I attended a panel discussion hosted at Duke about environmental justice, tribal justice, and organizing at Standing Rock. The panel was composed by two Cannonball District representatives and members of the tribal council at Standing Rock. The event was put together in a matter of days by Duke’s Native American Student Alliance, and they did a great job, as the venue was absolutely packed!
Although I did not record the conversations, the notes are detailed enough that they read like a transcript. I added the links, videos, and maps to provide greater context. Given the significance of the ongoing globalised resistance against fossil fuels, sharing the words from Chad and Cody is the least I can do during the historical moment we are living.
- Chad Harrison: Councilman-at-Large
- Cody Two Bears: District Representative of Cannonball.
- Moderator: Christine Folch is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke, while also serving as the Co-Director of the Global Brazil Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute.
Thank you for coming. First a quick introduction. I would like to remind everyone that we at Duke are on native land right now. What we are seeing in Standing Rock it is making visible histories that are usually concealed. There are several camps. Standing rock reservation is cut by North-South Dakota divide. This is where the Chief Sitting Bull grave is. A group of people decided to oppose construction of pipeline North of the river, and thousands responded. I was there recently, and it was an emotional experience. As you drive into the camp, you see the hundreds of flags from the hundreds of nations that have come together for this cause, beating in the chilly North Dakota wind.
Moderator (to panel) -
What is going on? What is the black snake?
Thank you for coming. Water is something we all need. We want to orient ourselves first: North Dakota is in the central part of great plains, bordering Canada. One of our limits is the Missouri River. People often don’t understand what ‘sovereignty’ means and what it means across the nation. It means ‘we govern ourselves’, we [Sioux] are a nation within a nation. We have responsibilities to our people to run our nation. Our chairman is somewhere in between a governor and a president of sorts. We have a relationship as a nation with the United States government. This plays an important role of what has and hasn’t happened through the years.
All my relations with a good heart, and thank you for coming. My ancestors come from east side of Missouri river. The Whitestone massacre moved us to west side of Missouri river. The US government once again threatens our existence. First it was our land, then it was our buffalo, now it is our water. With peace and prayer, we will win this fight. Chief Sitting Bull said: Let's put our minds together to see what lives we can make for our children”. What type of environment are we leaving them today? Its tough to know what's going on today without knowing what happened in past. The 1851 Laramie Treaty, thats land where our ancestors lived for the past 500 years. We have Nation-to Nation relationships with the US. Our councilman said ‘we need to have relations with the White House’, but we have our own police, our own hospitals, we signed a treaty 1851. By 1877 they took our Black Hills because they found gold (3 trillion dollars, they tried to give us a billion back, but it is sitting in some bank, our people will never take that money), with no consultation. By 1887 they put us in individual family holdings to take away more of our land. On 1889, there was an act where they partitioned our land and the standing rock reservation was created, our land shrunk again. In 1944, there was the flood control act, they flooded our land and forced us to move to higher land. We had to relocate and rebuild everything. With the flood control act, the river was dammed for energy generation, and our people gave that up. Where is the nation-to-nation relationship? And now, Dakota Access Pipeline… they jeopardise our water. It is a time for change. Indigenous nations across the world must come together and fight for what is rightfully theirs. Now they ask us we need to give this up for ‘national security’? We have nothing else to give. We gave enough. Reroute the pipeline. That's all we're saying,
Dakota Access is subsidiary Energy Transfer Partners corporation from Dallas, Texas. In North Dakota there has been an oil boom. We are second largest oil reserves after Texas, and it is all in one basin, the Bakken Formation in North Dakota. In last few years hundreds of wells were tapped. State and oil companies found it very difficult to move that oil. We move crude with trucks and trains, and there's been crashes. We've been experiencing 1 fatality a day because of truck crashes (they are outsiders who do not know the terrain). Now they want to move the oil via pipeline. The main issue is that there was a nationwide permit from Army Corp. of Engineers in 2012 to expedite public projects, which was supposed to be for public benefit, Dakota Access shoehorned themselves under this permit. How did this for-profit company use this permit that was intended for public good? The argument is that it is national security, because by extracting our oil we depend less on Saudi oil. This permit allowed them to proceed (they used eminent domain to kick out farmers etc).
