The Struggle to Defeat Dakota Access Pipeline Goes Global
This week people across the world stood in solidarity with activists in North Dakota as they continue to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and risk arrest
CORRECTION: Narration in this report describes Bernie Sanders as “former Democratic presidential nominee.” He was a former Democratic presidential candidate, not nominee.
THOMAS HEDGES, TRNN: Progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline was again disrupted on Tuesday and Wednesday as protestors stood in the way of bulldozers and other equipment, resulting in over 20 arrests. Events on the ground in North Dakota this week converged with Tuesday’s Global Day of Action for which demonstrations in Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and across Europe raised awareness to defeat the pipeline.
PROTESTOR: I don’t know what it is, these people think that just continuing on with the status quo of the oil industry is the way to go.
HEDGES: In one of the largest gatherings here in Washington, D.C. over a thousand people including former democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders gathered in front of the White House to demand that President Obama nix the 3.7 billion pipeline which would bring fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale down through South Dakota, Iowa, and into Illinois.
BERNIE SANDERS: We’ve got to change the federal government’s relationship to the Native American people. The Native American people in this country have been taken advantage of for too long. They have been lied to. They have been exploited. That has got to change.
TARA HOUSKA: According to Dakota Access, they can treat us like less than human beings. They can sick dogs and mace on Native American women and children trying to protect their sacred sites. That’s what we saw. But the world is watching. The world is now watching and they’re seeing what’s happening.
HERMAN BRAR: We’re protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline which is going to run through 4 states and is 1,172 miles or so. Crossing the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, which would affect the water of 18 million people. Specifically, the Standing Rock Sioux Native Americans.
HEDGES: At Tuesday’s demonstration the mood was mixed.
Many were despondent about a federal judge’s decision Friday to strike down the Standing Rock Sioux’s lawsuit against construction of the pipeline in North Dakota. At the same time, many were hopefully that the Obama administration might be able to reverse the course of the project. It was announced that same day Friday that the administration would delay construction of a small section of the pipeline and open up future projects to discussion and consultation with first nations.
HOUSKA: That is a huge win for them to actually even consider opening that whole process up and considering indigenous rights.
MAY BOEVE: Just like with the Keystone Excel Pipeline which showed that climate change was a legacy issue for President Obama, this pipeline fight has a chance to do the same thing. So we’re already seeing that President Obama’s views on this may shift.
HEDGES: But while many including Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault, along with the environmental law firm Earth Justice which represented Standing Rock in their lawsuit, applaud Obama’s actions, others have questions about the intents of his administration’s decision which curiously came only 15 minutes after the federal judge’s refusal to grant an injunction.
In a piece for the Chicago based website Transformative Spaces, indigenous activist Kelly Hayes, said that Obama’s decision is a calculated PR stunt meant not to bring about any real change but instead to quell any dissident voices. Clearly a major plot twist has occurred she wrote. But it’s not the one being sold. “When a Black or Brown person is being murdered by the police, typically without consequence, and public outrage ensues, one of the pacifications we’re offered is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will investigate the shooting. It’s a deescalation tactic on the part of the state. It helps transition away from moments when rage and despair collide creating a cooling off period for the public”.
BRANDON HOPE: I think for a lot of these ruling elite figures you know, they look down from this White House or this corporate building or whatever and they’re like oh it’s getting messy down there. We got to at least say something. We’ve got to do something.
HOUSKA: We know that the president and the administration has said that there’s not going to be any active construction underneath the river and they’ve asked for 20 miles on the other side but we know beyond that it’s open season and the company has continued to construct.
HEDGES: So 20 miles out of how much?
HOUSKA: 20 miles out of—I mean we’re talking the total pipeline is 1,200 miles long. And we know if you’re actually there on the site you can see the pipeline going through all the fields. All the way up to the river. It’s incredible to actually see that and to know that that’s what’s happening. The pipeline, they’re going to say they’re going to stop but the overall goals is to get as close as they possibly can and then get closer and closer until it goes through.
HEDGES: Historically these discussions have never really played out in favor of indigenous people in the United States or in Canada in North America. All over the world. I mean are you really that hopeful that these discussions can lead to anything when you consider the history.
HOUSKA: I’ve seen incremental change and I’ve seen Obama be the strongest tribal president that we’ve ever had in history. However, what you’ve just said is absolutely the case. We know that we’ve got a nation that has a long history of breaking treaties and running over indigenous rights. We’re stripped by the judiciary. Almost every other case that goes to the Supreme Court that’s a Native American case, we lose. That’s the reality.
HEDGES: The skepticism surrounding the administration’s decision only echoes with DAPL protestors of sense more broadly from the government, media and especially from the company building the pipeline energy transfer partners which on Tuesday released a statement saying it would continue the construction of the pipeline since “The right of way for the entire pipeline has been obtained”. Compounding that despair is the fact that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have made a single comment about the struggle over Dakota Access Pipeline.
BOEVE: Our 350 action organization which is political in nature has been on the campaign trail asking Clinton about this at every event. There’s a fundraiser today where people were gathered and the same thing happened a few years ago with Obama and Keystone. Everywhere he went he was greeted with people asking.
HEDGES: What has she said?
BOEVE: She hasn’t said anything yet.
HEDGES: So she ignores the questions?
BOEVE: She ignores the questions.
HEDGES: In the end one thing is clear among those present at Tuesday’s demonstration. Regardless of the mainstream media’s refusal to cover the struggle to stop the pipeline and regardless of the energy transfer partner’s attempts to use force and violence against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, protest must continue.
HOUSKA: I can tell you that on the ground people aren’t leaving. The 2,000 now upwards of 4,000, when folks come in that actually live on Standing Rock, they come in on the weekends we’re talking a massive encampment of Native American people that are saying no more. And those people we know how to camp. We know how to live off the land. We know how to be in a winter camp. There are people from all over that have come there to bring their skills and bring their tribal cultural knowledge to share with each other. And these folks are not leaving. They want this pipeline; this has become more than just a pipeline. This is a stance for indigenous rights. These people are willing to die to stop this pipeline.
HEDGES: For the Real News, Thomas Hedges, Washington.
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