APTN National News
US President Donald Trump is escalating what is already a low level oil war in the heartland of America, says grassroots leader Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Iron Eyes, a former Congressional candidate who is now organizing a new round of opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, says the area around what was known as the Oceti Sakowin camp, is completely militarized at the moment.
“There are drones flying 24-7, there are helicopters circling, aircraft, illegal searches, seizures and surveillance happening right now,” said Iron Eyes, in an interview with APTN’s Nation to Nation program set to air Thursday evening. “There is a low level conflict zone. An oil war is happening in the heartland of America right now.”
Trump on Tuesday issued a presidential directive to complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline which was stopped in December after the Army Corps of Engineers denied the entity behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners, the easement to burrow the pipeline beneath Lake Oahe, from where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe draws its water.
Iron Eyes said Trump’s election and subsequent actions have hastened the end game. He said it is time to take a final stand.
“We, who are on the ground, have determined we don’t have the time, we don’t have the luxury to inaugurate another president. The corporate state has taken over our representative democracy here in America. Not only is Trump a threat to Native nations, as far as terminating the federal relationship we have, the treaty relationship we have, but America’s Constitutional rights are at stake,” he said.
And the battle lines, he said, cross the “Medicine Line” north into Canada.
“We are facing tyranny, we are facing a fascist state, we are willing to put our lives, our liberty; indeed people have put their limbs on the line. We are ready to make a stand. An unarmed, non-violent stand for a peaceful revolution. We have to understand that peace is not passive in any sense of the word,” he said. “We are going to have to stand up, we don’t have a choice, that’s south of the Medicine Line, that is up in First Nations territory with Kinder Morgan and other pipelines coming down. We’ll all have to stand up. The world is waiting for us to do that, the world will respond because we have a spiritual dignity and a connection we’ve kept alive to the water…and the sacred beings of this universe.”
Iron Eyes is still helping run what remains of the anti-pipeline camp which sits on Sioux treaty territory and is just to the north of the Standing Rock reservation boundary. He said there are about 500 people remaining at the camp, which once numbered in the thousands.
The Standing Rock Tribal Council has requested the camp clear out because its continued presence helps justify a heavily armed police barricade of Hwy 1806, which is a direct route from the reservation to Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. The blockade on the highway has added roughly 20 to 30 minutes of travel time between the reservation and the state capital city which provides customers to the tribe’s casino.
“It’s a thorny issue and it harkens back to a time when First Nations had their economies deliberately destroyed so the colonial force could create a state of dependence—he who feeds you has the power to starve you,” said Iron Eyes. “Now they are putting up road blocks which function as de facto economic sanctions, it’s really cutting off all economic flow and revenue that is coming into the tribal nation’s casino…. They have created an economic sanction and now the local people, my Native nation, is resenting the presence of the people they invited.”
Iron Eyes said it remains unclear how long they can hold out with both the tribe and federal authorities aiming to oust them from the area.
“According to our treaties, and our inherent authority, we have a right to be on that unceded territory, and now we have to make a determination of whether or not we have the numbers to make that fight,” he said.