What you should know up front is that this story is being mostly ignored by the mainstream media. Joy Reid did have Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! on her MSNBC show this past Sunday. Reid was the only mainstream media figure to even acknowledge the situation until Tuesday when Lawrence O’Donnell covered the story. Online coverage has been more active, especially on Twitter, under the hashtag #NoDAPL.
1. This conflict began in earnest in March of 2016. The Dakota Access Pipeline (aka Bakken Pipeline) had been granted permission to build across North and South Dakota by the Public Services Commissions of those states. The pipeline would stretch 1,134 miles across the Dakotas, Iowa and part of Illinois, carrying crude oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota. The pipeline would pass under the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers and through native cultural sites.
2. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps. of Engineers on July 27, alleging that the Corps had illegally granted permission for the pipeline. The company building the pipeline — Energy Transfer — was made a full party shortly after. The lawsuit states that the ACoE violated the Clean Water Act, National Historic Protection Act, and National Environmental Policy Act in issuing the permits to Energy Transfer. The tribe asked for a preliminary injunction to halt all construction until the case is decided. That decision will be announced on September 9th. In the meantime, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg issued a temporary restraining order for part of the area in question.
3. The tribe asked for an environmental impact study in April for the areas the pipeline would cross. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation supported their request. The ACoE does not, however, have to honor the request of the federal agencies. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has also expressed support.
4. An encampment was set up by the Standing Rock Sioux in April a half-mile away from construction route. The camp, called Iŋyaŋ Wakȟáŋaǧapi Othí, or Sacred Stone Camp, has swelled to around 2,000 people, representing hundreds of tribes, all there to protect the land and water and show solidarity. It is the largest gathering of American Indian tribes in over 100 years. Other camps have set up nearby and, though not officially affiliated with the tribe, are there to support the Standing Rock Sioux. In response, the governor of North Dakota declared a State of Emergency, allowing for state and federal law enforcement to join in the oppression.
5. The tribe’s historic preservation officer, Tim Mentz Sr., surveyed an 8,000-acre parcel of private land that lies along the path of the pipeline. In a sworn deposition, he tells of finding important cultural and archaeological sites during a Class III survey:
“I am very confident that this site… includes burials because the site contained rock cairns… we found a significant number of stone features (82) and archaeological sites, including at least 27 burials. Some of these sites are immediately adjacent the DAPL corridor… it is my opinion that each of these sites unquestionably meets the criteria for inclusion in the National Register. They are irreplaceable to our Lakota/Dakota people.”
Hours after this deposition was filed, bulldozers moved into the construction corridor and began to plow the land. On a weekend. A holiday weekend. Tribal representatives feel that this was directly related to Friday’s filing. Basically, the DAPL construction company used the maps that Mentz provided with his deposition as a guide for where to bulldoze. We may never know what irreplaceable historical and cultural treasures they destroyed.
6. The day the bulldozers did this work, Protectors (their preferred term, as in “Protectors of the Water”) swarmed the area in protest. Hundreds of men, women and children made up the group. Some were mounted on horseback. They carried signs and flags. DAPL workers sprayed them with pepper spray and security personnel hired by the company used dogs against them. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! was on the scene that day. Her report details the attacks against the Sioux and their allies. At least 12 people were reportedly bitten and more than 30 affected by the pepper spray. Meanwhile, one of the protectors writes, police watched from nearby and helicopters buzzed the site.
7. The dogs that were turned on Protectors were, according to dog training expert Jonni Joyce , improperly trained. Based on her viewing of the video, the handlers, she said, were not trained to manage a dog in such a scene. She added that the dogs looked like “a bunch of alligators at the end of leashes” and the using them like this was “egregious.” The dogs were apparently provided by Frost Kennels of Ohio, Bob Frost having taken credit for the work on Facebook. Joyce notes that Frost Kennels is not legally licensed in Ohio to provide guard dogs. She added that she is filing a complaint with the state of Ohio on these grounds. Joyce referred to the handlers in a Facebook post as “private dog owners… involved in protection sports work.” She said that, as such, they were not trained in security procedures and neither they nor their dogs should have been used in that capacity.
8. The protectors are being harassed daily. According to Standing Rock chairman, David Archambault, the Sacred Stone camp is constantly under surveillance, with helicopters and low-flying planes a daily occurrence. At night, the drones are sent overhead. All emergency services have been pulled out of the camp area and internet and cell reception for the camp was believed to have been blocked. Kenny Frost, a consultant from the Ute tribe, said that only limited reception can be found on high ground. He posits that this was done to stop the flow of information from the camp to the world. Archambault says, however, that cell coverage in the area has always been awful.
9. A rogue’s gallery of banks and financial institutions are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. What a shock, right? Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and even the Royal Bank of Scotland are ponying up the dough for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Grassroots watchdog organization Little Sis reports that these and more have opened a revolving credit line for Energy Transfer and its associated companies of a staggering $3.75 billion. There are 26 banks holding that credit line and you can bet they are keeping an eye on what’s happening in North Dakota.
10. What can you do? How can you help? September 3-17 are designated as Global Weeks of Solidarity; check to see if there is an event near you and stand up for Standing Rock. Sacred Stone Camp needs support and legal defense. They have a list of supplies they need and an Amazon wish list. You can support this documentary being made about the protest, to record it for future generations. There are several fundraisers for the cause on GoFundMe. You can sign this petition to ask President Obama to get involved. You can share this article so that more people will know about the crisis in North Dakota.
What is happening at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation is a travesty. It is a heinous example of greed working to take whatever it can from whoever it can and damn them, the water and earth. Treaties? Not when oil is on the line. It has always been like this for the Native American tribes. When the white man finds something on Indian land that can make him a profit, the rights of the tribes — and, in the end, all people — always fall by the wayside.
Here’s video of Saturday’s protest and response via Democracy Now!
Featured image via Sacred Stone Camp Facebook page