HOW I SPENT MY VACATIONOctober 15, 2016 4:10 PM
Dear Friends and Constituents:
I’m writing to let you know how I spent my mini-vacation last weekend and the early part of this past week – the first vacation my husband Adam and I have taken in 14 months. You will understand why I’m telling this personal tale on my official Alder blog as the narrative unfolds.
The first leg of our journey took us to Chaska, MN, where we celebrated my Uncle Jim’s 90th Birthday party. He is the eldest of 5 brothers, and they were all able to make the party. It is truly a blessing that they are all still with us and were able to make the journey. We enjoyed visiting with cousins and other extended family members, catching up on family news and enjoying many laughs. When Uncle Jim blew out his birthday candles he said, “In 10 years we’ll REALLY have a party – Pete will be 89 1/2!”
Sunday morning Adam, our dog Makwa and I began the second leg of our journey to North Dakota, where we planned to bird watch along the Missouri River, and deliver Madison’s resolution “Expressing Solidarity with Indigenous Resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline” to the Standing Rock Tribal Chairman, David Archambault II. This resolution was passed unanimousy by the Common Council and signed by the Mayor on September 20, 2016. It describes the the value of sacred sites, government-to-government relations with Tribes, and the vital importance of protecting the water, and calls for more public education and for the US Army Corps of Engineers to halt all permitting processes until robust, free and informed consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been conducted.
Because our city is located on the traditional homelands of the Ho Chunk people and the region is defined by water – Dejope or 4 lakes – with the highest concentration of Late Woodland effigy mounds on the continent, we have a special appreciation for these issues. For the past several decades City and County elected officials have worked to build formal relationships with the Ho Chunk Nation government in a good way. We have a long way to go yet, but we are doing our best to educate the public and build trust with the Ho Chunk Nation.
We arrived in Standing Rock territory around 7:30 pm on Sunday. Since we could not immediately locate the people to whom we were to deliver the carload full of donations (tools, kitchen utensils, food, as well as tobacco, cloth and hemp cord for prayer ties), we decided to head down the highway to the Prairie Knights Casino to take in the Packers game.
Standing Rock is on the border of Vikings and Broncos territory, so we were a little nervous about how we would be received as Packers fans. I’m happy to report that we were greeted warmly, albeit with a healthy dose of good-natured ribbing, and enjoyed the Packers’ win over the Giants.
We arrived back at camp a little after midnight and parked the car next to the Legal tent, where our friend, Madison attorney Patricia (PK) Hammel was camped out as part of the legal team. Amazingly, folding down the back seats of a Prius and rolling out a futon makes a very comfortable sleeping arrangement. We set up our little camper – Makwa slept on the front seat – and went to sleep shortly before 1am.
I had set the alarm on my phone for 5:45 am in order to attend a sunrise prayer ceremony organized by Lakota Canupa (sacred pipe) carriers. The alarm never sounded due to the cold and the constant searching for a non-existent signal. (Note to self: switch phone into airplane mode when there is no signal.) Luckily, PK was up and awoke me with her flashlight.
On that morning of October 10, Indigenous Peoples Day, temperatures were in the 20s, so I put on as many layers as I had carried. Long underwear weather to be sure. A pickup truck drove around camp with someone with a megaphone – sounding very much like a Pow Wow announcer cracking corny jokes – called campers to rise and shine and head toward the river.
PK and I joined over 100 other people from all over the world on the northern shore of the Cannonball River. Before the ceremony, which included smudging and songs for the pipes, the directions, the water and unity of the people, several young people circulated throughout the gathering with offerings of “cowboy coffee” and sliced oranges and apples.
When the ceremony concluded, it was announced that there would be an Eagle and Condor ceremony based on the Incan prophecy somewhere along the route of the pipeline. We were to meet at the south gate of the camp and convoy to the undisclosed site.
PK went as part of the legal team and I grabbed my camera bag and tagged along, leaving Makwa and Adam – who had done all of the 800+ miles of driving – to enjoy their much needed sleep.
The sun had just crested the eastern horizon revealing a million shades of brown and green, casting long shadows of mesas, hills, barns, fences, bison, cattle and horses on the earth. I responded to the spectacular beauty of the place by pulling out my video camera, capturing images of the countryside as we followed the line of 60 or so vehicles to the pipeline site. PK’s car was the second to last vehicle in the convoy.
As we pulled onto Highway 6, we began to hear the sound of a helicopter. PK had mentioned that Energy Transfer Partners, the second largest “Master Limited Partner” in the country that shares ownership of the Dakota Access Pipeline project with Enbridge Energy Partners and whose sub-shareholders include Donald Trump and North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, had scrubbed the identifying registration numbers from the helicopter on previous occasions. I then focused my camera on the helicopter to see if we could identify it.
When we got to the site, PK put on a neon green hat with black embroidered lettering: “National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer.” Several years ago I received legal observer training from the ACLU and understood the role and responsibility of the position. The NLG Manualdefines it this way:
The primary role of the Legal Observer is to be the eyes and ears of the legal team–to observe and record incidents and the activities of law enforcement in relation to the demonstrators. This includes documenting, for example, any arrest, use of force, intimidating display of force, denial of access to public spaces like parks and sidewalks, and any other behavior on the part of law enforcement that appears to restrict demonstrators’ ability to express their political views. This documentation needs to be done in a thorough and professional manner, so that lawyers representing arrestees or bringing an action against the police generally will be able to objectively evaluate the constitutionality of government conduct. Information gathered by Legal Observers has contributed to an extremely successful track record in defending and advancing the rights of demonstrators, including in criminal trials and several major lawsuits against Federal and local governments for their unconstitutional actions.
