Learning From History: No Bloodshed This Time

Here’s how Darrell Dorgan described the events on North Dakota Highway 1806 south of Mandan this afternoon:

“140 years ago, the Sioux took down Custer and the 7th Cavalry. Today, the Sioux took down the North Dakota Highway Patrol. But this time, the Highway Patrol was smart enough to get the hell out of there before anybody got killed.”

I was having a nice quiet Friday, canning tomato juice, when Darrell called and said he was going to take some bottled water down to the protest camp on the Standing Rock Reservation, and would I like to come along? What the heck, a nice drive along the Missouri River on a summer afternoon sounded good to me.

We delivered the water to LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a tribal elder and historian, on whose land the camp was set up, after running the gauntlet of more than 40 law enforcement vehicles parked on both sides of Highway 1806 at the site of a tribal protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Tribal members are concerned about the giant oil transmission pipeline crossing the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation. Preliminary construction work is underway—roads being built from Highway 1806 to the shore of Lake Oahe along the route the pipeline will be buried.

We asked LaDonna what was happening at the protest site, about three miles from the campsite. She said tribal members are determined to stop the pipeline from being laid under the river. She said there were a bunch of people arrested Thursday, five more this morning, and there were probably going to be more this afternoon. She was expecting several hundred people to join the protest today.

So, apparently, were the law enforcement folks. LaDonna said there were 65 of them on site, protecting the construction workers and keeping the peace.

Well, Darrell and I are old newsmen. We once worked together on a story involving a strange fellow who had been shooting at airplanes he believed were carrying out surveillance over his rural residence down in Adams County, joining local police on a three-day stakeout before he finally surrendered. That was 41 years ago, in 1975. Darrell and I go back a ways. He was a reporter for KDIX TV in Dickinson, and I was a reporter for The Dickinson Press.

So as we drove back through the gauntlet on our way back to Bismarck, we decided to stop and check out the action.

We found some people we knew, got brought up to speed on what was happening, and all of a sudden the lady standing beside us said “They just uncovered human remains. C’mon, we’re going to jail.”

By this time there were indeed several hundred people gathered at an approach where the construction vehicles were entering the construction area. Word spread throughout the crowd and also the law enforcement contingent like wildfire.

The enraged tribal members were going to storm the iron gates where the construction was going on. The cops formed a line across the approach, elbow to elbow. Someone went in and warned the workers, and they began coming through the gates and leaving the site, in about half a dozen vehicles. Then a very large Indian man sat down in the middle of the approach as the last vehicle came through the gates, blocking its path. Officers approached him, and with some difficulty, they handcuffed him.  They tried to move him, but he was simply too big, so they let him sit there, directing the last pickup around him. It drove off the edge of the approach and got a little bit stuck, and its path was blocked for a time by the crowd.

By this time, the line of officers and the protesters were nose to nose. Indian drums were beating loudly, the crowd was chanting and doing war whoops, and a group of young men surged behind the officers and climbed onto the iron gates, rocking them until they collapsed. Another group of young men on horses rode through the gates first, then a large number of the protesters followed on foot.

It was all peaceful except for the gates coming down. Tribal members had called their historic preservation officer, who was on his way to examine the human remains. One protester quieted the crowd and said that an officer had accused the crowd of planting the bones there. The crowd roared.

And at that point, a couple of the officers quietly went over and took the handcuffs off the protester who was still sitting in the middle of the approach. One of the officers was heard to say “We’ve lost this one. Let’s go.” And most of the law enforcement officers headed for their vehicles. So did Darrell and I, content to let whatever news media was there tell us the rest of the story later.

That was our Friday afternoon. I’ve attached some photos to this report, although this blog is not really set up for photos. But I thought you might like to see a little bit of what we saw. It was quite something.

Police cars lined Highway 1806 Friday afrternoon
Police cars lined Highway 1806 Friday afternoon
Police lined up to keep protesters from the construction site.
Police lined up to keep protesters from the construction site.
Protester blocking the road
Protester blocking the road
Protesters tearing down the gates to the construction site.
Protesters tearing down the gates to the construction site.
The last construction vehicle didn't quite make it.
The last construction vehicle didn’t quite make it.
Irony: The logo on the side of the Highway Patrol vehicles.
Irony: The logo on the side of the Highway Patrol vehicles.

