Media suppression and BIA/Tribe/Military Coordination Questions

On Wednesday Feb. 1st, the hilltop camp was arrested and the police and military action was swift. The unexpected turn was the way in which the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) coordinated with the military.

The BIA has long been doing surveillance of the camps and those that travel through the Standing Rock Reservation, but they have never blocked a road in connection to the camps in my experience since my arrival this past September.

When the actions developed on Wednesday, we were able to document the events quickly as we still live here and are active in the floodplain cleanup and video archive project. We did our best to collect material and information through the afternoon then headed out at 5pm to publish the news we had gathered. Upon traveling South toward Fort Yates, we were greeted by a significant BIA presence blocking the road and all travel North to the camps. A BIA officer stopped us and asked us “are you going home?” and then told us that if we travel South past this point that we would not be allowed North anymore. He was implying that the camps would be sealed off going forward and was presenting it in a misleading way to try to convince campers to gather their major items and leave to never return. Some vehicles were turning around to gather important items in belief of the warnings, but we planned to hike in (if necessary) after posting the material.

I felt a deep feeling of being backstabbed as I had gone to the Standing Rock Tribal Office only 8 days before to confirm that BIA would not seal off the camps or the South bridge from camp during the 30 day cleanup window. I was assured that they would not block any roads on the reservation within or after the 30 day window while directly speaking with the Water Administrator in the Chairman’s section of the Tribal Office in Fort Yates. I do not know if the BIA acts independent of the Tribe’s agreements and messages, the Tribe changed their mind, or the Tribal Office did not plan on respecting the ideas they assured me of.

What concerned me more than all this is the idea that even media was sealed off from a public road and the frontline of action if the media was not on a pre-approved list or was already within the camps during the beginning of the road block. This practice suppresses “non-approved” media outlets and creates a dangerous precedent of suppression of accountability and documentation of escalating actions around the camps.

When we attempted to return to camp, the road block had disbanded and we settled in for the night. I now camp here not only to clean the floodplain area and offer final prayers, but I will do my best to keep alternative media reporting alive for at least the upcoming days.

We are transitioning our camp in the coming days and plan to leave our area in a good way. We have many videos to edit and publish from our 5 months here. Only a subset has been published at this point. We did our best to focus on the “World Community” response to Standing Rock’s calls and have hours of varied peoples’ conversations on why they came to camp, special messages, and other clarifications.

All videos will be published on our YouTube channel and all photos along with video excerpts will go through our Facebook Newsfeed. In addition, Sitting Bull College Library will preserve our collection of material in their archives.

There are many things to learn and I have much reflection to write out from this experience. I believe most who passed through these camps were changed and have much to ponder.

-Trey, from the Longhouse