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Solidarity Report from Standing Rock

By Nancy Romer - New Politics, Winter 2017

The struggle at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was one of the major political mobilizations of 2016, combining the demand for Native rights with the call for environmental justice. New Politics asked Nancy Romer to cover these events for us. She was at Standing Rock from November 10-15.

Her initial report and her article on the meaning of the victory achieved on December 5—and the struggle that still remains—have been posted on the New Politics website. Here we print two more of her dispatches from the scene, showing some of the day-to-day dynamics of standing with Standing Rock.

In this report I will try to give you a sense of what it was like to be at Standing Rock. Tonight completes my third day here. The weather has been mostly cold but very sunny. The colors, the sky, but most of all the people are startlingly calm and beautiful. The Standing Rock encampment is defined as a prayer site, a place to contemplate and to appreciate nature, “the creator” (not my words), and each other. The indigenous people here, from just about every tribe in the United States and some from Canada, are so welcoming and warm to outsiders. They repeatedly say how much they appreciate the presence of non-indigenous folks and how they want to share with us. They are strict on the rules: no violence of any kind; no drugs, alcohol, or guns; respect for indigenous ways; making oneself useful.

The vast encampment contains four or five separate but connected camps, some on the Sioux reservation land, others outside. The largest one is immediately off reservation land, Oceti Sakowin Camp; it is the one in which most of the activities happen. The others are either defined by age—elders or youth—or vary by activity. There is a “Two-Spirit Camp” for gender non-conforming people, a traditional and accepted group in Native culture. We spend most of our time at Oceti, but today I took a long walk and visited two of the other camps just to get a flavor of them. “NO DAPL” stands for “No Dakota Access Pipeline,” and signs with the slogan are everywhere, as is the phrase “water is life.” There is a religious feel to the camps and great respect all around. In many ways this is a very old-style indigenous encampment, and in many ways it feels like a post-revolutionary or post-apocalyptic future. The pace is slow though everyone seems to move with great purpose. People jump in and do the tasks that seem to be needed: cooking, cleaning, helping each other to put up a yurt or a teepee, chopping wood, tending fires, washing dishes, and offering legal, medical, or psychological help. Cell and internet service is miserable and probably interfered with by the constant drones that fly above the camps.

On Friday morning, day two of my trip, I attended a brilliantly presented orientation to the camp. One of the presenters was Maria Marasigan, a young woman I know from our shared days in the Brooklyn Food Coalition. It was the best anti-racist training for allies that I have witnessed: It was succinct, not guilt-trippy, and very direct. The three main concepts are: indigenous centered, build a new legacy, and be of use. Presenters shared the Lakota values that prevail in the camp: prayer, respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, humility, and wisdom. For me the most impactful point was respect. They defined that as including slowing down, moving differently with clearer intention and less reactivity. They suggested asking fewer questions and just looking and learning before our hands pop up and we ask to take up space. They clarified a gendered division of behavior and practice, including asking “feminine identified” women to honor traditional norms by wearing skirts during the sacred rituals (including in the cooking tent) and for women “on their moons” to spend time in a tent to be taken care of and rest if they choose. Somehow it seemed okay, actually respectful, not about pollution and ostracism. While I was helping out in the cooking tent—my main area of contribution—an indigenous woman came by with about ten skirts and distributed them to the mostly women in the cooking tent, explaining that cooking is a sacred activity, and we gladly put them on. It served as an extra layer of warmth over my long underwear and jeans. It was not what I expected but it seemed fine to all of us. We just kept chopping away at the veggies.

Later that day I attended a direct-action training that was also quite thorough and clear. Lisa Fithian, an old friend from anti-war movement days, led the training and explained how to behave in an action and how to minimize police violence. Lisa, along with two other strong, smart women, one Black and one Native, laid out a plan to do a mass pray-in in town the next day. My friend and travel companion Smita and I both felt that we couldn’t risk arrest and decided not to join that direct action but to be in support in any way we could. At 8 the next morning about a hundred cars lined up in convoy formation at the exit of the Oceti Sakowin Camp, each with lots of passengers—including some buses and minivans—and went into Manwan, the nearest town. The indigenous folks formed an inner circle and the non-indigenous formed a circle around them. The indigenous folks prayed, sang, and danced. The tactic was exercising freedom to practice their religion while protesting the Dakota Access Pipe Line. No arrests were made despite massive police and drone presence. One local man tried to run over a water protector, but she jumped aside; the man had a gun but was subdued by the cops. Lots of videos were taken, and the man was taken to the local jail. 

