As many readers know, immediately after a federal district court judge ruled on Sept. 9 against the tribe and allowed the work to go forward, the Obama administration – through the Interior Department, the Army, and the Justice Department – put a halt on construction under the river and Lake Oahe – which itself was created decades ago by flooding indigenous lands with little or no input from the tribe – until it reviews decisions already made and conducts formal government-to-government consultations with Native American tribes this fall on how to better ensure meaningful tribal input on infrastructure projects that may impact tribal lands, resources or treaty rights, according to the statement. Read more here.
The administration also asked Energy Transfer Partners to voluntarily suspend work on other sections of the project within 20 miles of the river crossing pending the Army Corps' review, but the company has continued with pipeline construction. Its 1,100-mile path would move 500,000 barrels a day of heavy oil across four states from North Dakota to Illinois.
About 125 people attended the September 7 rally and picket in front of the bank, and many of us entered to deliver a letter asking the branch manager to pass on our demand that TD Securities cut off its line of credit to the Dakota Access pipeline. Many people spoke about the need for solidarity with this indigenous-led struggle and the inspiration they take from it.
More than 200 tribes – including some historic enemies of the Sioux as well as tribes that depend on oil, gas and coal extraction for their livelihoods – are in support of the anti-DAPL struggle, and at their biggest the crowds gathered in various camps around the river numbered 3,500. That number is shrinking as the weather gets colder, but many are committed to staying through the winter if necessary, and are in urgent need of warm clothing and camping gear. You can contribute here.
This fight has galvanized native people across the country as well as climate activists who say this oil (along with other fossil fuels) must be kept in the ground to avoid tipping the climate into chaos, and others who recognize the leadership of indigenous nations and want to support them.
After starting small in April, the Sacred Stone camp and Red Warrior Camp and others have grown and generated a barrage of media coverage. Some of the best can be found at Yes! Magazine and Inside Climate News. Just google “Dakota Access” on their sites.
At the end of the month I attended a teach-in organized by the Association of Native Americans at Yale, featuring Mary Kathryn Nagle (pictured above), a member of the Cherokee Nation and a lawyer working on native issues, especially women’s and family issues. Among other things she talked about how the oil boom in North Dakota has fueled more violence against women, especially native women.
The pipeline fight has also generated a lot of conversation about “cultural appropriation” – who is a genuine native American, and how non-natives can best demonstrate their solidarity. I’m sure these discussions will continue. I’ve learned a lot already, e.g., how different tribes determine membership, the respectful way to play a powwow drum, and more. It’s strange – after centuries of physical genocide followed by decades of cultural genocide, now it seems everyone want to be native.