“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth . . . Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons and daughters of the earth. We did not weave the web of life, we are merely strands in it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves.”
Among the minority groups in this nation who have suffered grievous harms at the hands of a government rooted in a history of white supremacy, the American Indians have certainly suffered more than most through the near total annihilation of their people and the often-deceptive theft of their land.
Today, the American Indians and their supporters find themselves once again embroiled in conflict with an incalcitrant government and a corporate giant, Energy Transfer Partners, with deep pockets who have coalesced and determined to once again place profits over people and the earth without even a feigned attempt to show sensitivity to the culture of the American Indians or the need to honor a federal treaty.
At issue, the government’s intent to provide an easement for the $3.7 billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters say the pipeline will threaten sacred sites and the environment in lands and waters that were never ceded under treaties.
The pipeline would not just threaten waters, it could threaten the tribe’s only source of water. In addition, and as concerning, is the Standing Rock Sioux were reportedly not even consulted before the pipeline was initially approved.
Although the protestors at Standing Rock were given a temporary reprieve early last December when former President Barack Obama used his executive power to block work on the controversial pipeline, at the time, protesters realized the future of the pipeline could ultimately turn on the “punch of a ballot” so to speak.
On November 8, 2016, as the result of apathy and a repressed voter turnout that reached a twenty-year low—America elected Donald J. Trump President of the United States.
It did not take long for Obama’s executive reprieve to be reversed by another Executive Order—this one signed by the newly elected Trump who right away made good on another of his many campaign promises. Now, there are some who believe only a miracle can stop the pipeline. Despite the naysayers however, the battle continues. . .
It is more than a bitter battle over energy and natural resources; it is more than a pressure point for green groups who are fighting the twin concerns of global warming and the damage caused by fossil fuel and other pollutants. It is about a people, the Native People of this land, who are fighting to protect land sacred to them and the waters—a land walked upon by their ancestors, gifted to them by their forefathers and willingly held by them in a sacred trust for their children, for all children of the earth—a legacy that does not appear valued by big oil companies or the politicians who do their bidding. The ancestors of American Indians knew, what the majority of scientists and most right-thinking people now know—that the earth’s resources are finite.
There are Americans who do not believe it is right or just for the nation to encroach on sacred land for corporate greed. There are Americans who do not believe it is right or just for the nation to put precious and limited drinking water at risk for corporate greed.
On Tuesday, February 7, it was announced the Army Corps of Engineers issued the final easement needed to complete the project. It would do so over the protests of the Standing Rock Sioux Indians and their supporters; as well as protests of environmentalists and their supporters and all who stand with both. More importantly, supporters are aghast the Army Corps of Engineers would move forward even as the case filed by the Standing Rock Sioux to prevent the pipeline from traversing their land is still working its way through the courts.
In a statement that left many incredulous, Trump told reporters on Tuesday, “As you know I approved two pipelines [Dakota Access and Keystone XL] that were stuck in limbo forever. I don’t even think it was controversial. You know, I approved them and I haven’t even heard one call from anybody saying, ‘oh, that was a terrible thing you did.’”
The president justified his decision to move forward based on projected jobs the pipeline will create; yet those jobs, estimated to be anywhere between 30,000 and 42,000, the State Department found would only last one to two years. The Department also projected the project would only create 35 permanent jobs.
The Standing Sioux Tribe responded to the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to move ahead with the project in a statement that read in part it was, “undaunted in its commitment to challenge an easement announcement by the US Department of the Army for the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
The Obama administration previously determined the Standing Rock Sioux had treaty rights that needed to be acknowledged and protected; and as a result, advocated for further review and consideration of all possible alternatives to the pipeline’s proposed route.
With this action the Trump administration took another step toward meeting his commitment to supporter to “Take their country back” to the days when treaties were broken with impunity; when civil rights did not apply to people of color; when the environment was fully at the discretion of the oil industries; and big banks in collaboration with wall street controlled the economy without oversight.