A pole that sat near the banks of the Cannonball River in North Dakota and was at the epicentre of the battle between water protectors, and the government approved Dakota Access pipeline is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
The 3-metre tall mile-marker stood as a symbol of how people had come from near and far to demonstrate against the pipeline.
On January 29, as law enforcement and government continued to threaten to clear out the main camp, the marker was strapped to the top of a car and driven by a group of water protectors from North Dakota to Washington.
“It was important to get the mile marker pole out of the camp so that it would not be destroyed by DAPL bulldozers” said Bryanna Patinka.
Patinka, who is from upstate New York, was one of those who drove the marker to Washington D.C. to hand over to the Smithsonian Institute.
“We wanted to make sure that it was preserved for future generations.”
Konwenni Jacobs was also worried about the marker.
“The rumours about the camp being raided were floating around and I believe the museum showed an interest in having the mile marker pole to preserve it for the future,” she said.
Jacobs, drove from her home in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, and met the rest of the pole removal crew in Onondaga.
From there, they drove straight to Standing Rock, rotating drivers.
“It took hours to dig the pole out of the frozen ground,” she said. “A cradle was made to support the pole on top of the truck. The pole was wrapped up good for the drive and we again drove straight to DC.
“It was a very intense, fast paced trip.”
The pole was installed installed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in an exhibit called Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.
Patinka said the drive to D.C was “nerve-wracking” worried that it would fall off the top of the vehicle it was tied too.
“When we dropped off the pole it was bittersweet,” she said. “I was happy the pole was being preserved but worried that it would never be displayed.
“I’m pleased that the marking pole is being taken care of and is now part of an exhibit.
According to Kevin Grover, director of the museum, there were issues at hand in North Dakota that couldn’t be ignored.
“When more than 12,000 activists and hundreds of Native Nations assembled in North Dakota during 2016 to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, treaties were at the heart of the issue” Grover said in a news release.
“As the largest gathering of Native Americans in protest, it was truly a historic event and one that should be address in the National Museum of the American Indian.”
The museum acknowledged that hundreds of hand-made signs nailed to the post point toward the water protector’s city, state, American Indian Nation, or foreign country and indicate its distance in miles or meters.
Points of origin include the small city of Fort Buffalo 50 yards away, the closest, to Sápmi in the Arctic, home of the Sami indigenous peoples, 3,913 miles away.”
The mile-marker will be on view until the exhibition closes in 2021.
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