Local activist headed to North Dakota to join protest
POCATELLO — Local therapist Crete Brown plans to travel to the front lines on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation where Sioux and other Native Americans from 188 tribes have gathered to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I just have to go, morally, it’s the right thing to do,” Brown said. “I need to see that line of militarized police and earthmovers and I need to see how it makes me feel as a woman.”
Brown, who described herself as a life-long civil rights activist, is traveling to North Dakota along with two members of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
They plan to leave on Nov. 19 and return on Nov. 27.
Brown is also hosting an event Sunday to encourage others to support the protest, even if they can’t travel to North Dakota.
The event is from noon to 3 p.m. at the Heartland Wellness Center at 303 N. 12th Avenue in Pocatello.
“We hope that maybe we can get a caravan to go with us,” Brown said.
Supporters are also urged to contact their local political delegations and even the White House about the future of the pipeline.
Sunday’s gathering will include information about how to donate to the protest and will feature Native singers and a prayer service.
Brown said the Unitarian Universalists Association has also put out a call for members to support the movement in North Dakota.
She plans to live in a teepee while she’s there. And Brown said she’s well prepared for cold temperatures and high winds on the prairie.
“It will be uncomfortable, but it’s important. I feel a moral imperative to respond,” Brown said. “And I have insulated everything — I’m ready.”
Police at the front line have deployed a number of non-lethal weapons against the protesters, including rubber bullets, attack dogs, mace, noise bombs and fire hoses.
“The whole thing has shades of Martin Lutheran King Jr.,” Brown said. “People will probably end up dying in the struggle. I’m surprised that hasn’t already happened. There have also been a number of infiltrators that have attempted to incite violence.”
The protest in North Dakota is the largest gathering of Native Americans in about 150 years, and Brown said protecting the water has brought them together.
“Water is life,” Brown said. “Without it, we die.”
Brown has Native American lineage — her father grew up in a mission home on the Nez Perce reservation. But it was only through her own research that she learned about her father’s heritage.
“He was half Nez Perce. I thought he was an orphan, but he was actually ashamed to tell me that he was Native,” Brown said.
She said times have changed and young Native Americans view education as the key to improving conditions in Indian Country.
“They are highly motivated and they are bringing that knowledge back to help their people,” Brown said.
The Standing Rock Sioux have also taken their battle to the U.S. court system. The tribe sued federal regulators for approving the pipeline and challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits for DAPL.
Owned by the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would run within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. When completed it would carry about 450,000 gallons of crude oil from the oil fields in western North Dakota to Illinois.
Proponents of the pipeline claim the project will create about 8,000 jobs and boost local economies. But the Standing Rock Sioux said the pipeline poses an environmental threat, as well as a threat to human safety on the reservation and for users downstream.
The pipeline will cross beneath the Missouri River twice and over the Ogallala Aquifer.
The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest in the world and provides about 30 percent of the groundwater used for irrigation in the United States.
About 3,000 people are gathered on the confluence of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe states that the pipeline violates Article 2 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. This treaty guarantees that the tribe shall enjoy the “undisturbed use and occupation” of its permanent homeland, which is the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on the border of North and South Dakota.
The U.S. Constitution states that treaties are the supreme law of the land.
“But we all know that the U.S. government has never kept any of its treaties with Native Americans,” Brown said.
Since 1986, pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year or more, about three million gallons, or the equivalent of 200 barrels every day, according to the Center for Biodiversity.
This article was originally published in the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.