On Saturday I finally got a press pass, having been requested by New Politics to cover the encampment. That gave me the right to take photos (otherwise not allowed), but with limitations: no photos of people without permission, or of houses or horses, again, without permission from the people with them. I set out to interview people at the various camps and to get a sense of what people were planning to do for the winter. I spoke with Joe, a part Lakota from Colorado who had been raised Catholic and attended Indian residential schools, taken from his parents by the state because it doubted the ability of the Native community to raise their own kids. He said it was brutal. When asked why he was here, he replied, “This is the first time since Little Big Horn that all the tribes are uniting against a common enemy—the black snake—the pipeline that will harm our water, our people. This unity is making us whole.”

DAPL Doesn’t Make Economic Sense

By Mark Paul - Dollars and Sense, February 2017

Last week, Donald Trump signed an executive order to advance approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access oil pipelines. This should come as no surprise, as Trump continues to fill his administration with climate deniers, ranging from the negligent choice of Rick Perry as energy secretary to Scott Pruitt as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a man who stated last year that “scientists continue to disagree” on humans role in climate change may very well take the “Protection” out of the EPA, despite a majority of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—wanting the EPA’s power to be maintained or strengthened.

As environmental economists, my colleague Anders Fremstad and I were concerned. We crunched the numbers on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The verdict? Annual emissions associated with the oil pumped through the pipeline will impose a $4.6 billion burden on current and future generations.

First and foremost, the debate about DAPL should be about tribal rights and the right to clean water. Under the Obama administration, that seemed to carry some clout. Caving to pressure from protesters and an unprecedented gathering of more than a hundred tribes, Obama did indeed halt the DAPL, if only for a time. Under Trump and his crony capitalism mentality, the fight over the pipeline appears to be about corporate profits over tribal rights. Following Trump’s Executive Order to advance the pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to approve the final easement to allow Energy Transfer Partners to complete the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux have vowed to take legal action against the decision.

While the pipeline was originally scheduled to cross the Missouri River closer to Bismarck, authorities decided there was too much risk associated with locating the pipeline near the capital’s drinking water. They decided instead to follow the same rationale used by Lawrence Summers, then the chief economist of the World Bank, elucidated in an infamous memo stating “the economic logic of dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” That same logic holds for the low wage counties and towns in the United States. The link between environmental quality and economic inequality is clear—corporations pollute on the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable; in other words, those with the least resources to stand up for their right to a clean and safe environment.

Resisting the Resolution: Call to action in support of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and against the Dakota Access Pipeline

By staff - La Via Campesina, February 10, 2017

The epicenter of the struggle to defend our Mother Earth, Water and Nature is currently Standing Rock.

The North American Region of La Via Campesina sends its most sincere solidarity to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the water defenders in their heroic struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and in defense of Mother Nature and their sacred land. 

We demand that the federal government respect the territorial sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  

Finally, we call upon all of our members and allies of the North American Region of La Via Campesina to mobilize, firmly and widely, to stop the repression and violence by the police and the state against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are protecting their water for all of us, as well as their ancestral land, and their sovereignty.

America The Not So Beautiful

By Richard Mellor - Facts For Working People, February 8, 2017

The US is a country of extremes. It is the porn capital of the world where young 18 year-old women and men can bare all on screen or be sent to fight in wars yet can’t buy a bottle of beer at a convenience store.

It is also the richest and most powerful nation in history and its defense budget at $608 billion annually, dwarfs all others. China is a poor second at a little over $215 billion with the Russians lagging at third with a paltry $66 billion.

God Bless America is a familiar phrase in these United States but when we look at quality of life, God’s blessing has been very selective. We have more billionaires than anyone else and more people in prison than anyone else. The incomes of the most blessed, a tiny section of US society, are staggering. The wealth displayed at the Superbowl for the world to see is not America. It was bizarre to see these players kissing this oblong silver object passed along as if it was some oracle from above. Sport should be a cultural event.

Trump makes much ado about the loss of jobs and especially blue-collar post war jobs that were the traditional home for white males although this changed to a degree after the rise of the CIO and the Civil Rights movement that followed. It is to this constituency that Trump has appealed as these jobs have disappeared due primarily to innovation and technology and moving production oversees where human beings come cheaper.

