On March 10th, tribal nations from across the country gathered in Washington DC for the Native Nations Rise March to continue the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and promote indigenous sovereignty in the interest of environmental protection. Demonstrators were burning sage in front of the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters and setting up tipis in front of DC’s Trump Hotel.
What started almost a year ago as a battle against a pipeline has grown to a massive protest demanding respect of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights. And the battle against the Trump administration is expected to grow stronger with more people now aware of the human rights violations it perpetuates and his increasingly worrisome fossil fuel cabinet.
“People are finally starting to understand that we are not just mascots, we are not just caricatures, we’re not just past tense, we’re not historical figures.” Eryn Wise, council member for International Indigenous Youth, said to Think Progress. “We are people that exist in the here and now. We are people that are fighting for the rights of our futures, our children, our ancestors.”
Earlier this week, U.S District Judge James Boasberg rejected the Cheyenne River Sioux’s tribe request to halt construction of the last section of DAPL under Lake Oahe. Despite the undeniable claims that the pipeline will be a threat to sacred lands and water — including to the 17 million down the Missouri River — Boasberg said that the pipeline’s route was changed more than enough times in regards to cultural surveys and tribal concerns. Rerouting the $3.8 billion pipeline again would have been “more costly and complicated.”
It is not surprising, but still absolutely pathetic that Boasberg prioritizes how much money Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) would have to spend in rerouting than literal life-or-death consequences the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux people would face if their primary source of water was tainted by an oil leak. The corporation still violated five environmental protection and tribal sovereignty laws from digging up sacred land to neglecting a full environmental impact statement, the latter solidified by Trump’s executive order to expedite DAPL’s construction. If ETP really listened to and genuinely respected tribal concerns and rerouted months before, we wouldn’t still be having this conversation.
This is also hypocritical to one of the pipeline’s first reroutes as DAPL was originally supposed to cross through the Bismarck area. Highlighted in Hilary Tompkins’ memoranda of environmental risks and tribal treaty violations, which was withdrawn shortly before Trump approved easement for DAPL, the Army Corps of Engineers rejected the Bismarck route with consideration of its proximity to wildlife conservation areas and the city’s water supply. Despite that Standing Rock has the exact same concerns with their hunting, fishing and water supply, DAPL was still rerouted north of the reservation without any input from the tribes.
Tompkins also emphasized that the reservations “are the permanent and irreplaceable homelands for the Tribes,” especially with a deep connection to nature as a major party of their identity. Unlike a Bismarck citizen who could easily move away in the event of an environmental disaster, the tribes cannot risk losing their ancestral lands as so much has already been lost in a long history of tribal rights suppression.
These concerns and hypocrisy are asserted by a TV commercial featuring Chase Iron Eyes aired this week in Washington DC, asking why the Bismarck residents matter more than the tribal members of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux.
The media is still taking a hit from criticizing DAPL as this week the American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion against a warrant targeting the Bellingham Washington NoDAPL Facebook page. Not only did Whatcom County Sheriff’s Department want to seek out private information on political views, but they also wanted to find data on those who interacted with the page in a timeframe which included the Native Nations Rise March. With violations of the First and Fourth Amendments at hand, the motion will be heard on March 14th in the Whatcom County Superior Court. While again, it is not surprising this happened given the many journalists arrested and abused in Standing Rock, it is still downright terrifying that law enforcement nationwide is going too far to violate free speech and seek out anyone who rightfully criticizes DAPL.
No matter the setbacks or how much the oppressors want to deny their wrongdoings, the fight remains strong and will not stop until justice is served, the environment is properly protected and tribal rights are respected.
If you have not done so already, contact your representatives for a full and fair environmental review of DAPL, which is required by the law. You can also contact Trump himself to voice your objection of his executive order to expedite DAPL.
Please donate to support the ongoing #NoDAPL movement in court.