I occasionally cruise articles by Paul Danish to see what regurgitated right-wing propaganda looks like. His article on the “slobs” of Standing Rock was exemplary.
I was at Standing Rock on three occasions. My Peak to Peak community raised $6,000, and provided the Cheyenne River Tribe with a large military tent used as an open kitchen and sleeping quarters for warriors and supporters. We brought winter clothes and gear, and hundreds of pounds of food donations. The immense support for Standing Rock from around the world has been an indication of the commitment humanity feels to end our dependence on fossil fuels and to protect our water.
My partner and I joined nearly 700 clergy members from around the nation who came to stand with the water protectors. On the Backwater Bridge they publicly refuted the Doctrine of Discovery, Papal Bulls of the 15th century which gave Christian explorers the right to claim lands they “discovered” for their Christian Monarchs. If pagan inhabitants couldn’t be converted, they could be enslaved or killed. “This Doctrine governs United States Indian Law today and has been cited as recently as 2005 in the decision City of Sherrill V. Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y,” according to doctrineofdiscovery.org.
We joined a forgiveness march through the town of Mandan, directed at the sheriff’s department which had used violence against the protectors, and had destroyed their possessions and sacred artifacts. The march was peaceful, and participants reached out to the Mandan police who lined the route. I didn’t notice any slobs.
On my second trip I travelled with a four-year-old, her mom and an Iraq War vet. My little friend was invited to offer a prayer at the Sacred Fire of the Seven Fire Council. She is a part of a hugely historic moment. This was the first time the seven nations of the Sioux had congregated since the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Paul wasn’t there.
One morning more than a hundred of us were led by a grandmother to the water’s edge for a water ceremony with Lakota prayer and song. This was the most beautiful religious experience of my life. I am honored to have been invited into this cultural environment in which an extraordinary reverence for the earth was practiced every day.
I returned once more as one of 2,000 veterans sanctioned for an action on the bridge. Eight thousand came to Oceti Sakowin over the weekend. The tribes were not prepared for this influx. Permanent and temporary structures were being erected almost immediately, but there was a certain chaos that no one could have predicted. As the action on the bridge was happening, a debilitating snow storm moved in, and people were asked to leave for their own safety. We were all stuck in the casino five miles from camp. As North Dakota’s brutal winter continued, donations of equipment, winter gear and clothing were frozen into the ice and snow. This was later called trash by the right-wing media.
President Obama ordered an Environmental Impact Statement which was underway, and immediately cancelled when Trump took office. A permit to drill was issued, and the camp ordered to vacate. Younger warriors attempted to clear the camp while an unusually early spring melt turned the camp site into mud. Vehicles were stuck in the mire. Veterans returned to help clean the camp, but the rapidity of the executive orders left inadequate time to clear the site. The camps condition at the time of the forced evacuation is why Paul Danish referred to the protectors as slobs. They were not.
This camp has supercharged a global movement to rid our earth of fossil fuels. It is the center of a challenge for indigenous rights, as the fight goes on for recognition of broken treaties between the Sioux and the U.S. government. The people I met there were mostly beautiful in their countenance, cooperative spirit and reverence to one another and the earth. Paul Danish can burp propaganda, and attempt to minimalize the importance of this resistance and the camp itself. That’s what the uninformed and brainwashed do. Mr. Danish often spouts libertarian views. If property rights are important to folks like Paul Danish, how can they not see fit to honor the treaty rights of the Great Sioux Nation? The pipeline is the problem, not the Sioux Nation occupying its own land, who for Paul’s edification, honor that land, and are not slobs.
Dennis Duckett lives in Nederland, Colorado.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.