But as Sarah O’Connor points put in today’s Financial Times, “…prime-age male participation has been falling in the US for 60 years without much panic. What tempered this to a degree was the entrance of women in to the workforce. Immediately after WW11 less than one third of US women were in the workforce and by 1999 that had risen to 60%. *As most workers are aware, back in the 1950’s one income covered a mortgage, today that is almost impossible certainly when we throw in childcare and other related expenses.

But women’s labor force participation is declining along with men and was just under 68% by 2012.This is not the case in most advanced capitalist (OECD) countries as O’Connor points out and the US now has a lower female labor force participation than Japan. Similar factors that have affected male rates affect women’s but there is another major factor and that is the barbaric nature of US capitalism.

In the age of the Internet most people are aware of the disparity in statistics like health care, infant mortality, crime, homelessness working hours, incarceration and basic social services between the US and other OECD countries; even tiny Cuba has a better infant mortality rate than the US. It is this human/family hostile free market haven that is also forcing women out of the workforce reversing the trend that began after WW11. US policy is  “…particularly unsupportive of women who want to stay in work when they have children — with the result that many drop out.”, O’Connor writes.

Despite major gains, women still bear the brunt of housework and basically caring for the family. In the US, pregnancy is almost treated like an illness. Meanwhile it is the expansion of “family friendly” leave policies in other advanced capitalist economies that O’Connor cites as the cause of why US female labour force participation had fallen behind.”

The challenge at Standing Rock

By Sara Rougeau, Ragina Johnson and Brian Ward - Socialist Worker, February 7, 2017

WATER PROTECTORS and supporters of the #NoDAPL movement have been rocked by a series of orders and press releases from the Trump administration and the state of North Dakota in recent weeks. The pronouncements appear to set the stage for the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

While some politicians backed by various oil and gas corporations overstated the implications of these announcements, water protectors are also debating what the pronouncements mean and the best way to continue the fight against the pipeline.

Some movement leaders are calling for continuing the struggle by rebuilding the protest camps, but others, including Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II, have called on protesters to stand down and limit the struggle to a legal battle in the federal courts.

Already on February 1, law enforcement carried out 74 arrests of water protectors establishing a new camp on land belonging to Energy Transfer Partners--and on February 3, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced it would send additional agents to assist local police in clearing the camps, according to the Washington Post.

Keystone XL Opponents Promise Trump a Mass Mobilization 'On a Scale Never Seen'

By Deirdre Fulton - Common Dreams, January 30, 2017

With his order to revive the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, President Donald Trump "has declared war on Indigenous nations across the country," one Cheyenne River Sioux organizer said Monday. 

But he'll be met by a fierce native resistance movement that "will not back down," said the organizer, Joye Braun, on a press call organized by the Indigenous Environmental Movement (IEN). 

Trump signed executive orders last week advancing the controversial KXL and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipelines, prompting widespread outrage and vows of bold resistance from the Indigenous activists, climate campaigners, and countless others who have fought against both projects. What that opposition will look like came into sharper focus on Monday.

"Make no mistake: resistance to the toxic Keystone XL pipeline will only grow stronger," declared Dallas Goldtooth, IEN's Keep it in the Ground organizer. "We will mobilize, fight back, we will resist the Keystone XL pipeline. We plan to create camps along the Keystone XL pipeline route to fight this pipeline every step of the way."

A press release from his organization confirmed that Indigenous groups are "organizing spiritual camps to resist the Keystone XL pipeline up and down the pipeline route, in addition to reviving the Standing Rock camp" which sprang out of resistance to DAPL and at its height housed thousands of protesters. 

Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chippewayan First Nation added: "My nation is not taking Donald Trump's new memorandum on Keystone XL lightly—we will fight back through through the courts, protests, and any means available and necessary."

Following Trump's orders last week, IEN vowed to launch a "massive mobilization and civil disobedience on a scale never seen of a newly seated president of the United States." Or perhaps of any president who's ever faced an anti-pipeline protest.

Connecticut activists demand 100% renewable energy, jobs and justice

By Susan Rogers - Socialist Action, January 26, 2017

“To Change Everything, It Takes Everyone!” Under this mantra of the new climate justice movement, 400 Connecticut activists joined a “March for Jobs, Justice, and a Livable Earth” on Dec. 3. Picket signs carried the slogans voted up by the planning committee and included: Emergency Transition to 100% Renewable Energy Grid! Mass Electrified Transit for All! No to the Fracked Gas Buildout! No to Environmental Racism! No to the State Budget Cuts! and Yes to Jobs & Justice!

