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Slaughter of the Osage, Betrayal of the Sioux

Mother Jones

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Jason Holley

One cold November day last year, Chris Turley, a 28-year-old member of the Osage Nation, set out from the tribe’s northeast Oklahoma reservation upon a quest. He had a wool hat pulled down over his crisply cut black hair and wore military fatigues, just as he had done when he served in Afghanistan as a Scout in the US Army. He carried a rucksack filled with MREs—Meals, Ready-to-Eat—and bottled water, a tent, and a sleeping bag. Tucked away was also an emergency medical kit.

Departing on foot, he headed north through the tall prairie grass. He went past scattering herds of cattle and grinding oil pumps. Thirty miles later, around midnight, he stopped near the Kansas border and made camp in the darkness. He slept in his tent, curled in the cold. In the abruptness of dawn he woke, poured water into a container with premade eggs and quickly ate, and then set out again. The rucksack weighed 80 pounds and his right leg especially burned. In Afghanistan, shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade had shivved through his knee. (He received a Purple Heart and a Commendation with Valor, which said his “actions under intense enemy fire when wounded, and courage when facing the enemy in close proximity, not only eliminated and disrupted the enemy but saved the lives of his fellow Scouts.”) Doctors had predicted he’d never walk again without help, but after months of rehabilitation, he did.

Now he marched forward, day after day. He entered Kansas, passing through Greenwood County and Brown County—where members of the Kickapoo Tribe invited him to attend a round dance—and continued into Nebraska, until, after hiking for nearly three weeks, he hitched a ride to his final destination: the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. There, on the North Dakota plains, he joined forces with the Sioux who’d been protesting the proposed construction of an oil pipeline near the border of their reservation, fearing it would destroy their sacred burial sites and contaminate their water supply. “Anyone who knows me knows I am a warrior of this country, I love it with all my heart,” Turley wrote on his Facebook page. “I am also a Native of this country and I’m showing my support for Standing Rock.”

For Turley and many other Osage, the fight had a deep resonance, evoking memories of the tribe’s own struggle over oil and land rights during the early 20th century—a struggle that culminated in one of the most sinister crimes in American history. In 2012, when I first visited the Osage Nation Museum, its then-director, Kathryn Red Corn, told me about this mysterious and deadly plot. I was shocked that I had never learned about it in school or read about it in books, and over the next several years I began to try to uncover the depths of the wrongdoing.

Turley told me that when he was young he had heard about the killings from elder members of the tribe. “Every Osage knows about the murders,” he said. He learned that the Osage once laid claim to much of the Midwest (Thomas Jefferson described them as a “great nation”), but like so many American Indians, they were gradually forced off their ancestral lands. They were driven into Kansas in 1825 and were relocated during the 1870s to the reservation in northeast Oklahoma. By then, their population had dwindled to a few thousand because of massacres and disease and starvation. Although the new reservation was bigger than the state of Delaware, the land was rocky and presumed worthless.

Several years later, an Osage Indian pointed out to a white trader a rainbow sheen on the surface of a creek. It was oil. The reservation, it turned out, was sitting above some of the largest deposits of petroleum then known in America, and to extract that oil, prospectors had to pay the Osage for leases and royalties. In 1906, the tribe granted each of its 2,000 or so registered members a headright, essentially a share in the mineral trust. In 1923 alone, the tribe collected what would today amount to more than $400 million—the New York Times deemed them the wealthiest people per capita in the world. Belying long-standing stereotypes, they lived in mansions and had white servants and rode in chauffeured cars. “Lo and behold!” exclaimed the Outlook, a New York City magazine. “The Indian, instead of starving to death…enjoys a steady income that turns bankers green with envy.”

Then, one by one, the Osage with headrights began to be murdered off. During what became known as the Osage Reign of Terror, there were poisonings, shootings, and even a bombing. Several of those who tried to catch the killers were themselves killed, including one attorney who was thrown from a speeding train. As the death toll reached more than two dozen, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation—later renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation—took up the case. It became one of the FBI’s first major homicide investigations. But for two years, the bureau bungled the case, failing to make any arrests.

Fearing a scandal, the bureau’s new director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to an old frontier lawman named Tom White, who assembled a team of undercover operatives, including an American Indian agent. In 1926, they captured one of the criminal masterminds—a prominent white settler who had orchestrated an intricate plot to steal the Osage’s headrights and fortune. But, as I discovered from my research, the extent of the killings was far greater than the bureau ever exposed, and there were scores, perhaps hundreds, of murders that went unsolved. The perpetrators absconded with much of the Osage’s fortune, which was further diminished by the Great Depression and the depletion of oil reserves.

