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summer time view of pipe being installed

The compound they are setting up for drilling under the lake

We (the Meta Peace Team International Exploratory Team), are privileged to be here as part of this marvelous campaign of nonviolent resistance at Standing Rock Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota. The nonviolent campaign is resisting the final leg of construction of the Dakota Access pipeline near the Reservation that would threaten their water.

In a time of much darkness, with fossil fuel corporations ravishing the land in their greed to grow richer, and the Trump presidency about to begin, it is a story of effective resistance against a mountain of odds working against them. The astounding news came on December 4 that the Obama administration denied the permit necessary for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be completed.

We're talking about holding up billions of dollars of profit. The pipeline, costing $3.8 billion to build, would transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day across four states extending 1,172 miles.

Over the past months, local and state police have viciously attacked the nonviolent Water Protectors with water cannons in freezing weather, with attack dogs, clubs, rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, and threats. Temperatures in the camp have reached below zero at times. More than 500 were arrested over the past few months. A few hundred have been injured.

Then the Army Corps of Engineers gave a December 5 deadline for the Water Protectors to leave their camp site that is on Corp-managed land. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple issued an emergency evacuation order following on the Army Corp of Engineers order. Even with this threat, they have not been able to make the Water Protector community back down or withdraw. December 5 was looking like a horrible assault about to happen.

Then came the stunning Army Corps of Engineers announcement on December 4 that the permit to drill and lay the pipe under the riverbed is denied. The pipeline construction was at a halt. Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, the corporations behind the pipeline are expressing anger at this affront to their power.

How did the Standing Rock Sioux Nation do it? Not armed with guns, knives, violent weapons of any kind in the Oceti Sakowin Camp near the pipeline construction.

They built the resistance camp community with prayer, Sacred Fire ceremonies, and their spirit of reverence for all people and the earth. They displayed courage and nonviolent discipline in the face of great violent force. They welcomed all who come in support and oriented them to this spirit of respect and mutual taking care of one another.

The campaign used the media effectively. The many facets of media displayed pictures of the brutal attacks, and the courage of the people, and this inspired many across the country and beyond to respond.

They put out the call for support from Native people across the country, and they came. They called all people of good will to come join them. May of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation are U. S. military war veterans. They put out the call to veterans of America to come. And thousands came. To top it off, a contingent of 5,000 vets organized by Wesley Clark Jr. was on its way to be there December 4 -7, when the forced evacuation was to take place.

The local enforcement leaders acknowledged that they didn't have the resources to forcibly remove so many thousands from the camp.

This is a great victory, in the ongoing struggle. Energy Transfer Partners insists the pipeline will be completed. Maybe the route will be altered, far away from Reservation land. But if they pursue the present site, we know they have an ongoing battle with the great nonviolent force of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and thousands who stand with them. They have inspired people throughout the world today.

Elliott Adams and Peter Dougherty

Walking With the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in Their 


Tribal council

sun shining in camp 

over view of camp

In response to an invitation by the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, we are here as a Meta Peace Team (MPT) International Exploratory Team.

We say “International” because the Sioux Nation by treaty is a sovereign nation, locked in a complicated web of U.S. federal-state-local laws and tribal laws, through centuries of struggle, occupation and oppression.

We are here as part of the astounding Oceti Sakowin Camp of Water Protectors at Standing Rock, obstructing the completion of the Dakota Access Pipe Line construction that would be a threat to their water.

We are also here by invitation to explore how we may be a resource of nonviolence training for the Standing Rock people.

We come as white people, born and bred in the white U.S. culture, truly uninformed (ignorant) of their ways of thinking, feeling, relating to others and the earth. We know also that we still have ingrained biases we have not yet flushed out of our psyches toward others that are “different” from us. We come as learners, as well as companions in the struggle, with some things to share.

Years ago we did a nonviolence training in Michigan. One of our trainers was half Native American, half white. He shared a list of values and traits of Native Americans. One African-American making the training jumped up excitedly and exclaimed: “Those are the values and traits we have as African-Americans! The lesson for me was, that people of color share values in common that are different than those of European Americans.

We are struck by the general accent on the sacred. People and the earth are sacred. There is sacred ritual fire. Relationships are sacred. Land is sacred. Water is sacred. Burial grounds are sacred. Menstruation is sacred. (“It is our honoring,” said one woman). Being an elder is sacred.

