Cody Schultz: Tribal Leadership Must Condemn Violence From Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters


Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II greets the Dakota Access Pipeline opponents Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, who are camped north of Cannon Ball, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Regarding the Dakota Access pipeline protest, I think it is important to point out a couple of things.

First, there has recently been what I would describe as a complete failure of leadership by Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II.

On August 31 protesters affixed themselves to machinery and created such public safety problems that Highway 6 south of Mandan had to be closed for a period of time. On September 3 a group of protesters, estimated to be a few hundred people, became violent.

They stampeded into a construction area with horses, dogs and vehicles. Protesters physically assaulted private security officers hired by Dakota Access Pipeline. The security officers were hit and jabbed with fence posts and flag poles. Yet there has been no public statement from the Chairman condemning this dangerous and unlawful activity.

Chairman Archambault must publicly and forcefully disavow any unlawful activity and use all of his authority – legal and otherwise – to expel the element or individuals who are not invested in protesting peacefully and legally.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Chairman Archambault must publicly and forcefully disavow any unlawful activity and use all of his authority – legal and otherwise – to expel the element or individuals who are not invested in protesting peacefully and legally. [/mks_pullquote]

The Chairman made a public plea inviting people from all around the country to join the protests, therefore he has a moral responsibility to disavow and expel anyone that accepted his invitation and are now acting unlawfully.

I’ve used the analogy that if I ask ten people over to help work on my house and two of them go into my neighbor’s yard and assault him and vandalize his house, I have a moral obligation to not only disavow their actions, but also to call the police to report the crime.

I believe the Chairman has the same duty in this current situation. The Chairman states, “our cause is just,” which I certainly will not dispute as everyone has the right to their own opinion and the right to speak freely about it. What is not “just” are the tactics being used to further that cause – violence and unlawful activity.

Morton County and Standing Rock have been and must continue to be friends and neighbors after this is over and the first step to ensuring that is for Chairman Archambault to publicly call for an end to the violent, unlawful, and non-peaceful actions that have been taking place.

The second important thing that needs to be addressed is that much of the information – especially on social media – and most of the press statements coming out of the protest sites can only be described as propaganda. Much of it is 180 degrees from the truth, and in many cases is completely contradicted by video evidence.

It has been quite evident that the tactics being used are straight out of the professional protesters’ handbook. I believe most Standing Rock Sioux Tribal members and local protesters want to protest in a nonviolent manner and most of the unlawful activity taking place is being done by elements and individuals from outside of North Dakota. But again, I would argue there is a moral responsibility of those local folks to rid themselves of those not committed to peace.

Pipeline or no pipeline, it is the locals who will have to live, work and raise their families here and they should not have to do it under a cloud of public perception that they condoned the violent and non-peaceful actions of the past weeks.

Reasonable people can disagree on the public policy issues surrounding the pipeline. However, reasonableness ends when arguments turn into violent and unlawful activity. We accept and even encourage healthy debate about energy policy, but it has to stay on the right side of the law. Now is the time for leaders – elected, spiritual, and moral – to stand up and put an end to unlawful and non-peaceful actions.