Turley thought about the Osage murders during the demonstrations at Standing Rock. The Sioux weren’t looking to make money; they were just trying to protect the environment. And yet the struggles came down to the same fundamental issue: the right of American Indians to control their lands and resources. Which is why the Standing Rock demonstrations seemed to galvanize so many nations of American Indians, each with its own bloodstained history, its own saga of incursions upon its sovereignty. Native Americans made pilgrimages to Standing Rock from across the country—from the Round Valley Indian Tribes in California and the Blackfeet Nation in Montana to the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska and the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico. Jim Gray, a former Osage chief, wrote on Facebook, “The principle of any tribe’s sovereign right to protect what’s important to them is why hundreds of tribes have sent food, supplies and money to their aid.”

Turley helped provide security for the protesters—or “water protectors”—including by guarding convoys headed off the reservation to resupply them. “It was kind of like a covert op,” he said. When the word came down, on December 4, that the Department of the Army had refused to allow the oil company to build the pipeline, “we all sang and danced,” Turley recalled.

Yet President Donald Trump—who until recently had an investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline—reversed the decision upon taking office. The Sioux are contesting Trump’s action in court, but their legal options are quickly dwindling, and it may become harder for demonstrators to gather in the future: A state legislator introduced a bill making it legal for a person to “unintentionally” run over protesters.

Many American Indian leaders fear that the pipeline is only the beginning of the Trump administration’s attempt to erode tribal sovereignty. Reuters reported that some of the president’s advisers even hope to “privatize” American Indian reservations, fulfilling the old dream of white settlers to open these lands to unfettered development.

Jim Gray says the Trump administration will confront an American Indian movement galvanized and united by Standing Rock. “In the old days, our people didn’t have much of a voice,” he told a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last fall. “Now we do…The world is watching.” As for Chris Turley, he’s back at his home in Osage territory. But if summoned by the leaders of any tribe in need, he says he’s prepared to pack up his rucksack: “I can walk across America.”

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Slaughter of the Osage, Betrayal of the Sioux

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The Instant Pot Is a Phenomenon—and Indian Cooks Are Using It in the Most Creative Ways

Mother Jones

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Perhaps you’ve heard by now about the Instant Pot, a slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, pressure cooker, sauté pan, and yogurt maker all rolled into one slightly unwieldy programmable metal contraption. Over the last few months, this kitchen gadget has garnered a lot of attention. It’s a bestseller on Amazon. The New York Times took it for a spin, as did NPR’s The Salt. Bon Appétit claimed it “will change your life.”

But there’s one group that applies exceptional creativity to the Instant Pot: people who cook Indian food. On a private Facebook group called Instant Pot for Indian Cooking, home chefs adapt traditional dishes—dals, biryanis, curries, and more—and post the photos and recipes to 70,000 members. They also poll each other for advice—questions like “How much paneer do you get from a gallon of whole milk” in the Instant Pot? and “Has anyone used packaged fried onion from the store for Instant Pot biryani?”

These folks are devoted to their Instant Pots. Many members boast that they’ve thrown away their traditional Indian pressure cookers. Someone recently posted a photo of her Instant Pot overlooking a scenic mountain vista. Yes, the Instant Pot went camping.

So what makes the Instant Pot so good for Indian cuisine? On the last episode of Bite, our food politics podcast, I had a quick lesson with Pooja Verma, who cooks a lot of Indian food for her family in Fremont, California. (The segment starts at 02:28)

Pooja told me she now does an impressive 80 percent of her cooking in the Instant Pot. One reason she likes it, she says, is that it’s great for recipes that usually only work in India’s hot climate. Take idlis—dumplings made from fermented rice and lentil flour. The key to making great idlis, Pooja explained, is that the batter must ferment without the addition of yeast. “So some smart people have figured out that the yogurt function in the Instant Pot emanates just the right amount of heat to get the batter fermented overnight.” For more Instant Pot cooking tips from Pooja, listen to our latest episode of Bite.

Bite is Mother Jones‘ food politics podcast. Listen to all our episodes here, or by subscribing in iTunes or Stitcher or via RSS.

