A tribal leader from South Dakota has urged Native Americans to boycott Bismarck and Mandan because of the on-going protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

He says he “fears for his people’s safety,” the Associated Press reports.

Those sort of wild, baseless accusations are unhelpful to promoting a sense of comity and peace between tribal communities and the non-tribal communities around them. People, regardless of their race, have nothing to fear from traveling to the Bismarck/Mandan area.

hat’s more, as the Bismarck Tribune reported yesterday, the people hurt most by such a boycott might actually be the Native Americans themselves.

The United Tribes Technical College is holding their annual powow in Bismarck, and one of the organizers of the event is pointing out that a boycott wouldn’t be good.

“We believe that energy and effort are misplaced in trying to punish the city of Bismarck with a boycott of the powwow,” Richard McCloud Chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, said. “The powwow is not sponsored by the city. This is a United Tribes Technical College event — a tribal event by and for Native people. And United Tribes would be the one hurt if we failed to gather and celebrate our strengths as a people.”

Here’s where he makes a particularly good point:

“The Tribal Leader’s Summit offers an immediate and appropriate opportunity to improve understanding about tribal points of view on a wide range of issues, including those raised by the oil pipeline, the legal actions by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the brave and prayerful resistance conducted by those at the encampment along the Cannonball River,” he said.

Put another way, we have more to gain by coming together than remaining apart.

The Dakota Access Pipeline protest has been marred by the actions of a large faction of extremists within the protest movement who have resorted to violence and other unlawful tactics as a means to an end. This has created wounds which will need healing, because eventually this battle over the pipeline will fade and the lawyers and professional political activists who have air-dropped into our state will go back to wherever it is they’re from.

At that point we North Dakotans of both tribal and non-tribal communities will still have to live with one another.

Events like the powow are a good way to promote understanding and comity.

So engage, don’t boycott.

There’s more information about the event here.