12 thoughts on “Learning From History: No Bloodshed This Time

    1. hiddenridgevz – There is virtually zero coverage of these items in the corporate mainstream press, they are far too distracted with Hillary v Trump. The barely covered the devastating flooding in Louisiana – I read about it in the Guardian (UK). Due to the perception of a lack of political clout, Native issues are routinely ignored by the press unless there is violence, or a major politician is involved.


  1. There isn’t anything right about how white people was to take whatever they want. Natives have a right to keep what belongs to them. It’s ironic when you think about it, in America you have the right to protect yourself and protect what belongs to you. That is why you have guns, so you can shoot and kill if somebody comes through you door with the intent to rob you blind. Yet the police who should be standing their protecting the Natives from being robbed. Yet that is not the case here. Please tell me, where is justice? They want to rob Natives of justice so they can steal what doesn’t belong to the white people. What a corrupt law that isn’t a law at all. Keep fighting the good fight my brothers in Christ Jesus!


  2. Thanks to everyone involved in this protest for bringing it to the attention of the public at large. If we are going to drive petroleum-consuming vehicles and fly in airplanes and use plastic created from petroleum, we all need to be fully aware that this oil is mined from the ground, spilled on the ground. No massacre of the land?
    Thank you to the Standing Rock protesters. You are brave. Thank you to law enforcement. You help keep peace. Thank you, Jim and Darrell, for bearing witness, for being eyes and ears to the world via the Internet.

    Here is what I could dig up on Dakota Access Pipeline, which was being protested: Plans call for it to be a 30-inch, 1,172 mile pipeline that will transport oil produced in the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas of North Dakota and transport it to Patoka, Ill. Go to http://www.energytransfer.com and look for an Aug. 2 press release that tells how $2 billion is changing hands for about 37% of the pipeline ownership.

    This is major money, folks, transportation of the Earth’s assets that should be done carefully and wisely — if at all. I hope the North Dakota media is keeping track of these oil pipeline and refinery news stories and asking our governor candidates about their positions on energy policies in North Dakota.


  3. Jim, I remember the farmer shooting at the airplanes. I think they had an armored vehicle at the farm and everything. Didn’t it take a few days for the situation to be resolved? Hope your current confrontation gets resolved soon. Take care.


  4. Great story and great photos. Glad that Dorgan picked you up. Certainly not much has changed over time. Since we Europeans arrived here, we continue to believe that we are just the greatest bastion of freedom that has ever existed. Not too far under the surface, you will find a lot of stuff like this. Injustice and usually for money and not much else.

    The pipeline deal was done long ago. Once the Corp was flipped, little else mattered and certainly not a bunch of whining Natives nor the bones of their ancestors. The law gets bent all to frequently because it gets in the way of “progress” or progress for somebody.

    Once again, the rights of Native Americans and a host of other groups just cannot stand in the way of “real politic”. Of course we have the right to object or protest. However the underlying reasons get shoved aside and no other real choices are available to the Lakota on Standing Rock. That is the political travesty. This dispute should have been resolved a long time ago but again, money talks.

    I hope they stay as long as it takes to get even a little justice. It is sad that our media is doing such a poor job of covering this. That in itself is an injustice. In reality, we have only the rights that we can defend and they are up against immense power and worse, our government is a big part of the problem.

    Too much of this crap has been occurring and it just goes on. Our ultimate rights here must come to bear. ELECTIONS That is the cure. Not the Courts. Not the Legislators as they obviously have chosen a side. A real political Revolution must take place. It truly is the ballot box.


  5. God be with these native people. Haven’t they lost enough??? We bring foreigners into this (once) great nation and give them almost everything, yet we take from the true citizens of this land!! I have an affinity for these people..heartbreaking. May the sun shine in THEIR favor..smh


  6. Nice coverage and photos. But the headline not so much. The Washita was a massacre. Sand Creek was a massacre. Custer thought to create another massacre on the Little Big Horn but the Cheyenne and Lakota warriors turned it into a battle.


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