1868 Photo. Library of Congress.

“We will likely be gassed, pepper sprayed, shot with rubber bullets, hit with batons.” 

Thousands of US veterans are headed to North Dakota to serve as human shields for the Standing Rock water protectors, who have been ordered to vacate the camps by December 5. Many thousands have braved sub-zero temperatures to stand strong in the protest against a planned oil pipeline which will threaten their water supply and encroach on sacred tribal land.

It is time for a reblog, and a reason to feature an amazing 1868 photo.


We haven’t heard much lately about the standoff with armed militia in Oregon, where gun-toting white men have now completed the second week in occupation of a federal wildlife refuge.

I don’t completely understand their goal, their issue, or why the federal government seems to be allowing this to persist.

It just made me think of this photo from 1868, taken at the final connection of the Trans-Continental Railroad.

It shows a Native American looking out from the top of Palisades, about 435 miles from Sacramento, California.

We can only imagine what he must have been thinking.

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61 Responses to Rails

  1. Running Elk says:

    Incredibly evocative image. 🙂

    We haven’t had over much coverage here of any of it, so pretty much in the dark as to the why and whereof of their cause. The only thing that the media here felt important enough to report regarding the case, was the delivery of a consignment of dildos. (Which confused me, because my understanding was that that particular flightless bird had been extinct for thousands of years… :/ )

    • It is connected to the protest over the arrest of 2 brothers who set fire to land in the area. That’s probably an over-simplification, but there has been movement in recent years to get the federal government out of their land issues, the very same land their ancestors stole from native American tribes centuries ago. Irony.

  2. Erika Kind says:

    Haven’t heard of that incicident before. It is true, that picture speaks volumes!

  3. JunkChuck says:

    The Indian is thinking one word. “Shit.”

  4. It’s a really evocative, emotive image. It also definitely speaks to the irony and hypocrisy of this current siege situation. You are correct about the lack of coverage. If they were non-white, armed, and occupying a federal building, I do believe it might get more air time. Instead these criminals get brought snacks and toilet tissue to make their siege more comfortable. I find that interesting.

    • The racial component to this story is very telling. If they were not white, there would have been violent intervention long ago. I think the media is afraid of this story, or they just don’t know how to address it. It is very interesting, Laura, you’re so right. The Northwest U.S. has seen a rise in white supremacist groups, even neo-Nazis…something they also don’t want to address. I am wondering how this will end ?

  5. I live in Oregon, so this has been on the news quite a bit. More than anything, I’m struck by the racial component and sense of entitlement. Armed white men can get away with this. Men of any other color would be dead already. The government continues to “legally” steal Native American land to this day. These men think the land is theirs because they want it. I guess its the American way. (The photo makes me sad.)

    • It seems the lottery, politics, ISIS , the stock market, etc. have all diverted attention for most of the nation, Diana. I’m sure it still plays strong in your area. The photo made me sad too.

  6. George says:

    My guess is he’s thinking how it all went wrong for his people and the land they lived on which has been taken from them. My guess is he’s wondering where he goes from here. Haunting image.

  7. This is a beautiful and stirring image.

  8. The irony this VanillaISIS group’s position is stunning… I can’t understand why all utilities haven’t been turned off (or maybe they have and I haven’t heard…?) There’s more than one way to smoke out a rat! And that picture makes me so sad on so many levels. All I can do is shake my head.

  9. As I understand it Federal land is public land which means that the land that they want for their private use is owned by you and me and everyone else in the country.

    Someone commented that if they were black they’d be dead by now and that may be true, but I don’t think it has to do with color. White leftists would also be dead by now.

    These are the useful tools of the wealthy libertarian money addicts of the republican party and that party has found a way to stay in control of congress.

    It seems that the American people are so adverse to accountability that they prefer to believe the lie that they are not the government….and as long as they believe that lie they can continue to vote their greed and irresponsibility and walk away from the damage.

    These guys in Oregon vote against themselves and scapegoat our democracy and our government when the policies they support come back to bite them in the ass…

    But in a democracy you get what you vote for–or don’t vote for if you don’t vote.

  10. I need to read about that! Love the photo

  11. Not heard about this before

  12. I love this picture. Stories of native Americans have always cut me a bit. So much unsaid.

  13. lbeth1950 says:

    Heartbreaking, from our viewpoint today.

  14. joey says:

    I see it as entitlement, and they’ve been far too lenient with them, cause they’re white. It is so absurd, it upsets me just thinking about it. And why do they let them have mail?!? You wanna have a sit-in, take your own supplies! *swears a blue streak*

  15. Personally I wouldn’t call them militia I would call them terrorists. There is no reason why they should continue the two men who they are meant to be doing this for, have disavowed them. Also the fact that they are being led by a guy who said he was told to do this by a higher authority is making me think nut.

    As for the two men at the heart of the case, I have no sympathy for them, They were warned several times about burning over the years and they kept ignoring it.

    But what annoys me most is the lack of coverage especially here in the UK.

    • Thanks for your thoughts and info here. It’s not really being covered much here in the U.S. either. They might be waiting for them to get bored and go home, an accommodation they’d never grant to a non-white group.

      • Apparently they are dealing with it the same way they dealt with Waco, but then I had to go and look at what that was, and couldn’t figure out why they would copy that. Most of my knowledge comes from the internet which is as realiable as a chocolate teapot

  16. The irony in all of this is, we took land from the Native Americans. Now with imminent domain, this is happening all over again. We worship the dollar and the icons it buys. Our worship creates power in large companies. And money is power. I have always thought it was wrong for the CEO of McDonalds to have a salary and benefits 1000 or more times greater than his fast food workers. If wages could be limited at the top, more would trickle down to those who add value to the company, gosh I am rambling.

  17. Lady G says:

    Oh I am so glad that you reblogged this. I love that image! You really cannot help imagining what in the world he thought about what he saw happening.

    Reminds me of that old 1970’s commercial where the Native American was in tears as he watched people littering.
    Don’t get me wrong, I know the commercial was meant to be very dramatic…well it worked!
    It is one of the very first commercials that I consciously remember.
    Again, great post Van!

  18. AmyRose🌹 says:

    This whole issue is heart breaking and it makes me angry to hear what is being done to the protestors. What right does this government have to allow these atrocities to continue? WHY are they not doing anything unless they have a hand in the till? This is SACRED ground, darn it! No one has the right to do what they are! NO ONE! *hot under collar* As for that picture … made me want to cry. ❤

  19. Val Boyko says:

    I feel the rise of spirit and a deeper calling for what is good and right. Thank you Van 💛

  20. dgkaye says:

    It’s heartbreaking what’s going on. And that photo is iconic and haunting. 🙂

  21. An amazing picture. I have not heard about this! I need to look it up!

  22. JunkChuck says:

    Standing Rock/Malheur–there was an excellent piece written about the irony of make-believe cowboys getting acquitted after occupying and claiming historic dominion over Indian land while real indians are getting pummeled by corporate interests and their paid thugs in an effort to displace them from land to which they have a historic legal claim.

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