On Friday, November 17, 2017, after the Fargo premiere of the film “Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock” at the North Dakota Human Rights Film and Arts Festival, a group of water protectors reflected on their experiences a year out from the peaceful resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Panelist shared their experiences, as well as their thoughts on how communities can address oppression, injustice and climate change in North Dakota and beyond.
Moderated by Dr. Michael Yellow Bird, Director of the Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Studies program at North Dakota State University, the panel was the first time in Fargo that the human and civil rights abuse at the Dakota Access Pipeline were discussed in a community forum.
Dr. Yellow Bird was joined by Floris White Bull, advisor and co-writer of “Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock”; Margaret Landin, narrator, “Peacekeeper”; Layha Spoonhunter; and Terry Janis, Executive Director, Water Protector Legal Collective.
A transcript of the panel discussion is avilable below. You may also download a PDF copy of the discussion here.
Michael Yellow Bird
First of all let’s give a round of applause for all the films again. I think there was some stunning really important work that’s been done on these film. I’ve always enjoyed going to human rights films and this is my first North Dakota series I guess. Hopefully not my last. I wanted to also thank the people who all participated in these films, the making of the films, as well as the people who are the front lines. All these young people and all the elders and all the people that were assembled down at Standing Rock to give their prayers, to give their time, their energy their effort and to try to, in the best peaceful way they could, to make a change in the world with their actions. I hope we don’t forget that with all the craziness and all the stuff that goes on in the world. I hope we don’t forget those efforts and I hope those efforts stay strong.
I know at the end of this last film there was a bit of discussion about how those efforts in those protest camps are continuing to spark mobilization, and activism in the rest of the world. Let’s hope we can keep those on the radar screen and continue to, ourselves, participate. I think the last film, one of the things we can do, and I don’t know how many people here have divested from some of these major banks in Fargo, in North Dakota. It’s one of the first things that my wife and I did. It took us a while to get out of our divestment in one of the more corporate banks and take it into a local bank here. We’ve never had banking in corporate banks. We’ve always invested in the community. Again, I encourage people just to continue to do acts that have been recommended on the films. That was a lot of brilliant work.
I’m sorry that Myron couldn’t be here tonight. Myron is one of my former students when I used to teach at the University of Kansas. He learned well. I don’t want to take too much time talking, but I want to go ahead and let the panelists talk about their participation in the film making as well as their participation and presence at Standing Rock, and of course if they could even share with us a bit of what they’ve been doing since that time. I’m going to just roll right into the panel and we can start on this end here with Floris. If you want to introduce a little more about yourself and just spend a few minutes. I want to get questions too going on, just about really what the highlight moments of being at Standing Rock and the things that you’ve done and what are you doing now.
Floris White Bull
[Foreign language 00:03:21] My name is Floris White Bull. I’m from the Standing Rock Nation. I’m a Hunkpapa Lakota and [foreign language 00:04:03]. I’m from the Standing Rock Nation. My involvement pretty much I’m from Standing Rock. My father’s bloodlines are Hunkpapa Lakota. My children and who I was raised to be guided me through my involvement with our fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I’m honored to have been a part of everything that had taken place. I think the best part of camp was seeing how beautiful our community was. It was a community. It wasn’t just a place of protest. It was our home. When I see the pictures, when I see the videos I see my home. It was a place that we’re allowed to be ourselves, to learn from each other, to grow, where we accepted each other, where people brought their gifts and their talents and we worked together to fill needs for each other. That was my life and that was the best place for as long as it stood. I was happiest every time I would hear that welcome home when I would come back.
I stood because I knew when that pipeline began construction that it threatened my children, that it threatened my nieces and nephews, my grandsons, my grandchildren, my friends, my family, the people that I picture in my mind that I love, every person that I look at, all the children that I meet it would impact them. I felt so helpless when those 48 hours’ notice was up. I did the only thing that I felt that I had power over and that was going to that place they were going to begin construction, and putting my body there and staying there until they would leave and that’s what we did. We’d go there before they would show up and we would stay there until they left. Today there’s 210,000 gallons that has spilled in South Dakota from Keystone Pipeline. That’s still unknown if that’s affected ground water there. Even though these pipelines flow today doesn’t mean that they can’t be stopped. It doesn’t mean that we can’t invest in clean energy more and clean energy that we can’t use our own power, or voices, our bodies, our voices.