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The Instant Pot Is a Phenomenon—and Indian Cooks Are Using It in the Most Creative Ways

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The Washington Post Just Reported the Founder of Blackwater Tried to Set Up Trump-Putin Back-Channel

Mother Jones

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The Washington Post just published a story that, if corroborated, could be a pretty big deal:

The United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to US, European and Arab officials.

The meeting took place around Jan. 11—nine days before Trump’s inauguration—in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean, officials said. Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, a Trump administration objective that would likely require major concessions to Moscow on U.S. sanctions.

Though Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, he presented himself as an unofficial envoy for Trump to high-ranking Emiratis involved in setting up his meeting with the Putin confidant, according to the officials, who did not identify the Russian.

In addition to being the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince is also the brother of Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told the Post that the White House had no knowledge of any such meeting and reiterated that Prince was not on the transition team. A Prince spokesman denied the story in a statement to the Post:

“Erik had no role on the transition team. This is a complete fabrication,” said a spokesman for Prince in a statement. “The meeting had nothing to do with President Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intelligence community messing around with surveillance of American citizens when they should be hunting terrorists?”

After the Post published its story, NBC reported that two sources confirmed a meeting occurred but that one of those sources disputed the claim that the meeting was about Russia:

One US intelligence official confirmed the Post’s account to NBC News, saying the meeting was with a Russian envoy. A second source said he believed the meeting was not about Russia. That source, a former intelligence official with close ties to Prince and the UAE, said the subject of the meeting was Middle East policy, to cover Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Read the whole story.

This story has been updated.

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The Washington Post Just Reported the Founder of Blackwater Tried to Set Up Trump-Putin Back-Channel

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Remote Control Hummingbirds!

Mother Jones

It tuns out that one of features of my new camera is the ability to control it remotely with my cell phone. If you have even a gram of nerd blood in you, this should make you insanely jealous.1 It’s the coolest thing ever.

And yet, as cool as it is, it still left me twiddling my neurons trying to figure out what I could do with it. One possibility was situations where I need to minimize camera shake. Put the camera on a tripod and then snap the shutter remotely without actually touching anything. But that would be just another example of using a thousand dollars worth of technology to do what a ten-dollar cable release can do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Then Marian suggested I could set up the camera by our hummingbird feeder and wait for hummingbirds to fly in. So I did. Here’s what the setup looks like:

Then I went into the living room and watched Roger Federer play Stan Wawrinka at Indian Wells. Every time a bird showed up on my camera, I held down the remote shutter button and shot off a few dozen pictures.

Which did me precious little good. Damn, those little buggers are fast. Even with the shutter speed allegedly set at 1/2000th of a second, the pictures were blurry. Also out of focus most of the time, which was a combination of my fault and the camera’s fault. Still, live and learn. Here are the two best shots I got:

The top one is a male Anna’s hummingbird. The bottom one is, I suppose, a female Anna’s hummingbird. The bird folks can enlighten us in comments.

Anyway, I’ll have to try this again. It’s certainly a way of getting some good nature shots without sitting on my hump for hours on end in a muddy patch of dirt. Then again, since the WiFi range for the camera is about ten feet or so, maybe it just means I get a little better selection of where to sit on my hump for hours on end. I’ll have to think of some way to try this with the cats.

1Unless you already have a camera that can do this.

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Remote Control Hummingbirds!

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Big-name Republicans are taking a carbon-tax plan to the White House.

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to withdraw $3 billion from the bank, in part because it is funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the city’s mayor said he would sign the measure.

The vote delivered a win for pipeline foes, albeit on a bleak day for the #NoDAPL movement. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will allow construction of the pipeline’s final leg and forgo an environmental impact statement.

Before the vote, many Native speakers took the floor in support of divestment, including members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Tsimshian First Nation, and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

Seattle will withdraw its $3 billion when the city’s current contract with Wells Fargo expires in 2018. Meanwhile, council members will seek out a more socially responsible bank. Unfortunately, the pickings are somewhat slim, as Bank of America, Chase, CitiBank, ING, and a dozen other banks have all invested in the pipeline.

While $3 billion is just a small sliver of Wells Fargo’s annual deposit collection of $1.3 trillion, the council hopes its vote will send a message to other banks. Activism like this has worked before — in November, Norway’s largest bank sold all of its assets connected to Dakota Access. With any luck, more will follow.

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Big-name Republicans are taking a carbon-tax plan to the White House.

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The Dakota Access Pipeline just got its final green light.

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to withdraw $3 billion from the bank, in part because it is funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the city’s mayor said he would sign the measure.

