All posts by Eliza Racine

Moving Forward in NoDAPL Fight

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The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) began flowing oil under Lake Oahe on March 27, but this is far from the end in the fight for tribal sovereignty with the battleground moved to the courts. The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes filed numerous lawsuits against the Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access LLC on multiple environmental, cultural, and treaty violations. The main case, which was filed Feb. 14, is expected to be heard in court sometime this May at the soonest.

There is also a call by U.S. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota for answers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) over-extensive examination into the water protectors’ actions via the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). JTTF agents went to three individuals’ homes without warrants for voluntary interviews which were declined.

This poses a major concern for First Amendment rights, as apparently protesting a pipeline that poses a threat to water and life to the FBI has become a national security threat. Franken requested for detailed information about these investigations by April 20.

Another movement on the rise is the Defund DAPL campaign, which urges individuals and cities to divest from the banks supporting the project, and contact the CEOs to withdraw their support. The only banks so far to sell their loans of DAPL is ING from the Netherlands and DNB of Norway. Meanwhile, personal divestments are over $78 million, and city divestments are over $5 billion from Seattle, San Francisco, Davis, Santa Monica, and Alburquerque. Cities like Los Angeles and New York City will likely follow suit if the banks don’t withdraw their support.

The fight against DAPL has also interlaced with the fight against the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, especially as many of the same banks supporting DAPL also support KXL.

The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and North Coast Rivers Alliance (NCRA) filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s executive order to construct KXL with violations of the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, following the same mistakes of DAPL by threatening the environment, the Missouri River, and tribal sovereignty. As both IEN and NCRA state, Trump’s neglectful behavior continues a too-long history of the U.S government’s abuse of tribal rights and damaging the environment “with an addiction to fossil fuels” which are anything but safe when the oil eventually spills.

“The time has come to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shut down risky extreme energy projects like the tar sands that are poisoning our families, wildlife, water sources and destroying our climate,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of IEN, in the organization’s press release on March 29.

Just to rub salt in the wounds, the Trump administration was also a no-show for a hearing on March 21 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to explain themselves for allowing DAPL’s construction to finish, despite the massive opposition and an incomplete environmental impact study. Many politicians have found this deplorable and only shows that the Trump administration does not care about human rights or the international community as they seem to be on the way to isolationist policies.

Sadly, it wouldn’t be too shocking if that is where the country is headed given that Trump’s 2018 budget calls for a 28% cut to the Department of State and the U.S Agency for International Development and a pay reduction to international organizations like the United Nations.

As much as Trump wants make the United States into an authoritarian state, he must face the music sooner than later for his numerous and deceptive excuses. The fight for Mother Earth and her protectors will not stop until the corrupt government and oil companies realize how big of a mistake they made.

You can take action now to continue the fight against pipelines and in defense of the planet and her indigenous allies. Donate to the legal defense fund for the 709 water protectors facing felony charges. You can also contact your representatives to speak out against DAPL or contact Trump to let him know your objection to the illegal fast-track of DAPL. Find out more about divestment and how to organize an event in your city at defunddapl.org.

Moving Forward in NoDAPL Fight with Native Nations Rise March

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.

Standing Rock Camps Shut Down, But the Fight Against DAPL Isn’t Over

This past Wednesday and Thursday, the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps were cleared by more than 200 police officers in riot gear as part of an emergency evacuation order signed by North Dakota governor Doug Burgum. Many of the water protectors cleared out peacefully, and some set fire to their camps as a ceremonial act of defiance to destroy it themselves before law enforcement could.

Over the those two days, 46 water protectors who refused to comply with the evacuation were arrested, including a group of military veterans, reporting journalists, and even an Oglala grandmother named Regina Brave. Present at the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973, Brave was also a vocal opponent to the Keystone XL pipeline in recent years.

