“The hardest part about locking down, is deciding to do it,” Mark K. Tilsen told Truthout.
It’s been almost four years since Mark’s brother Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota) and Daniel T’seleie (K’asho Got’ine Dene) attached themselves to excavators with handcuffs inside PVC piping in a device called a “Sleeping Dragon” to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock. Mark emulated them on his 35th birthday, July 6, 2018, at the Bayou Bridge struggle in the swamps of southern Louisiana. Bayou Bridge is the end of the DAPL pipeline. When cut loose and arrested, Tilsen was cuffed behind his back with zip ties and then lifted up by the cuffs by five cops who wrenched his shoulder so severely out of its socket, he still feels the injury on cold days. A “fair trade” he calls it. He had seen a lot worse at Standing Rock.
Tilsen has published a poetry collection, now in its third printing, It Ain’t Over Until We’re Smoking Cigars on the Drill Pad. Its title pithily sums up his response to a recent spate of favorable rulings awarded by courts on the Keystone XL Pipeline, DAPL, Atlantic Coast and Bayou Bridge pipelines. “I’m somewhat cynical,” he admitted with a laugh. T’seleie, too, is circumspect about attributing too much energy to the seeming wins, knowing how they often turn out to be partial, tentative or fragile, or are meant to diffuse resistance just when it’s crucial to ramp it up.
Truthout reached out to Mark Tilsen, T’seleie and three other Standing Rock front-liners — Karla Colon (Taíno), Olive Bias (Appalachian Water Protector) and Floris White Bull (HunkPapa Lakota and Cochití Pueblo) — for their thoughts and reflections on how effective organizing done well then contributed to a strengthened movement now.
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