The people that are making the decisions are supposed to be making the decisions on our behalf as opposed to their own pockets. The governor had investments in this pipeline. Our president had investments in this pipeline. Peoples we see now what’s in to this administration, how corrupt it is. We’re not talking about those first days that he signed that through, and he says that he had no opposition to it, even though there was thousands of us out there. Our camp, our home was a blueprint for the world, the things that we can accomplish together beyond our race and beyond our religion when we just love and when we work towards a common goal with unity. I’m proud of everyone that was there with us. I’m proud of everyone that said a prayer for us. I’m proud of everyone that said the jacket. I’m proud of everyone that has started a conversation about it, because you continued that and I’m thankful for everyone [foreign language 00:09:46].
[Foreign language 00:09:55] My name is Margaret Landin. I am from [Em-ich-ee-uh 00:10:02] Nation. I’m a [rick-ra had-ots-za 00:10:03] and I’m also a [sin-ah-way 00:10:07] Sioux. How I got involved with the film I go to Tribal College in Bismarck. I grew up in Bismarck. These students from Florida wanted to interview, they wanted to be taken around, and shown some places, and meet some people. I was thankful to have had that opportunity with them. I was able to do the narration piece for Peacekeeper. Seeing it today I was just amazed over again, and over again just watching these videos. It’s like a roller coaster. One minute I’m super happy and I feel humbled in my heart and the next minute I’m crying in the back over there. Then the next minute I’m feeling angry. It’s just a bunch of emotions again watching these films. With that, what I did with camp gosh it was almost … like I said I’m from Bismarck. I live in Bismarck and go to school at Tribal College.
Traveling down every day when everything first started I remember coming down and Sacred Stone had been established so we would go down there and volunteer, me and my kids. I got two kids. We would volunteer and just bring supplies and that sort of thing. Ocheti had maybe two tents or three tents at the time. It was very small and I think I missed three days of going down. Then when I came down it was like bam. There was so many tents, and teepees, and people. It was just overflowing. It was so amazing to see. Things were happening in Bismarck. There were days of actions. You seen that in this Awake movie where Dallas Goldtooth was speaking and all these people came out in front of the capital. I grew up in Bismarck so seeing that I couldn’t believe it. I could not believe the amount of people that came out to support the cause. Also, just seeing the amount of Indian people out in the street and they close the street for us, and singing and dancing. I never thought I would ever see something like that.
Being a part of everything … when Ocheti got huge it was like, “Okay, now where do we go? What do we do? Where do we start?” I think everyone was working. There were so many people there. It was unbelievable how many people were there. Even these documentaries I keep thinking where were you guys? I didn’t see you doing these films. Going down there, helping out in the kitchen. I actually do work with Native Vote and so I would go down with my Native Vote shirts and just talk to people about voting, the importance of voting. Especially at that particular time it was really important. Then just meeting all kinds of people from all over the place was really amazing. Just to see all these tribes come together, to be in this moment and this time was really amazing. Then being able to bring my kids like how Floris was saying. Why do we do this? For our kids and for the future, and for even our elders. My mother-in-law is from Cannon Ball. Gosh, I lived in Cannon Ball for a while too. It’s worth fighting for. It really is. Your people they’re worth fighting for.
Throughout that my continued work I do, I do work with the national education association working with their social justice and human rights department and just talking about here, North Dakota, our people. When you go out other places they don’t know about us. I’m into education. That’s why I’m going to school for elementary education and then I’m double majoring in business. For me listening to Byron … Bryon used to be an educator I think. Listening to him talk about education is key. It is. People aren’t going to respect what they don’t know. They need to get educated. This is so important. These films are so important for everyone to watch, even down to our little kids. They need to watch some of these. Not all of them, but when they get older. They do. They need to get educated.
I continue to do that work and then also I am working on another film. It is based on the movement and our youth. I’m working with Gregg Deal. He is just really amazing. He is working on this piece with us and we interviewed some youth in the community of Bismarck because I think there’s so many stories, there’s so many perspectives that need to be shared. A lot of our Native youth in Bismarck and our urban areas, there’s a lot of racism. They’re getting a lot of backlash for what has happened. We’re trying to share that story. That’s the continued work that I’m working on. I hope to share it.
