The underground Dakota Access Piipeline would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day, which would be sent to markets and refineries in the Midwest, East Coast and Gulf Coast regions, according to Energy Transfer Crude Oil Co. (219358)
Credit: Dakota Access Pipeline Map

When Colin Kaepernick refused to honor the American national anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner,” he may not have been aware that his protest was consistent with one now raging in North Dakota.

Members of nearly 300 Native American groups, joined by many activists, have converged on Standing Rock Reservation, protesting the completion of more than 1,100 miles of an oil pipeline they perceive as an environmental danger and encroachment on sacred land.

Earlier, the demonstrations had reached a point of open conflict with security forces on the land controlled by Army Corps of Engineers. Guards armed with pepper spray and using dogs on leashes attacked the protesters, many of them bitten by the dogs or seriously injured by the pepper spray.

Friday, the government announced that it was temporarily blocking construction of the pipeline, an action that was greeted with cheers from the hundreds assembled at the Sacred Stone Camp.

“Mni wiconi!” was a cry heard from many of the protesters as they shouted the Sioux words for “Water is life.”

Kaepernick’s defiance was specifically aimed at what he said was the blatant police brutality and injustices against unarmed Black Americans, but his refusal to stand for the anthem was pertinent for Native Americans, especially as it relates to the anthem’s final verse and Francis Scott Key’s celebration of the annihilation of the Native Americans.

There were several notable African-Americans at Standing Rock, and their presence was reminiscent of activists from the ’60s and ’70s, including Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and other members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, who marched and rallied in support of the uprising at Pine Ridge, S.D., led by the American Indian Movement.

This recent upheaval has a long precedent here in the so-called Bad Lands, where George Armstrong Custer was defeated by Sitting Bull in the battle at Little Bighorn. After the Civil War, this territory was the scene for many confrontations between U.S. troops and Native Americans. Even Black soldiers of 9th and 10th Calvary, the legendary “Buffalo Soldiers,” were part of the raids to exterminate the indigenous population.

The showdown at Standing Rock is but the latest episode in a history of war between Native Americans and those who seek to expropriate their land.

Now that the government has temporarily suspended building the pipeline—the most imminent danger is pipes constructed under the Missouri River bursting—there is a lull in the action. But many of the protesters have promised to remain on the land.

Reports that an arrest warrant has been issued for noted journalist Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, have provided the incident with wider exposure. Apparently, Goodman had violated private property when recording the attacks on the protesters, all of which are available online.

“The battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline is being waged as a renewed assertion of indigenous rights and sovereignty, as a fight to protect clean water, but, most importantly, as part of the global struggle to combat climate change and break from dependence on fossil fuels,” Goodman and Dennis Moynihan wrote. “At the Sacred Stone, Red Warrior and other camps at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers, the protectors are there to stay, and their numbers are growing daily.”

She said, as a reporter, she had every right to cover and document the demonstration. “This is an unacceptable violation of freedom of the press,” she said.

Goodman, like Kaepernick, was exercising her constitutional rights.

We are awaiting reports from two African-Americans who participated in the demonstrations.