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My Facebook feed is rolling from new feeds from those headed to North Dakota to join those protecting drinking water for the people of Standing Rock and Cheyenne River. Other folks are fundraising using a variety of social media tools. And, still more people are shipping food and supplies to the hundreds camped near the site.
That is the essence of political organizing.
This is Trahant Reports.
There is a problem, seemingly intractable, because the Dakota Access Project has opted for a route that crosses the Missouri River in a location that threatens the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (and eventually the Cheyenne River Tribe).
So the tribes and supporters are organizing on multiple fronts. Litigation, set to begin August 24th, will challenge the role of federal regulators. And in the court of public opinion, hundreds of people are bringing the dispute into the new living room of America (that’s Facebook) where the story is often trending for all to see.
The magnitude of the organization is impressive. All it takes is a phone call, a Facebook post, or a picture on Instagram, and there is somebody ready to act. It’s the exact sort of passion that wins elections.
What’s interesting about this moment in time is that so many Native American candidates are on the ballot in North Dakota and South Dakota. The same organizational tools that bring food must also be configured to win an election.
Imagine Chase Iron Eyes in Congress who is selling t-shirts to fund his campaign.
Or specifically on this issue: Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, Standing Rock Sioux, is running for North Dakota’s Public Service Commission and Henry Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota, is a candidate for South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission. These are the state regulatory bodies that determine approval process for pipeline companies. One vote in each state might not be enough to change the outcome, but even a single voice on those commissions could raise tribal concerns every time the issue comes up.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission says the decision has already been made. Perhaps. The strategy for the Dakota Access Pipeline has been all about getting a quick approval. But if the protests and litigation slow that down, that might cause the company to rethink its route. Especially if they are looking at delays measured in years not months.
Back to politics: How many votes are needed to elect Hunte-Beaubrun? She would need to find 70,000 more votes than the last Democrat who ran for that office. And Red Cloud would need about 100,000 more votes.
Tall orders? Sure. But it’s no different than organizing food, transportation, and lodging for hundreds of last-minute guests.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.
Trahant Reports is brought to you by Kauffman & Associates, Inc., a Native American owned, woman-owned small business that has delivered innovative .solutions for government and commercial clients since 1990. KAI’s expertise spans diverse specialty areas, including public health, education, and economic development
A Native American journalist is arrested while covering Standing Rock.
This is Trahant Reports.
There is an idea in law enforcement called the “thin blue line.” It basically means that police work together. A call goes out from Morton County and, right or wrong, law enforcement from around the country provides back up.
You would think journalism would be like that, too.
When one journalist is threatened, we all are. We cannot do our jobs when we worry about being injured or worse. And when a journalist is arrested? Well, everyone who claims the First Amendment as a framework should object loudly.
Last Wednesday Jenni Monet was arrested near Cannonball, North Dakota. She was interviewing water protectors who were setting up a new camp near the Dakota Access Pipeline route on treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation. Law enforcement from Morton County surrounded the camp and captured everyone within the circle. A press release from the sheriff’s Department puts it this way: “Approximately 76 members of a rogue group of protestors were arrested.” Most were charged with criminal trespassing and inciting a riot.
As was Jenni Monet.
She is facing serious charges and the judicial process will go forward. The truth will come out.
But this story is about the failure of journalism institutions.
The Native press and the institutions that carry her work had Monet’s back. That includes Indian Country Media Network, Yes! Magazine, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The Lost Angeles Times has now weighed in with its own story written by Sandy Tolan who’s done some great reporting from Standing Rock.
But in North Dakota you would not know this arrest happened. The press is silent.
After her release from jail, Monet wrote for Indian Country Media Network, “When Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman was charged with the same allegations I now face—criminal trespassing and rioting—her message to the world embraced the First Amendment. ‘There’s a reason why journalism is explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution,’ she said before a crowd gathered in front of the Morton County courthouse. “Because we’re supposed to be the check and balance on power.”
The funny thing is that journalism institutions were not quick to embrace Goodman either. I have talked to many journalists who see her as an “other” because she practices a different kind of journalism than they do.
Monet’s brand of journalism is rooted in facts and good reporting. She talks to everyone on all sides of the story, including the Morton County Sheriff and North Dakota’s new governor. She also has street cred … and knows how to tell a story.
So if we ever need journalism institutions to rally, it’s now. It’s not Jenni Monet who will be on trial. It’s the First Amendment. Journalism is not a crime. I am Mark Trahant.
There is a disconnect between the perception of the dispute at Standing Rock and the reality of the moment. It starts a few miles south of Mandan, North Dakota.
This is Trahant Reports.
