by Kelly Many Guns
Since our last report on Standing Rock, there have been many new developments. There has been a growth in worldwide support, daily social media updates, law enforcement and the military using excess force when arresting water protectors, a high profile U.S. politician rallying support, and a major bank selling its assets out of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In mid-September, Energy Transfer Partners – the oil company building the Dakota Access Pipeline – hired law enforcement and military from local and surrounding States to enforce aggression against the water protectors. Arrests continue daily at Standing Rock. Over two-hundred water protectors were arrested, some women allegedly were stripped and locked in dog cages, and military officials shot tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds.
Last week, the front lines of protesters blocking the Dakota Access pipeline looked like this. Photo: Desiree Kane / YES! Magazine
In a recent press conference, David Archambault, chairman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, says there have been false, unverified stories printed in the media about the peaceful protestors and water protectors. This includes a story about a woman firing a gun at law enforcement, and the North Dakota media ran with that. Another story stated that arrows were being shot at low flying aircraft’s.
“These press releases go out and diminish what we’ve been trying to accomplish, making us look like villains,” Archambault said. “This is an unfortunate time at Standing Rock, and I can honestly say we have the right to be on that land because that land was illegally taken from us, according to the 1851 Treaty.” According to Achambault, the state of North Dakota has laws that corporations cannot own farm or ranch lands without a pre-approved business, and that did not happen with Energy Transfer Partners (ETP).
Photo by Ryan Vizzions
“Energy Transfer Partners asked the State of North Dakota to step in and remove us, saying we were trespassing on our own land, and that’s just not right,” informs Archambault. “So the North Dakota law enforcement and the surrounding states came in with aggression, using weapons to force innocent people back.”
Over forty people were injured in the first clash with officers suited in riot gear against the pipeline protesters, including welts from rubber bullets, and tear gas shot from cannons. Archambault says it is wrong to use that type of force on innocent people on their own land.
“It seems like Energy Transfer Partners is getting protection, and this is what we’re up against,” he says. “We’re standing up for water and that has been our focus. Water is the most important thing, and not just for us, for everyone.”
The chairman for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continued by saying that they’re up against state officials who support the pipeline. They support oil production, elected state officials receiving oil industry contributions, flawed federal laws, unions saying Standing Rock supporters are trying to shut down employment for them, and Donald Trump, who has a direct investment interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“So the oil industry is a powerful conglomerate, and we’re up against all these forces”
says Achambault. “All we have is support, unity, prayers, and we still have a chance.” Everyone can still benefit from this opportunity to stop or reroute this pipeline and not put our Tribes and everyone’s water at risk. He says it can be done.
ROBYN BECK VIA GETTY IMAGES
Archambault believes that they should be investing in refurbishing and remodelling every pipeline that is under the Missouri River, and update existing pipelines. “This is about Energy Transfer Partners – they are a bad company. They have lawsuits in four different states for contaminating the environment and water. They illegally used unlicensed and untrained handlers to use guard dogs in their aggression towards the protestors. There is so many wrongs with this oil company ETP.”
In a November 17th, 2016 press release, the largest bank in Norway, DNB sold its assets in the Dakota Access pipeline. The news follows the delivery of 120,000 signatures from Greenpeace Norway and others to DNB urging the bank and other financial institutions to pull finances for the project.
“It is great that DNB has sold its assets in the disputed pipeline, and it is a clear signal that it is important that people speak out when injustice is committed. We now expect DNB to also terminate its loans for the project immediately.” Greenpeace USA spokesperson Lilian Molina said: “The writing’s on the wall for the Dakota Access pipeline – people power is winning.”
According to a U.S. publication, Energy Transfer Partner officials say they’ve followed all the rules. They point out the pipeline is not even on a reservation land. Plus, they argue that moving oil via modern pipelines is a far safer way than putting it on trucks or trains because, as statistics show, this is more prone to a crash and spill. It also says the pipeline will generate revenue and jobs for North Dakota.
Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, says that the pipelines are the most efficient, safe, and cost-effective way to move oil to market. “The products get there virtually 100 percent of the time without issue.” The Dakota Access Pipeline begins in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, carrying crude oil almost 1,200 miles through South Dakota and Iowa down to Illinois. The pipeline’s original path crossed the Missouri River just north of Bismarck, a city that is 90 percent Caucasian. However, when concerns were raised about a potential oil spill there, the pipeline was rerouted south to go under the river right next to the Standing Rock Reservation. The Missouri River is the Standing Rock reservations’ primary source of drinking water. The tribe says a spill there could be catastrophic for them. So when construction started, a plea for help went out.
In a recent PBS television report, the 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines across the U.S. do sometimes leak and rupture. When they do, they often spill far more oil than a single train car carries. Since 1995, there has been more than 2,000 significant accidents on oil and gas pipelines, causing about $3 billion in property damage. An example of this was in July of 2010. At least 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. It was one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history, and the costliest. Almost 5,000 acres of wetland habitat was inundated with oil. Hundreds of animals were killed. Thousands more were recovered, cleaned and released. Full recovery could take decades.
This past summer, as First Nations Drum reported, about 65,000 gallons of oil and other toxins spilled into the North Saskatchewan River, polluting the drinking water used by the James Smith Cree Nation. The Petroleum Council says those kinds of spills near the Standing Rock Reservation are very unlikely.
“This pipeline is 90 feet below the river bed. It’s not going to leak right into the river, it’s got the detection equipment and the shutoff valves on each side of this pipeline,” said Ron Ness. The US Senator of Vermont and 2016 democratic nominee said that over 300 communities in the United States do not want the pipeline built. Sanders was video recorded on “Our Revolution” when he rallied a crowd in Washington on November 15th.
Sanders also said: “the issues are very clear. For hundreds of years, the native people in our country, the first Americans, have been lied to, have been cheated, and their sovereign rights have been denied to them. Today, we are saying it is time for a new approach to the Native American people, and not run a pipeline through their land.”
Sanders demands that sovereign rights of the Native American people be honoured and respected. In the midst of a major water crisis in the U.S. and around the world, he does not want to see a pipeline built and endanger clean water for millions of people.