The Standing Rock DAPL Protest: 2016’s Arduous Journey Back To The Future


Before the Standing Rock Sioux’s historic protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (NODAPL) fades from the world’s collective memory – and the next tumultuous phase begins for the world to continue to address Climate Change and how to more quickly convert from fossil fuels to renewable energies – it’s essential to pause and reconsider what exactly happened during the closing months of 2016 that the Sioux peoples NODAPL Protest raged and what this arduous historical journey Back to the Future signifies for us all.

This is a big story and a very old one that speaks to the heart of what happened in this instance, as it has everywhere else in the New World since the moment of first contact between the clash of the sacred world view of indigenous peoples and the profane world view of European peoples. It provides a template for what America and the rest of the world can expect to see more of in the future if the world’s minions and their politicians don’t start to respect the sacredness of the Earth and all its waters, land and natural resources. It serves as an ultimate challenge to ponder what time-honoured, successful survival strategies the sacred world view of indigenous peoples in the New World have used for tens of thousands of years when compared to the profane world view of the European’s invasion of the New World and its questionable survival strategies that in only a few hundred years of meddling has led to so much violence and destruction of the human race and Planet Earth.

During the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election the Sioux’s NODAPL uprising against the Dakota Access Pipeline, that sought to cut straight through the heart of America, was roundly ignored by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and President Barack Obama himself. Yet President Obama was applauded once he finally showed the requisite courage, however tardy that it was, to call a temporary halt to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. But it may have only proven to be a Pyrrhic victory for native peoples, environmentalists and Climate Change proponents and amount to nothing more than a brief interlude once President-Elect Donald Trump, who has personal investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline, and his administration, packed as it is with climate change deniers who favour more oil pipeline construction, fossil fuel and nuclear energy development, take hold of the reins of America and plot a very different course of action for DAPL, America’s unsustainable energy philosophy, the very fate of Climate Change and survival of the earth as we now know it.

Even President Obama and the Democrats didn’t ever really grasp the deeper world view underlying the Sioux’s protestations about the sacredness of the waters of the Missouri River and the hallowed, inviolate nature of their ancestral homelands. Instead, Obama and his administration stood idly by for months and did nothing to intercede on behalf of the Sioux pipeline protestors and their international supporters while they were being violently set upon by the political, law enforcement and military forces of the United States Government and North Dakota authorities. As the Sioux and others steadfastly sought to peacefully block construction of DAPL through their homelands, President Obama disgracefully allowed the chaotic turn of events to escalate to the point where innocent men, women, children and elders were needlessly put in harm’s way and subjected to some of the most inhumane, heinous physical assaults committed since the atrocities perpetrated by American political and law enforcement authorities during the equally contentious Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s & 70’s.

During the months that led up to President Obama’s decision to withdraw the permit to allow DAPL to continue construction through the Sioux’s homelands, America’s mainstream press and vast media network did little to truthfully bring to the American public’s attention the real facts and ultimate significance of what was going on. This wasn’t by accident it was an intentional news black-out by what could be characterized as the inherent ignorance of the profane world view’s civilization.