A cement barricade and a handful of police divert traffic, so that people have to take a slightly slower route to camps near the Missouri River. Not that it stops anyone. It’s silly. And more than anything else it displays a deep sense of ignorance.
It’s that ignorance that is systemic. There is a profound regional misunderstanding about so many things. And it’s exactly why, in an election year, every politician running for office (or even those in office) ought to take a few hours, drive around the barricade and take time to listen.
What will they see and hear?
The first thing is a remarkable organization. It’s very much like any powwow weekend in America — except more so. There are checkpoints (no alcohol, no drugs, no weapons) and a food operation that is extraordinarily complex, managing the increasing shipment of donations to the menu of the day. Everyone is fed. And the trash is about as organized as you can get: Cans for cigarette butts, recycling bins, and garbage bags. When people forget to separate their plastic – we are dealing with humans after all – there are regular reminders and more people to help.
Politicians would hear speeches, songs, and prayers, one after another. People standing, listening, laughing, nodding, and being inspired. They’d also see many symbols of patriotism: From flags to recurring honors for veterans.
But the most important lesson for any politician who drops by would be this: A clear message of resolve. There is a serious purpose for the people here, one that’s not going to go away without a successful resolution. There are so many avenues for that to happen: A favorable court ruling based on the Treaty or other actions, or more important, the court of public opinion.
So far nearly all of the North Dakota politicians who have been on site are from Indian Country.
Chase Iron Eyes, Ruth Buffalo, Henry Red Cloud and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun.
The idea that politicians should visit now is especially important. There was a violent clash over Labor Day weekend between private security for the pipeline and the people from the camp. The potential of a misunderstanding is dangerous.
Federal, state, and local politicians could learn a lot by visiting. Perhaps they have not been able to get past their own silly roadblock.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.
Trahant Reports is brought to you by Kauffman & Associates, Inc., a Native American owned, woman-owned small business that has delivered innovative solutions for government and commercial clients since 1990. KAI’s expertise spans diverse specialty areas, including public health, education, and economic development.
Menominee Nation files federal lawsuit over Back Forty Mine project
Deputy will not face charges in shooting death of Bad River teenager
Leader of Native organization advocates for diabetes program renewal
Red Fawn Fallis enters plea agreement for actions at Standing Rock
Task force releases findings on Whiteclay months after closure of liquor stores
Attorneys for Red Fawn say they’ve entered a plea in her Standing Rock case
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to examine agribusiness and tribes
Meeting on Standing Rock reservation addresses missing and murdered Native women
Extreme cold weather continues to hit reservation communities on the Northern Plains
Navajo Nation and University of New Mexico officially announce housing partnership
Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Stephanie Chasez
President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on tax reform in the Grand Foyer at the White House, Wednesday, December 13, 2017, in Washington, D.C. , announcing that Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate have agreed on a deal on Tax Reform legislation.
The year 2017 has been, well, let’s just say interesting.
This is Trahant Reports.
We saw the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president. That meant the immediate rollback of Obama era regulations on everything from the climate to public health.
Indian Country is very much in the thick of this debate.
One of the president’s first acts was to reverse the Obama administration demand for an environmental impact statement at Standing Rock. No time for such niceties. Drill, baby, drill! It wasn’t long before oil was flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline. But if President Trump and his oil company allies thought that was the end of the debate … they are sorely mistaken. It’s a long battle over energy, the climate, and the nation’s priorities.
The president and his Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke wasted no time in going after National Monuments such as Bear’s Ears in southern Utah. The administration supposedly “studied” the issue but the results were known long before the investigation began. These monuments were to be made smaller (opening up more potential oil and gas development).
The Trump administration is dealing with the impacts of climate change every day: Massive storms in Alaska; fires in California; and, hurricanes on the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans. But instead of coming up with a plan, the Trump government said it would withdraw from the international framework on climate change.
Speaking of priorities, the Congress took on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But even that framework was misleading. Because the idea was bigger: It was to turn Medicaid into a block grant program for the states. That would cut millions of people off insurance rolls — and make it that much harder for the Indian Health Service to serve patients.
But here’s the thing: An interesting coalition was built that included Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John McCain of Arizona. Plus Democrats. So the revamping of health care did not happen.
At least in theory. Since then all Republicans have come together to agree on their favorite cause, tax cuts. This legislation was, as promised, signed into law before Christmas. The legislation sharply drops the tax bill for corporations – and the very wealthy. There are a few breaks for the rest of us, except they are tiny and don’t last very long.
And the new tax law means there will be less money going into the federal treasury. The deficit will climb. Big time. And guess what Congress will do to fix that? Cut domestic programs – such as those that serve American Indians and Alaska Natives.
So if you think 2017 was an interesting year. Get ready for 2018. It promises to be even more chaotic.