[Foreign language 00:16:31] Hello my name is Layha Spoonhunter. I did my introduction in my language, the Northern Arapaho language. How I got started with this movement was watching, being there and seeing. I was there on my home land in Wyoming and watching the videos every day and saying, “I need to go there. I can’t miss this fight.” What really drove me there was seeing the youth run 2,000 miles to Washington DC. Running their community, run to Nebraska, and their willingness to step up and say, “We don’t want this through our homeland. We don’t want the United States government telling us what we or we cannot do with our lands. The thing is another thing that drove me to Standing Rock was seeing my sister. She couldn’t be here tonight, but seeing my sister Alaina, willing to be put on the front lines, and willing to be arrested for her children, for her people. Right when that happened I immediately called my tribe and said, “We need to go. We can’t wait any longer. We need to go.”
When I got there to camp and I seen the flags and I see just what camped looked like while we’re coming over that hill I just felt that power. I felt that presence and I knew I was home. This is what I’ve been looking for. As they were talking about being accepted I’m a Two Spirit individual. I’ve never been in a place where I felt accepted more than in Ocheti, a place where we could be ourselves, where the Two Spirit community was respected and where it was revered. That was what this camp was like. For me when I first came in the camp I was looking for a place where I could help. When I got there in the early days of September we created the International Indigenous Youth Council. What was so amazing about this youth council is 80% of our leadership and 80% of our membership is Two Spirit. I’ve never seen a youth council so accepting, a youth council that was not based on leadership level like chairman, vice chairman, but a leadership level that was based on traditional leadership the way we used to do things in consensus.
When this youth council was formed it was all about that power. We need to remember that women, and youth, and elders really impacted this movement. Every time I watch these films, every time I get the opportunity to share about Standing Rock I take that opportunity. For four months Ocheti, Standing Rock was my home. I will always treasure that. I will always call the people that I met there, the people that I met in Standing Rock, family. They are my family. There were many nights I would sit there and I was one of those that was so proud growing up to my first election, I turned 18, vote for President Obama. I was one of those that just sat there one night pleading and crying how come he’s not listening to our young people? He went to Standing Rock. He was there with the people. He knew the youth that were there. Yet, he did nothing. I think that to me just shows, again, that the United States government can care about the indigenous people.
When I look back at my time at Ocheti, in October I was asked to be part of Digital Smoke Signals, be a part of the youth media. In the opportunity to work with Byron as an educator, he took me under his wing and educated me. You need to tell our stories and that this is a visual battle. This is a battle that what you seen in a wake was a lot of live Facebook, it was because there was no mainstream media that wanted to cover this fight. We had to do it ourselves as youth media and the media that was there. Through that we were able to share our narratives and tell it from our perspective rather than what other people were able. I just wanted to share a little bit of that and my experience. I will always look at that camp as home. I will always think of my time in Standing Rock. I will never forget because it is my homeland. It is my people and as an Arapaho, Oglala, Shoshone the love for the youth and the love for my people, and the love for the International Indigenous Youth Council is what’s kept me going and kept me fighting. Thank you.
Good evening. My name is Terry Janis. I’m the Executive Director for Water Protector Legal Collective. I’m the old guy on the pane. I didn’t stay there at the camps. My wife, and I, and my son went out there three or four times. As a Lakota man, Oglala from Pine Ridge, it was one of the things that moved me as much as anything else. Growing up in Pine Ridge I grew up in a town called Manderson, which is just north of Wounded Knee. When the Wounded Knee occupation was going on I was 12 years old, but I had a lot of time to reflect on that and what it took for us as a people there to recover from the damage that, that occupation did to our Nation, our Oglala Lakota Nation. In observing this one there wasn’t that kind of violence in that same way. Internally within the people there was peace, there was prayer, there was hope, there was family, there was community. There wasn’t the kind of division that you saw in pine ridge in the 70s.
What I did see that was the same was being in Mandan, working at Water Protector Legal Collective where we’re at even a year later Mandan Fields like Rapid City in the 70s. If you think back to that period of time in South Dakota when that kind of violence and hatred was there throughout that whole place, I hate to say this, but coming Mandan I felt like I was home again. It’s really rough, man. Mandan’s rough. You got to be careful. When we setup our offices at Water Protector Legal Collective, just a block and a half from the courthouse, pretty regular attacks against our physical building, threats, et cetera. That slowed down month by month, but there’s still a lot of tension and a lot of hatred. What I want to say is that the connectivity that the people feel from that is very, very much alive, that sense of community, and togetherness, and home. The spirit, the fight of engagement, of peaceful engagement, but a recognition that things do not change unless you confront the thing.