The vote delivered a win for pipeline foes, albeit on a bleak day for the #NoDAPL movement. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will allow construction of the pipeline’s final leg and forgo an environmental impact statement.

Before the vote, many Native speakers took the floor in support of divestment, including members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Tsimshian First Nation, and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

Seattle will withdraw its $3 billion when the city’s current contract with Wells Fargo expires in 2018. Meanwhile, council members will seek out a more socially responsible bank. Unfortunately, the pickings are somewhat slim, as Bank of America, Chase, CitiBank, ING, and a dozen other banks have all invested in the pipeline.

While $3 billion is just a small sliver of Wells Fargo’s annual deposit collection of $1.3 trillion, the council hopes its vote will send a message to other banks. Activism like this has worked before — in November, Norway’s largest bank sold all of its assets connected to Dakota Access. With any luck, more will follow.

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The Dakota Access Pipeline just got its final green light.

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Trump’s UN Pick Contradicts Him on Major International Issues

Mother Jones

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley came out hard against Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. She used her platform during the GOP’s response to President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union speech to urge fellow Republicans to resist the urge “to follow the siren call of the angriest voices” in her party’s primary. She said in February 2016 that Trump was “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president,” and only tepidly supported him after first backing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and then Sen. Ted Cruz during the primary.

The notoriously thin-skinned Trump responded by calling the Indian American governor “very weak on illegal immigration,” and by tweeting, “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!” Nonetheless, as president-elect, Trump picked Haley to be his ambassador to the United Nations, calling her a “proven deal-maker” with “a track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation.” Haley accepted his nomination: “Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally,” she said, adding that she was “honored that the president-elect has asked me to join his team.”

But during her Senate Foreign Relations committee confirmation hearings Wednesday, flanked by her husband, son, parents, and two brothers, Haley joined other Cabinet nominees in expressing differences with Trump on foreign policy issues, starting with Russia.

“Do you agree, that both at the UN in New York and on the streets of Aleppo, Moscow has acted as an active accomplice in Assad’s murder of his own people?” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), asked.

“Yes,” Haley responded.

A few minutes later, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), said it was very clear that Russia had interfered in the US presidential election and asked Haley whether she would “stand up to Vladimir Putin and against Russia’s attempt to interfere with our electoral system?”

“We should stand up to any country that attempts to interfere with our election system,” Haley said. Udall then asked her what her message to her Russian counterpart at the UN would be regarding election meddling.

“That we are aware that it has happened, we don’t find it acceptable, and that we are going to fight back every time we see something like that happening,” Haley replied. “I don’t think Russia’s going to be the only one—I think we’re going to start to see this around the world with other countries. And I think that we need to take a firm stand that when we see that happen, we are not going to take that softly, we are going to be very hard on that.”

Trump has continually downplayed and cast doubt on the findings of the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the FBI that Russia’s government attempted to influence the 2016 US presidential election in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning. Haley was just the latest of his nominees to publicly break from the president-elect on Russia: Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson did, and so did Defense Secretary nominee General James Mattis and the nominee for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo.

Haley also came out in support of NATO, calling it “an important alliance for us to have…and I think it’s an alliance we need to strengthen.” Trump has called NATO “obsolete.”

Unlike the confirmation hearings for some of Trump’s other Cabinet picks, there were no contentious exchanges with even the Democratic senators during her three-and-a-half-hour hearing. Haley was long considered to be one of Trump’s least controversial appointees.

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Trump’s UN Pick Contradicts Him on Major International Issues

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For Neil Young, the Trump Era Feels a Lot Like the ’60s

Mother Jones

Legendary rocker Neil Young continues to add to his 50-plus-year recording career with his just-released studio album Peace Trail. A shrewd collection of new songs, written and recorded quickly this past summer, the album is one of immediacy, with kinetic playing from a spare crew of Jim Keltner on drums and Paul Bushnell on bass. With bits of processed vocals added to the folk-rock core, and an amplified harmonica that sounds like Little Walter after a Marvel-esque dose of radiation, Young employs strategies meant to throw the whole thing off kilter and make you listen closer.

The songs cover the things on the singer’s mind right now, both within—old dreams broken and those newly forming—and in the world around him: Standing Rock, xenophobia, immigration, and technology. For an artist at 71, it’s beautifully charged, invigorated, and present work. While the call is urgent, Young doesn’t beat you over the head with the message so much as inject you with it. I spoke with Young over the phone while he was at his home in Colorado.