Even when water protectors are leaving peacefully to move on to larger movements, North Dakota law enforcement proved once again that they cannot do their jobs without abusing their power. Arriving with armored vehicles, snipers and AR-15s is beyond extreme, especially against those whose only “crime” is just refusing to move or live streaming the eviction to Facebook, the latter being the case for Eric Poemz as he was chased by police in his live stream and can be heard saying his hip may have broken as he was forced to the ground.

This amount of law enforcement is unnecessary, especially when they go so far as to violate First Amendment rights and try to silence anyone who tries to publicize the truth.

After the camps were cleared, Energy Transfer Partners announced that they finished drilling under Lake Oahe and will begin laying down pipe. According to their attorney, William Shcerman, DAPL’s construction could be finished and begin flowing oil in less than two weeks.

Things are not getting any better at the White House as they try to pass off their blatant lies — or what they call alternative facts — as truth. White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, Sean Spicer, claimed in a recent press briefing that President Donald Trump “has been in contact with all parties involved” with DAPL. Shortly afterwards, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault II, posted a response on Facebook that that was ‘absolutely false.” The tribe only finally received a meeting the day after the easement to drill under Lake Oahe was issued, to which Archambault cancelled it and filed a lawsuit for the illegal expediting and suspending of the environmental impact study.

Spicer’s briefing also contradicts Trump’s claims almost two weeks ago that he didn’t find DAPL controversial and hasn’t received a single phone call. Of course, he hasn’t been taking any phone calls given that the comments line is down with only an automated message with instructions to submit your comment on the White House’s website.

At this point, does the Trump administration think they’re that clever to make anyone believe anything they say?

To top all of this off, ABC News revealed that two days before Trump approved of the easement, the US Department of Interior withdrew a 35-page legal analysis — written by the department’s top lawyer Hilary Tompkins — of the environmental risks and treaty rights violations of DAPL with more than enough justification to deny further construction.

Tompkins wrote that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s “core identity and livelihood depend upon their relationship to the land and environment unlike a resident of Bismarck, who could simply relocate if the pipeline fouled the municipal water supply, Tribal members do not have the luxury of moving away from an environmental disaster without also leaving their ancestral territory.”

So not only is the Trump administration lying through their teeth about their involvement and active listening in this controversy, but they are also willing to throw away anything criticizing their biased personal interests as an attempt to avoid accountability, no matter how irrefutable it is.

The camps may be shut down, but the fight against DAPL is far from over. Protests continue nationwide urging major banks to divest from DAPL, and a Native Nations March is planned for March 10th in Washington DC and nationwide. Chase Iron Eyes with LPLP plans to rally support for the new lawsuits filed by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes.

Contact your representatives to support the fight against the Black Snake. Donate as the water protectors fight moves to D.C.

Final Easement Approved for DAPL to Finish Construction

Little more than a week after President Donald Trump’s memorandums to push through two hotly contested oil pipelines, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) approved the final easement to finish Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on Feb. 7.

Despite that the ACOE Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is still open to public opinion and is a process that usually takes years to finish, acting Secretary of the Army, Robert Speer — who directed ACOE to make the final approval — claimed that it was unnecessary. Speer’s decision is rooted in the belief that there is enough information on the pipeline’s impact to allow the permit to cross Lake Oahe.

At this rate, it is estimated that the pipeline will be operation by the late second quarter of the year.

With these new developments, ACOE broke their promise to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to review their misjudgments to allow construction to get this far. Now, the Corps are being pressured to follow a legally-dubious order based on Trump’s biased interests in the oil industry. Standing Rock has stated that they are committed to taking legal action for a fair review of DAPL and remained determined to stop this pipeline from contaminating their water source.

“The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the EIS and issue the easement,” the Standing Rock Sioux said in a statement. “The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement. To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments.”

Not only does expediting environmental reviews pose a threat to drinking water, but it also ignores the treaties meant to keep such infrastructure projects from being illegally built on Native lands. Any trust left in the American government will be lost if their concerns are not taken into consideration.

The government’s carelessness and the continuing mistreatment against the water protectors is a reminder that the fight against DAPL is far from over. Construction cannot be allowed to continue, especially if the vital analyses are bypassed in favor of Trump’s personal interests.

