Topics: Environment, Health, Indigenous, Water, Welfare

Police department violating human rights - Dakota medics

By Peata Melbourne

Morton County Sheriff's department has blocked the northbound highway 1806 with razor wire, military vehicles and concrete blocks, violating the Geneva Convention by blocking  health and emergency services access to victims at the Oceti Sakowin camp at Standing Rock.

The group responsible for supplying medical and healing resources to the hundreds of people supporting the Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock camp are demanding for the eviction notice handed out by US Army Corps of Engineers to be overturned, and the blockade on Highway 1806 to be removed.

"This is a professional opinion about the safety and the health of the people there and if you do not accept that opinion we're not going to modify it based upon your convenience," says Dr Kalamaoka'aina Niheu, Co-Founder of STMHC (Standing Rock Medic Healer's Council).

The council was set up as a response to poor healthcare access and the escalating use of violence by Morton County Sheriff's department and Dakota Access Pipeline security upon unarmed people. 

Dr Niheu says "Based upon all evidence to date we have good reason to believe that excessive, violent force will be used against unarmed people in winter conditions that threaten life simply through hypothermia."

Niheu is one of many professionals that have been working on the ground at Standing Rock at the Oceti Sakowin camp who say a public health threat has been coming from Morton County Police Department and the Dakota Access Pipeline staff security.

The Council says Governor Jack Dalrymple has ordered an "emergency" evacuation under the false premise of public health.

"They're making it like, 'we're just gonna say you have to leave' but that gives an open invitation to the brutality that we've seen so far, and you see that with the response from Governor Dalrymple, he has currently made a suspension of all emergency services to the area.  And we're not just talking about the protectors we're talking about the local people in that area as well" says Niheu.

The President-Elect of the American Public Health Association Dr Camara Jones believes it is important that the nation galvanize around Standing Rock to not see the situation as 'those people'.

"Especially in these times where it's going to be so easy for different groups to be picked off...and then as what was said in Nazi Germany, first they came for this group and I didn't stand up, then they came for that group and I didn't stand up, and then when they came for me there was no one left to stand for me."

Dr Jones is family physician and social epidemiologist whose work focuses on naming, measuring, and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of the nation.  Many Native Americans involved in the Standing Rock movement ascribe the harsh police tactics to intense racism against indigenous people, both from law enforcement officials and civilians.

"It's a clear example of not valuing individuals in populations equally and then the treatment of the protesters who are very peaceful protesters seems to be quite different from the treatment of the armed protesters who took over federal lands for 40 days in Oregon earlier this year" says Jones.

The Public ERS services have refused to go into the camp area for months and the STMHC have been providing services within the disputed area itself.  Services needed include ambulances, fire and transport especially with a blockade on Highway 1806 stopping them from transporting emergency victims from the site.

In an attempt to prevent more unnecessary morbidity and mortality, the STMHC (Standing Rock Medic Healer's Council) made up of 16 health professionals and was set up as a response to poor healthcare access and escalating use of violence by Morton County Sheriff's department and Dakota Access Pipeline security upon unarmed people who are peacefully assembled to protest a pipeline going through the source of drinking water for 16 million people.

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