Mother Jones: Overall, it feels very much like this is an album about being present with things happening in the world, as well as with your own feelings. Tell us a bit about the emergence of this record.

Neil Young: I started writing “Peace Trail” here in Colorado, then I went back to California. I had a few other tunes going around in my head, so I had a couple of them finished after a few days and then I wanted to go into the studio. I like to go in right away as soon as I have things. I called the guys from Promise of the Real, whom I’ve been playing with, and they were all on the road. Right after I hung up the phone, I wrote another song and started writing another, and I’m going, “Hey, I can’t wait. I should be doing this now!” My experience tells me that when it’s there, it’s there, and you can’t make it wait. So I got Jimmy Keltner and Paul Bushnell, two good guys, and went in and did this record.

MJ: Both of those guys, obviously, are experienced session musicians. Did you relate specific things to them or did you all kind of feel things out together?

NY: I would play all the parts of the song, show them the way it went together. Then I’d basically break down an arrangement—I wouldn’t plan endings or beginnings—so they knew everything that was going on. I had the lyrics on a prompter so that I could remember everything I’d written, and I was able to just get into the groove and play with them. Most cases it’s Take 1 or Take 2 on that record. I think “Peace Trail” is one of the exceptions, where it’s a later take. It just happened really quickly. It’s the way I like to work for these kinds of songs. It was the right time of the month; everything was looking good.

MJ: I felt like the immediacy of the playing on this particular album, and some of the disruptive things you introduce, like the sound processing on the harmonica and vocals in places, make the listener pay more attention.

NY: The songs were written to have a certain simple form. Everything is minimal, and if it’s over, it’s over. We’re abrupt with things: in and out. Especially if it’s an overdub—it’s gone. It does something that’s not real. It’s not trying to be like it was there. I think the ultimate result of it is you can get inside the record. I do one take; I never overdubbed twice. I know there’s stuff that isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t matter: Nothing is perfect, and there is a magic there that is undeniable because of the fact that we don’t care about those things. We’re really more interested in what we’re saying than how we’re saying it.

MJ: On the song “Peace Trail,” you express a commitment to moving forward and a sense of optimism with the refrain, “Something new is growing.” Did the November election alter that outlook?

NY: Not really. I still feel the same about everything in there. There’s nothing I said that I would change or make different now. I’ve already gotten into the next record, so I started that on the 6th of November.

MJ: In the song “Can’t Stop Workin’,” you sing that work is “bad for the body but good for the soul.” What’s hard for you?

NY: I think it’s the constant work; performing and traveling. It gets to be a bit of a strain. But if you pace yourself, which I’ve managed to do, you can go pretty well. And now I’m at a point where I decided I’m going to be in the studio for a while, at least until I finish this record I’m working on now. I should have two, three, four of the sessions that I had that were similar to the sessions for Peace Trail before I have a complete record. But I’m off to a good start and it may happen faster. Who knows?

MJ: I had an unsettling feeling that the purpose of my own work as an artist should maybe change after this election, but I’m unsure how. You’ve lived through really turbulent times and have written some very powerful protest songs—”Ohio” and “Southern Man,” for example. So how do you view the responsibilities of being an artist in the years to come?

NY: This time is very similar to the ’60s, as far as I can tell. The artists always reflect the times, so there’s a lot to think about, a lot of unknowns, a lot of things that are describable. This is the closest I’ve seen to the kind of ambience that made the ’60s happen. It’s not about the artist having a responsibility to do anything. They have to be artists and express themselves and everything will work out fine. It’s all going to be great. The youth of this country are not behind what is going on. We all know that. If you looked at a political map of the United States 25 and under, it’s all-revealing. It’s a unified map.

MJ: What scares me is this rift in our understanding of one another. You have viewpoints so far apart, so colored by anger and frustration, that it’s very hard to find common ground. Do you have thoughts for how we might connect?

NY: It’s gonna happen. We had the Vietnam War in the ’60s, and there was a draft. The students didn’t believe in it, and it unified them. That brought the people together and made the ’60s like they were. The youth were very unified against the status quo—against the old line and the new old line. It’s the same exact thing today. Social media and young people, art, music, all communications make this one of the most active times for activism. It will be a time of change.

MJ: Speaking of activism, there’s your new song “Indian Giver,” about Standing Rock. What’s your view on the standoff?