I then switched my hat out for a lime green legal observer hat and internally prepared myself for the work, which involves simply observing and not participating in any activities or speaking with anyone in the crowd or with police unless absolutely necessary. Most of all, my job was to not get arrested and to maintain control of my camera.
I stayed on the outskirts of the crowd as it assembled alongside of a tipi frame that had been woven around with long strings of prayer ties. A group of indigenous youth from Argentina, representing the Condor from the South, performed several dances. They were followed by a man and a woman from the Arctic Circle, representing the Eagle from the North, drumming and keening a deeply moving, mournful song about their journey to that place.
I did not record the ceremony. My camera was trained on the rural road to the south where more than a dozen police vehicles were traveling east at high speeds toward Highway 6. As they approached I moved father away from the tipi and closer to the road so as not to interfere with the movements of the crowd or of the police.
I heard the MC of the ceremony let people know that the police were arriving, and that if they were not prepared to be arrested they should return to the road and the public right of way. He mentioned that some people had planned to sit and pray inside the tipi frame and were willing to face trespassing charges. He reiterated that this was a peaceful ceremony and that people should disperse peacefully. He also mentioned that the group had a designated police liaison who would be communicating with the commanding officer to let them know that people were dispersing. I found out later that the police liaison was among the first people to be arrested that day.
I continued to remain silent on the sidelines, focusing my camera on the lines of police walking down to the site in formation. There were multiple groups of 12-15 officers (totaling more than 60 officers) from many different jurisdictions throughout North Dakota and Wisconsin. I personally saw officers from Marathon County and the Wisconsin State Patrol. Other reports and photos from that morning show Rock and Dane County deputies on site as well.
A group of a dozen or so officers placed themselves shoulder to shoulder across the path that had been excavated for the pipeline just in front of the tipi where 16 people had entered, including a Lakota Grandmother Canupa carrier who began conducting pipe ceremony. I backed up to get out of their way, expecting that they would begin arresting the tipi people.
All of a sudden, the commanding officer in the line shouted, “If we touch you you’re under arrest!” I backed up as much as I could, but I was hemmed in by the pipeline pipes that were sitting on the ground. He then lunged at me, went straight for my arm holding the camera and yanked my hands behind my back. I kept a hold of my camera, and behind my back tried to close the viewfinder to protect the camera from damage. That’s when he yelled, “now I’m arresting you for destruction of evidence and criminal trespass” and grabbed the camera away from me.
When another Deputy grabbed me and began to push me across the excavated path, I said in a very calm voice, “I will comply peacefully with your verbal commands. You don’t have to push me.” Later I saw the camera lying on the ground 20 feet away from where I was initially accosted by the officer.
In addition to the 16 people sitting in the tipi, 9 other people (including me), were handcuffed and lined up against a pipe while the arresting officers filled out their affidavits. We were all transported to the jail in Mandan, ND. While we were in the garage of the jail awaiting processing, actress Shailene Woodley was escorted in by two officers. Apparently she was arrested as she tried to get into her vehicle to leave the scene.
I spent the night in jail and was bonded out the next day.
As far as I know, of the people arrested on Monday I am the person with the most charges: the two that everyone else received (criminal trespass, inciting a riot), and also resisting arrest and destruction of evidence. My camera was seized as evidence and may have been damaged or destroyed given that the last time I saw it it was lying on the ground far away from the place where it was last in my posession.
My court date is on January 12. I will be fighting the charges.
The first thing I did after my release from jail, after eating a slice of pizza and thanking the people who were waiting outside the jail for support, was to drive down to the administrative offices of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in Fort Yates to speak with somebody about how to deliver the City of Madison’s resolution. The administrative assistant in the Chairman’s office told me that there would be a Tribal Council meeting the next morning in the village of Cannon Ball, and suggested I show up there and speak with the Chairman.
Adam and I attended the six hour long special meeting, which was called to discuss whether or not to move the camp south of the Cannonball River onto reservation land for the winter. We listened to many people in the community share their concerns – including the ongoing struggle for compensation by the US Army Corps of Engineers for bottom land lost along the Missouri River when the Corps built a dam and created Lake Oahe, and the housing crisis faced by many tribal members. An employee of the school district talked about how their student athletes are harassed when they go outside of the reservation for athletic competitions, requiring the escort of tribal police.
After the meeting I was finally able to accomplish my mission: to deliver the framed parchment signed by Mayor Soglin to Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II.
During my brief time visiting Standing Rock territory I witnessed and felt the depths of the human rights crisis facing their community. The day that we left, a Standing Rock woman was arrested at a traffic stop, taken to jail and strip searched in front of four male Deputies.
Divisive forces are pushing hard to break the resolve of the Standing Rock people and other water protectors from across the world. I remain more commited than ever in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s sovereignty and rights to clean water and self-determination.