Hence, for months, many horrific things transpired, much to the detriment of America’s reputation that remained all but invisible to the outside world unless independent and alternative journalists took it upon themselves to become the sources of breaking news stories. They were the kind of horrific stories one would expect to see or hear happening in a fascist police state rather than in the very heart of America, like: vicious guard dog attacks by Energy Transfer Partners, the Wall Street conglomerate who are behind the DAPL, military-like defended, construction project, or the ruthless Wall Street bankers and petroleum moguls in their distant boardrooms in New York, Washington D.C. and Texas who directed the DAPL operations to proceed irrespective of the potential cost to human life and limb that was being intentionally perpetrated against the protestors. Then there were the vicious, brutal attacks led by North Dakota Governor Jack Dalyrmple, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and hordes of state police brought in from four surrounding states who committed unspeakably violent attacks against the human and civil rights of the NODAPL protestors, assisted by U.S. National Guard troops who indiscriminately sprayed, often at point-blank range, the passive, peaceful protestors with every conceivable weapon short of heavy combat assault weaponry; ranging in everything from MACE, Pepper Spray, Taser darts, rubber bullets, bean bag projectiles, concussion grenades, high-powered water cannons to ear-busting acoustic sound cannons. These atrocities were covered up by a sea of lies made to the public by American politicians, police and military authorities who spun the violence being committed at DAPL as reciprocal between the Sioux who, according to the official spin, were irresponsibly vandalizing private property and obstructing legally-approved construction while the authorities were simply doing their job to prevent them from continuing to do so; a stance commonly taken everywhere by law enforcement to mask what, in reality, should be a reminder to all concerned of the heavily-militarized police state’s ever-present, ever-growing iron-fisted control over the people that makes its presence known whenever the people take it upon themselves to prevent illegal or wrong things from continuing to happen.. Through all the lies and violence, America’s mainstream press and media did little to counter fiction with fact. As one Sioux protestor commented, “Does that surprise you? It’s the White Man’s press telling the same ‘ol, same ‘ol story their way!”

As wintry temperatures on the North Dakota prairies plummeted to life-threatening lows, and the Christmas holiday fast approached, President Obama finally put a “better late than never” end to the wholesale mayhem that was soon going to ramp up to some even more dreadfully dramatic, horrific event unless something immediate happened to stop it. Up to that point, the Sioux had demonstrated remarkable, Mahatma Gandhi-like, forbearance and restraint in their refusal to match the brutality being committed against them by the American Government.

But before this barbaric historic event in American history finally came to an end, the direction towards which it was heading reminded this writer of the Final Solution that, 80 years before, Germany cunningly-devised for its so-called “Jewish Problem”. 80 years later, it felt as if the American government and its U.S. Army Corp of Engineers were on the verge of planning their own diabolical ‘final solution’ to America’s own Sioux Problem.

The Sioux, of course, never would have been gassed as the Jews once were, but while the world once again was kept ignorant and in the dark about their fate, all hell was about to break loose as reactionary elements within the U.S. Government and military were on the verge of officially declaring “illegal”, and forcibly shut down, the Sioux’s ever more sprawling Oceti Sakowin DAPL Protest village site that had spontaneously sprung up, evict everyone and transport thousands of its resident protestors to so-called isolated free speech zones. The chaos would have been immense. The ensuing spectacle that would have become a nightly televised feature on world news would have become a colossal embarrassment for America, President Obama wisely cut short before it did.

To say, “IT WAS A CLOSE CALL!” is to put it mildly as a column of seasoned U.S. military war veterans already was assembling to rush to the aid and defence of the Sioux. Events would have undoubtedly led to an even uglier moment in American history than it already was had that happened and still could once President-Elect Donald Trump is inaugurated as America’s new Commander-in-Chief.

Horrific images come to mind of the Sioux and other protesters of other mass movements in the future similarly being kept out of sight and out of mind in the U.S. government’s new Orwellian free speech zones prepared for them where they either would be left to the brutal harshness of the elements, a lack of amenities or until they finally gave up in despair in the face of the hostile military elements on land, air and cyberspace massed against them. Isolated in these bizarre zones, those like the Sioux wouldn’t actually ever be able to see who or what was the source of their protest. Equally as critical, they wouldn’t be able to be seen by the world attempting to non-violently block or protest against whatever was the issue of concern. Hence, a non-news event with no photo ops and no story!

Such a cunning, modern-day concept to control and muzzle major social, environmental, political movements and protests like NODAPL, that could be described as the world’s new makeshift 21st Century ‘concentration camps’, isn’t anything new. It has been used before for other mass protests in the past like the ‘Occupy Movement’ and actually represents a throwback to the U.S. Army’s original concentration camp concept of Indian Reservations that the Sioux’s ancestors, a century before, were likewise forced onto to remove them from obstructing the White Man’s civilization and its then constant Westward HO! lust for empire.

