As Robinson Meyer writes at The Atlantic, “To hear the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe tell it, an old-fashioned American land grab transpired earlier this week in rural North Dakota.”
The problem facing Native Peoples is a familiar one: the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which without permission of the Sioux, or even consultation, will stretch from North Dakota, across their sacred lands, destroying burial places and sacred sites, all the way to Illinois.
The pipeline is being built by Energy Transfer Partners, a Fortune 500 company being acquired by energy giant Sunoco, the “official fuel of NASCAR.”
If DAPL bursts – and as we know, pipelines always burst – the Missouri River, Standing Rock’s only source of water, would be polluted, and the pipeline does not cross the Missouri just once, but many times. And this is just one of the problems with the DAPL.
As Meyer explains, there are three legal problems:
- “The committee that oversees historic preservation on behalf of Congress explicitly decrees that “regulations require Federal agencies to consult with Indian tribes when they attach religious and cultural significance to a historic property regardless of the location of that property.” The Sioux were not consulted.
- “If the pipeline ever leaked or broke, it could spill into the Missouri River upstream of the tribe’s major population center. The Missouri River is also the tribe’s only source of water. Because the Army Corps failed to involve the tribe in its permitting, it could have violated the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.”
- “Last month, the White House ordered federal agencies to consider the environmental costs of greenhouse gases when they review a federal project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”
None of this, of course, seems to matter when there is a dollar to be made by the fossil fuel industry. The Sioux protested. Private security contractors were brought in to break up the demonstrations. Attack dogs, mace, pepper spray, were all used. People were bitten by the dogs, as this tweet shows, including a child.
— Winnie Wong (@WaywardWinifred) September 4, 2016
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple called out the National Guard, injunction requests were denied by federal district judges in September and October both.
As is well known by now, in an attack on First Amendment rights, award-winning journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was “charged with criminal trespassing for filming an attack on Native American-led pipeline protesters.” ‘
Goodman said in a statement that she would turn herself in:
“I will go back to North Dakota to fight this charge. It is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” said Goodman. “I was doing my job as a journalist, covering a violent attack on Native American protesters.”
Goodman is not alone. Mother Jones reminds us that,
“Documentary filmmaker and producer Deia Schlosberg is charged with felony conspiracy for her reporting on the protests. EcoWatch reports that the charges levied against her carry a maximum sentence of up to 45 years.”
As the Standing Rock Sioux tell us, “In honor of our future generations, we fight this pipeline to protect our water, our sacred places, and all living beings.”
This sounds very much like the words put into the mouth of ancient Roman hero Horatius by 19th-century British poet Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, who wrote:
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods
Fearful odds the Native peoples and their allies are facing. So far no one has died, but one young woman may lose her arm as a result of what has been claimed was a police concussion grenade (warning: graphic):
— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 23, 2016
Her crime? According to Sioux writer Ruth Hopkins of Indian Country Today,
“Sophia, who’s arm has been torn to pieces, was shot 14 times by police. She’s covered in welts. She was handing out water.”
Police deny concussion grenades were used despite witness testimony and foreign material found in her wound.
More than 300 people have been injured protesting this illegal pipeline. Actress Shailene Woodley of the Divergent film series has been an outspoken advocate of the Lakota, even being arrested at one point. She tweeted last night a call for peace:
— Shailene Woodley (@shailenewoodley) November 23, 2016
Protests have spread across the country. The Standing Rock Sioux have found allies from Ferguson in BLM.
The ACLU asks, “How Many Law Enforcement Agencies Does It Take to Subdue a Peaceful Protest?” The Morton County Sheriff Department claimed in early November that 1,300 personnel from 24 counties, 16 cities, and 9 states, had answered the call.
The ACLU currently puts the total of police departments converging on the Standing Rock Sioux at 75. And there is no peace to be found. Monday, The Washington Post tells us, it came down to “tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses.”
Police turned water cannons on protesters in freezing weather, and then justified their actions after 17 protesters were taken to the hospital, including some suffering from hypothermia:
— IndigenousEnviroNet (@IENearth) November 21, 2016
There have even been allegations that cell phone signals were illegally blocked by authorities. The mainstream media has largely favored claims made by authorities even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
As Huffington Post tells us, there is a virtual mainstream media blackout at Standing Rock. In the end, after all, just as we found with the election of Donald Trump, corporations look out for corporations.
Now, at least, we know the price put on the First Amendment by those in thrall to the fossil fuel industry. If you will stand up for your First Amendment rights, you must face worse than lawsuits from Donald Trump. You must risk beatings, bullets, bites, and arrest.
The price is “blunt trauma and open wounds.” And sometimes, an arm.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.