U.S. Calls for Halt to Dakota Access Pipeline Construction

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A joint statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior said Friday (9/9) that “the Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on [Army Corps of Engineers] land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.

(“Oahe Dam, SD takes its name from the Oahe Indian Mission established among the Lakota Sioux Indians in 1874,” according to the CorpsLakeGateway web site. “Lake Oahe extends from Pierre, SD to Bismarck, ND. The lake is 231 miles long, and has 2,250 miles of shoreline.”)

The joint statement also requested that, “the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity with 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

The statement added that, “This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects; Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights, and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter the statutory framework and promote those goals.”

The statement went on: “Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. Of course, any who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state or local authorities. The Departments of Justice and The Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests and maintain public safety.

“In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites. It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”

In short, the notice indicates a highly unusual common-sense action on the part of government agencies better known for turning a blind eye to, or actively participating in, violations of native Americans’ rights.

Commercial interests, in this instance, seem to be on the losing end of a clearly wrong effort to put money in front of morals. ‘About time, too!

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Presidential Candidate’s Pipeline Protest, Likely to earn Charges

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Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein (with bandana) met with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters Tuesday.  Photo: Mike Nowatzki, Forum News Service.

Protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline, which this blog reported on last weekend, have gone … silly, with Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein earning herself a police charge or two for spray-painting “I approve this message” on a bulldozer blade Tuesday.

She was part of a group of 150-200 protesting at a construction site where two among them attached themselves to bulldozers and some construction equipment that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said apparently was vandalized. Speaking at a press conference, Kirchmeier said that though no arrests were made as a result of Tuesday’s actions, his department is “working up the information through the state’s attorney’s office to pursue charges (against Stein).” One possible charge could be for trespassing and another for vandalism, though it’s not yet known whether these would be felony or misdemeanor charges.

According to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the protest took place at around 10:30 a.m., and protesters gathered at a construction area at County Road 35 and Highway 6, 2 miles east of Highway 1806.

About 25 law enforcement officers responded to the protest site, where no Dakota Access Pipeline workers were working at the time of the protest. Kirchmeier said officers saw some protesters on horses, masks and some carrying hatchets and wearing goggles.

Law enforcement officers were “pulled back from the area because it was determined that, at that point, it was unsafe for them to go into the situation,” Kirchmeier said.

“At this point … I don’t believe that we need to go in there and have physical altercations with the protesters,” he said.

On Saturday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said three private security guards working for the Dakota Access Pipeline were reportedly injured after about 300 protesters entered the work site. One guard was transported to a Bismarck hospital, but refused treatment.

No arrests have been made as a result of the incident that occurred Saturday or Tuesday.

“We are actively investigating these incidents, either by video or social media to identify people that have taken place in this,” Kirchmeier said. “We will pursue charges as needed.”

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II compared illegal actions taken by protesters, like those that bound themselves to equipment, to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her bus seat during the Civil Rights movement: “It was illegal, but it was the right thing to do.”

Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, director and chairman of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services Advisory Committee, said at the press conference his department has recently spoke with members of Standing Rock Indian Reservation and the Sacred Stone Camp about maintaining safety and “dispelling rumors.”

“We need to work together, everyone, that is committed to a peaceful solution to what is going on right now, to work together so that we can marginalize the agitators,” Dohrmann said.

Native Americans’ Protest Pipeline That Would Destroy Ancient Burial Ground

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Native Americans, traditionally but erroneously referred to as “Indians”, have fought with ‘white men’ for hundreds of years in the American mid-west – no less so in the Dakotas, two states with some of the greatest plains, most productive farm land and, amazingly, near-abject poverty among a shameful number of its historically oldest residents: Members of Native American tribes who were well established in this area hundreds of years before Europeans ‘invaded’ their land.

The most impoverished reside on ‘reservations’, areas set aside by the U.S. Government as ‘sovereign territories’ that are nominally ruled and controlled by occupying tribes. Too often, though, reservation residents are there for lack of an alternative: Much as they want to preserve and defend their ancient ancestral lands, the reservations have not, for the most part, benefited from inflows of capital that have helped land beyond the res’ –private-owned property where hard labor and, often enough, hefty outside financing, support growth and prosperity both to commercial farms and to ancillary enterprises that are adding wealth to growing communities.

But Native Americans revere their reservations, and sometimes go to great length to resist incursions by outsiders.

Currently – since last April – more than 3,000 of these people are camping in a remote part of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. They are protesting a plan to develop something called the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is intended to carry crude oil from the northwest of North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois.

People in the camp say their protest activity is a way to reconnect with their identity, pride and heritage after a long history of abuse and segregation. But is that enough to justify and, more important, truly ‘stand ground’ against something that both insults and interferes with their heritage?

The pipeline also is known as the Bakken Oil Pipeline, named for anoil-rich area in North Dakota that extends into Canada, is intended to move some 477,000 barrels of oil daily through a 30-inch pipe running along its 1,172-mile route. An estimated 7.4 billion barrels of undiscovered oil is believed to be in the US portion of the Bakken Formation, according to the US Geological Survey.

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The pipeline’s web site puts some pretty impressive statistics out about the project:

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion investment that will create 8,000 to 12,000 local jobs during construction. [Observation: ‘During’ is the operative word there!]

Millions of hours of labor will be needed during the construction phase, putting welders, mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators and others within the heavy construction industry to work. There will also be increased demand for those who manufacture the steel pipes, fittings, valves, pumps and control devices necessary for a major pipeline, and local economies along the route will feel direct impact through the expanded use of hotels, motels, restaurants, and other services.

  • The pipeline will translate into millions in state and local revenues during the construction phase and an estimated $129 million annually in property and income taxes.

  • The pipeline will generate an estimated $50 million annually in property taxes and nearly $74 million in sales taxes to the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois – for services to support schools, roads, emergency services and more.

 

The site fails to note that when the pipeline’s route takes it under the Missouri River, it will despoil and/or destroy an ancient burial ground – ancient, but not so ancient that current-day Sioux pay no heed to their ancestors’ forever resting place. They most certainly do remember that and much more of their history that has, or would, be trampled over by those the tribe traditionally, but increasingly erroneously, refer to as ‘white people.’

(In a nation that once was and likes to continue thinking of itself as ‘white’, the ‘whites’ – Caucasians – are rapidly becoming a minority race. Though not, so much, in the Dakotas, or Iowa. Illinois is a differently-colored story.)

Bottom line: Commercial interests are, again, trying to impinge on the rights of people who have every right to be where they are, to have their ancient lands left unaffected by white men, and to be left the hell alone. In peace, as the peaceful people they are.