Saturday, November 26, 2016

Standing Rock: The Ghost of Tatanka

Standing Rock: The Ghost of Tatanka

Not surprisingly, District Commander John W. Henderson of the U. S.  Army Corp of Engineers announced yesterday the transplanting of protestors from their present location in the Dakota Pipeline standoff to another site “for their own safety” by December 5th.

"I am closing the portion of the Corps-managed federal property north of the Cannonball River to all public use and access effective December 5, 2016.

"This decision is necessary to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions."

Those remaining will be charged with trespassing and possibly prosecuted.

As you may already know, December 15th will be the anniversary of the assassination of Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock reservation just over 125 years ago.  Having refused to bring his followers into the designated Sioux reservation, the holy man and leader fought and destroyed General Custer’s  U.S. 7th Cavalry along the hills of the Little Bighorn in 1875. 

By 1883 he was forced into entering the reservation for his people’s safety and his own well-being. 

By that time, Standing Rock and other sites were greatly influenced by the spread of a spiritual movement  - a “round” or Ghost dance created by exasperated Native Americans which prophesied a hopeful return to a peaceful life without further white expansion.

Concerned for his still puissant influences, Indian Agent John McLaughlin had Sitting Bull arrested early on the morning of December 15, 1890; however, someone in the group of arresting agents or chief’s companions fired a shot.  In the altercation, Sitting Bull fell with gunshots to the head and chest.  The great Sioux leader Tatanka Iyotake was dead.

District Commander John W. Henderson has decided to select a new and more safe “free-speech” zone for the protestors whose numbers on NPR radio have been reported fluctuating between 3000 – 5000 people despite inclement weather.  The protestors and the Sioux at Standing Rock have maintained their vigil in protest against the disturbance of sacred lands and also the threat to the drinking water of the tribes and the thousands of peoples downstream if the Missouri is polluted by a pipeline malfunction.

There have been several calls over the years to create a holiday on December 15th in honor of not only Sitting Bull but also the great injustices forced upon Native Americans in the expansion of the United States westward.  The New York Times posited the question in 1990 for the 100th anniversary of Tatanks’s murder, and Facebook petitions are still active throughout the internet. 

In response to Henderson’s warning, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's chairman, Dave Archambault II responded:

"It is both unfortunate and ironic that this announcement comes the day after this country celebrates Thanksgiving – a historic exchange of goodwill between Native Americans and the first immigrants from Europe. Although the news is saddening, it is not at all surprising given the last 500 years of the treatment of our people. We have suffered much, but we still have hope that the President will act on his commitment to close the chapter of broken promises to our people and especially our children."

President Obama had earlier forced a temporary halt to the development of the pipeline until all other avenues could be entertained.  While the President alluded to the possibility of an alternate route in early November, these latest warnings by District Commander Henderson point to something else altogether.

The sculpted image of the Sitting Bull Memorial overlooks the Missouri at Standing Rock near Mobridge.   According to the Mobridge Area Chamber,  “The tragedy of Sitting Bull’s) death has been compounded by the story of his remains. In 1953, one of Sitting Bull's descendants by marriage, Clarence Grey Eagle (the son of one of the Indian police who arrested Sitting Bull), and a group of businessmen from Mobridge obtained an opinion from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the descendants of Sitting Bull should determine his final burial site. On April 8 of that year, the group used the BIA letter as justification the clandestine relocation of the great chief's remains to a site in the southern portion of the Standing Rock Reservation that overlooks the Missouri River near Mobridge."

After the President's call for the cessation of pipeline development, President Obama had alluded to the possibility of an alternate route in early November.  He had indicated that the Corp of Army Engineers were considering other sites.  However, these latest warnings by District Commander Henderson point to something else altogether.

If you are planning to attend the demonstration - especially as we move into December - you are advised to bring an excellent tent, a very suitable sleeping bag, and your own food/cooking supplies.  If you'd like to get involved?

Donations can be made directly to the tribe and the ongoing protest at
 All donations will be used for legal, sanitary, and emergency purposes.

A short video is also available at Indian Country Media Network regarding the months-long battle.

If you call the Whitehouse at 202-456-1111 to urge President Obama to maintain the halt to shale oil transfer across sacred land and water resources, you may find the number unavailable or closed.

If so - you may email the President at the following site:
Write or Call the White House |

My personal letter follows.

Dear President Obama,

Thank you for taking a  moment in your busy schedule to attend to my request.

Mr. President, I would ask you to do something that has not been done for over 200 years in America: protect our indigenous peoples from the encroachment and destruction of their sacred lands and rights by those vocalizing progress as an excuse for taking and desecrating.  The Energy Partnerships in Dakota are preparing for what may become a violent showdown between people and supporters and armed security units who have already used water-cannons and possibly chemicals from crop dusting planes.  As you may already know, the legendary leader and spiritual ancestor of the Sioux and other tribes, Sitting Bull, was assassinated at Standing Rock in 1890 after an Indian Agent ordered his arrest.  

Is it possible that in the name of this great Native American leader who died on September 15th, you can find an opportunity to prevent bloodshed at the very least?  Or to find an alternate route away from sacred land and water at the most? 

These are a people who have suffered the Trail of Tears, the loss of the Black Hills, the unspeakable incidents like Wounded Knee.  To do little or nothing is not an option for me; thus, my letter.

I wish you well and urge you to please take action.

As a sincere and concerned citizen of the United States,

John Dillon

1 comment:

  1. And…..Westley Clark, a four-star General, has a son by the same name only a junior. Westley Clark Jr has summoned all available veterans to head for Standing Rock to be with the indigenous people from Dec. 4-7th . So far, I’ve read that he has 1,000 veterans who want to stand for the indigenous people’s rights to their land and to protect the water!

    Google: Veterans Stand for Standing Rock……….and you can read about it.

    I also know that there are groups from all over the country from the organization who are also leaving for S. Dakota soon.

    There are also other groups who are going there, but can’t recall who they are associated with!! This is probably making the hired corporate protectors (security) very nervous, because having at least 1,000 veterans is nothing to sneeze at!

    This stealing of land and the threat of poisoning the water is so maddening!! How many rivers, springs, lands can big oil poison before there is no clear water around anymore????

    “ Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money”!