Change does not happen unless you become aware of the thing that needs to be changed. A part of that process sometimes is hard conversations, confrontation, deliberation. That process continues today in a different fashion and a different media, and in different mechanisms. Water Protector Legal Collective provides the criminal defense for 829 state cases and seven federal cases. The 829 state cases come from about 700 and almost 50 arrests, so individuals. Then the reason why there are larger number of cases the state of North Dakota would arrest somebody, dismiss the case sometimes, and then recharge them on different charges, and put a warrant out for them without going through a normal procedure of a possibility of appearance and plea. These kind of tactics are not normal tactics. They’re tactics of a state government that is attempting to use its authority to intimidate and threaten the people that have been arrested and are dealing with these charges. It’s a process that is an abuse of authority.
I got to put my glasses on so bear with me for just a second. Even in the face of this 485 of the cases, of the 828 state cases, have been completed. Of those 485, 471 have either been dismissed, acquitted, or some other kind of plea agreement. There’s only be 14 convictions. Only 14. In that process, what I wanted to communicate, is just the nature of the state criminal system in the Mandan area. The prosecutors are bringing these cases knowing that they don’t have evidence to prove the conviction. Their first effort was to use group pressure that thing of, “Oh, your friends are taking this plea agreement,” to push individuals to take plea agreements. That’s why we got engaged right away to make the state prove their cases. The more we refuse to take plea agreements the state had to prove their case, knowing that they didn’t have the evidence to prove the case, but they wait until the day before a trial date in order to dismiss it. These kind of tactics that are just stupid, man. They’re just cruel and indifferent requiring all the plaintiffs to come out.
Whenever we set up our system, our criminal defense system, we tried to hire local attorneys to help provide criminal defense. Only a handful, less than a handful, agreed to help us. Those agreed to help only by serving as local council for out of state attorneys. That was our only recourse. We bring in 35 attorneys from out of state. This tactic that that the state came up with, of waiting until the last minute in order to dismiss the case, requires us to bring the attorneys from out of state, the defendants sometimes have to come out from out of state. Everybody gets there to prepare and show up for trial, and then the state dismisses it at the last minute. It’s just a level of indifference, abuse of authority and heavy handedness that’s unnecessarily in any kind of civil society, any. That’s me ranting a little bit. We’re proving the cases and we’re proving a couple more things. One that this was a peaceful protest. The allegations of riot, the allegations of assault, the allegations of interference with a government function none of those things happened. The fact that they don’t have any evidence that any of these things happened is because none of them happened, period. That’s it.
Michael Yellow Bird
With the limited time I guess maybe I’ll just open it up for questions from the audience. Go ahead.
I’ll speak up. My name’s [inaudible 00:31:17] I’m from [inaudible 00:31:19] Nation of Oklahoma. I was at the camp for six months. My questions is for Mr. Janis. The people protected, throughout that six months I saw the progression of violence by the police starting off with the private security and then to the local and state and all the way up to the federal level. My question is we’re here at the Human Rights Film Festival. I saw many, many violations of human rights throughout my time there [inaudible 00:32:13] there. You all witnessed many violations of human rights throughout these films tonight. I know that there was a class action lawsuit that was filed by our legal protective.
What’s going to be done about the violation of human rights through private security with the dog attacks, through Morton County with their use of excessive force? The October 27th incident where my mother and my companion were put in dog kennels, myself put in dog kennels with numbers written on our arms. By the state of North Dakota itself and up to the federal level of the National Guards that were involved and everything. As we saw the progression of violence by that side and the constant human rights violation what’s going to be done in the future concerning those issues?
Just to be clear Water Protector Legal Collective provides criminal defense in the state and federal cases, and we provide support to the civil cases. We’ve been able to support the bringing of Rachel Letterman and NLG of the Dundan case. That case has been filed and it’s ongoing. We’re looking for other firms that can bring some additional cases as well, but they’re looking file at least two others, one of which will be when the dog attack happened, and then they’re looking at others as well. We’re pushing them as hard as we can to identify when exactly those cases are going to be filed and what the process is.