You can take action now. Contact your representatives to stop the illegal expediting of DAPL, and urge Trump to listen to reason via our website lakotalaw.org. Donate here for the water protectors’ legal fund and to fund our defense of our lead attorney Chase Iron Eyes.

Conflicts of Interest in Trump’s Executive Action for Oil Pipelines

Only days after his inauguration, President Donald Trump signed executive actions to urge approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. While it is not set in stone as an order without Congressional cooperation, this sparked a new wave of protests from indigenous and environmental groups nationwide to speak against the pipelines, especially DAPL, before any hasty approval. Trump’s misguided actions are setting up for disaster to all.

As part of Trump’s memorandum, Section 3 calls for “expedited procedures and deadlines for completion of environmental reviews and approvals” for “high priority” infrastructure projects. The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) already began their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Jan. 18 and have until Feb. 20 to hear public comments about concerns with DAPL. If the order becomes definite, then ACOE loses a chance to hear from the American people about the impact DAPL will have on the Standing Rock Sioux and the environment.

President Trump’s urgency to expedite an environmental report is very telling of his lack of concern for the 18 million people down the Missouri River this pipeline could poison if completed, as pipelines throughout the country have the worst history of quality reassurance– speeding up the necessary processes to protect citizens nearby pipelines is just another way to cut corners, posing more danger to the American people.

It also does not help that among Trump actions in the past week, he also placed a gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from speaking to the public about environmental facts, even banning staffers from making social media posts, and removed climate change links from the White House’s website. Grants and contracts for programs like monitoring clean air and water were also frozen up until today after concerns of halting vital environmental projects to improve public health.

Trump claims that such infrastructure projects will bring jobs back to America and lessen our dependence on foreign oil, but the reality is that DAPL will only create 15 jobs to actually manage the pipeline upon completion. It is just an excuse to ignore the violation of  multiple environmental and tribal laws and disregarding the thousands of gallons spilled by the corrupt oil industry. With his obsession for “Buy American and Hire American,” he also signed directives which would require American-made steel for pipelines which, if put in place, would likely further delay the projects.

The amount of conflicts of interest Trump has in supporting DAPL should be criminal. Not only did he recently own up to $50,000 in stock in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), but  DAPL’s parent company’s CEO Kelcy Warren donated $3,000 to Trump’s  campaign and another $100,000 to a committee supporting Trump. Among the many problematic choices for this administration, they include Rick Perry—former Texas governor who is on ETP’s board of directors—for Secretary of Energy, Rex Tillerson—former ExxonMobil CEO who doesn’t have political experience and refused to answer how much his company knew about climate change—for Secretary of State, and Scott Pruitt—attorney general of Oklahoma who shut down the state’s environmental unit—for the EPA administrator.

It is very obvious from Trump’s multiple connections to the oil industry that it is less a matter of bringing back jobs to America as it is about looking after his own investments.

Not only have the environmental threats gone over his head, but Native American lives and civil rights also remain neglected. Construction teams illegally dug up sacred grounds and burial sites rightfully belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux, and more than 600 people have been arrested since August.  Water protectors are still suffering excessively brutal law enforcement with tear gas, rubber bullets and cruel detainment conditions. Even North Dakota lawmakers created bills which would outlaw road protests and face masks, and not hold drivers accountable if they injured or killed protesters.

It is absolutely disgraceful to boast about “making America great again” while violating First Amendment Rights like a dystopian novel and ignore those in most need of help. Just Trump’s first week in office is proof to how little he cares about public safety and basic human rights, and it cannot be ignored for one second.

Submit your comment through Lakota People’s Law Project to ACOE to voice your concerns about DAPL. Donate to our team to help support the ongoing resistance against the Black Snake.

Despite Victory in Dakota Access Pipeline Reroute, Energy Transfer Ignores Denial of Easement

Water protectors were granted a partial victory on Dec. 4th when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that no easement will be granted for Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction to continue under Lake Oahe, and alternate routes will be examined.

