“Lunch with my friends took a serious turn over Standing Rock” by Jim Gray (repost). Thoughts on sovereignty, revolution and #NODAPL


Jim Gray is a prominent tribal leader, consultant, commentator and proud member of the Osage Nation. This a repost, with permission, of his reflections on sovereignty, revolution and Standing Rock. (The original post be found here.)

“This week I was a featured speaker at a tribal enrollment officers conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My work was largely done after the first day of the conference, so the second day I had the good fortune to reach out to some of my friends in the New Mexico area. What happened over lunch that day is the point of this note.

In the week before my trip I made a post on Facebook about my upcoming trip and I received a message from a friend who wanted to know if I would have time to visit because she saw something I posted in Facebook about the events going on in Standing Rock. So I replied that Wednesday looked good for lunch if you have the time. She said she’ll drive down to the hotel and we had lunch in the hotel’s restaurant outside.
While I was in town, I messaged a friend of mine who I’ve worked with in the past and said let’s get together this week and he said he’d drop by that day. I told him I would be having lunch and he’d be welcome to join us.
So at lunch, these Osage, Jemez Pueblo and Chickasaw tribal folks engaged in a serious conversation about the standoff in Standing Rock. We all had our observations about the effort and were amazed and shocked at the things we were seeing up there in the news and social media. Told them it was getting personal for me when I shared that my step-daughter Olivia Graciela Margerita Ramirez went up and she’s only 19. Roger said his son went up there too and he’s in his early 20’s. Steffani said she went up there herself and as an attorney she was there as a legal observer who had to wear a blue hat to identify herself as someone who was neither a protector or a member of law enforcement, the media or a representative of the pipeline company.
This sharing of how this event has changed our perspectives was very enlightening and in my opinion, important. In between our stories was the beginning of a rising of our consciousness of the issues at hand, we recognized that it isn’t just Standing Rock that is facing similar issues but quite literally scores of tribes are having to deal with this issue in their own communities. But also a indication of how the media has largely covered this issue without any real education on the body of federal laws that support tribal sovereignty to defend themselves against threats to their way of life.
Steffani said, it’s worse than you think Chief, (yes some people still call me that), the issue she saw first hand was that the civil rights of the protectors taken into custody were being violated in a massive scale. She went on to describe incident after incident of the heavy handed tactics employed by the local police is only part of the story, the worse examples of this behavior is what happens to the people being charged with felonies and are not allowed to make phone calls or consult an attorney. She said the State of North Dakota which process applications for out-of-state attorney’s to come and represent the protectors are gathering dust on someone’s desk. Despite the bureaucratic indifference, no attorney would risk their license to try to represent the detainees without the proper paperwork. It’s a scandal.
Roger said there are individuals who have been engaging in a form of cyber warfare on the Protestors laptops and cellphones. The constant attention of unmarked airplanes continue to fly over the camps taking pictures are also doing something to the electronic systems of everyone’s communications equipment. Roger said his son was talking to some of the people who called themselves “Geeks without Borders” who told him about a virus that drains the battery of your phones and computers. Steffani agreed she heard about this virus too.
I shared my wish that the Council of Energy Resources Tribes (CERT) was still around to facilitate the kind of formal advocacy that is needed in both policy and organizational structure which would have been engaged early on before permits were granted for the Dakota Access Pipeline got one foot in the soil. I was fortunate to have served as the Chairman of this organization before I left office as Chief. Unfortunately, CERT has largely disappeared from the landscape since their longtime Executive Director David Lester passed away a few years ago.
Before you dismiss this Note as the conspiratorial rantings of three individual tin foil nut cases. Roger is a former energy executive of a Fortune 500 company and today is a consultant to many tribes on energy and environmental matters. Steffani is a former Federal official who served as one of the top regulators in the $28 Billion dollar gaming industry. And of course myself as a former Chief of one of the largest energy tribes in the country and former publisher of a Native American newspaper with subscriptions in all 50 states.
None of us can afford to put our careers and reputations on the line behind wasteful conspiracy theories. So I throw this out there to anyone who cares to read this far down and consider this. Tribal sovereignty is real and it’s under attack by one of the largest industries in the world. 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. The thousands of Protectors are putting their lives on hold to stand with them against threats of violence to protect the tribe’s sacred sites and quality of life.
But as this siege continues to unfold, a good part of the civilized world is now nervously watching what happens when a peaceful non-violent revolution stands against some of the most powerful forces in world armed with nothing but a treaty, a voice and their presence in front of these tanks. All the three of us could think of was that while this standoff gets more violent with each passing day we are forced to entertain our worst fears.
If a former Chief, a corporate executive and a former Federal official conclude a revolution is here and threatens everything we hold true is under attack then it’s time we all take a long look in the mirror.” 


  1. Abigail McClutchie

    Thank you for these insights. We have our own version of issues here in Aotearoa, and as Indigenous people we stand in solidarity with you too!


    1. Red Haircrow

      Trauma and PTSD is also a critically serious issue at Standing Rock too right now, especially in that the majority of natives are already dealing with intergenerational historical trauma anyway.The attacks, the psychological tactics, intimidation, the knowledge massacres took place right there too, is deeply affective.

      The medic & healer council issued a call a couple of weeks ago that counselors with firsthand trauma training and experience with natives or other minorities consider coming to help. As a counselor I contacted and spoke to them, and its really serious. They need help. Yes, they continue in traditional healing, ceremonies and activities but appropriate culturally beneficial are needed, too. I can’t get there now because of responsibilities and distance, but am trying to get professional and academic supporters for a project in trauma support. Those there agreed that indigenous peoples witnessing events but not on location, though have friends, relatives, and interests there are also experiencing elated, sometimes debilitating acute anxiety, depression and stress, even more so when they too come from traumatized backgrounds.

      So, yes, trying to get this support project going. Some people just need to talk, and though there’s social media where you can post on update threads, you still have trolls (some appear to be big oil plants and workers) or just people being derogatory to natives. Some those suffering symptoms need a safe, private screen to express or discuss. If anyone might be interested, let me know.

      It is more serious than what some realize, even if they follow updates. Its about sovereignty, which hadn’t crossed the minds of others. Jacqueline Keeler, a Yankton Sioux/Navajo journalist and academician said, “People wonder why natives don’t speak up more because they don’t see the extreme violence we receive when we do. Now they can.”

      And a message from Charlie Chad, a poem from a young protector whose been on the frontlines for months, which could be titled: ” I’m tired.” Rather like centuries of this same BS but they remain resilience even if hurting. If you’ve time, it is a poignant, honest, simple statement

      Liked by 1 person

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