The grievances of the Native Americans at Standing Rock,
over the callous disregard for their sacred heritage sites and for their federally-decreed right to be consulted over the construction of a commercial oil pipeline through land to which they have a recognized historical claim,
have not been getting the attention they deserve from many major media outlets --
with the result that the outrageous events that have been unfolding at Standing Rock as:
sacred Native sites have been bulldozed,
and as living men, women and children protesting the violation of their rights have been assaulted with dogs, mace, tasers, and other weapons of violence
have generated outrage --
but have not yet generated the level of outrage that they should be generating.
Today's New York Times (10/28/2016), for example, chooses to display exactly zero mention of the outrageous events taking place anywhere on the "front page" displayed on the web (a screenshot is presented at the end of this article, showing the headlines the Times chose to present to viewers instead of making any mention of the violations at Standing Rock, as of 6:17 pm).
Some might perhaps argue that "it's an election season, and there is a lot going on" which might explain the lack of mention -- until we see the stories that the newspaper did choose to highlight for attention on the web "front page," such as "How to run across the country faster than anyone" and "how do self-tanning products change the color of skin?" as well as a reminiscence on the 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead and an article entitled "Judging others by their e-mail tics: signoffs, the well-placed emoji, the use of exclamation points (or not). It's a minefield out there" -- certainly vital issues about which readers should be more concerned, rather than the use of weapons upon the bodies of protestors standing in the way of corporations who are proceeding in violation of explicit Native American rights.
The top several lines displaying tweets on the general "home page" of Twitter right now contain no mention either, although if you scroll way down in the feed there is a cartoon mentioning it with a sardonic comparison to the Malheur Refuge acquittal -- but not in a way that calls attention to the outrageous desecration of sacred Native heritage sites or the outrageous violence that has been and continues to be perpetrated upon the protestors at Standing Rock.
Neither can the lineup of stories featured on this Twitter front page be excused as having been generated individually for me alone by things that I tend to "follow" in my Twitter account or in my browsing habits, as nothing in those top several lines has anything to do with the kinds of things I look at on the web or on Twitter. These are the stories that Twitter is choosing to promote -- and the violation of the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux is obviously not high on Twitter's list.
The Wall Street Journal, which one might suspect to be a newspaper devoted to covering important issues having to do with corporations which trade on the financial exchanges (such as the companies which own major stakes in the entity responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline) has a seemingly endless web "front page" that similarly fails to find any reason to mention the ongoing violence against those protesting, or the reasons for the protests.
The Journal does, however, find room today to feature on its long web "front page" oversized pictures relating to:
- a story about taste-testing "candy corn," a sugary candy associated with the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays in North America -- ironically, candy which pays tribute to the corn or maize which is found in the Americas but not in the so-called "Old World," and which the Native Americans brought along with other bountiful foodstuffs to share with the starving Europeans at the "first Thanksgiving."
- a story entitled "Thankfully unexpected pie recipes for the Thanksgiving table," featuring a photograph of a delicious-looking slice of "mint grasshopper pie" -- again, grimly ironic in that the Journal sees fit to feature a story about Thanksgiving pie recipes before we even reach Halloween, but does not see fit to feature a story involving a publicly-traded limited partnership, an oil pipeline, and the emotionally-charged conflict which is taking place right now at Standing Rock, when Thanksgiving itself commemorates the generosity of Native Americans in bringing the makings of a feast to hungry settlers from Europe (settlers who, by all accounts, would not have survived had the Natives compassionately shown them some techniques to aid their survival in the unfamiliar land).
So, the major corporate ad-driven media -- which is very good at stirring up outrage and directing attention to a story when it wants to (or when those who control it want to), by putting that story in your face twenty-four hours a day -- clearly do not want to provoke outrage over what clearly should be seen as outrageous (unless you believe that siccing dogs on men, women and children, ignoring the duty to consult Native Americans regarding sensitive heritage sites, and then brazenly bulldozing those sites and destroying them is not outrageous).
While there are obviously many issues involved in this story, to a degree that some may think it is "too hard to figure out," I would argue that at its heart this story is so clear-cut that there should be no room for debate.
