00:31 GMT23 April 2021
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    Amid ongoing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Steve Russell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and Texas trial court judge and associate professor emeritus of Criminal Justice at Indiana University-Bloomington, joined Brian Becker on Sputnik’s Loud and Clear to talk about the history of Native struggle in the Dakotas.

    In 1874 George Armstrong Custer held an incursion into the region's Black Hills and found gold. The Gold Rush was on and there was no way to stop it.

    "In California they had, what I would call, the worst Native American genocide on this continent," Russell said.

    The professor asserted that the public does not perceive the historical case of Louisiana Purchase, which saw the territory which is now the Dakotas bought by the US government, correctly. The deal was "to acquire all of that property to the exclusion of any other Christian nation and ways to acquire it were to buy it or by conquest. Both were lawful at the time. But [Thomas Jefferson] didn't buy the property; he bought the right to acquire the property," he explained.

    "Only the US can acquire the land from the Indians, only the federal government can act for the US. So the only place a state can appear in a land title is under the federal government. If you wipe out the federal government's land title […] it doesn't become the state's land, it becomes the tribe's land," Russell stated.

    He said, "The feds are supposed to look out for our rights, well, that's not happening up there right now."

    Instead, Russell says, what is happening at Standing Rock is exactly what happened at Little Rock Central High School in 1957: The state's governor has used the national guard to back up the local police, turning the response to peaceful demonstration into military action against the water protectors.

    As Becker put it, what is key is not the violence of the protestors — it's the violence against them.

    "They are there to stop this project they call ‘black snake,'" Russell concluded.


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    Dakota Access Pipeline, indigenous Americans, land acquisition, tribe, US, North Dakota, South Dakota
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