Reflections on next steps for the #NoDAPL movement
Supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe rally in opposition of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in front of the White House, | Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The #NoDAPL struggle moves forward, but some aspects of the current struggle need to be rethought at this point. To begin with the present slogan of #NoDAPL- Last Stand as a battle cry needs to be withdrawn. It is a defeatist slogan and can be very demoralizing. When I first saw it the word association that entered my mind was Custer’s Last Stand. We, of course all know, what happened to Custer. The implication is that we are headed to defeat.

A better war cry for #NoDAPL would be: “We will fight harder than ever”; or “We will defeat DAPL regardless of the costs”. Anything but the Last Stand.   Other Native people with whom I discussed this strongly felt the same.

Another mistake has been the efforts by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council to dismantle the Water Protector camps. This only encouraged Trump, the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal court system to take aggressive, negative measures against the #NoDAPL movement. The federal government without exception has never failed in its efforts to take action against Native American protesters holding a physical site when the numbers decrease.

Basic political and military strategy holds that opposition forces are never to be dispersed when the enemy is making an advance, an onslaught and especially when the opposition has been put on notice that this is imminent. We all knew that Trump was poised to take action against Native people with a vengeance — and he did.

Further, mass protests should continue at the site of the current pipeline drilling at Standing Rock. I fully realize this is a daunting task. But the pressure should be maintained at the battle site to demonstrate to the oil magnates and the banks and finance capital that the people’s resolve has not lessened.  This is the case even with the reverses in federal court at the hands of Judge Boasberg in refusing to issue, so far, any injunctive relief.

The protests should also be maintained nationwide. The week of February 12-17th had been designated as a week of action and such was done  with events taking place in Nashville and elsewhere. Nationally, there needs to be organized #NoDAPL committees in all the cities where support activities have been held.  There should be a New York, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles #NoDAPL, etc.  A #NoDAPL   committee is already in the works in Nashville.  It would be extremely helpful if such committees were in place before the massive Rise With Standing Rock Native Nations March in Washington DC  on  March 10, 2017. These committees could facilitate the transportation of marchers to this historic event. A bus is already being planned to transport marchers from Nashville.

This brings up another point.  There need to be freedom buses transporting demonstrators from all over the nation to stand in solidarity with the Water Protectors in North Dakota in the same manner that civil rights workers were sent to the South in the days when racist terror reigned unabated in that part of the country. Racist terror reigns in the Dakotas. However, unlike in the 1950’s and 60’s, the national government now in place encourages the abuse and brutalization of citizens of color. The current government now waves high the banner of racism.

The federal court system, as exemplified by Judge James Boasberg,  so far has been clearly on the side of DAPL.  Without going into agonizing detail the latest decision of this judge has been sheer gobbledegook. This jurist needs to be recused and another assigned to this case.  There is another motion for injunctive relief filed by the tribes that is set be heard before him on February 28. Before this hearing there should be massive forces at Standing Rock prepared for a confrontation, with the forces of repression, in their opposition to the efforts of DAPL to cross the Missouri River.

The only reason the Obama administration issued the December 4, denial of the easement to DAPL was because of the  massive presence of the veterans at Standing Rock and the threat, not just of violence, but violence on a massive scale. The veterans need to return on the same scale as they did in December. The court system responds to public pressure and that has to be exerted on a mass scale at Standing Rock before the February 28 hearing.

Looking at another example in terms of public pressure, Trump has been handed defeat after defeat by the legal system in his abortive travel ban. Tens of thousands have protested all over the nation and the federal courts have rebuffed Trump at every turn. Municipalities nationwide such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Minneapolis and dozens of other cities are exhorting the federal judge in this matter to continue blocking Trump’s travel ban. The courts are civic institutions that are responsive to the will of the people.

Conversely, at every turn in the #NoDAPL struggle Native Americans have been rebuffed at every turn by the so-called legal system. For this epic clash to be won — and it can be won — there have to be massive demonstrations across the country. There will have to also be more confrontations with the brutal, fascist, racist, Indian-hating North Dakota law forces.


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.