Over the course of the last month, winter has come to Cannonball, ND, and those same protectors have been met with serious confrontations from police and escalating threats from the state of North Dakota. People from all over the country have diverted their attention to Standing Rock, and speak out against DAPL.

Sunday’s announcement is an impressive feat for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, after concerns as to how long the Obama Administration planned to “let it play out” before taking any action.

This decision comes after thousands of veterans arrive at Oceti Sakowin, the main camp for the #NoDAPL occupation, promising to act as “human shields” between the militarized police and the water protectors. Similarly, the denial of the easement validates the claim that Energy Transfer never properly consulted the tribe for construction in the area, despite arguments in the lawsuit they filed on Nov. 16th.

However, the fight is far from over.

The same day as the Corps’s announcement, Energy Transfer issued a statement that they will still complete construction “without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.” With the company admitting that they will disregard federal and tribal law to save themselves millions of dollars, the Corps’s announcement needs immediate enforcement to prevent illegal drilling. Asking to voluntarily stop construction isn’t working, as Energy Transfer has already refused to do so three times.

A concern also exists that the Corps’s decision could be reversed once Donald Trump takes office in January, as he has vocalized support for the pipeline’s completion.

Excessive use of force by law enforcement in months prior has been condemned by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai. On top of the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, 528 people arrested since August, and detainment has been in overcrowded cages with insufficient medical care.

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an individual right, and it cannot be taken away indiscriminately or en masse due to the violent actions of a few,” said Kiai in his report. “The use of violence by some protesters should not be used as a justification to nullify the peaceful assembly rights of everyone else.”

On Nov. 20th, water protectors were met with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets by police after trying to clear two damaged military trucks blocking Highway 1806. More than 300 protesters were injured, facing hypothermia with temperatures as low as 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens were hospitalized, including tribal elders,  and a 13-year-old named Vanessa was shot in the face and has damage to her cornea, and Sophia Wilanksy almost lost her arm after the police threw a grenade and is still undergoing treatment for tissue reconstruction.

The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC-formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), filed a lawsuit against Morton County, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier, and other law enforcement agencies for using excessive force against water protectors on Nov. 20.

Four days after the violence on Backwater Bridge, on Thanksgiving Day, water protectors occupied Turtle Island on Cannonball River in remembrance of Indigenous genocide.

While the U.S Army Corps of Engineers survey the area to determine a different route for the pipeline, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has not rescinded his evacuation notice that identifies any campers remaining after Dec. 5 as trespassers. Despite the easement denial, we must remain vigilant in any action taken to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline in a way that infringes on sovereign Standing Rock Sioux territory.

It is our obligation as stewards of the water to defund DAPL and to continue to urge the Obama administration to stand strong against this pipeline and in solidarity with 18 million people who rely on the Missouri River for clean drinking water. Sign our petition at lakotalaw.org to tell President Obama that he must remain vigilant on this issue and continue to order the Corps to stand down in the face of corporate greed.

Future DAPL Operator’s Pennsylvania Pipeline Leaked

Despite the millions of voices worldwide speaking out against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), parent company Energy Transfer remains unmoved.

CEO Kelcy Warren assured his employees that they thoroughly spoke with the Standing Rock Sioux, and that DAPL wouldn’t threaten the Missouri River. However, a recent pipeline leak in Pennsylvania by Sunoco Logistics, the future operator of the DAPL, coupled with the continuing protests, astonishing arrests and abuses in North Dakota suggest otherwise.

Environmental Danger

On Oct. 20th, heavy rainfall led to the Sunoco pipeline bursting, leaking 55,000 gallons of gasoline into Wallis Run which connects to the Susquehanna River. Although the pipeline was shut down, the continuing rainfall and flash flooding made it hard to immediately assess the damage, with residents being  warned against using water from the river. With the water now receded, no serious problems arose except an odor, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the Susquehanna River safe for drinking again.