NY: It’s injustice. It’s wrong. The pipeline companies didn’t get the permission. They didn’t do the things they should have done in the first place. They tried to just bully their way through there and they got stopped. But they’re not really stopping.

MJ: It’s become a new point of reckoning in the history of how Native Americans are treated.

NY: Five hundred years later we’re still doing it. This is a moment where we’re either going to reaffirm that’s what we do, that’s who we are, or we’re going to start moving toward change. A change won’t come easy, because there’s a lot of big money that doesn’t care about any of this. Standing Rock is the beginning of something. It’s a moment in history. We really have to grab it and go with it. We may only be halfway through the actual “Standing Rock” part, but it’s more than that—it’s the lessons of Standing Rock, of what you can do. How much can you make change happen? How long can you slow things down? How much attention can you bring to things that are unjust, unfair, in many cases illegal? Just exposing it, that’s the job of the social media, the musicians, the people who care, the real protectors around the world. They don’t have to be at Standing Rock. They just have to say they’re with the people at Standing Rock, and tell other people that what’s going on there is wrong. Learn about it. See what happened. See what they actually did. You won’t see it on corporate media, you have to go to social media.

MJ: So, it looks like we’re out of time here. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

NY: We love Mother Jones. That’d be the last thing to say.

MJ: We love you, too.

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For Neil Young, the Trump Era Feels a Lot Like the ’60s

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"I Didn’t Come Here to Lose": How a Movement Was Born at Standing Rock

Mother Jones

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Ome Tlaloc walked through the North Dakota hills with a flashlight and a walkie-talkie, scouting for police in the prairie dark. Earlier that evening, I’d met the 30-year-old on Highway 1806, where he’d been sitting behind a makeshift barricade. Now he was doing reconnaissance. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and the National Guard, stationed ahead of us on the road, were planning to raid the camp where Tlaloc and hundreds of other protesters had been living for the past week. The barricade was meant to stop the cops, or at least to slow them down. As he walked, Tlaloc listened to his radio for the code words that would signal when he and his comrades were to spring into action: “Eagle’s Claw.”

The Standing Rock Sioux reservation sits in the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, an endless sweep of elephan­tine hills once home to millions of members of the Lakota Nation. Today, it’s inhabited by fewer than 9,000 of their surviving descendants, and one of the few places in America where buffalo roam wild. In late July, the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners informed the Standing Rock Sioux that in five days its subsidiary would begin construction on a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) next to the reservation. After that, members of more than 200 Native American tribes and their allies gathered to block what would be America’s longest crude oil pipeline. Their encampments of teepees, tents, and RVs were mostly ignored by the media until private security guards set dogs on protesters and a few journalists were arrested, sparking a national conversation about tribal sovereignty, environmental racism, and police brutality.

The October night I met Tlaloc, the stakes in the #NoDAPL movement were as high as they’d ever been. If the “water protectors,” as the protesters called themselves, were cleared out, the pipeline would continue east under the Missouri River, coming within 1,500 feet of Lake Oahe, the Standing Rock Sioux’s water supply. A leak or spill, activists believed, would poison the drinking water of as many as 10 million people, nearly all of them on Native American reservations. The protesters’ goal was to block construction until March 2017, when Dakota Access would have to reapply for a federal construction permit—a delay that might make the project financially unfeasible. If the protesters were removed before then, Dakota Access would complete the 1,172-mile pipeline that would transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude a day. (On December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not approve a permit for the pipeline to run beneath Lake Oahe.)

Police have responded to the protests with teargas, tasers, water cannons, rubber bullets, and armored vehicles.

Native Americans of all ages have protested against the pipeline.

Tlaloc stopped at the top of a ridge. Off in the distance was the trench holding the lengths of 30-inch metal pipe. “An old Sioux prophecy says that a black snake will come to destroy the world at a moment of great uncertainty,” he said. “Unless the youth stop it.”

Back at the barricade, men in camo fatigues sipped cowboy coffee and waited. Pup tents formed a circle around a pit fire. “They’ve killed us before,” said Harry Beauchamp, a 63-year-old Assiniboine from Montana. Resting his cowboy boots on a soup pot, he told us about his participation in the 1973 standoff between members of the American Indian Movement and law enforcement agents in South Dakota that ended in the deaths of two Native American activists. A few weeks earlier, he’d been attacked by a dog brought in by a pipeline security contractor. His future son-in-law, he said, was bringing him a rifle. “I’m not going to let this be another Wounded Knee,” he said.

