Also, on the North-eastern edge of the Black Hills, just a few miles from the small town of Sturgis, off Highway 34, lies one of the most sacred mountains to the Plains Indians from the United States and Canada: Bear Butte, where Native American tribes received spiritual messages and gifts. All the tribes of the Sioux people: Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota, come to Bear Butte to pray. The months of May, June, and July will see families camped at the base while a relative is standing on the side of the mountain fasting in deep meditation.
Small coloured pieces of cloth containing pinches of tobacco are wrapped around trees and bushes as prayer gifts. Larger flags of red, white, black, or yellow, the sacred colours, also are tied to trees to carry the prayers to all the directions. This analogies with Hinduism are obvious. Sacred water such as the Ganga. Sacred mountains such as Kailash and Meru. The fasting, meditation, prayer flags, scared colours, all point to a shared spirituality.
The Dakota Access pipeline is a 1700 kilometer (1100 Mile) pipeline that is intended to transport the 400,000 barrels of oil that are coming from the Bakken and Three Forks oil fields in the U.S. State of North Dakota every day.Currently most of that oil is transported by train. On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Lakota activists see the pipeline as part of a legacy of oppression and resistance. When ranchers meet with Native Americans, they forge an unexpected alliance of cowboys and Indians. “Let’s reroute the pipeline. It doesn’t have to put our water at risk,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II told reporters.
There have been months of protests over the $3.78 billion, 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe claims that it would destroy sacred grounds and put at risk the region’s water supply in case of leaks. DAPL is planned to pass near the tribe’s reservation.
There have been violent encounters between police and protesters. More than a hundred people were arrested. Protesters accused the police of using abusive tactics, including spraying mace and detaining people in dog kennels.
“Militarized law enforcement agencies moved in on water protectors with tanks and riot gear,” Archambault said. “We continue to pray for peace. We call on the state of North Dakota to oversee the actions of local law enforcement to, first and foremost, ensure everyone’s safety.
The police have aggressively detained them, crowded them into vans, wrote numbers on their arms to track them, conducted invasive body searches and showed a lack of respect for native culture. “They treat us like we’re not human beings,” said Russell Eagle Bear, a member of the Rosebud Sioux, who was one of 141 people arrested.
The Morton county sheriff’s office and supporting police agencies from across North Dakota and beyond have now made more than 400 arrests, accusing Native American activists, journalists and film-makers of rioting, trespassing, arson, resisting arrest and assaulting officers.
“How is it that people who were seen on national media with guns having a stand off with police officials were acquitted … and we’re being treated like we’re terrorists?” said Cody Hall, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and a spokesman for the pipeline protesters. Both the Standing Rock Sioux and the Oregon occupiers consider themselves marginalized groups fighting to preserve a way of life. But the latter have been acquitted despite openly parading firearms: and being white.
The Oregon occupiers said they were protesting the government’s takeover of public lands. During the rapid westward expansion of the United States, whole tribes of Indians were forced off of land they had occupied for centuries and relocated to reservations.
Through disease, warfare, broken treaties, the Native Americans suffered demographic catastrophe. Christian missionaries helped by the state enforced European-American culture on the indigenous people via boarding schools where the children were forced to forget their language, culture and gods, all in the name of ‘progress’.
Children were usually immersed in European-American culture through appearance changes with haircuts, were forbidden to speak their native languages, and traditional names were replaced by new European-American names (to both “civilize” and “Christianize”), subjected to harsh punishment and abuse.
Many died from disease and overwork. From the moment students arrived at school, they could not “be Indian” in any way”. To aid in their assimilation to U.S. Anglo culture, boarding school administrations “forbade, whether in school or on reservation, tribal singing and dancing, along with the wearing of ceremonial and ‘savage’ clothes, the practice of native religions, the speaking of tribal languages, the acting out of traditional gender roles”. Speaking anything other than English risked having mouths washed with soap. Beyond physical and mental abuse, some school authorities sexually abused students as well.
One former student retold, “Intimidation and fear were very much present in our daily lives. For instance, we would cower from the abusive disciplinary practices of some superiors, such as the one who yanked my cousin’s ear hard enough to tear it. After a nine-year-old girl was raped in her dormitory bed during the night, we girls would be so scared that we would jump into each other’s bed as soon as the lights went out.
The sustained terror in our hearts further tested our endurance, as it was better to suffer with a full bladder and be safe than to walk through the dark, seemingly endless hallway to the bathroom. When we were older, we girls anguished each time we entered the classroom of a certain male teacher who stalked and molested girls”.
These policies were from the very top. In the 1830s, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, a policy of relocating Indians from their homelands to Indian Territory and reservations in surrounding areas to open their lands for white settlements, known as the Trail of Tears.
In 1871, Congress added a rider to the Indian Appropriations Act, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant, ending United States recognition of additional Native American tribes or independent nations, and prohibiting additional treaties. Theodore Roosevelt believed the Indians were destined to vanish under the pressure of white civilization, stating in an 1886 lecture:
I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.
More than the physical extermination it was the cultural and civilisational destruction of an ancient people that still remains today, and has provoked the present fury in North Dakota by an indigenous people desperately trying to cling on to what vestiges they retain of this past. Regrettably much of ancient Native American culture is to be found only in museums.
What the Christians did in the Americas continued a policy of oppression that began centuries before in Europe. It was not being Western or European that created this religious intolerance but the kind of exclusive belief system that mainstream Christianity and Islam followed. Pre-Christian Europeans like the Celts had more in common with the Native Americans than with the Europeans colonists who conquered them. The Celts themselves were earlier victims of the same aggression that the Native Americans had to face.
Speaking on “The Ethics of Religious Conversions” on February 9, 1999 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Hyderabad, Frawley said:
Therefore what has been thrust onto the Native Americans is the same racist, religiously bigoted and cultural chauvinist weapons which are now thrown at Hindus. When Hindus protest the desecration of their sacred sites, or observance of time honoured rituals, they too are accused of holding back ‘progress’. Rather sickeningly, this is done by the same woolly wet liberals who decry what has happened to the Native Americans. It seems once you are in a museum then you get sympathy.
Now one can expect this from people brainwashed in the sort of thinking that Frawley described he grew up in. But what is most galling has been the lack of any support by the major Hindu organisations in America for the protests in North Dakota, as they trip over themselves to show how assimilated and pro-establishment they are. There is zero spirituality in all this. It is pure commercial and ego aggrandisement. In this they disrespect themselves. Frawley:
His stark warning:
At present we see none of that among the self-appointed Hindu leaders in America. Indeed we find more of it among the indigenous protestors in North Dakota.
It is these ancient people with whom Hindus should have a natural affinity. Unlike most other ancient beliefs, civilisations and cultures, Hinduism has actually survived. Ram Swarup in 1991:
If Hinduism can pull through against all the odds then it means that there remains hope, inspiration and indeed precedent for the Native Americans, who now face such overwhelming odds at North Dakota.