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I’m hesitant to write this because the passion in me right now is hot. My blood boils and I find myself dizzy that my country is once again going down this path. I worry whether or not it’s right for me to write this. My writing is not political, in the sense that it is designed to promote party or private interests, for there are other bloggers in the universe content and happy to take such stances. As a writer I write about myself, the books and essays, and films that I observe and appreciate, and so when matters of politics are at hand, I will usually veil whatever opinion I have beneath interpretations of poetry, or passages in novels.
However, I cannot stand for what is happening in North Dakota.
A man by the name of Dave Archambault II is currently leading his tribe, a group of 9000 people of the Standing Rock Sioux. And with him and his people are various tribes from across North America to lend weight to their support. Energy Transfer Partners is a Dallas based natural gas and propane company that is currently constructing an oil pipeline that will travel south from Canada through North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. At one point said oil pipeline was supposed to travel under the Missouri River near the city of Bismark. It was pointed out by citizens that a crack in the pipe could cause health problems for citizens and so the pipe was moved to the Sioux reservation.
This article brought most of the facts of this case to my attention:
And these articles below can provide further information about the Civil Unrest that is happening:
And here below is a link to Change.org where you can sign your name to the petition to stop the pipeline and contribute funds to help protesters in that area.
As I said before, I do not like to engage in politics on this site, for White Tower Musings has always been first and foremost about the discussion of Literature, History, Art, Science, Cinema, and culture, but dear reader I am terribly bothered by the events in recent weeks because it feels as if my homeland is once again about to commit a grave error and repeat the mistakes of the past. The United State’s Original Sin as a nation is the legacy of it’s treatment of Native Americans. The word Genocide often accompanies this story, but that is only because it is accurate. What is at stake here is not an outright attempt to exterminate the life of Natives, but to perpetuate the treatment of these people as either subhuman, or worse, sub-citizens in a country that relentless preaches an identity of loyalty to the principles of liberty.
I don’t wish to burden the reader with lessons. That’s not what this call to attention is about. So I return to my establish method and look to my books for some sense of guidance and I find it in a small book. Great Speeches by Native Americans is a real treasure in my library, for searching through libraries and online book stores I can never find any collection to equal it. Reading the recorded speeches is a reminder that civilization and culture is relative, but every society produces brilliant men, and Chief Joseph, sometimes referred to as Young Joseph, is a shining example of what great minds should look like. His speech I Will Fight No More Forever is the one most assigned to students in American schools, but in my anthology right beside it is another speech An Indian’s Views of Indian Affairs and in that speech is a passage that echoes through the centuries since it’s recordings.
In a long but necessary quote Joseph reports to his people the political and philosophical state of the Indian:
Chief (General Butler) and many other law chiefs (Congressmen), and they all say they are my friends, and that I shall have justice, but while their mouths all talk right I do not understand why nothing is done for my people. I have heard talk and talk, but nothing is done. Good words do not last long unless they amount to something. Words do not pay for my dead people. They do not pay for my country, now overrun by white men. They do not protect my father’s grave. They do not pay for all my horses and cattle. Good words will not give me back my children. Good words will not make good the promise of your War Chief General Miles. Good words will not give my people good health and stop them from dying. Good words will not get my people a home where they can live in peace and take care of themselves. I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk. Too many misrepresentations have been made, too many misunderstandings have come up between the white men about the Indians. If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. You might as well expect the rivers to run backward as that any man who was born a free man should be contented when penned up and denied liberty to go where he pleases. If you tie a horse to a stake, do you expect he will grow fat? If you pen an Indian up on a small spot of earth, and compel him to stay there, he will not be contented, nor will he grow and prosper. I have asked some of the great white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They can not tell me.
I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated. If I can not go to my own home, let me have a home in some country where my people will not die so fast. I would like to go to Bitter Root Valley. There my people would be healthy; where they are now they are dying. Three have died since I left my camp to come to Washington.
When I think of our condition my heart is heavy. I see men of my race treated as outlaws and driven from country to country, shot down like animals.
I know that my race must change. We can not hold our own with the white men as we are. We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. If the Indian breaks the law, punish him by the law. If the white man breaks the law, punish him also. (164-5).
There’s nothing more to say. I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I admit with shame that this essay amounts to the support I can offer at this time. I am not a famous man, or a wealthy man, or even a great figure of influence, but I have this space and my voice, and that is what I can offer to the Sioux tribe who are currently battling for the principle that their existence and voice matters just as much as any other citizen of the United States. That is the essence and ideal of democracy, and what citizens should hope for in their country, not dogs and violence, but support and real justice.
The Washington Post Article Showdown over oil pipeline becomes a national movement for Native Americans ends with a quote by Chief Archambault and so it seems fit that he should have the last words
For Dave Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, the questions about what happens after Friday’s ruling are existential. Standing in his back yard, he smoked a cigarette and recited a list of treaties that his people made with the government that were broken whenever economic interests outweighed tribal rights.
“How do you eliminate a race?” he asked, letting the question hang in the air. “That’s what the government has been trying to do for 200 years. But we’re still here. We have maintained our culture. We’ve maintained our way of life. We’ve maintained our dignity. We’re still here.”