Left: Chanse Adams-Zavalla. The #NoDAPL protesters have occupied three main encampments.

Dancers in front of a sacred fire in a protest camp

The next day, a pale sun burned through the morning haze, backlighting 200 sheriff’s deputies and National Guardsmen in full riot gear. Behind them were an armored personnel carrier, a land-mine-resistant truck, and the pipeline’s private security force—overseen by TigerSwan, a North Carolina firm that’s done work for the US government in Afghanistan and Iraq. “This is a state highway,” a police commander said into a loudspeaker. “You must clear the road.”

On August 19, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who served as an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, had declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard mobilized three weeks later. On September 3, security contractors turned dogs on the protesters. Not long afterward, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault II asked the Justice Department to investigate civil rights violations against activists. “This country has a long and sad history of using military force against indigenous people—including the Sioux Nation,” he wrote. “When I see the militarization taking place in North Dakota against Indian people, I am genuinely concerned.”

Over the next 12 hours, I watched as grandmothers with red feathers in their hair, Oglala elders in cer­emonial regalia, and teens astride horses were teargassed, tased, and arrested. Cops fired rubber bullets at protesters and blasted them with earsplitting whines from Long Range Acoustic Devices. As the police marched down the highway, the crowd, echoing Black Lives Matter protesters, held their arms in the air and shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than members of any other group, even African Americans. More than 1 in 4 Native people live in poverty. (The average individual income on the Standing Rock reservation is $4,421.) Native unemployment levels are nearly double those of the overall population; their youth suicide rate is the highest in the nation.

Protesters watch as the police destroy a campsite.

A Sioux leader asked the Justice Department to investigate “the militarization taking place in North Dakota against Indian people.”

Many at Standing Rock saw the threat of environmental catastrophe as inextricable from racial injustice. An early proposal to route the Dakota Access Pipeline through Bismarck, 45 miles north of the reservation, was rejected by the US Army Corps of Engineers because of concerns that it could harm the municipal water supply. (Bismarck’s population is 92 percent white.) “But it’s okay if it poisons Natives’ water, right?” said Chanse Adams-Zavalla, a 22-year-old who grew up on the Maidu reservation just north of Santa Barbara, California. He wore a camouflage backpack that had “Fuck Off” written on it and a matching camo cap that said “Smile More.” In May 2015, the coastline near his reservation was ravaged by the rupture of an oil pipeline. “It’s disgusting what happened to my people, bro, and we’re still being treated that way,” he said.

Young protesters with red bandannas over their faces dragged tree trunks onto the highway and set them on fire. A heavyset teen stood before the flaming barricade, his back to the police. “Stop lighting these barricades on fire, brothers!” he said. “I’m a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.” He paused and looked at his feet like he might cry. “After this, I have to live here.”

“Sellout!” a young man in a balaclava shouted, hurling a tire onto the pyre. Someone else picked up the chant. “Sellout! Sellout!”

The scene underscored the conflicts within the anti-pipeline movement. Some activists, led in part by a group of protesters who lived in a compound called Red Warrior Camp, were committed to stopping the pipeline through direct action. While many Standing Rock Sioux were out on the front lines, Archambault was also lobbying Washington in hopes of a legal victory. In early November, Red Warrior Camp was asked to leave Standing Rock for promoting tactics that the tribal leadership thought were too extreme. There were also tensions between white-led environmental groups like 350.org, which focuses on climate change, and Native activists, who believe the larger issue is one of tribal sovereignty and the unfinished struggle for Native American rights. The protesters were spread among three encampments, including a largely Native camp and another filled with white activists that I heard described as the “Brooklyn” of Standing Rock.

Back at the barricades, Miles Allard, a Sioux man with a white mullet, rushed to the assistance of the teen who’d tried to calm the crowd. “The only way we’re going to win this is by prayer,” Allard said. “If we use violence, we will lose.”

“I didn’t come here to lose,” Beauchamp said, dropping a bundle of kindling onto the pavement before walking off in anger. “And I didn’t come here to fight my own brothers. I quit. I’m going home.”

“Why do they want to kill us?” asked LaDonna Allard over breakfast at the Prairie Knights Casino and Resort, the area’s largest employer. Allard, a Sioux woman, was hosting a protest camp on her land; she was accompanied by her husband, Miles, who had called for nonviolence at the barricades a few days earlier. The police had won those clashes, clearing the road and arrest­ing 142 protesters, including the Allards’ daughter, Prairie. (During a prior arrest, Allard said, her daughter was stripped naked, left in a cell overnight, and asked repeatedly, “Who’s your mother?”) Construction resumed on the pipeline, whose North Dakota section was roughly 95 percent complete.

