Colonization in Native Country 2016: Standing Rock Encampment

Manifest Manners- Manifest Manners are the course of dominance, the racialist notions and misnomers sustained in archives and lexicons as “authentic” representations of Indian cultures. Manifest manners court the destinies of monotheism, cultural determinism, objectivism, and the structural conceits of savagism and civilization. Gerald Vizenor

Americans of the United States have accomplished (extermination & deprival of rights) … with singular felicity; tranquility, legally, philanthropically, without shedding blood, and without violating a single great principle of morality in the eyes of the world. It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity (Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835).

In 2016, we are seeing colonization of Tribal Nations again rearing its ugly head. Perhaps we forgot, Americans have certainly forgotten as they assume that we are past all of that, and we are all so progressive and diverse and accepting of other peoples. Its not a well-studied history in our public schools. Tribal history is generally ignored in favor of a few Native heroes who helped the expansion of the American nation.

Yet for Native people of this country we have not forgotten,  colonization is all around us all the time. The United States is an Imperialist country. In the past 200+ years the US has gone into other countries and either taken them over or forced a new regime to take control. The US calls this “rebuilding” or some-such, yet the effects are the same. Ask the Hawaiian peoples about imperialism? Ask Native tribes about how they lost their lands and how they were forced to give away or force to sign treaties and sell their lands.

And after the lands are taken, then colonization begin, changing the government, assimilating the people, forcing the society to adhere to specific narrow “Americanized” boundaries. Or in some cases completely destabilizing the country and taking advantage of continuous destabilization to take military action. The examples of this are many. For Native peoples destabilization is constant political pressure on Tribal nations for land, resources, rights. The reservation lands the tribes have today are ultimately owned by the federal government, or called federal trust lands. If the government chooses to negate tribal rights to their lands, they can.  Ask any tribe that underwent Termination.

Now in 2016, the United States took away from the Standing Rock Tribe the right to manage their water resources and lands from becoming subject to the passage  of the oil pipelines from Canada. The plan was to place oil pipelines across the reservation, across its water supply, their river, and the tribe had no right to say no. Their permanent reservation and their sovereignty was negated by Congress so that oil could flow.

The tribe chose to fight back and encamped in front of the pipeline to stop the progress. They were protecting water, and their sacred sites. Yet that fight seems to fall on deaf ears as the American Media chose to ignore the conflict, even though traditionally 4the media has seved as an important check on the federal government. Big media seems to not see Native activism, Native rights of even human rights for clean water. Yet peoples from over 300 Native nations responded and caught the attention of many independent news sources. Facebook is our friend today and our only true media source.(update 9/13- Facebook appears to have been compromised by someone? against this movement)

Ignoring this conflict is a mistake because every time Natives have activated and taken action, that story has become the most studied conflict in American history. How many Indian wars have been studied, how much has Pine ridge, or Wounded Knee I or II been studied? Indian conflicts and wars likely have more studies and books written about them than any other single event in history.  Native scholars, historians,  and anthropologists do not let these types of events go unstudied, and I predict in a year we will all see a florescence of studies of the Standing Rock encampment. 

Yet it is the anonymity of the conflict to Big Media that is so interesting. When the protest was peaceful there was no attention. even when the encampment reached 3000+ people, there was little or no attention from the media. When security guards began attacking the people at the encampment, then the media began to take notice. And then the first news, for the news-spinners in North Dakota, was to label the Native people as the instigators. Ironically the media had no outrage over attacking other humans with dogs. Where is their outrage and 24-hour-discussion about the human rights of these Americans? Where are the panels of consultants and opinionists who will talk at all hours of the day about the legality of the actions on both sides?  These people are Americans, not simply Native Americans, do they not have right guaranteed in the constitution? Or is it really that they are to the media first Native Americans, and activists, so they can be ignored as they are not real Americans? Their rights to clean water and land is not considered important enough to merit attention.

I think Winona Laduke said it best, “When does protecting water become criminal and threatening to destroy water not?” (I paraphrase). She raises an important question. Why is protecting the earth a criminalized activity and development which destroys the earth considered alright, approved, and the way things should be?

The fact is that the presence of Native peoples in any conflict is uncomfortable to Americans. The Presence of Native peoples and Tribes are in many ways a reminder of the horrible colonizing roots of this country. Colonization and imperialism which included: causing the genocide of millions of Native peoples. then colonization of tribal nations that continued into the 20th century with the taking of tribal lands and termination of reservations. Today, colonization is continuing with taking tribal lands, and rights to control and manage their lands and resources.

I believe, when tribes speak about the earth and the land, the implication is that Americans need to consider it, its health and its survival in plans for development and taking of resources. Native people and their cultures then serve as a conscience of the earth to many people. Who else speaks for the earth, for its survival? Who else will be that conscience? This is uncomfortable to many Americans who are inculcated on the notion that they can freely develop and destroy and not worry about the effects of their actions on people or the earth. Maybe that is why Native people are ignored, because if Native people are right, that would mean that Americans would have to be responsible for their actions. And that is not something many Americans are used to doing, especially those investing in the exploitation of fossil fuels.

The pipeline is halted for now to Standing Rock. The fight now will continue in the halls of Washington, D.C. The actions of the pipeline in attacking people to continue development may be their undoing. I hope the conversation turns to what the pipeline would do the earth as well and that a decision is made to protect the earth, because without it and its resources we would not be here.

This is not a tribal fight, this is a human fight for the rights and welfare of everyone. The dangers to human health and the environment posed by this pipeline deserve the undivided action and attention of everyone, white, black, latino, asian, native, poor, middleclass, rich in this region. 

September 11 & 14, 2016

David Lewis, Oregon

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