Not only does the Susquehanna River provide drinking water to 6 million people along the Chesapeake Bay but it is also listed by American Rivers as the third most endangered river in the US due to fracking from the natural gas industry. This leak brings to question Sunoco’s pipeline management, as their pipelines spill frequently — with more than 200 recorded leaks since 2010.

The same is expected to happen to the Standing Rock Sioux with DAPL, and potentially at a worse scale, since Sunoco Logistics, the future operator, has proven to be severely incompetent.

Human Rights Abuses

After the 127 arrests from Oct. 22nd and 23rd, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was called upon by Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault to investigate the pipeline developments and the excessive force used by law enforcement. Until the DOJ addresses the issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux, no final permits will be issued to Energy Transfer for construction bordering or under Lake Oahe. Once again, they requested the company to voluntarily halt construction.

Last week another 141 protesters were arrested —  making the arrest count more than 400 since the protests began. The arrestees were placed in temporary holding cells, which many are calling dog kennels, and had numbers written on their skin in black marker.

The use of these cages was upheld by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department for the mass arrests, seeing as Morton County Correctional Center only has room for 42 inmates at a time.

Morton officials also assured that the protesters had access to the bathroom, food and water, but firsthand accounts say that they had to wait for basic necessities and medical attention. One example is Johanna Holy Elk Face, a 63 year old diabetic woman who had high blood sugar at the time, which would have potentially led to a seizure had her treatment been delayed any longer while she was in custody.

Because of these mass arrests, a UN permanent forum on indigenous rights is investigating these human rights abuses.

Federal Inaction

This past Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would look into rerouting DAPL around sacred native land. In an interview with NowThis, he said the government will “let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

It’s finally a step in the right direction after months worth of pleas from protesters to halt construction, however, they can’t afford to be left waiting for federal action when the human rights and federal law violations are far too obvious and constant to ignore or wait to see what the other side has to say. There is no doubt that the police are overstepping their power, and Energy Transfer is guilty of neglecting environmental protection, tribal sovereignty and historical preservation.

The day after Obama’s interview, law enforcement clashed with protesters as they tried crossing Cantapeta Creek to Cannonball Ranch and faced pepper spray while wading through the water. This came after Energy Transfer found Native American artifacts along the route of DAPL last month and failed to report it to state regulators within 10 days.

While the company moved the route away from the artifacts, the lack of a report will likely get them fined up to $200,000. This also violates Executive Order 13007 on Protection of Sacred Sites where “each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sites.”

Between the federal law violations and human rights abuses which appear to be increasing every day, federal action cannot be delayed any further, especially with Obama’s presidency coming so close to an end. He has good intentions to hope for a peaceful solution, but it won’t come any sooner if action is postponed, especially given how excessively violent North Dakota law enforcement has become within the past few weeks.

There is no good to come from DAPL, and Energy Transfer and North Dakota law enforcement have broken far too many laws to just let it slide under the rug anymore. The protesters need immediate backing from federal action if their water and livelihood has any chance to live in peace.

Aggressive Action Against DAPL Protesters

The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline carries on as construction continues amid requests from the Obama Administration to halt the project. As hostilities grow between campers and police, the arrest count is rising to an alarming rate with more than 260 arrests in the past two months.

On Indigenous People’s Day, Oct. 8th, 27 protesters were arrested for trespassing, reckless endangerment and engaging in a riot, despite that they were actually partaking in peaceful prayer. Among those arrested included actress and environmental activist, Shailene Woodley, who recorded the events in a live stream via Facebook and showed police fully-equipped with riot gear and military vehicles.

Just this past weekend, another 127 protesters were arrested in a demonstration with 300 people at the construction site.

The militarization of North Dakota police has built up to a massive display of force since Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency in mid-August. Surveillance flights follow protesters, and police set up multiple roadblocks and checkpoints to prevent more from joining the Oceti Sakowin camp, by checking IDs and questioning drivers.