I know that on our website she’s linked to our website. If you go to our website, Water Protector Legal there’s a civil case tab. You go to that tab and there’s several places where she asks for individuals to sign on to a couple more cases. That process of identifying individuals that want to step forward as plaintiffs in those other cases is an ongoing process. I don’t have any information for you about what the status of those other two cases are except that she’s actively looking for individuals to serve as plaintiffs in those cases and those class action cases as well.
I know there was over 140 people that were put in dog kennels [inaudible 00:35:07] with just a hard-concrete floor, no beds.
Yeah, I know that the one other case for sure is the date of that dog bite incident. I’m not certain what the second one is, but I do know that there are two they are planning on bringing in addition to the Dundan case. The Dundan case is in relation to the November 20th incident on the bridge.
Michael Yellow Bird
Yeah, go ahead.
I’d like to ask the members of the panel; Are you members of the 7th Generation and if so how does that feel to you? What does that mean to you? Second part of the question would be you all talk about it being home and feeling like home. How can each of us help to make the world a place where that [inaudible 00:36:14] can be? Is that just idyllic or can it be real life like [inaudible 00:36:20]?
To answer your first question, yes, I do consider myself part of the 7th Generation. I believe in the prophesy that the 7th Generation would help unite our tribes. You’ve seen it happen there last year at Standing Rock. We’re over more than 500 tribes and people from Canada, people from First Nations came and help. The prophesy of eagle and condor that north and south are coming together it happened at Standing Rock. The Youth Runs everything that came into it the 7th Generation played a big vital role in it. I believe that with the younger leaders that emerged out of Ocheti that there can be a place that our tribal nations and our tribal governments, and our homelands could be just like we were in Ocheti.
As you heard on the film in camp you were never hungry, you were never thirsty. We took care of each other. We seen somebody that was hungry we found a way to get them food. We found a way to get the resources. We seen somebody without a sleeping bag we found a way to get them bedding. There is that hope and I think one thing that I will say in response to the 7th Generation is that there were many youth that came through the camp that were outspoken, that didn’t feel like they had a place, but now they are speaking nationwide on forums about these issues, about the human rights violations, about Standing Rock, about how their experience changed them. That 7th Generation is strong. We’re going to continue to be vocal about any issue that comes into play.
Everything that he says I mimic. Then also what I think is that what we seen from this whole thing and especially at camp is we saw resilience. We saw too our Native ways. We saw there was storytelling, there was prayer. Our youth got to see games, traditional games. They got to see the way that ceremonies were done. That doesn’t happen all the time and a lot of our youth got to see that and now they’re a part of it. It’s with them. When we talk about home, that’s home. Us knowing who we are and feeling that, being in that moment. The resiliency part is we get to see from our elders all the way down to our little tiny babies. We saw a little baby on there and that just warmed my heart to see. You asked about how can you help educate. Educate yourself. Go to things like this. Continue to educate yourself on who we are. Remember we’re not all the same. There’s so many different tribes out there. They have so many different stories and creation stories and different ways. Acknowledge them. Acknowledge the land that you’re on.
Floris White Bull
I too like to extend on that. The second part of your question would be education. If you don’t know where to start, start here where you’re at in your home or where this land is, who’s indigenous to this land, want to know about their stories, care about our issues. Educate yourself about … today a search for Olivia Lone Bear is ongoing. She’s one of our women, one of our sisters, one of our mothers, somebody’s daughter. How many times have you seen her on the news? Care. Ask about it. Start the conversations in your own home about the people and tell truths. The things in history that people have gone through it’s not going to go away. We need there to be conversations to be had in your homes because we can’t go to your homes and educate all of you. You can talk to your children.
We’re coming into Thanksgiving. There’s people that were mascaraed. There’s tribes that don’t walk this earth anymore that deserve to have their story told. There’s been many points in history where there’s a missed opportunity to heal as a nation. This nation claims to be a civilized nation, yet we continue this path of not wanting to acknowledge truth for what it is. A lie will still be a lie no matter how many times it’s told. We still know, we’re still here, we’re still fighting. So many things, abuses because of the wrongs that were done to our people. All we wanted to live and what came out of this fight was our chance to live again. That was our chance to be free again. That camp was amazing because our truth was acknowledge. Who we were, who we are, and who we’ll continue to be was acknowledge. We’re equal for once. In that point we were equal in that same place. Education is how we can continue. That’s what you can do.