The event broke new ground for the climate movement in the state, garnering significant union endorsement and the participation of some of the newest strikers from the Hartford Fight for Fifteen.

The speaker’s platform and march route demonstrated the organizers’ goal of making concrete the relationship of the fight to halt runaway climate change and the struggles for jobs and racial justice. For example, at the kickoff rally of the event, activists heard from John Harrity, the president of the state machinists’ council, who spoke of the contribution workers can make to building a fossil-fuel-free world. Bishop John Selders, of Moral Majority CT, a group well-known for actions against police brutality, educated the crowd about the power of the Black radical tradition and the need for social movements to learn this history.

The first stop on the march was Union Station, a train and bus depot, where Mustafa Salahuddin, the president of the Bridgeport, Conn., Transit Workers Local 1336, spoke of his union’s commitment to fight for green mass transit for all. At TD Bank, activists expressed solidarity with the water protectors and veterans at Standing Rock.

At the Main St. Burger King franchise, Vanessa Rodriquez, a Dunkin’ Donuts worker who was arrested in the recent Fight for 15 day of action, explained why she had chosen to sit down in the street. “I did it because we are all strong together. Whether it is the Fight for 15, climate change, or immigration, if we stand together we will win!”

Although the protest was launched by the usual trinity of the most active state climate organizations—that is, 350 CT, the Connecticut Sierra Club, and the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network—organizers hammered away in the call on the need for a climate movement that was linked to the everyday struggles of working people. The call began, “The fight to preserve our planet and halt climate warming is inextricably tied to the struggle for all the other elements of a decent human life: jobs, health, equality, and justice.”

The drive for endorsements was accompanied by more language about this commitment and said: “The climate movement stands ready to campaign with the labor movement, the Movement for Black Lives, Native Americans, climate refugees, immigrant communities, environmental justice activists, conservationists, and other community movements for a massive program of good green jobs and a turn to focusing on the needs of people over fossil fuel profits.”

Immigrant rights activists who were approached about participating in the march asked for more explicit attention to the threat hanging over them of more deportations, and the 350 chapter voted to add that the march was not only against environmental racism but would “Stand with Immigrants and Climate Refugees.”

In the end, the protest was endorsed by not only a large number of local climate action and peace groups, but also by the Connecticut chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and by four major state labor organizations. The latter included the State Council of Machinists, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Greater Connecticut Area Local of the American Postal Workers Union, and the Connecticut UAW Cap Council.

The increased willingness of labor unions to endorse local climate actions is likely based, in part, on the opening created when many national AFL-CIO affiliates openly bucked the reactionary position on Standing Rock that was expressed by the federation president, Richard Trumka. But the now daily media coverage of the growing evidence that catastrophic change is inevitable without drastic encroachments on the prerogatives of big business is also having its impact on the ranks of the labor movement.

All this speaks to the potential of the April 29 People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., to put hundreds of thousands of working people in the streets and to kick off a new wave of organizing the unorganized millions who are ready to fight for a decent life in an unpolluted world.

Leonard Peltier Denied Freedom By President Obama

By staff - Global Justice Ecology Project, January 19, 2017

In his final day in office, President Obama has denied clemency to imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Peltier was convicted of murder of tw0 FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975.

There is, and has been since the beginning, overwhelming evidence of Leonard Peltier’s innocence.  Yet even today, in the age of the powerful, Indigenous-led Standing Rock uprising, and with Obama in the White House, there is still no chance that Peltier will be freed.  Yet another symbol of this decrepit system–one which cannot be reformed, but must be transformed–from the bottom up.

Peltier’s attorney, Martin Garbus was notified of Obama’s decision earlier today. The Office of the Pardon Attorney wrote: “The application for commutation of sentence of your client, Mr. Leonard Peltier, was carefully considered in this Department and the White House, and the decision was reached that favorable action is not warranted. Your client’s application was therefore denied by the President on January 18, 2017… Under the Constitution, there is no appeal from this decision.”

