Low-flying helicopters and airplanes made it difficult for the crowd of roughly 300 people to hear Chief Arvol Looking Horse as he prayed on Saturday in North Dakota near the site where Morton County Sheriffs and water protectors had clashed days earlier.
Looking Horse, a Cheyenne River Hunkpapa and the 19th-generation keeper of the c’anupa, the sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe bundle, led a peaceful walk from the water protectors’ Treaty Camp for one-half mile on Highway 1806 toward the site where at least nine armored vehicles and numerous police remained stationed behind a makeshift wall of concrete barriers.
At 11:30 a.m., Looking Horse, wearing an eagle feather headdress and carrying the Pipe, walked across the bridge and into the Morton County Sheriffs’ encampment to discuss with law enforcement the possibility of reopening the bridge for safe passage. Meanwhile, an estimated 30 Jingle Dress dancers took to the front line and drowned out the whirring sound of aircrafts just above their heads. The elder dancers then spoke of the preciousness and need for clean water.
Looking Horse and Standing Rock elder Archie Fool Bear emerged 15 minutes later from behind the remains of three charred vehicles still abandoned on the bridge. The two men were suddenly summoned back by the sheriffs for a second round of discussions. Moments later, they shook hands and parted ways.
“They’re not going to back down, we’re not going to back down either,” Looking Horse said to the crowd upon returning. “We come here to protect the sacred water.”
Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told Looking Horse and Fool Bear that they, too, wish to open the bridge for travel, allegedly saying that it would be “mutually beneficial for everybody.”
Fool Bear expressed his concern for the safety of his people at Standing Rock and the camps, stating that with the road blocked, it now takes more than an hour to get to Bismarck when it typically takes 35 minutes. Fool Bear told ICTMN it is up to the North Dakota Department of Transportation to remove the blockade.
Fool Bear added that even though they had come to an agreement with sheriffs about reopening the bridge, “The fight’s not over,” he vowed.
“It’s never going to be over,” he said. “Since 1492 the fight’s been on.”
Fool Bear also wants accountability for how the water protectors were mistreated and manhandled during Thursday’s events that left numerous people wounded from batons, rubber bullets, pepper spray and other weapons.
“I know there were people who were mistreated,” Fool Bear said. “Someone needs to be held accountable.”
Soon after several water protectors returned to camp, some of those jailed and released on Friday showed photos that began to circulate on social media of how authorities were tabulating those they arrested. Using markers, sheriffs officers branded numbers on the forearms of arrested water protectors.
“It’s like Nazi Germany,” one water protector who wishes to remain unidentified told ICTMN.
The leaders of Standing Rock and other elders are slated to meet with elected officials from the state and local authorities on Wednesday, November 2.
Police snipers could be seen through binoculars stationed on a hill to the east standing next to their armored vehicles while Looking Horse and Fool Bear spoke with sheriff’s officers.