Michael Yellow Bird
I have more of a comment. I just thank you for your courage and your bravery. To me you all are heroes in my eyes. Thank you for telling the truth because not only do this audience needs to hear it, but everyone needs to hear it. It’s hard because I know the truth. Indigenous and Native Americans were here first. In my eyes you guys should be the ones running the United States. A lot of people will say, “You need to go back to your own country.” Well, I say, “You should start first because you weren’t here. The Native Americans, the Indigenous ones were.” I try very hard, because education is knowledge and knowledge is power. I thank you for your stories and you’re amazing phenomenal people and truly are heroes. Thank you.
I have one comment too please. I’m 100% behind all of you. I realize it’s going to take your voice so that we can get cleared again. I apologize for so much. On behalf of President Obama he didn’t do everything, but his time was up. I had hope when he was in. Now what fears me more is just this morning I read in the newspapers $700 billion has been allocated for our military. The films arose a gamete of emotions. That anger, I want to gear my anger toward that as opposed to what maybe he didn’t do in the past. His term was up, so just on behalf of Obamacare, he was there. He cared. He still cares. We are here, but my voice too is … I’m looking to you for guidance. That’s all. Thank you.
My name is Doug Arthur. I’m one of those German Russian people from Mercer county, which is right near Morton county. I’ve haven’t lived here in Fargo for 20 years or so, but I still have friends and relatives out in that part of the country. It was interesting what is going on, some of the comments I heard on Facebook. Whether they were true or not I don’t know. A lot of allegations that protestors were out slaughtering some [inaudible 00:48:28] cattle and cattle in the area, and they were trespassing on private lands owned by the farmers out there. The thing I really learned about from tonight that struck me was how, I guess your side if we’re going to put it that way, lost the propaganda war on that whole thing about the cleanup. Most people that I know, most of my Caucasian friends, were sympathetic to the fact that the water protest [inaudible 00:49:03].
Seeing this I guess they think you’re a bunch of hypocrites basically. They see all this garbage and stuff. “Oh these Indians, this just proves the point that they’re a bunch of hypocrites.” I just was curious what can be done to counter that kind of thinking, or I suppose get [inaudible 00:49:27] education again. Like myself I came in here with a bit of a prejudice that I’ve been influenced by a lot of people that I know and I’m close to. It seems like you really lost the media war on that one with the local stations and stuff. It’s a whole bunch of crap after I’ve learned the facts. One last question is how much time did they give you between when [inaudible 00:49:56] sent in the military there [inaudible 00:49:59] to get you guys out. February 22nd I think is when you had to leave. How long was it before you received the orders that you had to get out of there? That’s it.
Floris White Bull
I witnessed abuse of power on behalf of the media also, portraying us as violent and savage witches. Right in line with history. Anything that has done to push through acts of Congress, they’ve always been backed by media. The colonizers have always had the media behind them portraying us as savages since … you can look at old papers. You can go to the capital in Washington DC and see our images that aren’t controlled by us. Do I look like a savage?
Not to me.
Floris White Bull
My daughter sits here with us and she’s who I’m protecting. I’m a human being. This is a Human Rights Festival. I’m deserving of human rights. My daughter’s deserving of human rights. We all breathe the same air, and we all drink water. A lot of what you don’t know is the suffering that my people have already been through. I look at black and white pictures of the mid 1900s, early 1900s, 1800s and I can name something that was being done to my people at that same time while you’re smiling on our land. Our generosity, our values is what made that camp beautiful. Somebody that had never come to our camp can’t judge us, but we would still welcome you there. We would feed you there. You could come sit down with us. We’d offer you blankets. We’d offer you somewhere to sleep. People that came from around the country came with nothing more than what they had with them and they were housed.
The greatness of a nation isn’t measured by the most wealthy person, but by how you treat the poorest. In our camps there was no starvation. People’s needs were met. Because those needs were met there was no need for stealing or being violent. Everyone that was there was my brothers and sisters and that’ll be true. As for the reports from modern day media that’s who was paid to represent their side. They might have had local news media, but we had our own social media and we had media from the outside world that came and they reported on our behalf. That’s why there was so many people that came and stood with us.
To that question with media; I grew up in Bismarck so for me Bismarck Tribune is fake news. Just kidding. Anyway, but it is. I’ll be honest it’s racist. That’s how I see Bismarck Tribune. They cover stories that make people of color look in a bad light and so has the news reporters. It’s the same way. It’s always been that way. I grew up with that. For me it’s like there’s no point of it. Also, media right now what they’re looking at is they’re trying to sell. That’s the whole purpose of media right now. They’re not telling whole truths anyways. They’re just trying to make a story and get a story. Maybe not all media. I shouldn’t say that.
