Letter: Editorial too readily dismisses protesters' concerns

I am disturbed by the Herald editorial's dismissal of the protesters at Standing Rock ("False claims hurt Dakota Access Pipeline protesters' credibility," Page A4, Oct. 28).

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I am disturbed by the Herald editorial's dismissal of the protesters at Standing Rock (" False claims hurt Dakota Access Pipeline protesters' credibility ," Page A4, Oct. 28).

The editorial says the tribe didn't protest in the 1980s when an earlier pipeline was built and that tribal members haven't protested during the intervening years.

On that basis, the editorial suggests the tribe has no reason or right to protest now. This is like saying that a woman who has been in an abusive relationship for years shouldn't file charges or leave her partner now because she never did before.

Remember that this protest began when the pipeline was sited north of the Standing Rock Reservation because authorities decided not to put it north of Bismarck, in part because it might contaminate Bismarck's drinking water. The people of Standing Rock have as much right to clean drinking water as do the people of Bismarck.

Regrettably, we have a centuries-long history of dismissing Native American concerns and rights. It's no wonder that this is the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and led to a national and even international movement for indigenous peoples' civil rights - and for their right to be treated as fellow humans with the same concerns the rest of us have.


Now North Dakota is making national and international news in a very negative way. It's going to take a long time to live down our reputation as a state full of rednecks.

This situation might not have escalated to this point if there had been respectful dialogue with our Native brothers and sisters from the beginning.

The confrontational attitudes of state and local governments and of the oil industry have led to the current situation. Sending militarized police in riot gear has escalated it.

I am proud that my national church body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, voted this summer to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery-a doctrine promulgated by the pope in the days of Christopher Columbus, which said it was OK to subjugate the Native "savages" and take their land and possessions.

I am profoundly sad that more than 500 years later, we still are living with attitudes toward Native Americans that have been shaped by the view that they are savages and us white people always know what's best.

Phyllis Johnson

Grand Forks

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