Some protesters were attacked with police dogs and pepper spray last month. Energy Transfer hired G4S, a controversial private security organization known for servicing prisons. They have assisted officials in blocking roads and surveilling protesters.

Police support in Morton County is expected to grow as stated in a press conference by Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier earlier this month. Ironically, Kirchmeier is worried about “outside agitators” when an unnecessary amount of force is being brought in from out-of-state in opposition of a peaceful protest.

Along with the militarization, the charges against the water protectors have risen to an extreme, with many individuals arrested for trespassing and inciting riots despite Energy Transfer having no right to construct along Lake Oahe in the first place, as it violates federal and tribal laws meant to protect the land from being taken from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In a recent report by the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), a group of attorneys providing legal consultation for the water protectors stated that the police’s tactics have been found abusive and in violation of First and Fourth Amendment rights. The police have also alerted local farmers to “arm themselves” should anyone trespass their land, and officers have stopped wearing their name-plates and badge numbers which is illegal for a North Dakota State Trooper to do. This is supposedly to prevent threats against their homes and families, but given the brutality that has occurred within the past few months and that an officer’s personal information can be difficult to obtain it’s really just an excuse to avoid the consequences to their actions.

Among those arrested include tribal leaders like Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault, who revealed in an interview with “Democracy Now!” that he was strip searched after he was charged on Aug. 15th for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor offense. Charges were dropped against him Sept. 16 by a federal judge in Bismarck.

“I thought it was humorous, because I had to take all my clothes off, and then they wanted to check my braid for—and I don’t have a very thick braid for any weapons to hide, but so I thought it was pretty crazy and unnecessary to do a strip search and to check my hair,” Archambault recounted in the interview.

He also noted that of the five states the pipeline is set to run through, it is only North Dakota that is receiving extra police force from out of state. With the massive amount of arrests from this past weekend, Archambault is disappointed at the disregard of First Amendment rights from state and congressional politicians as well as Governor Dalrymple.

Their lack of leadership and commitment to creating a dialogue towards a peaceful solution reflects not only the unjust historical narrative against Native Americans, but a dangerous trend in law enforcement tactics across America,” said Archambault in a statement to North Dakota’s local NBC news.

Freedom of press was recently put in jeopardy when “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman who reported protesters being pepper sprayed and having dogs sicced on them on September 3rd  faced trespassing and riot charges five days afterwards. They were dropped this past week due to lacking evidence or motivation. Meanwhile journalists from Unicorn Riot continue to be arrested for their coverage of the movement.

North Dakota State Attorney Ladd Erickson argued in favor of the charges by indicating to newspapers like Grand Forks Herald and The Bismarck Tribune that Goodman wasn’t a journalist because her report was biased in “justifying the protest actions.”

But a journalist’s job is to report on current events, especially when human rights abuses are involved, and there is absolutely no justification to use attack dogs on peaceful protesters.

The protest against DAPL needs to be documented as it is still going strong, and there are still ongoing violations of federal law and First Amendment rights. The claims of riots and violence only try to discredit why the water protectors are there to begin with, and it disregards any wrongdoings done by Energy Transfer and police force within the past year. As indicated by Archambault, without any open dialogue toward compromise these problems will only get worse in a never-ending cycle of injustice.

The land rightfully belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux, and Energy Transfer violated historical preservation, environmental protection, and tribal sovereignty in order to build a pipeline. Energy Transfer needs to stop grasping at straws to justify construction when they are the only ones breaking any laws.

Donate to Legal Support for the Water Protectors: https://cldc.org/2016/10/20/in-standing-rock-the-cops-are-out-of-control/

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Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40969298@N05/29485116115/in/photostream/

EPA Plans For Better Cleanup After Gold King Mine Spill

A year after the Gold King Mine spilled three million gallons of toxic chemicals into the Animas River, the EPA last week announced the site as a Superfund site, where a polluted area is required for a long-term cleanup and becomes eligible for federal funding to do so. With the Bonita Peak Mining District now on the National Priorities List, the agency will devote $1 billion for better investigating and addressing contamination concerns for those along the San Juan River, including the Navajo Nation who are still waiting for compensation for lost crops and reassurance of the water’s quality. The Navajo Nation is hesitant  to use any water for farming and livestock, as they are skeptical of the water’s safety and concerned with long-term health effects from the spill.

