It is called the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is to run from North Dakota all the way to Illinois. The pipeline is intended to transport Bakken Oil from fracking to refineries.
As we already know, shale oil is probably the dirtiest oil we can burn. It produces more greenhouse gases than normal oil. It will help speed up climate change which is already happening and threatening our planet.
Ground zero in the fight to stop the pipeline is at Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. There the Native American people have been protesting for months trying to stop it from going under rivers and destroying sacred burial ground.
But, they are not fighting it alone. In Iowa and other states, many people have been arrested trying to stop it also. These people are using the misuse of eminent domain for private companies as a reason for stopping the pipeline.
The company was allowed to use eminent domain to confiscate private property to make room for the pipeline. Yes, they had to pay for the land, but the owners were not allowed to refuse the purchase which means it was basically stolen from them.
It is at Standing Rock that things are really ugly. The area where the protests are being held is basically ruled by a Sheriff who apparently thinks he is the North Dakota version of Bull Conner in Mississippi during the civil rights movement.
At one point early in the protest, he allowed a private security force to use attack dogs against the protesters. Several people were bitten by these dogs including children. Does that remind you of anything?
The police at Standing Rock are dressed in riot gear and have been using mace, pepper spray, and rubber bullets to break up the protests. In one incident, a young boy was shot in the back by a rubber bullet at point blank range while he was talking to a police officer. He was coughing up blood and needed to be rushed to the hospital.
In another incident, a reporter was interviewing a protester when she was shot in the back by a rubber bullet also. It turns out that bullet was actually fired not from a gun but a grenade launcher. Something that is not supposed to be used in peaceful protests.
When the pipeline’s route was originally designed, it went through Bismark. The white people there put up a stink because they felt it would hurt property values in the area. So it was moved. It was moved to include the reservation and land that was ceded to the tribe in 1851 by treaty.
There is a corridor that the company is not allowed to dig on just yet. It is a corridor that is controlled by the federal government and the Corps of Engineers. They are currently reviewing the route to see if there is a better one that won’t endanger water.
The protesters call themselves “Water Protectors”. They are interested in saving their water from contamination from a leak in the pipeline. The company says that the pipeline is “safe”. But is it?
In the last two decades there have been more than 2,000 major leaks. Since 2009 the number of leaks has shot up over 60 percent. The real problem isn’t from chance malfunctions either. Rather they are caused by decades long neglect. It could be considered as criminal neglect.
The other problem is that there is no federal government agency responsible for oil leaks, except on waterways under the auspices of the U.S. Coast Guard. There have been hundreds of unreported leaks in North Dakota alone.
Looking at just our recent history, one can see many examples of watersheds that were devastated by oil and gas negligence. The Yellowstone River spill, The Kalamazoo River spill, which several years after their spill, and millions of dollars later, still hasn’t reached any significant state of cleanup.
But, back on the river that is the major front line in this battle, about 40 young people are standing in the water praying and protesting. They are standing in frigid November water to make their point. On the banks are up to 100 police in riot gear readying another volley of pepper spray to fire at them.
The situation is really out of hand there. Wes “Mekasi” Horinek, an activist with the water rights group Bold Alliance was arrested during a camp raid by local police. He described the atrocities he’s witnessed: “peaceful protesters were hooded, put in stress positions, strip-searched. We were placed in dog kennels with numbers written on our arms for hours. Elders were kept in cages in the basement of the police station for days.”
There are even reports that reporters are being targeted by the police. They seem to think that if reporters are targeted, they will leave out of fear for their safety and no one will hear about the atrocities going on there.
The water these brave native-Americans are trying to protect do not just serve them and their reservation. It serves about 71 million Americans. The river they are fighting to keep the pipeline from going under feeds directly into the Missouri River. That watershed serves millions of people.
I believe that this battle is a microcosm of America today. We have normal people fighting against another greedy corporation who doesn’t care about their water or their lives. It is also an example of how white America treats minorities when it comes to such matters as well.
I also believe it is a microcosm of what America will become under a Trump administration. This case isn’t about civil rights either. It is about treaties. The land in question was ceded to the tribe by treaty in 1851. But, now that corporate America needs the land, they feel free to just take it and use it for their own purposes.
What does that tell the world about our promises to keep our treaties with them? What does that say about us abiding by our “word”.
Manifest Destiny ignited a genocidal war against Native-Americans in the 19th century. Our forefathers did everything they could to wipe out the Native peoples in order to “take their land”.
What is happening at Standing Rock is just an extension of that genocidal war. It is telling the Native Americans they still have no standing when it comes to their rights and their treaties if they interfere with the white man’s greed.
It also tell the rest of us that we don’t matter either. It tells us the only thing that matters is corporate money and profits. If the Corps of Engineers don’t come up with a new route and force the company away from the reservation before President Obama leaves office, it will never happen under Trump.
Water is the most important thing we need to survive. Life cannot exist without water. That means we need clean water not oil polluted oil. The people of the Standing Rock reservation is showing us what true courage is. They are showing us that we must stand up for what is right.
They are risking serious injury, their freedom, and even their lives to protect the water and their sacred grounds. We can do nothing but support them the best ways we can.
I urge everyone to write to your congressman and the President in support of the tribes at Standing Rock. We must begin to protect our water, our lives and our planet. If you think Trump and the Republicans will do it, you are wrong. They even want to eliminate the EPA from the government agencies. That should tell you all you need to know about their intentions to “protect our environment”.
In the meantime, the tribe at Standing Rock will continue their protests. Things are not going to get better anytime soon. As one writer put it, “this is state sponsored violence at its best.” It reminds me when Richard J. Daily shouted during the 1968 Democratic convention that “the police are not their to incite a riot, they are there to preserve the riot.”
North Dakota’s Bull Conner is doing a great job of preserving the violence.