Although there are layers of the story that involve the question of the use of petroleum, the question of fracking, the question of environmentalism in general, the question of the cost of gasoline and other fuels and the impact of their prices on the economy at large (all important issues), the bottom line is that this is a conflict that centers on the violation of the rights of a community who has seen their rights violated to a degree that is almost impossible to comprehend, a community which can be said without the least bit of exaggeration to have experienced the horrendous crime which deserves the label of genocide(even though that word was invented later), and a community who was supposed to have been consulted before any proposed pipelines were built through lands that contained sacred heritage sites -- and they were not consulted, their wishes were ignored, and a judge callously denied their injunction to halt construction so that their side of the discussion could be heard.
They were denied their mandated consultation, then they were denied their "day in court," and then when they protested they were set upon by dogs, mace (a general term for a form of painful chemical spray which uses either tear gas or pepper spray in most cases), military directed-sound weapons, beanbag guns, rubber bullets, police batons, and other violent means.
This story in the Atlantic (from September 9th) explains that the land upon which the corporations in question want to build the pipeline was given to the Sioux nations in the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868.
Like so many other treaties made by the federal government of the united states, that treaty was shamefully disregarded and broken -- in this case, not many years later when the desire to mine the gold in the Black Hills led to the provocation of the conflicts that resulted in the battle of the Little Bighorn, a resounding defeat of Custer's forces by the combined forces of several tribes and nations, and then the retaliation by the government's forces including the criminal massacre at Wounded Knee and the cowardly murder of both Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse after they had laid down their weapons and were in the custody of the army and the police.
In order to get access to food (once they were confined to reservations and basically unable to obtain food for themselves anymore), the tribes signed new treaties conceding the lands containing the gold that the settlers and their government wanted -- even though these included some of their most sacred places (see the discussion here, entitled "The Heart of Everything That Is").
But, as the Atlantic article points out, the Supreme Court in 1980 determined that the shameful way in which these lands were wrested from the Native nations in an illegal manner, and ordered compensation to be paid to the Sioux for the lands. But, as the article explains, "the Sioux declined the payment -- which still sits in US Treasury accounts, earning interest -- because they seek possession or co-ownership of the land itself."
This alone makes their cause worthy of stopping the pipeline and finding another way to move the desired commodities to the desired refineries. The shameful history of the seizure of these lands (which has been acknowledged by the Supreme Court) in the first place argues that in cases of disputed access, extra care should be taken to ensure that the rights of the Native Americans to whom that land was ceded in the Treaty of Fort Laramie (a concession for which, of course, the Native tribes had to make plenty of reciprocating concessions of their own). No one looking at the history of the making of treaties between the Native nations and the federal government of the united states of America can have any illusions regarding which side consistently failed to honor the provisions of those agreements in the ensuing years.
Above and beyond that, as the Atlantic article also points out, there is a written requirement for any federal agency planning a project in land with which a Native nation may have a cultural or historical connection to consult with the Native nations and to do so on a nation-to-nation basis. The Standing Rock Sioux argue that this requirement to consult was not observed by the federal agency granting access to the pipeline project (the federal agency in this case being the US Army Corps of Engineers). But when they filed an injunction to stop progress on the construction project over this very requirement, that injunction was denied in court.
Not only that, but when they filed the injunction, evidence was presented of sacred heritage sites in the path of the proposed pipeline project -- including standing stones arranged in the shape of constellations, specifically the Big Dipper (called IyoKaptan Tanka by the Lakota themselves). An effigy of a powerful figure known as Bear Spirit Healer (Mato Wapiya) was also found in the area. Below is an image of stones arranged after the heavenly patterns of the stars, presented in the court filing by an archaeologist who himself is a member of the Lakota nation, as seen on this website:
As this article entitled "Grave Matters in Pipeline Controversy," from investigative journalism site WhoWhatWhy, explains, the discovery of stones dedicated to Bear Medicine Healer and stones arranged in the outline of IyoKaptan Tanka carries tremendous significance, and probably indicates that a very highly-repected individual (probably a chief) may have been placed in this location after he died (the nations of the Great Plains typically did not bury their dead, but rather placed them on elevated scaffolds exposed to Nature), and it may also have been used for contact with the Other World during life as well. Tim Mentz, Sr., the archaeologist who presented this evidence, recalls how as a young man, he and other young adults were always admonished not to speak or make any noise around sacred sites such as these, when visiting to pay respect and offer food to the spirits of those who had gone before.
