo’s murderer in the Bear Creek tribal jail; screw your jurisdiction.

    From the movie “Thunderheart”.

  21. mike from iowa 2016-12-14

    The Government, has enabled the filthy rich for far too long. And just look at the result. If they wanted a gazillion dollar mansion, they didn’t earn it or build it themselves, the government just gave it to them. There is no pride in ownership, there is no accomplishment. Generation after generation of this and they become a broken, but filthier rich people. We have only wingnuts to blame.

    Fikstit for you, MC. No need for thanks.

  22. mike from iowa 2016-12-14

    Perry’s ranch is named the “N” word with head right after that..

  23. jerry 2016-12-14

    Perry, like Beauregard Sessions and the rest of the clown car has got to be denied access to any more government than they already have. These choices are a clear and present danger to the United States of America.

  24. jerry 2016-12-14

    The Indians seem to be the only ones with the guts to stand up to the Russians. Amazing, here is the Washington Post on flakey kicked out of the service Flynn for sharing classified information with the Russians.

    “A secret U.S. military investigation in 2010 determined that Michael T. Flynn, the retired Army general tapped to serve as national security adviser in the Trump White House, “inappropriately shared” classified information with foreign military officers in Afghanistan, newly released documents show.”

    The New York Times reports that Democratic election races were also hacked with information leaked

    There has not been a single headline in South Dakota that gives notice to the Russian involvement in our election process. Sarah Palin says she can see Russia from her house, so can I from mine in South Dakota.

  25. Porter Lansing 2016-12-14

    Don’t ever again wonder why many in South Dakota are misinformed and think through the parameters of “FAKE NEWS”, when the newspapers don’t even report the biggest story in the. And, which TV station (overwhelmingly popular in SoDak) has all blonde bimbo news commentators in short skirts and a highly biased Republican agenda? Why, that’d be FOX NEWS.

  26. jerry 2016-12-14

    I wonder if Ron Sasso is preparing for that “tyrannical government” he was blathering about not so long ago. Good news Mr. Sasso, you have met the enemy and he is you. Nelson is pretty quiet about this as is Troy. Funny how that patriotic streak is just all huff and puff. When the rubber meets the road, the tires squeal to a halt.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-12-14

    MC, you’ll notice that I didn’t call for any government program. I spoke strictly of positive community activism by community members inspired by their experience at the Standing Rock protests.

    Michael W, indeed, the Trump administration, the Corps, and the courts could erase the temporary victory over the pipeline. However, as others note, the victory isn’t just in the outcome of the pipeline. The victory is in organizing a massive protest, managing a sprawling camp of protestors in adverse conditions, winning nationwide media attention (e.g., t-shirts on SNL), and bringing tribes together nationwide to work together on a specific issue. Maybe that pipeline will still ship oil, but there are organizing lessons to be learned here, as well as personal inspiration to take back home.

  28. jerry 2016-12-14

    150 years ago, the Kashia Band of the Pomo Indians were forcibly removed from their lands. Now the Kashia have come home Endeavor to persevere has got to be the spirit for all of us to make sure that our place is secure. This is not only for Indians, it is for all of us. We simply cannot allow the Russians to own us with the full complacency of the Republican leadership, yep, I am talking to you John Thune, how dare you declare that I am a comrade.

  29. MC 2016-12-14

    Cory, Exactly! this is a very good thing! The best the the Government can do is not get in the way. They tribes can figure this out all by themselves.

  30. jerry 2016-12-14

    While the tribes figure this out by themselves, they could reach out to the United Nations for sovereign to sovereign recognition. Economic Impact Zones could then be set in place for such things as Amazon and other on line retailers as examples, to operate tax free while collecting tribal tax and use tax for the tribes. Maybe foreign investment with something like the EB5 could be targeted especially for tribal use in that economic development. Instead of casino’s that are the big industry, capital gains would be. The monies could then be transferred into real education accounts instead of phony Gear Up and the like.

  31. Roger Elgersma 2016-12-14

    MC – when the tribes just did something outstanding, for good, working together, in the midst of a lot of pressure and stayed non violent as they planned to, then you are a total lousy piece of crap to start out with all that negativity of Natives not being able to do anything right. When they do something right and you simply are to blind in your prejudice to even see it, then you will think bad forever no matter how much progress they make and no matter how clean they make your own water. When the facts are good and you keep thinking the past, you are part of their frustration with the world. You are part of the problem, and absolutely not going to be part of the solution. Quit blaming them for their problems when you have such a huge attitude problem yourself.

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