The resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock has not only been a fight for indigenous treaty rights and the protection of clean water, but a battle against the control that corporations have over our government and law enforcement officials.
North Dakota has committed numerous human rights violations against peaceful protesters and threatened First Amendment rights by targeting and shutting down journalists whose job it is to expose corruption and the abuse of power.
One such journalist is Native American journalist Jenni Monet of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe in New Mexico. She was arrested on February 1st while documenting the construction of Last Child Camp on disputed treaty land. Monet presented her press credentials upon the request of law enforcement and stepped back from the scene where police were arresting a circle of praying water protectors. She was further threatened with arrest if she did not leave. Despite her compliance, the same officer who issued the threats went after her and took her into custody along with 73 other arrestees. She notes that they never go after “the clean cut, white guy”. According to Monet, most of the arrests that were made were indigenous women.
In an interview with TATM, Monet recalls the racist treatment of indigenous women in North Dakota correctional facilities. They were individually stripsearched, what Morton County calls a “visual inspection”, before being thrown into metal cages, essentially industrial dog kennels, in an unheated parking garage. The women were only allowed one layer of clothing and stayed in these cages until they were transferred to indoor cells six hours later.
One black woman repeatedly requested an additional layer, only to be ignored for hours, while a white woman’s request was granted almost immediately by guards. Monet was also alarmed to discover that the white women did not go through the humiliating stripsearch that the native women subjected to.
Monet’s profession as a journalist meant nothing to any of the guards or the jail captain. Like the other native women, she was “pegged as a water protector with no job”, and thus treated as a second-class citizen.
Many water protectors arrested in previous actions were never given their right to a phone call and some were even detained for days before the Legal Collective knew they were missing.
Monet was vocal in demanding she get her phone call. She stood alone. She was hushed by the 18 other women, who were afraid Monet would somehow anger the jail guards and “disrupt the flow of them being booked”.
She pursued her phone call relentlessly and ended up being the first one released the following day. She learned that the phones in the jails are unable to connect to legal numbers, only allowing calls to private numbers of a family member or a friend, rendering the digits of the Legal Collective scrawled on people’s arms useless.
Monet’s story is an example of the disregard Morton County police have towards journalists dedicated to reporting on the indigenous struggles at Standing Rock, and illustrates the ongoing discrimination against and oppressive treatment of indigenous peoples, particularly women.
Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird
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