Heartbreakingly, just after this evidence was presented to the court as part of the injunction to halt further construction until the required consultations were conducted and steps could be taken to ensure no destruction or desecration of any sacred heritage sites, the private companies hired by the owners of the pipeline project began to bulldoze the sacred sites in question -- using dogs against those who tried to stop them.
Again, there is absolutely no question that if such deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is alleged by witnesses, all further progress in the area should be immediately halted and investigation should commence into actions that must be regarded as constituting a serious crime.
These actions have not been receiving the front-page headlines, and the attention-generating media coverage, that violations of this magnitude should be receiving.
Additionally, the methods used against the protestors continue to escalate, with hundreds of arrests this week, the imposition of "no-fly zones" over the protest sites in order to prevent those friendly to the cause of the protestors from gathering aerial video footage using drones in order to document what is taking place, and the use of a variety of heavy-handed tactics including the use of tasers, rubber bullets, beanbag projectiles, and military vehicles equipped with new non-lethal weapons capable of directing high-volume sound and even microwave energy at protestors.
Not only is the use of such tactics incredibly offensive given the egregious record of abuse and exploitation in the past, but it should also give people around the world a wake-up call regarding the quite open disdain by a corporate entity of any need to even pretend to listen to the needs of a particular community.
In this case, the community in question happens to be one against whom there is an unending history of abuses and violations of rights going back centuries, which makes the situation even uglier and more egregious, but the very same pattern of disdain for the rights of communities to make decisions that corporations dislike can be seen in proposed "treaties" such as the TTP, TTIP, and others along the same pattern, which award corporations the supposed right to level fees on communities that decide to vote for laws that will impair profitability (giving a supposed right to level fees on communities which pass laws such as minimum wage requirements or labeling requirements on genetically-modified ingredients, for instance).
Therefore, the Standing Rock protests -- and the outrageous treatment of the protestors -- is alarming both on its own merits, and also as an example of a new level of open disregard by a for-profit corporate entity of even the pretense of observing the rights of nations.
In a way, every moral violation we encounter in this life can be seen as a test -- will we oppose the violation, or will we tolerate it? Our response may have some impact on our karma, or our spirit body, or our soul (at least according to the ancient wisdom that can be shown to have been given to humanity at some incredibly early date, which forms the basis for the myths, scriptures and sacred stories of cultures around the world).
In this particular case, however, it may well be that the test is also a test for humanity, given by those who want to see what level of high-handed behavior they can get away with, without provoking widespread outrage.
If such behavior can be displayed for anyone to see, without any widespread outrage, then what kind of message will that send to those who already display such open disdain for the rights of people as opposed to corporations?
Th Dakota Pipeline case is made exponentially more outrageous because of the history of abuses perpetrated against the Sioux in particular and the Native peoples of the Americas in general over the course of centuries.
If men and women around the country and around the world cannot see the reason for outrage in the violation of the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux in this particular case, then the boundary of what can be perpetrated without backlash will truly have been moved to a shocking new low.
The fact that much of the media has decided to give the issue only passing mention should also be a blaring wake-up call regarding the sorry state of the media, journalism, and "the press" in many of the biggest news organizations responsible for producing the mainstream news cycle on a daily basis.
There is also the unpleasant fact, so unpleasant that it is difficult for many people to even consider, that the deliberate desecration and destruction of sacred sites -- such as the bulldozing described in the articles linked above -- appears to be part of an ongoing pattern. In September of 2000, for example, the sacred central stone marker known as the Intihuatana or "hitching post of the sun" at Machu Picchu was damaged by a crane during the filming of a beer commercial, of all things. This article from the BBC explains that the company in question was expressly denied permission to take a crane up to the sacred site, and so they snuck the crane in at dawn anyway -- and when the crane experienced what was described as an accidental "mechanical failure," it broke the stone at the heart of the entire Machu Picchu complex.
