President Donald Trump has given the green light to streamline construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota. His decision is not surprising given that his cabinet picks are full of pro-oil candidates like Exxon Mobil executive Rex Tillerson and former Texas Governor Rick Perry.
The pipeline construction in its current proposition has been found to understate the risks posed by landslides and amount of safety construction to contain spills. Such spills are most likely going to poison groundwater that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe needs to sustain itself. If the pipeline construction is complete, Standing Rock could be the next Flint, where residents have to use bottled water for daily use.
This executive action overturns all the work water protectors have made recently under the Obama administration, and which is unfortunate because the Standing Rock Sioux tribe formally asked the encampments to disperse on Friday, January 20th according to Reuters. While Archambault stated that the fight is now in the courts, the tribe needs support and solidarity now more than ever.
This unfortunate turn of events overshadows the recent victory of the water protectors in the North Dakota Supreme Court, which allowed for out-of-state lawyers to represent the over 600 protesters that have been arrested so far . With arrests still ongoing, this number is likely to rise.
President Trump’s actions have not fallen on deaf ears, however. Various representatives of environmental groups and civil rights groups, including the ACLU and the Sierra Club, have all voiced their opposition to this revival of pipeline construction.
Activists like Chase Iron Eyes, Lead Attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project, have been especially active in standing against these actions. On Facebook posted:
“Fighters, brothers and sisters. Come. Heed the call to defend this country against all enemies, foreign & domestic. We shall find out who loves this land, who is loyal to the water and who is a traitor to this land, to our water.”
Protests have also occurred in New York outside of Trump Tower and Trump International Hotel—attendance numbering in the hundreds—to show the President that these actions will not go on without consequence.
As the situation intensifies, people are again diverting their attention to the confrontation in Standing Rock. Chairman of the United Nations (UN) Working Group on the issue of Human Rights, Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises, Pavel Sulyandziga, and Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, have both arrived in North Dakota. These two gentlemen will be joined by representatives of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) as well as the ACLU Human Rights Program who participated in a human rights training workshop on Sunday January 22nd.
The water protectors still have a long battle ahead of them. In addition to the frigid weather, the state of North Dakota has introduced bills that make it illegal to wear masks at protests and for people to join the resistance camps under threat of being fined $5,000 dollars. Oh but what the North Dakota assembly attempted to make legal, by way of a bill introduction, is the “unintentional” mowing down of protesters being fast moving vehicles.
If these actions are not enough to make you cringe, the Trump administration denied a request by Dave Archambault II to engage in dialogue about moving forward with the oil pipeline. If the President is not even willing to hear both sides of the issue he is essentially declaring what side he stands for.
The fight to protect the water rights and the livelihoods of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is far from over. We must remain vigilant in this crucial time and do everything we can to stand in solidarity with those who have vowed to protect the land, tribal sovereignty, and clean water.
Please add your comment to the Army Corps of Engineers’ Environmental Impact Statement at lakotalaw.org.dapl-action before the filing period ends on Feb. 20.