In the fight to protect water, water protectors at Standing Rock were forcibly removed from camp grounds in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on February 23, 2017. Despite rumors, the Oceti Sakowin camp remained in prayer and unarmed as militarized vehicles, Humvees, and riot police, began to descend on camp early that morning.
Among those arrested were veterans, journalists, and elders including Regina Brave, a survivor of Wounded Knee II in 1973. These 47 warriors were run down, arrested, and carried off of treaty land during the raid on February 23, 2017. By 3 p.m. (CST), militarized trucks occupied camp grounds located directly on Fort Laramie Treaty Lands of 1851 and 1868.
While this movement has affected many Native American students on campus, it has also affected various alums including Jacob Lee of the Navajo Nation. “The whole situation really has me at a standstill,” said Lee, as he tries to understand the events leading up to February 23. “We [Indigenous people] have fought and won wars for America, we serve the most in armed services,” said Lee.
Prior to Thursday’s events, individuals began preparing for the removal of February 22 and begun setting fire to their sacred structures and homes. Water protectors have stated the reasons for doing so, are simple. In previous raids, government and military officials have desecrated sacred and spiritual items including eagle staffs, burial sites, and dwellings. The burning is symbolic and culturally appropriate as a way to send prayers to the Creator. It is a sign of respect.
After the six-hour removal, Morton County Sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeier, stated in a press release that no weapons were found in the Oceti Sakowin camp on February 23, 2017.
As a journalist, the Standing Rock movement sparked the attention of Lonnie Berry, Eastern New Mexico University communication student, who has also been conducting research on water resources in the Portales area. “The aquifer that supplies our needs actually starts in the Dakotas…it is important for any person to realize and respect where our water comes from,” said Berry.
Despite the multiple violation of treaties and first amendment rights, Indigenous people remain resilient, saying the fight to protect Unci Maka is far from over. This is just the beginning.