Additional examples can be found in the deliberate destruction of the ancient paintings at the sacred stone enclosure of Painted Rock in modern-day California, paintings believed to have survived for thousands of years before being blasted by firearms at close range in the 1930s.
It is an undeniable fact of history that in previous centuries, sacred sites in the Americas (and elsewhere around the world) have been deliberately and systematically desecrated and destroyed -- primarily by organized institutions of literalist forms of Christianity. Examples of such programs of desecration and destruction stretch back to the chopping down of the Irminsul in parts of Europe, or the burning of Saami drums in the northern reaches of Scandinavia.
We tend to think that such systematic desecration and destruction is a thing of the past, confined to previous centuries. But, as the bulldozing of the sacred heritage sites last month demonstrate, such behavior still goes on -- and while there may be no connection between the use of bulldozers in North Dakota and a crane at Machu Picchu, it is also possible that there is a connection, and that some group continues to deliberately target such sites, under the convenient "cover" of for-profit corporate activity.
As seen in the image above, and in the many videos available on the web showing the ongoing protests in the path of the pipeline, men and women are chaining themselves to drilling equipment and construction equipment -- but such gestures will only stop the construction for a short period of time. The only hope of the Standing Rock Sioux and their other allies in this situation is for their actions and their plight to arouse the slumbering conscience of those who can add their voices to the protest against the railroading of their rights in this case.
The case is clearcut -- and the violations of their rights are egregious.
But unless there is a deafening groundswell of other voices who demand that the deliberate destruction of sacred sites, the inhumane use of dogs and of weapons of violence against protestors, and the callous refusal to consult with the Native nations who have a federally-recognized right to be consulted all cease immediately, even the act of chaining oneself to a bulldozer or other heavy machinery will not bring the other party in this case to the discussion table.
They evidently feel no compunction to consult with the tribal nations, and the court system is backing up their disregard for the duty to consult.
The most effective protest, which would probably get their attention even more quickly than would inclusion in the twenty-four hour news cycle (which is happy to continue generating non-stop outrage over other matters, but not this one) would be the decision by large holders of the stock of the companies involved in the pipeline to sell those shares.
If a company were callously bulldozing orangutan habitat in Madagascar, and if enough outrage were generated to cause shareholders of that company to worry about owning the shares (or even to cause the conscience of those shareholders to awaken, and those shareholders to decide they did not want to support a company doing such bulldozing), you can believe that the company in question would rapidly take notice and alter their behavior -- and in fact, this very scenario did take place, just a few years ago, regarding habitat of orangutans in Madagascar.
If similar outrage cannot be generated over the refusal to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux and any other Native nations impacted by this pipeline, as well as the deliberate bulldozing of sacred heritage sites, as was generated over the bulldozing of orangutan habitat, then something is terribly wrong (and something has clearly been terribly wrong for centuries in this particular regard).
Would you want to own shares of a company that deliberately bulldozed sacred heritage sites?
Would you want your pension fund to own shares in such a company?
If major investment management companies and large pension funds, foundations, endowments, and mutual funds decided they did not want to own shares of those companies anymore, you can believe that the companies in question would get the message almost overnight.
The partnership that is behind this pipeline is a publicly-traded limited partnership, and a major stake in that entity is held by a publicly-traded oil company. The names and relationships and ticker symbols can all be found in this document, as well as in the public filings of those corporations.
Destroying sacred sites is not acceptable behavior by anyone.
Siccing dogs on men and women and children is not acceptable behavior by anyone.
Such behavior needs to be opposed by everyone of conscience, using peaceful methods and the firm refusal to accept such treatment of our fellow men and women on this planet, and the firm refusal to accept the destruction of sacred heritage sites.
Any organization that deliberately does these things should be legally disbanded, as well as forced to pay restitution.
Below are some examples of non-media outrage from "our" media, over the outrageous events that very much have continued to escalate over the past few days:
Above: The ongoing violence against protestors at Standing Rock rates nary a mention in the New York Times web front-page this weekend (this is from 10/29/2016).
Below: Ditto for the Wall Street Journal's web front-page, although it does feature stories about just about everything else (as well as a ton of ads for turntables, even though I already own one -- you can't search for turntables without the Wall Street Journal serving you interminable turntable ads afterwards).