UPTE-CWA resolution demanding University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) divest from Energy Transfer Partners and from Banking Institutions that fund the Dakota Access Pipeline

By the University Professional and Technical Employees union (UPTE-CWA) - Resolution, January 15, 2017

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on unceded treaty lands of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. The lands are the sites where the ancestors have been laid to rest and on which DAPL continues to desecrate; and

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) along a route under Lake Oahe and across the Missouri River, the primary source of drinking water of the tribe. The pipeline is slated to carry up to 570,000 gallons of crude oil per day along its 1, 172 mile route and pipeline ruptures have become increasingly more common throughout the U.S. and a pipeline burst would not only endanger the Standing Rock Sioux reservation but it would also endanger the clean water downstream since the Missouri River is a major tributary to the Mississippi River which more than 17 million people depend on for both human consumption and irrigation; and

WHEREAS, The members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are fulfilling the responsibility conferred upon them by their ancestors to Protect the Sacred Lands and Water for future generations and invite people to stand with them and join them in peaceful prayerful non-violent direct actions and to actively DIVEST from Energy Transfer Partners and any financial institution that is providing financial support for this project; and

WHEREAS, the Sacred Stone camp, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin camp (Seven Council Fires Camp) and now also the Oceti Oyate Camp (One Nation camp) have become major camps of non-violent resistance which brought together more than 300 Native American tribes throughout the U.S, Mexico, Central America, South America, the First Nation people of Norway, Australia and the Polynesians and thousands of people from around the world, to stand with Standing Rock and participate in prayerful non-violent direct action and among those that have participated in the activities in the camps are native and non-native members of organized labor as well as 4,000 U.S. military veterans; and

WHEREAS, the prayer ceremonies and non-violent direct actions carried out by the water protectors have been met with a brutal military response from DAPL security and Morton County Sheriff’s Department and to the arrests of more than 500 Water Protectors. The military response is unwarranted against unarmed civilians whom are exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Lawsuits have been filed against Morton County and DAPL security for its disproportionate use of violence and its use of attack dogs and “non-lethal” weapons such as rubber bullets, LRADs, 5lb cans of far reaching mace, tear gas shot into crowds, water cannons sprayed in sub-freezing temperatures and concussion grenades in ways that have caused serious and permanent bodily injury; and

WHEREAS, solidarity with Standing Rock has been voiced by a growing number of labor bodies, including the Communications Workers of America; Academic Student-Employees-UAW Local 4123; Amalgamated Transit Union; American Federation of Teachers Local 2121-City College of San Francisco Faculty Union; American Postal Workers Union; Black Workers for Justice; Border Agricultural Workers; California Faculty Association; California Federation of Teachers, Climate Justice Task Force; Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Canadian Union of Public Employees; Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions; Chicago Graduate Employees Organization, IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297; City of Madison LIUNA local 236; GEO-UAW Local 2322; GEU-UAW Local 6950; GSOC-UAW Local 2110; GSU-UChicago, IFT/AFT Local 6300; Industrial Workers of the World; IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus; Labor Coalition for Community Action; Labor for Palestine; Labor for Standing Rock; National Nurses United; New York State Nurses Association; National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981; Rutgers AAUP-AFT; SEIU 503 OPEU; Service Employees International Union; TAA-Graduate Worker Union of UW-Madison; United Electrical Workers; and University of California Student-Workers Union-UAW Local 2865; and

WHEREAS, union members, including UPTE members have shown support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the water protectors by donating money and supplies to the Sacred Stone, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin (Council of the Seven Fires) and Oceti Oyate (One Nation) camps as well as by going to the camps individually and in delegations such as Labor for Standing Rock and providing donated labor to assist the camps in its preparations for the extremely cold North Dakota winter weather conditions and staying there to provide continued support; and

WHEREAS, University of California has committed itself to Global Sustainability goals and supports the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement yet its financial investments in the University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP Holdings) include more than $3 million dollars in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the main corporation behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of shares in many of the banks that are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, which contradicts the stated goals of the Paris Climate Agreement since the continued extraction of fossil fuels will undoubtedly put the planet at risk of surpassing the 2 degree mark; and

WHEREAS, the Solutions Project, known previously as the Wind, Water and Sun study by Stanford University provides an evidence-based approach towards reaching our sustainability goals and a renewable energy future by investment in clean energy jobs and would steer us away from the destruction of our planet and lead us towards a Just Transition away from a fossil fuel economy; and

