2016-12-21 / Front Page

Local artist, vet joined protest against Dakota Access Pipeline

by Trish Rudder

Sunset at Standing Rock. 
photo by ragtime Sunset at Standing Rock. photo by ragtime Berkeley Springs artist and former Marine, ragtime, who fought in Vietnam in the 60s said too many people do not know what is happening at Standing Rock where a Sioux tribe is protesting the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, south of Bismarck, N.D.

What he saw on social media about the protest moved him to go to North Dakota to show his support.

The pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners received permission from the U.S. Corps of Engineers to cross the lake last July, but they need a second form of permission – an easement allowing the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe under the Mineral Leasing Act. That permit was denied on December 4.

The 1,172 mile pipeline is near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the river is the primary water source for the Sioux tribe.

But that was not the original route. The original pipeline was to be routed just north of Bismarck but was rejected for similar reasons, according to Public International Radio’s story on December 1:

Local artist and Vietnam Vet, ragtime traveled to North Dakota twice to stand with other “water protectors” against the Dakota Access Pipeline going under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River. photo by Trish Rudder Local artist and Vietnam Vet, ragtime traveled to North Dakota twice to stand with other “water protectors” against the Dakota Access Pipeline going under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River. photo by Trish Rudder “According to Karen Van Fossan, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bismarck, North Dakota, ‘I actually read about the original pathway of the pipeline, in our local newspaper… it’s our understanding, and I’ve talked to everybody who I know who would have known about it in advance, that we never even in Bismarck had to make an objection. The pathway was moved away from our drinking supply without our even needing to go to a meeting or write a letter.’”

And according to the August 18 Bismarck Tribune, “… one reason that route was rejected was its potential threat to Bismarck’s water supply, documents show.”

Joining the protest ragtime said he began paying attention to Standing Rock during the summer and then in September he saw on Facebook that “the company was using attack dogs against the protesters – the “protectors,” he said. The September 3 video showed men and women with attack dogs who were hired by the pipeline company to guard the pipeline.

The Facebook video was from Democracy Now! with reporter Amy Goodman. It also shows a protester telling Goodman that a woman was bit in the face by one of the attack dogs.

“That’s when it got real,” ragtime said, after he “became enraged that this was happening, that the law wasn’t stopping it, and that nobody was aware.” ragtime was so outraged by what he saw that he drove to Standing Rock to join the protest.

He said he arrived to a village of non-violence. The people were not planning violent actions to retaliate, “only, let’s pray for those people to leave our land and take ‘the black snake’ (the pipeline) with them. Our water is too valuable to trade for money.”

He said about 100 different Sioux tribes were being represented with about 4,000 “water protectors,” even some from South America.

He saw that only about 20 % of the people who joined the protest were non-Native American, and he called friends in Berkeley Springs to let them know more people needed to know what was happening.

He said many newspapers were not reporting much about Standing Rock.

He stayed in his own tent on the Sacred Stone encampment grounds close to the river since the weather was not too cold, but he said he didn’t feel like he was giving much to the protest that first trip.

“I returned home with a reverence for the water protectors’ validity and the knowledge that I was past my prime for running the prairie, playing dodge ball with rubber bullets.”

The situation intensified through October and November as the company continued to construct the $3.8 billion pipeline closer to Lake Oahe.

Local business owner Tamme Marggraf contacted U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s (RW. Va.) office to protest the pipeline. Capito’s December 5 response to Marggraf states “this pipeline would enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks production area in North Dakota to reach refineries in Illinois. The increase in domestic crude oil production enhances our energy independence and provides revenue for state and local governments.”

About two and a half hours away from Standing Rock, a faulty pipeline leaked 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek and surrounding countryside and was not discovered until November 14.

According to CNN news report on December 14, “…it’s not clear what caused the pipeline to rupture or how long it’s been leaking.”

“… the Belle Fourche Pipeline Co. which owns the leaky pipeline … estimates that 130,200 gallons of oil spilled into the Little Missouri River,… and another 46,200 gallons leaked onto a hillside.”