It’s not about real facts anymore. We, as people, need to be conscious of that. We need to be cognitive readers and pay attention to that. Choose what you read and whatever you’re reading you can believe or you don’t have to believe. You don’t know whether it’s true or not unless it has actual facts in it. Who knows if those are actual facts. When it comes to media they’re just trying to make a story. Everyone has the right to believe whatever they’re reading right now. That’s how I see the media today and it’s going to continue that way.
I just wanted to answer on that too. When I joined with Byron it was that plan even before to go ahead and go with social media, to go with independent media. We knew we were not going to get no national coverage. The only mainstream figurehead that ever came there was Lawrence O’Donnell. He was the only one that came and tried to get the narrative, and tried to tell the story from our perspective. Speaking of Lawrence O’Donnell when he got to Standing Rock he said, “I figured if I did the story Rachel and NBC News and everything else would have picked it up.” He said, “They didn’t.” He had to do another story and nothing happened after that. Then Amy Goodman was also there the frontline and there on the ground at the camp.
Those were the only two that really paid attention. We knew we had to go through independent media. We knew Digital Smoke Signals, Uniform Riot, all these different N One, Native One team that was there you knew … Native Sun News, Indian Country Today those networks had to be on the ground because there was no other way we were going to share this narrative. Independent media had to be there, social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. We had to use those platforms in order to get the truth told. After an action, take for the October 27th action for example, they had KFYR, Bismarck Tribune there to do a press conference on their narrative, not the truth.
Then November 20th you heard that narrative. Natives are out here starting the fires. Well, you were spraying us with water cannons that night. We had to find a way to warm up. You look at those, what they wanted to share. One report that came out was we were shooting arrows at their airplanes. Sitting in the media room that night we said, “What are we avatar now?” That is exactly what they were depicting us as, those stereotypes, and everything, and how stereotypical of Morton county to release that report.
Let me make one final comment. It looks like we’re going to wrap up here soon. Interesting way of phrasing that we lost that media battle in February about the cleanup, the only thing that was different was we weren’t producing the counter narrative. Everybody had left. All of the social media, and engagement and independent media that you guys were producing was not being produced on February 22nd, which makes a really good point.
On the one hand North Dakotas media did not change. From beginning to end as harsh and negative and unfair as it was in February it was just as harsh and negative and unfair before that, but there was no counter narrative in February. It also said that the media that these guys were putting out during that whole event was being consumed by North Dakota citizens to a significant degree, which says something positive about North Dakota citizens.
It says something very powerful about the power and impact of your guy’s work. Again, thank you for that. The final thing that I wanted to make a point of is one of my favorite professors at NDSU, Mark Trahan, he’s resigning NDSU because of the statewide restrictions for higher education institutions to produce anything that’s about this kind of conversation.
Michael Yellow Bird
Oh, is it UND?
Michael Yellow Bird
Michael Yellow Bird
It’s not us.
And Standing Rock College, which is in North Dakota, cannot produce something like this because of that ban. This is what North Dakota is doing.
Michael Yellow Bird
Well, we’re about to wrap up here so I just want to thank everybody for your questions and attendance, participation, and again a big round of applause for the panel here tonight. If I’m right I’ll just say a parting word here. [01:01:48] [Foreign language 01:01:47] Just a short blessing here. For everybody and your families [Foreign language 01:01:53] My words I’m just asking the creator to be with us, put our hearts on the right road and safety and love for everybody here tonight. Thank you.
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Video production made possible through the support of Moorhead Massage and Wellness.
The mission of the North Dakota Human Rights Film and Arts Festival is to educate, engage and facilitate discussion around local and worldwide human rights topics through the work of filmmakers and artists. 2017 is the inaugural year for both the film and art festivals. The festival was founded and is managed by the non-profit The Human Family, an organization dedicated to promoting human rights and social justice through film and art. Support for the festival comes from: the Fargo Human Relations Commission; the Fargo Native American Commission; African Soul, American Heart; Park Co. Realtors; Bell Bank; Himalayan Yak; Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, Kensie Wallner Photography; iPitch.tv; and the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.
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