With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Thursday, October 6, 2016


I'm driving down to Cannonball from Bismarck this morning, looking to evade the National Guard's roadblocks (it's really not that hard to do) and meet friends at the Standing Rock encampment by noon.

The thing about Bismarck, which sits on the banks of the Missouri River, is that it was the original planned site for the Dakota Access pipeline. But loud protests by the city's 92%-white citizens, rightfully worried about an inevitable leak polluting their water supply, forced the Dallas-based pipeline company and the Army Corps of Engineers to divert the pipeline south through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Talk about your white-skin privilege.

Bismarck is the second largest city (67,000) in ND after Fargo and the 10th fastest growing in the U.S. But more interesting to me is that the encampment at Standing Rock, built in a valley on federal land near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers. is now one of the biggest, newest communities in North Dakota, with a population at times swelling to 4,000. Only 25 of North Dakota's 357 towns have more than 2,000 people.

The LSNA student delegation, riding in two rented vans, will be leaving Chicago this afternoon. It's a long ride, about 13 hours, and I'm hoping their trip is without incident and they arrive in camp tomorrow at least somewhat rested and in time to set up their tents before nightfall. Should be quite an adventure. This will be the first time camping for many of them.

Strong winds are gusting across the Great Plains this time of year and temperatures at night are dipping into the low 30s. These winds make Chicago's hawk off of Lake Michigan, seem like a gentle breeze. If you're coming this way, better wear layers and hammer those tent pegs deep in the ground.

I'm going to look for a group campsite near the tree line to try and keep everyone from being blown away.

On the legal front... The should be a ruling today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, on the appeal by Standing Rock Sioux's lawyers, calling for temporary restraining order against the pipeline's construction.

A federal judge denied the tribe's request to temporarily halt construction of the pipeline last month, but the Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and Department of the Interior intervened in an unprecedented manner with a joint statement requesting "that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe."

Tribal leaders viewed the joint statement from the three federal agencies as a temporary victory, but still appealed the judge's ruling in order to make the request for a "voluntary pause" an enforceable court order, bringing them back to court yesterday.

A positive ruling by the court would be a big victory and morale booster for the encampment's protectors of the water.

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