If you see map you see there's other minor pipes, there's already easements for natural utilities in place, gas and electricity. The problem is that natural gas is 4” in diameter. DAPL is 30”. Natural gas dissipates in air. Oil, not so much. 470,000 barrels of shale oil a day need to go through this pipe. Where did they not have a permit for construction yet? North to Missouri river the permit had not been granted at that point. That's when we started engaging with them more aggressively. Why would you start to construct something when all the permits are not in place? Thats their strategy: “Just go ahead, build most of the pipeline, and then, oh well, it's just that small bit left that nobody in their right mind would oppose”. It was a rapid progression. In 2014 we flat out told them “we will never approve this pipeline going through ” and we wrote many letters in response of this. What we face is a lack of actual listening. A disregard welfare of people along that route. We are not the only ones who oppose this pipeline either. Other movements and individuals within these states are also fighting back.
DAPL Is affecting not only our tribe but everyone. This is for “national security” they say. I truly disagree with Army Corp of Engineers. They are destroying not only the water but our sacred sites. I went to that first injunction in DC. They were breaking Section 106 and the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, our right to preserve religious and sacred sites. With this law we were supposed to have face-face conversations with them. Dakota Access says they have their ‘best archaeologists going through land’, but they don't know our ways or know what to look for. We gave them a map of our sacred sites. DAPL construction was 30-40 miles from these sites. As soon as we gave them this map they went to those spots and started damaging these sites specifically. That's what you saw with the dogs and the bulldozers. Meanwhile, the owners of Dakota Access, Energy Partners Transfers, they're still down in Dallas. For them, ‘Consultation’ now means a that there is ‘checkbox’ in a form. They just tell us what they will do, and then they check the box to show that we have been informed. That is NOT what consultation means. Consultation should mean that if there is a disagreement, you work through it with the other party. This pipeline is not gonna affect just us, this will affect EVERYONE. The people fighting there today are fighting for everyone.
Oil extraction for national security? What about water?
There's actually hundreds of crossings along the path of DAPL, but not as major as the Missouri river. This crossing is 14-15 miles South of Lake Oahe, where the river is a mile wide, and which continues 100 miles until the dam. If something happens in this location, it affects everyone. People can't drink oil. Currently the water is good quality, let’s not change that.
You hear “Water is Life”. Water makes up the majority of our bodies is water. This Earth, animals, they too are water. We need water for everything. We must remember the four legged ones, and the winged ones. Who will speak for them? Water is a way of life to our people.
The original route was going north of Bismarck. The river is narrow up there, so it made sense. But the city of Bismarck did not want it because if something were to happen it threatened the entire city. The Army corp of Engineers then told us that the environmental assessment “endangers things” up there. One of the realizations we've had is who we're dealing with. The Army Corp of Engineers are part of the army. They have a militaristic state of mind, which implies that for them things have ‘acceptable collateral damages’. We are tired of being acceptable collateral damage. This feeds into other long-standing issues, we have been petitioning for decades for the return of “taken lands” for flood control. If you see a map of these “taken lands” are drawn hugging the river. But as soon as it enters the reservation, they become large square blocks. We recently went through a 1000 yr flood and there was an additional 20 acres next to the river that they did not need for flood control, and still they won't give this land back. With the understanding of a sovereign nation, treaties supersede state rights. Our treaties came well before the existence of the State. We have never given up our control of our water. We've been fighting for so long. This movement is trying to make inroads on this matter as well.
It is ironic, but they didn't want it running north of Bismark because they said it could 'possibly contaminate their water'. Still, 18 million people depend on this water! Look at a map! It's so easy to go North of the Missouri River. This is modern-day genocide. It's unreal. It's humbling. As tribal council we have over 350 city councils in support of us, including New York! So this is the last stand of fossil fuels, and people are starting to stand up for what they believe. If you think you are not affected today, I guarantee you, it's coming. We must make a stand for renewable energy.
Questions and Answers
How can we lend our voices without overshadowing your sovereignty?
