(This diary is for my husband, who can’t remember a time when he didn’t think of the Oglala’s home as his own spiritual home, and reveres Crazy Horse like no other.)
Good day to all of you; this is a time when we require stories of glorious dedication in defense of our earth and our people to offset the hibernation of the democracy movement as it readies itself for spring and restoration. I think you’re going to love this story about a small group of First Americans standing up to some big trucks trying to cross their sovereign nation’s ‘reservation’. I am tickled witless and energized. I’ve been hoping to do a short series on Native American activist protests, and this is a great beginning, as more of us are beginning to realize that we, the 99%, are all becoming third-world citizens. And note: The women in the video were awesome!!!
On Monday March 5, Activist Debra White Plume saw two oversized trucks bearing the words ‘Calgary, Alberta, Canada’ entering the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. She rushed to the scene to try to stop the trucks, which the drivers said were each carrying a 100+-ton (229,155 pounds) ‘treater vessel’ which is used to separate gas and oil and other elements for the tarsands project. The trucks were en route from Houston via Korea to Calgary, and were being transported by Totran Transportation Services, with offices in Calgary and Houston, according to the Sidney Herald.
The news made it via what some call ‘the moccasin telegraph’ to Pine Ridge Rez radio station KILI which broadcast an emergency action alert; according to Censored News:
“Calling all Lakota men on the Pine Ridge Reservation to come to Wanblee SD.”
The alert said “Pipeline trucks are being held there at the border by our Lakota Oyate*, OST Police and State Troopers in an effort to keep them from entering our territory. Even the state troopers told the trucks they have to turn around and cannot bring their pipeline or other materials on to our reservation.”
The alert also said “Pipeline trucks are refusing to turn around claiming they have corporate rights that supersedes any other law.”
About seventy-five people and cars quickly assembled and blockaded the trucks; many brought pots of soup and frybread. Several were Oglala women elders, including one in a wheelchair.
The story so far seems to be that since the trucks were carrying oversized weights, using state highways would have cost Totran about $50,000 in highway fees, and they made a deal with the State of South Dakota to use the reservation road instead. That bit is confusing, and it may turn out to be something a bit different including whether or not the tribal council was involved in the decision.
Censored News again:
“The tribal police took us to jail. Our lawyer Sonny Richards did the paperwork to get us out of jail. The tribal police had to let the trucks get off the rez. They escorted them to the reservation line.
“We oppose the tarsands oil mine in solidarity with Mother Earth and our First Nation allies,” Debra White Plume said.”
Lakotas Alex White Plume, Debra White Plume, Andrew Ironshell, Sam Long Black Cat and Terrell Eugene Iron Shell were arrested by Tribal police for ‘disorderly conduct’, taken to jail, and released within hours.
The Rapid City Journal, of course, covered the story featuring this denial from TransCanada:
“TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the trucks did not belong to the company and pipeline construction has not started.”
Pine Ridge and Shannon County are arguably the poorest areas in the US; unemployment hovers around 85%, alcoholism and related diabetes are rampant. This fine tribe has been the object of countless broken treaties, including the most vicious one in which the federal government rescinded their original treaty that granted the Lakota the Black Hills. Once gold was discovered (and recently uranium), the tribe was ordered to accept some money in trade for their sacred lands. The tribe has never signed the ‘new’ treaty that would nullify the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and has never touched a dime of the money, which account has accrued to $517 million.
There has been a long and ugly history there in a struggle between BIA-backed tribal councils and the tradionals, some of which story was told in Robert Redford’s ‘Incident at Oglala: the Story of Leonard Peltier”.
You may like reading this page of articles which includes: ‘Black Hills Are Beyond Price to Sioux; Culture: Despite economic hardship, tribe resists U.S. efforts to dissolve an 1868 treaty for $570 million’, and other related articles.
I’d like to say to the Oglala Oyate, in the words of the legendary Crazy Horse: Hoka Hey, brothers and sisters; it’s a god day to die!
* Re: Oyate, from thecalloftheland.com: Notes on Oyate from Wikipedia: In January 2008, the Lakota Freedom Delegation split into two groups. One group was led by Canupa Gluha Mani (Duane Martin Sr.). He is a leader of Cante Tenza, the traditional Strongheart Warrior Society, that has included leaders such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. This group is called Lakota Oyate. The other group is called the “Republic of Lakotah” and is led by Russell Means. In December 2008, Lakota Oyate received the support and standing of the traditional treaty council of the Oglala Tiospayes.
(I am not a fan of Russell Means; but pace on that.)
[Update]: Liberty Underground Newsletter just came in, and Raw Story has the action up; cool.
In closing, I’d like to add that when I clicked around the web for additional coverage of the story, one prevalent theme in the comment threads was that Lakota women were the awesome stalwarts of the story, as evidenced in the video, hard as it is to hear with the wind whistling across the plains an over the mic. For them, and all the Inconvenient Warrior Women and female Spiritual Dog Soldiers of the Indigenous Nations, and all over the world, I bring this song by the incomparable John Trudell (part of his wrenching bio is here) from his recent album ‘Crazier Than Hell’, here is ‘See the Woman’.