November 26, 2016 – Special Report on Standing Rock: Some members of the West Coast Action Alliance have traveled to Standing Rock. Here is an initial report from November 19, and,
Here is an update from today, on recent events.
The same abuses of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) that we have seen here by Pentagon agencies in the Pacific Northwest have led to this crisis for Native Americans in North Dakota.
Here is the main issue:
The oil company called Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), after splitting an eleven hundred-mile pipeline into multiple environmental assessments so that people could not assess its full impact, reacted to strenuous objections from the people of Bismarck, North Dakota by re-routing the pipeline’s original crossing point, so it wouldn’t threaten their water supply. DAPL re-routed it through former Sioux Nation treaty land that had been seized by the US government, sold into private ownership, and eventually sold to DAPL. The pipeline route is destroying sacred burial grounds, and is directly upstream from the water supply for the Sioux Nation and 18 million people downstream. Despite its claims to the contrary, DAPL did not consult properly in a government-to-government manner with the Sioux Nation, and is now defying requests from three federal agencies and a court order to stop construction. It is about to proceed with drilling under the Missouri River, despite no permit issued yet by the Army Corps of Engineers. It will likely begin that drilling in the coming week.
Bismarck is 90 percent white. Standing Rock is Native American. Do the math. This is a perfect example of where abuses of laws designed to protect clean water, air and land end up prioritizing whose environment they’ll protect. Eventually you end up with a social justice issue as well as an environmental one, not to mention a mortal threat to the sovereignty of the Sioux Nation.
Without mincing words, what we have here is the US National Guard, federal marshals, local and state police from 7 states and others acting as armed corporate security for an oil company that is willfully violating federal law. If that’s too strong a statement without factual support, read this letter from the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
If you read the legal documents prepared by DAPL for the purpose of obtaining a permit, it’s clear they’ve cheated. It’s also clear that the Army Corps of Engineers has allowed it. The same abuses of laws regulating environmental and cultural damage that we in the Pacific Northwest have seen in the Navy’s extreme expansion of activities are also occurring at Standing Rock via the Army Corps. The same types of abuses are also contributing to the struggle of the Chamorro and Carolinian peoples in the Northern Marianas Islands, where the Navy wants to kick them off an island they’ve inhabited for 3,000 years so it can be used as a bombing range. The same abuses are causing anguish among Native Alaskans as their lands, waters and livelihoods are being threatened. Deep as it is, Standing Rock is the tip of an iceberg of legal abuse, and these legal abuses threaten Tribal sovereignty as well as the environment, across the nation and beyond.
Here is the other main issue:
Elders of the Great Sioux Nation have instructed that all protests be done in peaceful ceremony and prayer, with no anger, foul language or non-peaceful tactics, no matter what the provocation. No. Violence. Period.
Yesterday the US Army Corps of Engineers (“ACE”) issued an order that it intends to close the camps that are currently leasing former Sioux land from the ACE, and it has said everyone must be out by December 5, which is a week from Monday. Here is a news release with the ACE’s order and a response from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
It should be noted that the largest single customer for fossil fuels in the world is the US military, and that the Pentagon, of which the Army Corps of Engineers is a part, has institutionalized the chronic abuse of environmental and cultural/historic protection laws as standard operating procedure, across all branches of the Armed Services when it is to their benefit. One of many examples of that in the Pacific Northwest can be found here. Such abuses of law, along with lack of adequate notification for Tribes and the public, have resulted in uneven decisions on whose environment or history or culture is protected. We all know how disproportionately minorities continue to bear that burden.
It’s similar here; except for the immediate environs of the naval airfields at Whidbey Island, Tribes on the West End of the Olympic Peninsula are experiencing the worst jet noise, have had deadly contaminants dumped in their Usual and Accustomed fishing grounds, and were told in government-to-government consultation, when it finally occurred, that the massive increases by the Navy were mere “adjustments.”
The Navy has recently released another EIS, on adding Growler jets to its fleet. We are analyzing it and will prepare a report.