We entered one tent in the camp referred to as the Michigan tent. Mostly there were Native Americans. At one point, an elder asked for our attention, then asked one Native American woman there to come forward, to her surprise. He told us of her bravery during the confrontations with police as they violently tried to force the Water Protectors back. He then reverently took out a strikingly beautiful large eagle feather, reverently handed it to her as a token of the community's gratitude. It was a sacred moment.

The seven Lakota (one of the Sioux bands) values are Fortitude, Respect, Compassion, Honesty, Generosity, Bravery, Wisdom. Some things we heard in the camp “Come with a clean heart.” “If an elder tells you something, that is a blessing.” “Listen.” White relations tend to be transactional, vs the Native American way of first building relationships.

Culture of Colonization
Peter Dougherty and Elliott Adams are in Standing Rock, North Dakota
as an MPT International Exploratory Team.

 a veiw in camp
Camp entrance is left edge of photo

Everyone wants to know about the camp, about pipeline resistance. But on a personal level working with the indigenous nations people I am aware of the crossing of cultures. I think many of us either view their culture as quaint or mythologizes it. But I need to see and accept them for what they. That includes seeing myself for what I am. I grew up in a colonizing culture, my culture has figured out a million ways to justify and live off colonization. Our three major religions are the Abrahamic religions which say “let them [people] have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” Genesis 1:26. By contrast what I hear here is a culture (and I am consciously distinguish from religion) in which people are literally a part of the land and the animals, we are all connected and interwoven. They frequently refer to the elements of the world around them as relatives – it seems they feel that their relative a deer for example has to give its life so that they can live. This is in harsh contrast to our culture where for example our Secretary of State (Madeleine Albright) could say 500,000 children dying was worth it. Our Secretary of Defense and many people on the street feel it is rational to say better to kill them over there than over here. Our capitalist economy is not about surviving it is about growing. Our foreign policy is about changing the government structures and the economies of other countries to serve us better. Our history has included a religious interpretation that promoted converting and domination.

I need to come to terms with being part of a colonizing culture. I will never be able to change that. But by knowing that is the basis of how I have grown up and lived I can better accept and respect non-colonizing cultures as equals and different.


Peter Dougherty and Elliott Adams are in Standing Rock, North Dakota

 as an MPT International Exploratory Team.

Our first day on the ground at Standing Rock. Following the blizzard there is snow on the ground, but traveling in fine. Today was 28 degrees all day with a fine rain. Spirits at the camp are high and despite the orders to evacuate preparation for winter at the camp is moving ahead.

We have been asked why we treat this MPT team as an International Exploratory Team. In the geopolitical sense the Sioux people living in Standing Rock view themselves as a separate sovereign nation. It is self evident that they were a nation before the Europeans (us) moved in. The US negotiated and signed nation to nation treaties with them. Legally the US views them as a “domestic dependent nation” (a legal creation of the Supreme Court to justify what we had done and were doing) but still a nation.

It is informative, if ancillary, to look at the creation of the legal idea “domestic dependent nation.” The US Supreme Court under Justice John Marshall (1808-1835) was faced with cases involving the conundrum of this nation being built on the lands of the indigenous people. To say those lands belonged to the indigenous people would be to say the Supreme Court and even the young nation of USA did not exist. But facts on the ground meant the court could not say the indigenous people didn't exist or weren't a nation. With no legal basis to use in what are now called the “Marshall Trilogy” the court resorted to old European religious doctrines like the Doctrine of Discovery (which says any land discovered by European Christians which is occupied by non-Christians may be taken and the inhabitants who will not convert to Christianity may be killed or enslaved). The Marshall Trilogy dressed up religious principles as US law.

And this team is also like other international teams because we are working across a cultural divide. We all think of the cultural differences between the US and Spain or France or even England, yet our culture is a direct derivative of those cultures and only varies in small ways. With the Native Americans the differences of culture are much greater. While they have all learned our language, the words and ideas have different meanings because their culture is different. The culture we have grown up in is a deeply colonization culture. Through the brightly colored glasses of our colonization culture it is hard to see the indigenous culture clearly. I do not pretend to understand their culture and it is possible that I never could, but even on a casual level one sees a difference in importance they put on people, the role of elders, the way they their religion is part of everything around them, their understanding of time, their relationships with their ancestors. All of these things change what simple words or casual acts meant.

This is an international team in every sense except that we - the U.S.culture - have internalized the idea that they are the “domestic dependent nation.”