Once President Trump and his administration assume office, this final solution for the Sioux, DAPL & Climate Change still could become a business-as-usual reality that would ensure the ability of Wall Street, the Fossil-Fuel industry, Big Banks, their investors/stockholders and the ‘New Normal’ of Donald Trump’s Law & Order, ultra-right supporters to continue to make record profits while seizing further control of every vestige of human life and reinforce their dominion over all other species and natural resources on Earth. The 1%ers could also then be kept happily sedated while their commodity portfolios continued to sky-rocket as they sipped on martinis aboard some palatial cruise ship and flicked through soft-porn fashion images in Elle, Vogue or CR while headed for the next exotic ‘Club Med’ playground to experience what they’ve been conned into believing is the ultimate “good life”.

Meanwhile, in the future, with the Sioux and others like them invisibly sequestered away in America’s ‘free speech zones’, America’s brand name will continue to evolve into the New Normal ways of ever more ruthless, corrupt commerce and business that are now being planned and promoted in every country by ‘The Donald’s’ of the world. All the American and foreign wars ever fought in the past or future will continue to remain part of the same unbroken chain of violence, duplicity, betrayal and hypocrisy that, in modern historical times, began with a vengeance once new Western European brand names began to emerge in the New World and those like that of the American’s sought to market themselves as: ‘America The Beautiful’; ‘The American Dream’; ‘Land of the Free & Home of the Brave’, or; the ‘Shining City Upon That Hill’, as prophesized in a biblical parable by none other than Jesus Christ himself during his Sermon on the Mount.

The bottom line still remains exactly the same today. With the coming inauguration of President Donald Trump, whatever clever marketing ploys are yet to be crafted in the future to further promote the American brand name won’t every change the course and direction of its civilization’s profane way of life or its now most-favoured empire-building document: A Project For a New American Century (PNAC). Soon-to-be President Donald Trump isn’t the main culprit he’s simply the latest manifestation of moral and ethical decay that was set into motion at the moment of its birth as it was for every other rebranded European name in the New World, much to the regret of its indigenous, aboriginal peoples and the inviolate sacredness of their homelands.  One might further argue that Donald Trump isn’t about to radically remake the American brand so much as serve as its best and brightest cheerleader/salesman who will greatly speed up the evolution of its brand in ways that only ‘The Donald’ can. ‘The Donald’ simply is a continuation of the American brand that, at its core, never has believed in the philosophy of a socialistic democracy that advocates for principles like: caring for one’s fellow man or woman; unionism for the protection of ordinary worker’s rights; the right to a liveable hourly wage; universal health care; the sacred protection and preservation of the natural world. What Donald Trump presages for America’s future is what Karl Marx predicted would ultimately happen to Western capitalistic countries like America.

Given this reality, one might argue that this is why American culture, and other Western European cultures like them in the New World, and their political-military-corporate-class systems, have, since the beginning, been so fundamentally opposed to indigenous, aboriginal cultures like the Sioux and their communalistic ways of life that practice values, principles and beliefs that seek to keep life sacred and in balance. The reality is that after over four centuries of discovery in the New World, the newcomers still haven’t yet been able to grasp the sacred world view of life that believes in being one with all that is and constantly give back to it in gratitude, rather than persist with the profane world view that perpetually seeks to acquire all that is for itself while giving back nothing of equal value in return.

But perhaps this is a fruitless argument to make that’s constantly like trying to compare oranges with lemons and simply is too much to ever ask or hope that any foreign race, culture or civilization, like that of the Europeans in the New World, – that hasn’t ever had the same formative benefit of the thousands of years of relationship with or connection to all the lands and life forms that indigenous peoples have had – would ever develop the same sacred view of life and the ability or capacity to see things in quite the same way; the same problem that existed some five hundred years ago at the moment of first contact between the indigenous mentality and that of the invader still exists today.