Allard recalled the life of her great-great-grandmother, Nape Hote Win, who as a nine-year-old survived the 1863 Whitestone massacre, an attack by the US Army 50 miles east of Standing Rock. She was held in a prisoner-of-war camp for seven years. That battle paved the way for the Standing Rock Sioux to be confined to their current reservation. Allard’s father had to flee his land in 1948 after the government dammed the Missouri, flooding his farm. Her father and son were buried along the pipeline’s path.

On Election Day, Energy Transfer Partners announced that it would defy a request from the Obama administration to postpone construction and would begin tunnel­ing under Lake Oahe in two weeks. CEO Kelcy Warren had given more than $100,000 to support Trump, a stockholder. “Overall, I’m very, very enthusiastic about what’s going to happen with our country,” Warren told investors after the election. In mid-November, the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and said it would not allow completion of the pipeline until there had been further review of its environmental impact. Reaffirming that decision in early December, the Corps said it would consider alternate routes for the pipeline. ETP attacked the decision as “the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”

“We’re in a war,” Allard said, beginning to cry. “How did this happen? I did nothing wrong. I have a right to say ‘no.’ I have a right to live in my own country, on my own land.”

Police spray water on demonstrators in below-freezing temperatures.

Left: Nighttime protests on Highway 1806. Right: Medics assist an injured protester.

Later that night, I passed Beauchamp’s tent, but it was empty. He had gone back to Montana, feeling bitter and defeated. Adams-Zavalla, however, was in great spirits. “This isn’t the end of our movement,” he said. “It’s the beginning.” Fifty horses had just arrived from the Oglala-Sioux reservation, as had 100 Native American youth runners who’d jogged from Arizona. That afternoon the Seven Council Fires had been lit for the second time since 1862, a ceremony in which the seven branches of the Dakota Sioux demonstrated their unity. “When my grandkids ask me where I was during Standing Rock,” Adams-Zavalla said, “I know what I’m going to tell them.”

“Even if somehow, someway, they build this pipeline,” he went on, “they’ve inadvertently sparked a whole generation of us indigenous folks and everyone who wants to stand with us to fight for Mother Earth. We’re going to inherit this planet, bro, and everyone’s welcome to inherit it with us if they want.”

Around us, protesters were chopping wood, battening down tarps, and getting ready for the long Dakota winter. On a hill overlooking the camp, DAPL roughnecks labored away. The moment was uncertain, yet jubi­lant—each side racing toward the future it imagined.

Inside the main protest camp.

Police sprayed mace at protesters who crossed the Cannonball River.

Water protectors march from the main camp to the bridge on Highway 1806.

These horseback riders traveled for three days along the pipeline.

The first snowfall in Standing Rock

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"I Didn’t Come Here to Lose": How a Movement Was Born at Standing Rock

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Trump Calls Elizabeth Warren "Very Racist" for Claiming Native American Heritage

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump augmented his attacks on Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday, slamming the Hillary Clinton surrogate for her claims of Native American heritage and calling her “very racist.”

Trump’s comments come on the heels of Warren’s first campaign appearance with Hillary Clinton on Monday morning. Warren kept up her fiery invective against Trump, describing him as “a thin-skinned bully who is driven by greed and hate.”

This isn’t the first time the presumptive GOP nominee—who has a history of racist comments—has accused Warren of “racist” actions and of benefiting from affirmative action. Earlier this month, the two faced off over his claims on Twitter:

Trump has taken heat for repeatedly referring to Warren as “Pocahontas” or “the Indian.” He responded last week that he regretted calling her that name—but only because “it’s a tremendous insult to Pocahontas.”

Scott Brown, the Republican whom Warren defeated for her Senate seat in 2012, joined Trump’s attack on Warren with a request that she take a DNA test.

Brown, now a prominent Trump surrogate, may still be sore from the verbal lashing Warren gave him at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention earlier this month. “I hear Donald Trump is floating Scott Brown as a possible running mate,” Warren said. “And I thought, ‘Ah, so Donald Trump really does have a plan to help the unemployed.'”

During their 2012 battle, Brown called on Warren to release records proving that she had never received an advantage because of her heritage. She refused.

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Trump Calls Elizabeth Warren "Very Racist" for Claiming Native American Heritage

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