Easy Chair — From the December 2016 issue

Standing Rock Speaks

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In late September, a phalanx of police, their shotguns drawn, backed by a hulking armored vehicle, confronted a group of protesters. Thanks to wiggle room in the DOJ’s pronouncement, pipeline construction had resumed nearby, and so had the tension. There were twenty-one arrests. Days later, a cold front slammed the plains, and the camp, according to reports, busied itself preparing for a hard winter. When you read this, that winter will have come. Graver difficulties, too, perhaps. In Dickinson, North Dakota, where my car died, stranding me in a motel, the boom created by the nearby fracking fields has ebbed as oil prices have declined. I met some grumpy people who had bitter views on Standing Rock. Meanwhile, on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation, one of the poorest places in the United States and one of the most addicted and suicidal, funds are being raised on Facebook to send a thousand young Lakota Sioux to help defend the waters of the Missouri.

On my way to the camp, I parked along the river’s banks and watched it drag last spring’s Montana snowmelt slowly south across the prairies. There was a crow, of course, yakking on a tree branch, grouchy, ornery. Crows are often considered tricksters, and in some legends crows created the world. But now it is all ours, not theirs. It belongs to us, the two-legged ones.

I imagine this concerns them, as it should.

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