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.
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