WHEREAS, millions of people are realizing that the false dichotomy of jobs vs environment no longer is sustainable and are opposed to the violation of Treaty Rights as well as violations of Human and Civil Rights perpetrated against the Water Protectors and are actively withdrawing their personal and business accounts from the banks that are funding DAPL as well as for calling for the divestment of ETP shares from their CALPERS and CALSTRS;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT: University Technical and Professional Employees-CWA calls upon the federal government to immediately end construction of and remove the Dakota Access Pipeline, and

be it further RESOLVED, that UPTE calls for an immediate end to state violence against the water protectors at Standing Rock and dismissal of all charges against Water Protectors, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union urges the entire labor movement to actively promote just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that respects indigenous rights, the environment, and the rights of all workers to safe, well-paying union jobs, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union will seek divestment of all union, benefit and Retirement funds from Energy Transfer Partners, Citibank, Wells Fargo Bank and other DAPL funders and will seek to invest in a future that will reduce our carbon emissions and help create a just, sustainable and prosperous future for all.

Standing with Standing Rock

By Marty Goodman - Socialist Action, January 13, 2017

More than bitter winter weather lies ahead for hundreds of Native American nations and their supporters battling hazardous fossil-fuel pipelines on sacred Sioux land at the Standing Rock camp near Cannonball, North Dakota. A far more bitter struggle looms for Native American rights and climate justice with the incoming Trump administration. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for the Department of Energy, is a climate-change denier and sits on boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco, two companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Oil company execs are vowing to complete the pipeline despite a Dec. 4 decision by the Obama administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not give the go-ahead to Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL) to dig pipelines under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a source of drinking water for the Sioux nation and millions downstream. The decision instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental study with community input, a process that could take one or two years.

On Dec. 13, the New York Daily News posted a recording it had received in which Mathew Ramsey, a top exec at Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s parent company, was said to be telling ETP staff, “I’ve got to tell you, election night changed everything.” Ramsey said on the recording, “We fully expect as soon as he is inaugurated this team is going to move to the final approvals, and DAPL will cross the lake.”

Vulture capitalist and President-elect Donald Trump has declared his support for the pipeline and is personally invested in DAPL for up to $1 million. Also invested are many of the corporations of Trump’s billionaire pals, such as Chase Morgan bank, the Bank of America, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo—which alone has invested $467 million. The pipeline will extend 1170 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through sacred Sioux land to Illinois and ultimately to the Gulf Coast. The cost is $3.7 billion.

A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe contends that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal laws in allowing the pipeline to be dug under Lake Oahe. If the Army Corp’s permission to dig is restored, or if the federal court in North Dakota accepts DAPL’s arguments, pipeline construction could resume.

North Dakota’s laws are the strictest when it comes to allowing out of state public defenders to represent “water protectors” facing charges in court, now totaling at least 550. The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) of the National Lawyers Guild provides legal support but is overwhelmed and urges the state to relax its guidelines. Seventy-five North Dakota lawyers have been assigned 165 cases, but an additional 264 water protectors remain without lawyers.

The WPLC has also called for the dismissal of State Attorney Ladd Erickson for his inflammatory comments in court, referring to water protectors as staging “fake news” and “simply props for videos of stage events.” The hearings have been postponed, and the Trump administration’s actions will ultimately determine the continued relevance of the lawsuit. Whatever happens, the first rule of capitalism will still apply: ‘laws are meant to be broken’ … if they stand in the way of profits!

Originally, DAPL was to traverse an area close to the mostly white Bismarck, some 50 miles distant, but when the plan encountered opposition, the pipeline was rerouted to Standing Rock. DAPL is in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the treaty of 1868. In the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of acres of Sioux land was seized to make way for a dam, with little or no compensation. In the treaties, the Sioux agreed to keep the area undeveloped and for hunting, but it is now ravaged by fossil-fuel polluters.

Demonstrating corporate contempt for the environment, a recent examination of oil spills in the last 30 years revealed over 8700 pipeline spills. On Dec. 13, two hours from Standing Rock, a pipeline spilled an estimated 176,000 gallons of crude into the Ash Coulee Creek. Sunoco Logistics, DAPL’s future operator, has the worst safety record of all. According to government statistics, it has had over 200 leaks since 2010. Last October, a Sunoco gas pipeline ruptured in Pennsylvania, spilling 55,000 gallons into the Susquehanna River.

The outrage at Standing Rock is a continuation of 500 years of the rape of Native American rights through massacres, racism, land theft, and forced displacement. DAPL is a textbook case of environmental racism and is in violation of international laws and agreements on the rights of indigenous peoples.

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