News from the Native Americas – US Government Continues To Want Their Land


Standing Rock is burning – but our resistance isn’t over

Tents set ablaze at North Dakota pipeline protest campsite

Just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, water protectors set their makeshift and traditional structures ablaze in a final act of prayer and defiance against Energy Transfer Partner’s Dakota Access Pipeline, sending columns of black smoke billowing into the winter sky above the Oceti Sakowin protest camp.

The majority of the few hundred remaining protesters marched out, arm in arm ahead of the North Dakota authorities’ Wednesday eviction deadline. An estimated one hundred others refused the state’s order, choosing to remain in camp and face certain arrest in order to defend land and water promised to the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, in the long-broken Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

On these hallowed grounds, history tends to repeat itself. In 1890, police murdered Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock reservation out of suspicion that he was preparing to lead the Ghost Dance movement in an uprising. Two weeks later the United States Cavalry massacred more than three hundred Lakota at Wounded Knee. Over 126 years later, the characters and details of the stories that animate this landscape have changed, but the Cowboys and Indians remain locked in the same grim dance.

The first whirlwind month of Donald Trump’s presidency has brought the injustices of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy long festering beneath the surface of American society out into the open. The eviction of Oceti Sakowin from their treaty lands forces us to confront another foundational injustice, one rarely if ever discussed in contemporary politics – colonialism.

For many, it is contentious and even laughable to suggest that colonialism endures in the present. In the American popular imagination, colonialism ended either when the 13 colonies declared independence from Britain in 1776, or when John Wayne and the 6th Cavalry blasted away Geronimo and the Apaches in Stagecoach.

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Colonialism, according to these narratives, is history.

The eviction of Oceti Sakowin suggests otherwise. But in order to see the big picture in all its unjust and ghastly detail, we must take in the full shame of America’s treatment of the Standing Rock Sioux and the first people of this land.

At Standing Rock, 41% of citizens live in poverty. That is almost three times the national average. The reservation’s basic infrastructure is chronically underfunded. Schools are failing. Jobs are few and far between, and 24% of reservation residents are unemployed. Healthcare is inadequate. Many depend on unsafe wells for water. Roads are often unpaved. Housing is in short supply, substandard and overcrowded. If the people of Standing Rock did not take-in their beloved family and friends, there would be mass homelessness.

Dakota Access Pipeline’s price tag of $3.8bn is nearly $1bn more than the entire budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren is said to be worth $4.2bn. The pipeline will pour even more wealth into his pockets.

Meanwhile, Standing Rock will remain in poverty on the margins. The most expensive piece of infrastructure in their community will not be the schools, homes or hospitals they desperately need. Instead it will be a pipeline that they have vehemently opposed.

This is how the first people of this land live in the forgotten Bantustans of the American West.

This system, an essential foundation of the United States, is rooted in the theft of indigenous land and the ongoing disavowal of indigenous sovereignty. Indigenous presence must be confined, erased and then forgotten, so that the United States may continue to live upon and profit mightily from lands taken from indigenous people.

The erasure of indigenous people explains why Dakota Access was rerouted from upstream of Bismarck south to Standing Rock. It explains why pipelines can be hammered through Native communities without regard to their treaties and indigenous, constitutional and human rights. It explains why a multi-billion dollar pipe can be drilled through Standing Rock before long-needed basic infrastructure is built. It explains how, after months of unprecedented protests and visibility, Trump can claim that he received no complaints about the pipeline. It explains how Oceti Sakowin can be wiped off the map.

It is impossible to describe the totality of this picture of land theft, containment, poverty, oppression, policing and extraction as anything other than colonialism.

But from the moment that colonialism ensnared land and life, indigenous people fought it – none more than Sitting Bull and his kin, the Oceti Sakowin.

They have lit a fire on the prairie in the heart of America as a symbol of their resistance, a movement that stands for something that is undoubtedly right: water that sustains life, and land that gave birth to people. In its ashes there is the potential for a more just future for this land, this water, and all the nations and people who share it.

 

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Dakota pipeline camp raided after protesters defy deadline, refuse to leave

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Border Wall Would Cut Across Land Sacred To Native Tribe

U.S. considering rerouting N Dakota Pipeline


Obama says U.S. mulling alternate routes for N. Dakota pipeline

By Valerie Volcovici | WASHINGTON

President Barack Obama said the U.S. government is examining ways to reroute an oil pipeline in North Dakota as it addresses concerns raised by Native American tribes protesting against its construction.

Obama’s comments late on Tuesday to online news site Now This were his first to directly address the escalating clashes between local authorities and protesters over Energy Transfer Partners’ $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline project.

“My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline,” Obama said in the video interview.

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On Wednesday, protesters on the banks of the Cantapeta Creek confronted law enforcement, as they attempted to build a wooden pedestrian bridge across the creek to gain access to the Cannon Ball Ranch, private land owned by ETP, according to a statement from Morton County officials.

The U.S. Justice and Interior Departments along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted construction on part of the pipeline in September due to protests by Native American tribes who contend the pipeline would disturb sacred land and pollute waterways supplying nearby homes. The affected area includes land under Lake Oahe, a large and culturally important reservoir on the Missouri River where the line was supposed to cross.

Construction is continuing on sections of the pipeline away from the Missouri River, one of the owners of the pipeline and a U.S. refiner Phillips 66 said.

The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline, being built by a group of companies led by Energy Transfer Partners, would offer the fastest and most direct route to bring Bakken shale oil from North Dakota to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

North Dakota officials are girding for a long fight. The state’s emergency commission on Tuesday approved another $4 million loan to support law enforcement during the protests.

David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, in a Wednesday statement lauded Obama’s comments and called on the administration and the Army Corp of Engineers to issue a stop-work order on the pipeline on federal land. He also called for a full environmental impact study.

“The nation and the world are watching,” he said. “The injustices done to Native people in North Dakota and throughout the country must be addressed. We believe President Obama and his Administration will do the right thing.”

LETTING THE SITUATION PLAY OUT

Obama said government agencies will let the situation “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 First Americans.”

Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz, in response to Obama’s statement regarding the pipeline, said that letting the situation play out “affords the opportunity to the out-of-state militant faction of this protest to keep escalating their violent activities.”

The Now This video, however, suggests that Obama was talking about the review process, not the protests. The president later in the interview says that he wants to make sure that both protesters and law enforcement are “refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.”

The fight against the pipeline has drawn international attention and growing celebrity support amid confrontations between riot police and protesters. More than 140 people were arrested when a protest was broken up by law enforcement nearly a week ago.

Some have said an alternative pipeline route could be a way to get over the impasse.

In North Dakota, gubernatorial candidate Marvin Nelson, a Democratic state representative, said in an interview with Reuters last week that moving the route 10 miles north could make a difference.

“It would take some time to do that, but it seems to me to be a much safer route and it wouldn’t need to cross culturally sensitive land,” he said.

Environmental group 350.org urged Obama to reject the federal permit for the entire project.

“There’s no reroute that doesn’t involve the same risks to water and climate,” said Sara Shor, a campaign manager for 350.org.

“President Obama breaking the silence on Dakota Access is a testament to the powerful resistance of Indigenous leaders, but he shouldn’t sit back while people are facing violent repression from militarized law enforcement on the ground.”

This is an improvement. President Obama needs to stop big corporations from building the pipeline at all. It puts the environment at risk. Yesterday we saw an explosion of the pipeline in Alabama. Stop the pipeline! Save American land. Save our environment! Stand with the Native Peoples who are courageously protesting the immoral stealing of their sacred land. Write to President Obama and tell him what you think. America for our Native People.

Namaste,

Barbara

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