Black Snake Down: Voices from Standing Rock

(image: Michael Nigro)
It was the day before the deadline set by the Army Corps of Engineers for the people here to vacate.

An estimated 10 thousand people, including approximately 2,000 Veterans who were prepared to act as human shields against any state aggression were hunkering down under the watchful eyes of the various police agencies assembled high on the hill just past the 1806 bridge. As the state had already displayed a wiliness to employ a level of brutality not seen since the civil rights era water cannons—in sub-zero temperatures no less—a PTSD-fueled adrenaline was growing thick in the air.

And then, the surprise announcement came down that DAPL was dead—for now.

First Nations people are familiar with broken promises and far far worse, and also possess the knowledge that Donald Trump will soon be the President, so this victory was embraced with caution and the knowledge that the battle is certainly not over.

The following interviews were taken before and immediately after the surprise announcement on December 4, 2016—and capture the spirit of that very special day.   -Dennis


Remi, of the Navajo Nation, is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He has been at camp for over 5 months.

He told me that he objects when people thank him for his military service. “Service is what you get when you bring a car to a mechanic,” he told me. “I was used in the military to secure natural resources for corporations overseas—and now it’s here. And so, I take issue when someone says ‘thank you for your service’.

About the militarized police forces who have utilized brutalized water protectors, Remi says “Colonial violence has not ended. We currently have 100-140 million—Indigenous people—who are not here anymore … What does genocide look like?”

Tarak Kauff-

“We (non-Indigenous people) are all part of that genocide that happened. And we need to make up for that.You know I am a member of Veterans for Peace and We have a commitment to stop war, all wars. And this war has been going on for 500 years—and it’s a genocidal war. This pipeline is part of that war. This is warfare right here in America.”

Lance King-

“A Soldier takes orders, and a Warrior chooses to do the right thing for the health and goodness of the people.”

Dandelion Cloverdale-

“Before colonization happened we (2 spirited people) held powerful positions in our communities. Through assimilation a lot of two-spirit people we removed from our indigenous communities, but we are reclaiming our space in the sacred circle.”

Tokata Iron Eyes-

Tokata- all of 14 years old—was part of a youth movement that inspired the Sacred Stone Camp. Only moments after the announcement, she was already planning the next steps.“We are going to tell the banks (that fund the pipeline) that they have to pull out their money,” she told me. “They are funding people to get shot at with rubber bullets; they are funding people to get maced—and sprayed with a fireman hose. They are paying for people to get hurt. People need to realize that that is what they are putting their money into.”

Tara Houske- 

“We are not sacrifice zones. This is a stand for treaty rights… We know that the next administration is coming in, and we have to stay strong—but as it stands right now with these players today, we won.”