The EPA’s announcement comes a few weeks after the Navajo Nation sued them for an insufficient cleanup after the Gold King Mine Spill and the lack of compensation for lost crops for a year. Almost 3,000 farms and ranches were affected as they stopped irrigating from the river and crops dried up and livestock were sold due to lacking resources to maintain them. Some remain doubtful that the river will ever be restored with lacking reassurances of safety and over a century’s worth of mining affecting the area with hundreds of abandoned mines near the Animas River which were poorly constructed and managed.

Even a bipartisan group of senators want to expedite the reimbursement to those affected by the Gold King Mine Spill. They introduced an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act which would force the EPA to pay eligible claims made after October 2015 within 90 days. County officials, local companies and individuals through the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah are still waiting for thousands of dollars worth of reimbursement with some only being paid in part and others receiving nothing so far.

While these issues should have been addressed long ago with the EPA taking responsibility for the Gold King Mine Spill, it is a relief to environmental and tribal activists that the agency will better assess the damage and devote what will likely be 10 years into cleanup of the Animas and San Juan Rivers. The Navajo Nation had to wait for far too long for their concerns to be properly addressed with their livelihoods at stake. It seems that the EPA is finally taking full, genuine accountability for the Gold King Mine Spill and will address the increasing complaints.

With a newfound hope for the Navajo and their livelihood to be fully restored, these developments from the EPA are the course of action we need to see in light of the Dakota Access Pipeline which will threaten the water supply of the Standing Rock Tribe and the 18 million people living downstream. While the Obama Administration temporarily halted construction near the reservation, Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren announced that 60 percent of the pipeline is finished and vows to complete construction, saying that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.” The violation of basic human rights will not be ignored and the voices against the pipeline will only become louder until construction halts indefinitely and Energy Transfer accepts accountability.

 

Voice your opposition to the DAPL by signing onto these petitions:

Earth Justice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1861&_ga=1.188139371.296617086.1429319754

Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

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Image Source: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/navajo-nation-sues-federal-government-for-gold-king-mine-spill-8556166 [Photographer: Jerry McBride]

 

Disregarding Native Rights and Health, from PetroPeru to Dakota Access

Not too long after federal Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux’s request to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Friday, the Obama Administration stepped in as the Department of Interior, Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint statement, temporarily halting DAPL construction bordering Lake Oahe. The Army Corps of Engineers will reconsider the decisions which authorized the pipeline’s construction. The agencies also called for more formal discussions with tribes on what they can do to ensure full tribal input.

As we wait again for the fate of the Standing Rock Sioux, it cannot be reiterated enough that there is no good to come from pipelines carrying crude oil. Companies may claim they’re for energy independence, even though there are much cleaner sources of renewable energy like solar and wind, but they are more concerned with their own profits. The threat of development against public safety for Indigenous communities is not isolated to the Standing Rock Sioux, it’s become common across the globe, and isn’t limited to oil companies alone.

Just this year alone in Peru, a 40-year-old trans-Amazonian pipeline spilled four times, one of which in February spilled three thousand barrels of crude oil into the River Chiriaco, one of the country’s largest Amazon tributaries. The oil company, PetroPeru, assured that cleanup was going well, yet they didn’t provide adequate assistance to the indigenous communities. Children were paid by company officials to clean up oil without any protective suits and many became sick as a result of the chemicals. Community members are still eating the contaminated plants and fish because they have no other resources for food and so become sick, and farmers will not be able to plant new crops or sell their produce. Even PetroPeru’s doctors just assured patients affected by the spill that they just had the flu and would get better, yet never returned for any follow up.