To breach this impasse would be the ultimate solution of course, but the perennial problem is that the belief system of the invader mentality, from its earliest origins, fuelled by the concept of insatiable entrepreneurial private enterprise, constantly fed by insatible human greed, has, since day one, been predicated upon perpetual growth and ever-larger consumptions of energy and resources, where the unsustainable explosion of human populations is now the main source and cause of every deteriorating man-made condition on earth, for which no one has yet derived any answers how to ever stop or even slow down. The indigenous sensibility of those like the Sioux who contend we humans have instead been created as caretakers of legacies we are obligated to bequeath intact to future coming generations of human and non-human species of life is a sensibility totally alien to the invader’s belief system. Such beliefs still remain light years away from the grandiose dreams and ambitions of America’s founding fathers and today’s even more grandiose world view of ‘The Donald’ and his supporters who still instead look upon themselves as the dominant species whose God has decreed to them dominion over all other forms of life, imbued with the arrogant belief that whatever actions they may take aren’t the source and cause of whatever consequent unsustainable population explosion, unlimited economic growth or human-caused climate change.

 But, in the end, there’s no reason to “get one’s knickers in knot”, as the old saying goes, because, for better or worse, as our tiny Earth-orb continues to hurl through the distant reaches of the universe, this new-old Star Wars mentality of ‘The Donald’s’ of the world, like it or not, is going where it’s going and taking the whole lot of us along with it for the ride until, or unless, the penny finally drops and the reality dawns that the direction towards where the invader mentality all along has been pointing humanity is leading down the road to a head-on collision against the same solid, immovable brick wall.

So here we are in the blush of 2017, about to anoint what some would call, “the most powerful man on Earth”, who will usher in yet a new world order and, as many fear, sound the death knell to whatever good, beautiful, holy, wholesome thing that America’s brand names once promised it one day would become but lied because it never will.

To know all this to be true, one need only reconsider what the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies were recently up as they resolutely stood together, in the face of such brutish oppression and terrorizing, locked arm-in-arm in solidarity on the far distant prairies of North Dakota, while attempting to cry out loud enough “NODAPL!”, in the hope that the rest of America and the world would hear their pleas and echo even louder the prayer and chant their cry represents for the future.

So, now it’s the turn of Canada’s First Nation peoples to resume the Sioux’s prayers and chants. How will Canada’s Liberal Government, its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the Canadian people themselves respond to their fresh pleas? Will Canada come up with its own ‘Final Solution’ to their problem? How will its First Nations respond? Will PM Trudeau and fall in-line with President Trump’s vision for the future or will Trudeau and the Canadian people demonstrate the courage to go their own way? And what about other countries in the New World like Australia who, by and large, is already on Trump’s climate change denial wavelength and willing to accept the ultimate demise of its Great Barrier Reef for the sake of the continued mining, production and shipping of still more coal and fossil fuels? Will they ever listen to, and take to heart, the sacred wisdoms of their own aboriginal peoples, as well as those other indigenous mentors and wise ones who exist among the other 194 signatories to the Paris Accord? Or will the future’s new norm now be Trump’s Way or the Highway?

A lot of unanswered questions and a lot of unknowns await in 2017 and a yet another arduous yesteryear’s journey Back to the Future in the world.

Jerome Irwin is a freelance writer and author of “The Wild Gentle Ones; A Turtle Island Odyssey” (, a three volume account of his travels as a spiritual sojourner, during the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s, among Native American & First Nation nations in North America. It encompasses the burgeoning Spiritual Renaissance & Liberation Movements among native peoples throughout North America that occurred at the height of its civil rights movements .More recently,  Irwin authored a series of articles that covered  the “NODAPL” Sioux Protest in North Dakota.  Irwin  also is the publisher of The Wild Gentle Press.

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