Outside a North Dakota courthouse where she will defend against rioting charges Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now!” interviewed Tara Houska and Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth on indigenous opposition to Dakota Access. LaDuke and Houska describe frightening militarization and police brutality under Governor Dalrymple. There are mine resistant armored personnel carriers (MRAPS), surveillance helicopters, and other military grade equipment. This comes after Dalrymple’s activation of the National Guard by declaring a “state of emergency.” North Dakota has called in police from surrounding states to assist in maintaining North Dakota’s police state.
Police militarization is one aspect of the state’s campaign of psychological warfare against indigenous water protectors. Water protectors charged only with misdemeanors have been psychologically humiliated through the use of strip searches. Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, a medical doctor and pediatrician, suffered such humiliation as did Cody Hall from Cheyenne River territory of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation). Hall stated he was kept in chains and forced to face the judge in an orange prison jumpsuit while surrounded by police in riot gear. The state treats a peaceful water protector like he’s Hannibal Lecter, who is the real psychopath here? Over 140 water protectors have been arrested and humiliated in this way. LaDuke critiqued the ACLU’s longtime inaction in the area.
Civil rights for indigenous peoples
The disastrous state of civil rights in North Dakota is no accident, it is seen as a “fly over” state and most people ignore it. It is in fact the sovereign treaty territory of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux Nation). LaDuke stated the ACLU had only one staff member covering both North and South Dakota for many years. This is likely because the issue of race in the US is too often seen as an exclusively black and white issue.
Other historically oppressed peoples, namely indigenous peoples, are altogether ignored on the question of civil rights. LaDuke compared Dalrymple to Alabama Governor George Wallace in the era “good ol’ boy” resistance to black civil rights in the 1960s. Hall asserted that strip searches are the state’s way to mentally break one down to discourage future resistance against the overwhelming power of the state. The state, and corporate interests, falsely claim the water protectors are violent. The state uses mainstream media to demonize the water protectors in the minds of North Dakota’s white settler colonial population.
State propaganda leads to violence
People in the area regularly receive cell phone emergency alerts stating “protestors are the in area.” Public schools in the area are regularly on lock down because of the perceived threat from the water protectors. This propaganda is not new. M.I.T. Prof. Noam Chomsky has pointed out that before World War I the US population was extremely pacifist. President Wilson was eager to the join the war, but the population was against it. Using the newspapers the Wilson administration was able to whip up so much anti-German hysteria that German Americans were violently repressed and the US entered World War I.
Defend indigenous civil rights
What Chomsky may have overlooked is that this propaganda began much earlier against indigenous peoples. One example is Colorado Governor John Evans’ use of the Rocky Mountain News newspaper to incite violence against the Cheyenne and Arapaho resulting in the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. In this sense, Governor Dalrymple might also be compared to Governor Evans if his intention is to incite violence against indigenous peoples. Houska suggests that the local white population is being encouraged to arm itself against the water protectors and that a local white farmer already allegedly shot at a water protector who chained himself to construction equipment. Such state sponsored violence is a threat to everyone’s civil rights. It must stop by standing with Standing Rock.