By Catherine Revland
In the beginning there was silence. Not a word in the corporate-controlled media about the “water protectors”, a group of Native Americans at the Standing Rock Reservation protesting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, to be dug under the Missouri River for transporting toxic crude oil from the Bakken oil fields. But Amy Goodman and her independent news network Democracy Now were there, documenting the protests.
Their numbers escalated after the company bulldozed a nearby burial ground, and indigenous people and their spiritual elders from all over the country traveled to North Dakota to join in solidarity with the Sioux. Alarmed, the governor sent in state troopers, and Dakota Access followed suit with private security and attack dogs. What happened next was recorded by Democracy Now, and it was ugly—close-ups of dogs with bloody jaws, aggressive handlers, women screaming, children running, men with “don’t shoot” hands in the air, tear gas grenades.
Democracy Now’s live stream went viral on Facebook, and the gathering at Standing Rock soon grew to 2,000, an historic coalition of 280 tribes and nations, followed by solidarity demonstrations around the world. President Obama responded to all the publicity by temporarily halting construction. The story also had become too big for mainstream media to ignore, but they mostly gave it a sinister twist: “Warning: video includes fleeting expletives”, read a disclosure on NPR’s website. Facebook blocked the video (“violates community standards”). The New York Times focused on nearby white landowners. “You get two thousand natives together—is it safe?” Other major sources followed suit, quoting the county sheriff: “Violent mobs with pipe bombs” (later identified as peace pipes) and company officials: “anti-energy protesters stampede onto private land, attack dogs.” Meanwhile, Governor Jack Dalrymple called on the Department of Justice to protect police from this “uprising” of “criminal Indians”.
Once the media had moved on, the reprisals began: an arrest warrant charging Amy Goodman with criminal trespassing, mass arrests of water protectors, and the usual actions of a government gone rogue—militarized police, barricaded roads, helicopters, drones. “I am so happy officials have stepped up the charges to be felonies”, wrote a Fargo Forum reader, “Great reporting.”
The story was now dead. No in-depth reporting about the real trespassers (white people on sovereign Indian land usurped long ago by treaty violation). Nothing in Obama’s tepid response about that sovereignty, or about environmental dangers, or climate change. No back story on Governor Dalrymple. Seeing as how WestView has become one of the rare venues for un-sanitized, independent journalism, here is that back-story:
When the state was a territory, run like a Third World country by the railroad/grain monopoly, the barons of the day hired the governor’s great-grandfather, Oliver Dalrymple, to promote the sale of millions of acres, which the government had awarded the railroad, by managing massive “bonanza” farms in the fertile Red River Valley. His project was a huge success, and after the territory became a state, powerful outside interests continued to run it for their own profit.
Then something incredible happened, nothing short of a democratic revolution. A hundred years ago this month, the citizens voted in candidates who passed laws that were in the interest of the electorate. Imagine! And they are still on the books today. One of these laws prevents the ownership of land by agribusiness, protecting the family-owned farm, which so annoyed the current proprietors of the state that this year they spent a ton of money campaigning for an initiative to overturn it. The oligarchs lost. By 70 percent. In one of the most conservative states in the nation. A little sweetness for these bitter times.