From Lewis to Standing Rock
Growing in number and spirit, the Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is swiftly gaining strength and international solidarity, and overcoming a media that doesn’t want to know.
A news commentator broadcasts to mainstream America: “This country was founded on genocide”. On “The Last Word” on MSNBC Lawrence O’Donnell outlines 500 years of colonialism in the context of the protests at Standing Rock by native Americans and the Trump movement’s xenophobia.
Stuart Christie asks: “I wonder if Donald Trump, “Schrödinger’s douchebag“, disgrace to the MacLeods of Lewis and all the victims of the Clearances — and all his cretinous enthusiasts — watched this, and, if they did, felt any sense of shame?”
Given his recent announcement to “to deport millions during ‘first hour in office'” and his constant reference to Elizabeth Warren as ‘Pocahontas’ – I think that will be a no.
As the National Lawyers Guild writes:
“The proposed pipeline route crosses ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Missouri River. The Missouri River is a major source of water for the Tribe. The ancestral lands and water are sacred to the Tribe and its people, and they possess a responsibility to Mother Earth and to future generations to protect these ancestral lands and water.
Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, and its affiliated entities, have a long history of violations of environmental laws including pending lawsuits by the states of New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the City of Breau Bridge in Louisiana over MTBE contamination of groundwater, as well as citations for releases of hazardous materials from its pipelines and facilities in Ohio, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii. Pipelines leak and spill. In one year alone, there were over 300 pipeline breaks in North Dakota. Numerous pipeline spills of millions of gallons of oil and contaminants into the Missouri River and its tributaries have already occurred. In January, over 50,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana. Oil from the Bakken field is more volatile than other crudes.”
But the Lawrence O’Donnell monologue is remarkable for several reasons. It seems to counter the perceived media blackout that the huge Standing Rock protests have endured. Nick Bernabe writes on Global Research:
“The first point is actually very simple: Native Americans standing up for themselves is not polarizing. In an age of institutionalized media divisiveness and hyper-partisanship, the story of Native Americans in North Dakota fighting for land and water rights just doesn’t fit the script of deep, societal divides plaguing the nation’s law and order, nor does it fit in with the left-right paradigm. People from both sides of the political spectrum pretty much agree that Native Americans have been screwed by the U.S. government and resource-snatching corporations long enough. Considering this sentiment, there’s really no exploitable controversy on this issue from the mainstream media perspective, which inherently drives topical, superficial news narratives.”
The second reason for the media silence is, he argues: “The second and more obvious reason why mainstream outlets have not focused on the situation in North Dakota is money — oil money, to be exact. The corporate media in the United States is deeply in bed with oil interests. From fracking advertisements on MSNBC to individuals on Big Oil’s payroll literally working for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, the ties cannot be understated. Why would mainstream media publicize a standoff that could potentially kill an oil pipeline when their own financial interests would be negatively affected? The answer is they wouldn’t.”
And yet that’s MSNBC broadcasting O’Donnell’s powerful piece to camera.
The integrity of the protest, the magnitude of the climate crisis and the visceral language of the Trump campaign is opening spaces for real news and real solidarity, what John Holloway calls ‘cracks’ in the system.
Tong ya Bass
There’s a reason why Trump’s own immigrant status is an oddly missing narrative in his campaign.
“Trump focuses only on his father’s upbringing, rarely mentioning he is the son of an immigrant himself, from the tiny village of Tong on the island of Lewis, which is located in the Outer Hebrides 40 miles off the Scottish mainland as Politico magazine this week showed. By making immigrants a focal point and building a wall to stop them a key part of his negative message, Trump is clearly ignoring his own roots deep in Scottish soil.”
Scottish Heritage tells us this remarkable family history: “Mary Anne MacLeod was born in the village of Tong, in the parish of Stornoway on 10th May 1912, to a fisherman named Malcolm MacLeod and his wife, Mary Smith. This couple had been married in 1891 and both were Gaelic speakers, and, although not so widespread as it once was, the language is still alive and well in that region. It is thus likely that Mary Anne herself would have spoken it and the young Donald may well have been soothed by Gaelic lullabies as a child.”
If we could offer Trump some light reading as his campaign reaches its concussion, we’d recommend James Hunter’s ‘Glencoe and the Indians’ (Mainstream Publishing, 1996) or Colin G Calloway’s “White People, Indians, and Highlanders: Tribal People and Colonial” (Oxford University USA 2008).
“For Highland Scots and American Indians, identities were forged in part by their experiences with colonialism, and they continue to be shaped by memories – real or imagined – of those experiences. Those that were uprooted from their homelands that held so much of their identity carried core pieces of their culture with them, as if carefully wrapped for transportation, to be preserved in another place and revitalised in another era. Despite centuries of dispossession and dislocation, Indian country survives,a mixture of old and new, a network of relationships as much as a place, reaching into everyday life as well as across reservations. In similar ways diasporic Scots created a new Gaidhealtachd in North America, a network of relationships and interests deriving its core values and values from the Highlands of Scotland but adapted to a new world.”
In Hunter’s seminal book he charts the story of Duncan McDonald, a young man fought at the Battle of Little Big Horn with the Sioux. He was descended from chiefs of the Nez Perce and from chiefs of the McDonald clan. Duncan’s family (first as Highlanders, then as Native Americans) were victims of massacre and dispossession.
O’Donnell’s testimony to camera is significant and it is worth re-telling this story to America and to ourselves in Scotland. It’s a story of dislocation and trying to retrieve the wisdom of people that were rooted in place. This isn’t to ascribe some magic exceptionalism to either Native Americans or the Gaels, but to try and find another tool in the armoury against the insanity of the violence against culture and environment that is being carried out before our eyes.