Everyone around the world is making changes, except our country. It's time to start putting our money where our mouth is. It starts with the people. We will build an all-green camp. The technology is there. Also, have a continued presence in whatever cause you pursue. Standing Rock has become a very large platform for several interests groups. Environmental issues don’t overshadow us, it's a bigger conversation in general. There has to be an educational component. Stay involved!
What can we do? How can we help you?
Once again, stay involved! We appreciate all the visitors, but we must continue to be spiritual, lawful. After the hype passes and everyone leaves, we must stay there. Social justice movements are connected. Social justice is not achieved because of people in power. Be involved beyond the movement too. For example, we all know who our federal regulators are. The change will come by VOTING. We need the right lawmakers in the right areas. We must remain engaged, and spiritual, but at the end of the day, we need the right people in government to help there too.
How is Standing Rock related to with larger struggle against colonialism?
We are just the “tip of the horn”. With essentially no planning, people of all kinds came together, even people from Flint came down, and we are happy to share this platform with them. It is very intimidating to walk into rooms of oil executives. But were willing to do it. We are willing to put ourselves on the line, and we hope that others are willing to join us and to join this worldwide conversations. There have been treaty travestis all over the world. Someone from SMU told me “Pipelines are the safest way to move oil" (other that railway, truck, pipelines). I say it may be the safest of three, but there is no safe way. They bring up statistics of there being no oil-related deaths in decades, but it's not about that. As long as we stay with prayer, things will go well. A month ago we decided to do away with ALL banks that have to do with the DAPL, and now we see a huge movement of people doing the same. That is what it will take. If we come together, we can end fossil fuels and move in a new direction.
We asked Wells Fargo “Do you have a social advisor for your investments?”, “We hired one, a month ago” they replied (a little late for hiring one, don't you think?). The power of people is impressive. The driving factor of all this is the mighty dollar. We all have an influence on our investments. We must ask ourselves: are we investing in a company that is not socially conscious? If the answer is yes, then we are part of the problem.
It is time for change. When you DO go to action, do it with PEACE and PRAYER, because that is the only way you will win. Out there in the front lines, I tell protectors, “Remember who you represent! You represent your family, your ancestors, your people”. Once we stoop to their level, we're no better than them.
If they reroute the pipeline, would you consider that a win?
We all think we won already! Social injustice must continue to become noticed, and called out as unacceptable! At camp we have a spirit fire, which always keeps going, and is a metaphor for how we should all be. After all, indigenous tribes are not the only ones to have suffered social injustice. We must put all these injustices together and loudly say “ALL OF THIS is unacceptable”. We’ve united a world that sees the wrong, and that is a victory. However, we need policy reform (such as the clean water act, clean air act, etc) so that these injustices don’t happen in the first place. The more people stand up for what is right, the more we will see the solutions.
How can we become involved?
If you want to know more about how you can help, this article by Thane Maxwell is worth reading. Additionally, someone compiled the following list. If you know the author please let us know to credit them.
10 Ways You Can Help the Standing Rock Sioux Fight the Dakota Access Pipeline
Call North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple at 701-328-2200. You can leave a message stating your thoughts about this.
Sign the petition to the White House to Stop DAPL: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-construction-dakota-access-pipeline-which-endangers-water-supply-native-american-reservations
Donate to support the Standing Rock Sioux at http://standingrock.org/news/standing-rock-sioux-tribe–dakota-access-pipeline-donation-fund/
Donate items from the Sacred Stone Camp Supply List: http://sacredstonecamp.org/supply-list/
Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414. Tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ Permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense Fund: https://fundrazr.com/d19fAf
Contribute to the Sacred Stone Camp gofundme account: https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp
Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit: (202) 761-5903
Sign other petitions asking President Obama to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Here’s the latest to cross my desk – https://act.credoaction.com/sign/NoDAPL
Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:
a. Lee Hanse
Executive Vice President
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6455
b. Glenn Emery
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
800 E Sonterra Blvd #400
San Antonio, Texas 78258
Telephone: (210) 403-6762
c. Michael (Cliff) Waters
Energy Transfer Partners, L.P.
1300 Main St.
Houston, Texas 77002
Telephone: (713) 989-2404