Despite the devastation against the Wampis and Awajun communities, PetroPeru continued pumping oil against government orders, leading to two more spills in June and August without allotting any time to fix the damaged pipeline. Even during cleanup after the February spill, site chief Victor Palomino said accidents were “inevitable.” It is unethical to continue pumping oil, knowing fully well that the pipeline is an environmental disaster waiting to occur every few months. All that does is show how little the companies care about quality-reassurance and safety.

Meanwhile in Canada, approval for the tar sands pipeline, Northern Gateway, was overturned in July after an appeal by eight First Nations, four environmental groups and a labor union found the approval unconstitutional. The consultation was “brief, hurried and inadequate,” and disregarded any environmental concerns. If the pipeline was still underway for construction, it would pose risk against their resources for food.

Oil companies are not the only ones who seem to get away with such neglect, it’s also reached to conservation groups and national agencies as well. UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz found in her report for the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress that conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society were forcibly displacing indigenous people around the world from their homes for infrastructure projects like hydroelectric dams. In worse cases like with the deforestation in Mato Grosso in Brazil for agriculture, indigenous people are killed by ranchers and farmers who take over their land. Not only do these conservation groups neglect to consult the people who’ve been living in such areas for years, but they also seem to find Natives incapable of taking care of their own sacred land like when people were evicted from India’s Kanha tiger reserve despite that humans and tigers can co-inhabit the same area.

“[Native peoples] are best equipped to protect the world’s most threatened forests, and have been doing so for decades,” said RRI (Rights and Resources Initiative) Coordinator Andy White in the gathering. “Yet many conservation organizations and governments still treat them as obstacles to conservation rather than partners.” Despite whatever good intentions these groups have, the good is lost when they take over sacred indigenous land.

Even national agencies garner distrust among Natives such as the EPA’s insufficient response to the Gold King Mine Spill of 2015 which damaged Navajo water supplies in the Animas River, resulting in dried up crops. Even though the EPA was found at fault and supposedly took full responsibility, they still waited two days to notify people along the river of the spill and never gave details, much less provided any adequate clean up. After a year waiting for compensation for lost crops and reassurance that the water is safe to use, the Navajo Nation sued the EPA for its neglect.

The Standing Rock Sioux face similar risks as DAPL is proposed to be built through sacred burial sites and their main water source on the Missouri River– which also provides water to 18 million people and more than 50 cities downstream–, despite obvious violations of historical preservation, indigenous treaties and environmental protection. So it’s a very strange turn of events that now the Army Corps is reversing their decision, and ordering Dakota Access to stop construction. Does it mean that they acknowledged that they made a mistake in approving DAPL?

At the moment, it doesn’t seem to be that way given that the Administration’s joint statement suggested the Corps of Engineers complied with the National Historic Preservation Act. That cannot be further from the truth, as twenty-seven identified graves have already been dug up by Dakota Access, and the company also desecrated sacred land where pledges were made and gifts were received from spirits as detailed by Tim Mentz. This announcement is in the right direction for some reconciliation with the Standing Rock Sioux, but if construction is to be halted indefinitely and the agencies want to fix relations with tribes, the Army Corps needs to admit their neglect in approving DAPL’s construction.

Whether it’s oil companies, conservation groups or national agencies, the indifference towards human rights abuses seems to carry at a higher level when it comes to Indigenous lives at stake. They need to be held accountable for their recklessness whether they want to admit fault or not. Native peoples deserve better than to be ignored and forced away from their land, or even worse die because of a company’s selfishness and neglect. When properly supported and given sovereignty over their land, both the Indigenous peoples and land thrive.

Voice your opposition to the DAPL by signing onto these petitions:

Earth Justice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1861&_ga=1.188139371.296617086.1429319754

 

 

Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

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Image source: http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2016/09/more-dakota-access-protest-blackout-pipeline-bulldozes-ancient-burial-sites-over-holiday-weekend-attempts-to-provoke-violence-3408926.html (photo by Lauren McCauley)