Posts Tagged ‘Burials’

TYT: Water Protector Urges Bernie Sanders to Come to Standing Rock

November 27, 2016

In this clip, The Young Turks journalist Jordan Cheriton, who’s been reporting on the Standing Rock protests against the oil companies’ efforts to drive a pipeline through Sioux treaty land, interviews Oscar Salazar, one of the water protectors. Salazar’s wearing a jumpsuit and clothing covered with Bernie Sanders’ face. He’s a big fan of Bernie Sanders, because of the way Sanders has stood up and talked about the issues facing Native Americans. He makes the point that when Sanders did so, he was thought crazy by the media. Sanders has been an outspoken critic of the oil company and the pipeline, and has supported the protestors and water protectors. Salazar states that such supported is needed because of the way indigenous Americans have been and are being treated, and the way the Native community has much to teach other Americans about living in harmony with the environment. At Cheriton’s urging, he looks into the camera, and asks the Congressman to come to Standing Rock to see for himself what is going on, and states that the protestors are not going to back down and the demonstration will continue.

The clip shows some of Sanders’ tweets supporting the water protectors, and footage of the protestors in the river being blocked and sprayed by the police goons to stop them going on to the island on which the tribe’s dead are buried. The clip ends with the Native chant about the protests against the pipeline.

Oil Police Building Razor Wire Around Native Burial Ground for DAPL Pipeline

November 26, 2016

The dispossession for the indigenous people in North Dakota, and the brutalisation of the water protectors and protesters from Americans of all ethnic groups for the profit of big oil continues. In this short video from The Young Turks, their reporter Jordan Cheriton shows how militarised police are building a razor wire fence around a Native burial ground, so that the local indigenous people cannot visit or pray at the graves of their ancestors. There was an attempt by the NODAPL protestors to reach the island earlier in canoes, but they were beaten off by the police. The abandoned canoes were left on the island’s shore, where they are shown being hauled away and broken up by the rozzers.

Cheriton intervenes one of the water protectors, Mr Akicita Tokahe, who is a former US army veteran. Mr Tokahe was one of the US squaddies sent to Panama. He describes how the saw the local people there regard him and his army buddies with a mixture of fear and joy in their eyes. Now, he says, he’s experiencing what it’s like to be on the other side of an armed force.

The video ends with a young woman’s voice chanting a song about not giving up the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

This is just one disgraceful episode in a long line of instances of police brutality, official injustice, greed and intimidation. It shows the overwhelming power of the oil industry in America, the way they’ve been able to ride roughshod over laws and treaties protecting indigenous land, and the absolute contempt they have for the Native people of America.

The pipeline was due to go through, or past, the town of Bismarck. However, as this would have posed a threat to the water quality of White, suburban community, the people complained and the decision was made to send it straight through the land of the Sioux people. And this is very much treaty land. Cheriton, or one of the others from The Turks, talked to a Black protestor, who had worked as one of the environmental teams researching and presenting evidence on whether oil pipelines could be legally constructed in particular areas. America has legislation, which should prevent oil, or other potentially dangerous or polluting engineering projects, being situated in poor, Black or otherwise disadvantages neighbourhoods. The oil company deliberately falsified evidence to claim wrongly that the land through which the pipeline was going to be laid was not Native American. They did so by counting only the indigenous Americans resident on Federal land, ignoring the greater amount of reservation land which the pipeline will run through. And as Cheriton points out here, the oil company shouldn’t be on that small island either. It belongs to the American military, and by law the only people allowed on that land should be the US armed forces.

So far, we’ve seen instances where the cops have done their best to prevent peaceful protests and prayers at the state capital. They’ve used mace against the protestors, physically attacked them, including with dogs. Indigenous protectors, including women, have been hauled off to be kept in dog kennels. They have been shot with rubber bullets, and the other day a White young woman, Sophia Wilansky, had her lower arm blow off when one of these goons shot her directly with a stun grenade. This is illegal, but they did it anyway and are now lying about it. The protestors have made it very clear that they’re putting this in the perspective of the long-term dispossession of the Native people of America by Whites. I don’t think you can fairly argue against this. A desire for the wealth of natural resources and agricultural land was behind the continuing seizure of Indian land and relocation of the Amerindians themselves during the 19th century. Despite the fact that this land is protected by the Fort Laramie treaty of 1863, if I’m not mistaken, the whole affair shows that the authorities are still willing to violate treaties and seize indigenous land, just as their 19th century predecessors did, when it suits them.

There is indeed a real danger that the pipeline will foul the area’s drinking water and damage its ecology. One of the statistics cited is that there already been 300 odd oil spills across America, which aren’t reported. And the authorities in America seem to have absolutely no interest in protecting the water quality of their citizens. The people of Flint, Michigan, have had their drinking water poisoned with lead by the local water company, but so far little, if any, action seems to have been taken to clean up the mess and punish those responsible. Communities have also seen their water contaminated by fracking, again with the absolute complicity of the local politicos.

There’s a lesson for us over here. The same companies that are fouling the American environment are keen to start fracking over here, and local authorities and the Tory party are all too eager to let them do it. So we can also expect communities harmed by poisoned drinking water, what the politicos take the bucks handed to them by fossil fuel companies completely indifferent to the suffering and damage they’ve caused.

As an archaeologist, I’m also left astonished and disgusted by the desecration of the tribe’s burial grounds. The respectful treatment of human remains excavated through engineering works, archaeological investigation or preserved in museums is a serious issue. It naturally arouses concern by people that their dead ancestors should be treated with dignity. And the issue is particularly strong, when the remains are those of peoples that have suffered from persecution. For example, a few years ago human remains were uncovered during building work for a new supermarket in one of the northern English towns. It was established that these were Jewish burials, including some of the victims of one of the terrible pogroms unleashed against them during the Middle Ages. Their excavation and removal to another site was, obviously, a delicate matter involving careful negotiation between the authorities, developers, archaeologists and the Jewish community.