I am Mark Trahant.
Monday, December 18, 2017 — The enduring apocalypse theme
The end of the world as we know it is a popular topic for filmmakers, writers and artists. Current real life events are also fueling apocalyptic discussions. In recent years the scientists and others who control the Doomsday Clock moved the perceived threat to its highest level since the mid-80s. Indigenous people have their own prophesies and signs of the end. They also have unique histories of resilience in the face of colonization, disease, war and foreign invasion. We’ll take on the End of Times from a Native perspective.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 — Shifting gender discussions
“She,” “he,” “zhe” or “they”? Gender fluidity, transgender, cisgender, non-binary, genderqueer? Just keeping up with the preferred words to talk about someone’s gender is increasingly complicated. In Native America those descriptions are sometimes put into one term: “two-spirit.” We’ll talk about how awareness of gender fluidity is changing for Native Americans and everyone else. We are also asking how those with less-defined gender identity are finding ways to fit in.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017 – Pebble Mine: The Alaska Water Wars
Once nearly dead, the proposal to build a massive open-pit copper and gold mine on pristine wetlands in southwest Alaska is gaining new momentum. The Trump Administration is more favorable to the Pebble Mine project and the company pitching it is promising it will be smaller and more environmentally responsible. Some Alaska Natives representing villages closer to the proposed mine site say it offers much-needed jobs. But resistance against the mine remains strong, especially near the commercial fishing hub of Dillingham. Opponents say just building the mine would damage critical salmon spawning habitat and an accident could be disastrous to the billion dollar fishing industry. We’ll talk with representatives from both sides and hear from a reporter who just completed a five-part series weighing the threat to the environment and Indigenous cultures with the promise of economic benefit.
Thursday, December 21, 2017 – Radio’s next act: Native podcasts
Standing Rock, Native media, and even Indigenous food are some of the topics that a rising crop of Native podcasts tackle. The approaches range from serious and analytical to funny and personal. Media experts say audio podcasts can help bring marginalized issues to light by cutting out the gatekeepers between producers and the audience. At its most basic, all it takes to start is a microphone and something to record on. Edison Research finds about 40 percent of the population has listened to a podcast at least once. Are you one of them? What are your favorite podcasts?
Friday, December 22, 2017 — The new Native TV characters
The Netflix show, “Longmire,” has come to an end. The modern Western police drama broached several Native issues including the Violence Against Women Act, tribal jurisdiction and adoption of Native children by non-Native families. We’ll discuss the show’s triumphs and failures and also hear about some other promising projects that Native screenwriters and actors are bringing to the small screen.
Monday, November 27, 2017 – Health and wellness the Indigenous way
A converted school bus that helps steer Navajo kids away from sugary drinks. A health advocate fights the food desert, one package of healthy food at a time. Native tradition helps an urban population switch to healthier eating habits. Those are some of the scenarios we learn about in the National Native News series, Health and Wellness: the Indigenous way. Producer Antonia Gonzales worked in conjunction with New Mexico In Focus for the series of reports about what is healthy and what are some of the obstacles for getting there.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 – Your turn: enduring Standing Rock memories
“Standing Rock.” “Water Protectors.” “Water is Life.” They are among the words and phrases that are permanently linked to a moment in time. The memories of those who were there paint a picture of what remains an important series of events for Native people. Some prepared food for others at the camps. some found themselves injured from encounters with police. Still others have yet to learn the outcome of criminal charges against them. We’ll hear some of the firsthand accounts from Standing Rock.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017 — Coping with high school stress
Grades, personal relationships, finding a date for prom. Those are among the triggers for student stress. Some of the causes for stress may seem trivial to adults, but a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association finds stress can take a toll on teens’ healthy eating habits, sleep and school performance. We’ll explore the causes and potential solutions for stress in school. Coping with stress may be one way to improve Native students’ chances for reaching graduation.
Thursday, November 30, 2017 – Music Maker: The Snake Oil Salesmen
The Snake Oil Salesmen have blended rock and folk with a touch of twang since 2011. They like to call themselves musical healers and honest storytellers. Our musical spotlight for November comes after the release of their new album, “Dead and Breathing.” We’ll dive into the tunes the band says are meant to bridge the gap between fireside tales, kitchen parties and the world of rock and roll.
Friday, December 1, 2017 — Sound Off: Disrespect at the White House
Monday’s event honoring Native American Code Talkers should have been a solemn occasion to honor the heroic efforts of Native veterans. It was also a chance for President Trump to send a message of inclusiveness and respect to Native nations. Instead, with one word, the president managed to unite Native leaders, organizations and citizens against him. What can Trump do now to make amends to veterans and others he offended? Does anyone expect him to do it?