You may have been catching glimpses in your newsfeed or on the radio or television (but probably on your newsfeed) about something about North Dakota and Native Americans and the DAPL from the pesky oil companies who are at it again…always. You may NOT know exactly what is going on. That’s okay; it’s really quite an exciting tale. Sit it on down and let me break it down into “wots” and “whys.”
WOT: is North Dakota?
It is the state directly north of, you got it, South Dakota! (Haha) I didn’t know much about the state whenever I started writing this article, so here is what I found for you.
Simple Googling reminded me what I learned in grade school, that Bismark is the capital of the state dominated by plains. I was surprised to find that the whole state had a population of only about 740,000 as of 2014. That’s close to a tenth the size of New York City. Alright cool, there’s a lot of open space and not many people. Turns out, a lot of the people living there are Native Americnas, many of them living on reservations. Besides that, what most of the open space is used for is to farm most of the grains that are farmed in our country. Like wheat and barley. Also flaxseed, for you yuppy health nuts (like me!). Think literally, amber waves of grain. And thank North Dakota for the flaxseed oil in your expensive soaps and shampoos. *Thanks, North Dakota!*
The other important natural resource that North Dakota boasts is the Little Missouri River, where the state shares a border with Montana. This where the scene of our story takes place. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe inhabits North Dakota and they are the heroes of this tale. As well as many other tribes we sadly have probably never heard of, such as Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Yanktonia, Sisseton, Wahpeton, and Hundpapa.
WHY: All the Fighting?
You’d think a peaceful state full of Native Americnas and open fields wouldn’t have a reason to be so controversial. Reason is, put simply, Energy Transfer Partners, the natural gas company worth billions is one contender, and the Native peoples of North Dakota, primarily the Standing Rock tribe, is the other. The state turned into a battleground whenever ETP decided they had plans to put a 1,170 mile pipeline through North Dakota, all the way to Illinois, where it will be joined up with a network of pipelines and distributed from there. This is not the only pipeline (the word “pipeline” keeps ironically trying to auto-correct to pimple before I am finished typing it; I think I’m just going to stick with that hehehe), they are planning on building. In fact, it is but one cluster of pimple-lines of many. You can view their plans laid out in this PDF of their analyst meeting for 2015.
They are quite the opportunists, and these plans for new (totally unnecessary) infrastructure may be born of necessity. According to a stock analyzing website called ‘The Motley Fool,‘
“Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP) isn’t off to a great start in 2016. That is evident by looking at earnings across its business segments, which in aggregate are down 2.6% resulting in a 13% decline in distributable cash flow.”
To an unseasoned analyst such as me, it seems that they are probably hoping that these new plans of miles and miles of new pipelines (plus the new gas processing plants in Ohio and already built in West Texas) will bring their bottom line back up. This one section of pipeline being fought over is but one piece of a much larger, pimplier PI…peline.
The Standing Rock tribe is holding true to its name, standing up to this company whose plans never include keeping the environment clean and fresh, free of pockmarks. The Tribe’s federally protected reservation is only a half of a mile away from where this “pimple-line” is planned on being built, while the land is actually owned by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The tribe’s concern is this: in case you did not know, pimple-lines often burst, and the spills leave devastating scars when they do. Check out a briefly compiled list of spills here if you really want to know more about the environmental and economic harm that the pimple-lines bring about when broken, which often happens because of a lack of proper cleanliness and maintenance.
The Standing Rock Tribe has been battling against this pimple-line since the beginning of April when members of the Tribe began camping out in a prayer circle. They want to scrub away the gunk and protect their sacred source of water and their federally-granted and protected land. Their water and land is supposed to be protected by the Oceti Sakowin Treaty, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The treaties call for the “absolute and undisturbed” use of the area. This portion of they Little Missouri River is the same source of water their people have been using for 15,000 years.
So, in an act to keep their land and water blemish-free, this Native American tribe sued the Army Corps of Engineers (who typically grants permission for such activities on federal or federally protected land), in an attempt to remove permissions from ETP from continuing to build the pimple-line on this land. Normally, (and I did not know this until writing this article) the oil and gas companies do not even need to have any kinds of permissions to build and terrorize the land, unless it is federally or privately owned. The land that is being disputed is technically owned by the Corps, so they are the ones who were able to give permission. Which they did.
Then, the Tribe sued the Corps in order to protect their ancestral, sacred lands from potential, some would say inevitable, harm.
WOT: Is Happening Now?
As the Tribe remained gathered in between the machines to be used to dig into the land to build the pimple-lines, more and more folks showed up. Everyone, from members of other tribes, journalists, environmental activists, and plain old folks who care about human rights. They camped peacefully, waiting for the court’s ruling on whether construction would be allowed to continue.
In the meantime, there were reports of ETP using…more force than necessary, in order to try and rid the land of those pesky things (men, women, children, horses) in the way of construction. Attack dogs and mace were used to keep the people away as they bulldozed right through land that they had no right to.
Thanks to the Democracy Now! for the following video which has *LANGUAGE NSFW* . This video of the front line of this battle is what pulled at my heartstrings enough to write this article. The protesters were surprised then angered that the construction had began. As I understand it, at this point, the construction was supposed to be at a standstill as the protesters and companies were awaiting the final court ruling.
The ruling finally occurred on Friday, September 9th U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a ruling denying the injunction request to stop or halt the construction. However, three different government agencies, the Department of Justice, of the Army, and of the Interior reacted by immediately issued a joint statement to stop the authorization of construction on federally controlled lands. Click here to read the exact wording of the ruling.
What the ruling actually states is,
“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.”
All this really does is put off how much time it is going to take for this pimple to pop.
If even federally protected land is not not actually protected against the company with the biggest bottom line, you can bet your bottom dollar that no one’s is.
Not to fear-monger. We just deserve to know. Make some noise.
Karma comes around, and we the people are sick of being run over by the 1%.
Why: Keep Fighting?
Because the news and media tend to look a little negative, let’s focus on the positive. There are people, thousands of people, who are special simply because they care enough to demonstrate their power. Some reports have said that there were over 4,000 people gathered at one time. This issue struck me particularly whenever I had a couple of activist friends make the journey to North Dakota to stand with the tribes. Remember, there are people who care, who are brave and compassionate enough to do what needs to be done. Which sometimes, is just to be there, and be making an effort.
Why this tiny battle on the larger scale of climate war is so important? Because we are running out of time. At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference which happened in Paris, some actual important mandates were made. Whether or not you believe in climate change, the leaders of the world do; leaders from the 196 countries who attended the conference do, in fact. What came of this meeting is the understanding that if we don’t curb climate change, there will be significant catastrophic effects worldwide. Some of these are: entire island countries disappearing like unfortunate Atlantis underwater; coastlines receding miles inland, of course ruining entire cities; more and more extreme climate occurrences, like hurricanes, flooding, and droughts.
There are real numbers involved here. If we warm up the planet more than 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 14 or so years, that will be our new global reality.
That is why these warriors on this seemingly unimportant open field somewhere in North Dakota are so important to the future of, well, everyone.
It makes no sense to continue building infrastructure for what must soon, very soon, be an extinct industry.
ETP, you need to ask yourself WOT in the world you are doing.
Then, let’s turn inward and ask our collective-selves, what small things on a day-to-day basis can we be doing to make a difference?