Similarly, I was told by a Canadian archaeologist friend that the American archaeologists conducting an investigation of Native burials had to participate and observe certain ritual requirements, including being anointed with buffalo grease, while conducting the excavation. And rightly so, as they were on indigenous territory, interfering with their ancestors’ burials and remains, and so it was only correct that they should have to observe indigenous customs governing the sanctity of the dead.

And you can probably think of other, more prosaic examples of similar concern in White communities, when the dead there have been disturbed due to redevelopment. Yet the police and the oil company there have shown no such sensitivity to the feelings of the local people, or respect for their dead.

This is an absolute disgrace. And I’m very sure we can expect the same callous attitudes and casual brutality over here in Blighty when fracking starts.

North Dakota Oil Pipeline: Company Destroys Native Burial Sites

September 10, 2016

If true, this is pure barbarism. I blogged earlier this week about protests by Native Americans about the North Dakota Access Pipeline, which is intended to carry oil through the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux people. The tribe are opposing it, as they fear that the pipeline will lead to the pollution of their water supply and the destruction of their lands and its ecosystem. In this piece from Democracy Now!, the anchor Amy Goodson speaks to the tribe’s lawyer, Jan Hasselman, from the chambers Earthjustice, and the tribe’s chairman Dave Archambault.

The oil company has tried a number of tactics to try to close down and disrupt the protests. They local sheriff and officials have pulled cellphone access over the area, to stop citizens uploading videos of the protests to the internet. They’ve also attacked the protesters with dogs and pepper spray. There’s video footage of the bites some of the protesters received from one of the animals, with blood dripping from the muzzle of a Doberman Pinscher. The oil company has also tried to destroy the ancient burials on the site, which Mr Hasselman was hoping to use as part of his case against the development.

Mr Hasselman and a team of archaeologists surveyed the site to show that there were Native American archaeological remains, some of them very rare, in the area which was scheduled for digging. These included the burials. They submitted these to the court in the hope that the judge would therefore rule that digging could not go ahead under the relevant legislation protecting ancient monuments in America and desecrating burial sites. The reverse happened. The company took the information, and used it as a guide to the location of the remains. They then sent the bulldozers in to destroy them. They did so in front of the protesters, and when they moved to protect the monuments, the security guards set the dogs on them and attacked them with mace.

Here’s the report.

This is outrageous on so many levels. It’s disgusting when anyone’s graves are desecrated. It is particularly outrageous when it’s deliberately done by a multimillion, if not multibillion dollar company against an impoverished community in a deliberate attempt to destroy their past for corporate profit. I have a postgraduate qualification in Archaeology from Bristol University. When I was on the course, a number of the other students I met were archaeologists from the other side of the Atlantic – America and Canada. Several of them had worked studying ancient First Nation American and Canadian remains. One young woman had designed a heritage park for one of the local peoples in southeast America. Another young man had also worked in Canada, prospecting ahead of the oil companies on the Canadian prairie for palaeoindian remains. And another young woman had been part of an expedition to the Canadian arctic to study Inuit monuments.

There is a wealth of fascinating archaeology from the indigenous American and Canadian cultures, which archaeologists have recovered and from which they are still learning. This archaeology is often not fully appreciated, even by the local people, to whom it really belongs, as for years the American and Canadian governments and some religious organisations, Such as the Roman Catholic missions in the American South West, did their level best to destroy the indigenous culture. In Canada, this was most notoriously through the government boarding schools, which were designed to isolate Native children from their ancestral culture and inculcate in them the culture, including clothing and language, of the White majority. The same policy was adopted in Australia against the Aboriginal people. As a result, some First Nation peoples tragically have only a very hazy idea of their traditional culture and the meaning of the monuments their ancestors created and left behind. I believe such a policy today of trying to destroy the Native people’s ancestral way of life would count as genocide under international human rights legislation.

Because of the historic injustice against these communities, excavation of these sites is extremely sensitive and, in Canada, they’re very strongly protected. The lad, who worked on the prairie informed me that he was working to make sure that there were no ancient Indian artifacts around before the oil companies moved in to extract oil from the shale geology of the area. If just one flint arrowhead was found, the area was a protected site and no development could go ahead. He also told me of some of the ceremonies that had to be carried out, and in which the archaeologists conducting the excavation, had to take part according to tribal religion. The archaeologists exploring ancient Sioux burial grounds, for example, had to be ‘smudged’ by the tribe’s shaman. ‘Smudging’ is something like Christian exorcism, but also rather different. The excavators and investigators, including those just handling the remains and writing up the notes, had to be anointed on their wrists and neck with buffalo grease by the local shaman for as long as the excavation lasted. This obviously made washing and personal cleanliness difficult, but it had to be done. The archaeologists were after all investigating another people’s culture, and so had to respect it.

Because archaeological remains are scarcer in America and Canada, because of the sparser population before the European conquest, excavations are carried out with a greater thoroughness than in Britain and Europe. They may take longer, and are done in finer detail than is frequently possible across the Atlantic.

Now it seems remains of immense cultural, spiritual and personal value to Sioux people, as well as of inestimable scientific value to archaeologists, has been destroyed for no reason other than to spite the protesters and their supporters, and prevent proper investigation by the courts. Several of the faculty at Bristol uni were members of, or had personal connections to, the World Heritage Organisation. Archaeologists, like other academics, travel all over the world to excavate and teach. So you can bet that scholars across the world have heard of this attack through their organisations, colleagues and students. And they aren’t going to be impressed.