The Standing Rock tribe is not threatening anyone so much as trying to hold their ground and ask for redress. They have a right to be heard. They deserve a fair and just hearing. They should not be ignored any more than the occupiers of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. A major difference is that the Standing Rock tribe is not an occupier. It’s the government in support of oil companies that are.
I support the Standing Rock nation their struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline in a way I could never support the armed takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. While the views of the tribe and the view of the Bundys/patriots are at different ends of the spectrum, they both wish to attract the media and raise the voices beyond the reservation to order to find redress for their grievances.
I feel my responsibility as a citizen is to hear their grievances and try to learn something from them. My civil duty is to consider the Black Lives Matter Movement for I am a white man who enjoys the privilege of not being profiled by the police every time I go out on the street—at least as long as I don’t grow out my hair. If I don’t give these things serious consideration, I cannot contribute lend my voice to vital democracy. I would likely be a following a party line.
The world’s most powerful democracy owes it to the world to educate its voters and inform the public. Voices in dissent are what keep our democracy resilient. Yes, the process, like anything living, is sometimes messy and unpredictable –yet we trust in it enough for the peaceful transition of power that is necessary in keeping it alive. I am a white man who grew up in the West, someone who was changed by dissent in the 1960s. I was not radicalized so much as humanized. I understood then the anger of Black Power and Students of a Democratic Society, followed its expression in political action to bring about change. I did not always agree with the action, but I understood where the anger came from. This would make me a sympathizer of almost everyone. I personally reject expressions in veiled threats and armed violence as nihilistic, just as I respect those who put themselves on the front lines so their voices will be heard on behalf of a community or liberty that is being denied by government and big business. Native Americans, chaining themselves to a bulldozer and lining up, hand in hand, singing traditional songs, to stop their sacred lands from being violated, is not the same to me as an armed occupation of some symbolic federal headquarters then destroying Native American artifacts, intimidating government workers, breaking into filing cabinets, causing two million dollars of damage. Protests by Native Americans in North Dakota costs the other side money and delays, but how you choose to cost them says something about your character, maybe even your creativity.
With all these many actions of late, I am inclined to give all the land back to native tribes. They would better manage the land than various interests over the last three hundred years. When the Bundy protestors call for the land to be returned to its original owners, they are advocating, as far as I’m concerned, to return it to the Northern Paiute. I’m okay with that.