Marggraf said she is concerned about the effects the proposed natural gas pipeline in Morgan County will have here because accidents happen.

Water cannons used ragtime said he saw a video on Facebook in late November that showed water cannons spraying the protestors at night when the temperature was below freezing.

“I became so enraged I could not move for more than one hour,” he said.

He heard that Wesley Clark, Jr., and Michael Woods, Jr., both veterans, called on all veterans “to muster” on December 4 through December 7 at Standing Rock “and stand between the Sioux and the armed guards to protect the protesters,” ragtime said. He and many vets would answer that call.

“Their hearts were sickened like mine with the thought that our country would allow this.

He returned to Standing Rock, and by Sunday afternoon, December 4, more and more people arrived.

“We came from all over – East Coast, West Coast, North and South. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, brothers, sisters, grunts, nurses, Corpsman – everyone who had stood in harm’s way overseas were finding a heart and reason to stand unarmed at life’s risk for justice. We were forming up and joining the Sioux and many other indigenous tribes and groups.” ragtime said “the Elders spoke with much wisdom about the importance of prayer first and the need to keep the spirit peaceful.”

A circle of hands

One of the Sioux elders called for a circle of unity to be formed around the encampment.

“We all joined hands around the entire camp made up of about 2,000 people – ‘we were in a joyful mood’ – when a Native American came running up to the camp shouting ‘the permit was denied,’” meaning the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers would not allow the developers to build a portion of the pipeline under Lake Oahe on Corp land. Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy wants more analysis “including a deeper consideration of alternative routes.”

“Everyone was joyful,” ragtime said, “with the fact that we were the force that helped push that over the edge.”

He said that is why the veterans went to Standing Rock “to bring this to the attention it deserves. We were there to protect the people and to protect the Constitution and stand for justice. And that’s why we went in harm’s way in the first place.”

“I think we were the warriors who fought in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and we went to Standing Rock without weapons to fight injustice peacefully.”

Bad weather arrives

On Monday, December 5 it began snowing. The veterans were getting ready to go up to the barricade about a half a mile or less away to protest against the pipeline.

“As we were gathering, the wind became harsh and it was flurrying snow and it became a white-out with so much snow. About 1,000 vets were lined up with the Sioux at the front of the protest, and we had to turn back and get out of the weather.”

He said on Monday night the snow continued and everybody was to gather into warmer tents since the temperature was minus 20 degrees. ragtime said he and other vets were “mustered together” in one of the troop tents that were set up to protect the vets from the cold.

Each temporary housing tent was about 60 feet long.

“Monday night was very cold,” he said. “ The wind was blowing so hard, we were told to put all of our gear on in case the tent would collapse so we could get out quickly. Some tents had already collapsed, he said. “So we were laying there in that wind.”

On Tuesday morning there was only about four inches of snow but the wind was harsh at 40 to 60 mph and there were many drifts, he said, so he had to stay.

He and many others went to the reservation’s casino and slept on the floor that night. “It was packed with people” and free food was given out to the vets, he said. On Wednesday he waited until the roads were open to begin the drive home.

“It was time to come home because the permit was denied, and another storm was on the way,” ragtime said.

“It’s really important that we all become aware about this and know how easily terrorism comes about when our police and armed guards are reacting and supporting corporations. This is a travesty to our Constitution and freedom itself is in jeopardy.” ragtime changed his name back in early 1970s after he returned home from fighting in Vietnam, and has been formally changed through the court. He would not give his former name.

“I have not been that person for a long time.”

He grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and served in Vietnam when he was 23 and 24 years old.

He served in the infantry and was part of the MOS (military occupational specialty)-code to describe a mortar man. ragtime said he fired 81mm mortars in the fight against the North Vietnamese Army. “It’s painful to revisit Vietnam. The reason I went to Vietnam was to help people, and I went to North Dakota to help my fellow citizens.”

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