U.S. Bank has become the first major bank in the U.S. to formally exclude gas and oil pipelines from their project financing. This groundbreaking change to their Environmental Responsibility Policy was publicly announced at the annual shareholders meeting in Nashville in April.
By Osprey Orielle Lake
Despite the termination of the Environmental Impact Statement for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by the U.S. Trump administration and the oil now filling the pipeline beneath the Standing Rock Sioux people's sacred Lake Oahe—Indigenous women leaders and their global allies remain unyielding in their quest for justice and healing regarding the violations of Indigenous rights and human rights being carried out through the development of DAPL and other fossil fuel projects across North America.
By Sarah Jaffe
This story is part of Sarah Jaffe's new series, Interviews for Resistance, in which she speaks with organizers, troublemakers and thinkers who are doing the hard work of fighting back against America's corporate and political powers.
Last week in Washington, DC, members of American Indian tribes and their supporters demonstrated against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The protest was led in part by members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who have been battling the U.S. government for almost a year over the oil pipeline, which they say will contaminate their drinking water and has destroyed sacred sites in North Dakota.
In this edited interview, Jaffe speaks with Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network about the march last week and what's next in the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as other pipeline projects. (The full interview is available in the audio above and online at TruthOut.org). Mossett is a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, which has been active in the Standing Rock protests since August.
Sarah Jaffe: Last week, there was a march on Washington and an encampment. Can you tell us about that?
Kandi Mossett: The Native Nations Rise march came out of the Standing Rock camps and what was happening in North Dakota. When we started planning, we didn't know what was going to happen at the camp—it was prior to the forced removal. But we thought something bad might happen, so we wanted to make sure that we were following up with something positive and with the next steps. Then, the camps were raided and it was a really horrible.
When we were all together in DC last week it was like a family reunion. It really lifted up everyone's spirits because what we did at Standing Rock was much more than just a physical encampment. It has been ongoing for over 500 years. It is about sustainability and not continuing to take from the Earth without ever giving anything back.
We held a four-day event with a tepee encampment that included lobby visits, speaking, panels and performances. We had originally been expecting maybe 500 people to make it to DC for the march. When it was all said and done, there were at least 5,000 people at the march with us on Friday.
It was a great success and it will lead people to protest against all the other pipeline sites. The Dakota Access Pipeline encampment, all of that was a result of the success we had with Keystone XL. We now have Keystone XL back on because of Donald Trump, but people are going back to Keystone XL to continue to fight that.
There are already other camps. There is a camp in South Dakota near the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. There are people also going to the Two Rivers Camp in Texas to fight against the Trans-Pecos pipeline, which is also owned by Energy Transfer Partners.
To continue to fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a lot of people are going to Louisiana, where a camp is being set up against the Bayou Bridge pipeline. That one will connect to the Dakota Access Pipeline in Illinois so that the oil can continue to go down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will be refined and shipped to foreign markets. It is all part of the same project. A lot of people didn't understand that until they went to DC and made the connection that we need to continue to fight.
In addition, we are arranging toxic tours and having people visit North Dakota to view the Bakken oil shale formation, so they can see where the oil is coming from and help push for more fracking bans and moratoriums.
We have the economy on our side. As we have been saying all along, the price of oil has been dropping. There is going to be a slight increase in 2017, but not what [Energy Transfer Partners] have been touting. For the last two years they have been telling oil industry folks, "Wait until 2017 when everything is going to be great again." We know that is not true.
But we still have to continue to fight back, because there is a massive new shale oil formation that was recently discovered in Texas. While it will take the pressure off of North Dakota, the problem is just going somewhere else. In the big picture, that doesn't help any of us. That is why I really want to go to the Two Rivers Camp in Texas.
We are going to build the Mní Wičóni Sustained Native Community, but we did have a delay with everything that happened. Community members there are really tired of the militarized police force and different non-Bureau of Indian Affairs officers now that are on the reservation because of cross-deputization and jurisdiction. The project is still fully funded and we're continuing to have educational forums about it. It is what we had always talked about, leaving something behind for the Standing Rock community, their children and future generations.
Sarah Jaffe: I want to go back to the forced removal from Standing Rock. A lot of people were closely paying attention around the election and then the election took everybody's attention away, so people don't really know the story of the removal. Could you give us a little bit more background?
Kandi Mossett: What happened was the state waged a really good campaign—for themselves, it wasn't good for us—to cause division between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the people at the camps. They did that by blocking the bridge on Highway 1806, which caused casino revenue to drop significantly because a lot of people would go from Bismarck down to the Prairie Knights Casino. It also forced ambulances to go around to get up the hospital because they couldn't take Highway 1806 to Bismarck.
Because of the fight at Standing Rock a lot of the hidden racism that was always there in North Dakota—I grew up there, I always experienced it—became more blatant because of the actions that were being done in Bismarck to say, "Look, this is affecting you, too. Of all the people, you in Bismarck should care the most because you didn't want this either." But it pulled out the racism. School children were getting harassed and they actually had to have escorts follow them to their basketball games because whether or not the children said anything about the pipeline fight, they would get harassed by the other kids and their parents.
All of these things were causing further division amongst the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe community and people in the camp. There were a lot of really well-meaning, non-Native people that came to stay in the camp and there were a lot of different things that were happening in the camp … The camp became infiltrated with people that were working for the police, people that were working for the Dakota Access Pipeline and people that were working as private mercenaries. Even right now, there is a "terrorism" FBI task force that is basically harassing some of the water protectors. There are three of us that we know of for sure that are being investigated by the FBI Terrorism Taskforce.
But what the press really glommed onto was "These water protectors are polluting and destroying the river by being there." They took all of the attention away from the fact that there is an oil pipeline with carcinogenic materials running through it and said we were polluting the river. That caused further division that made it really hard for us because it was like, "How can the media twist or spin this anymore than they already were before?"
We were cleaning up for two or three weeks and then, when we were forcibly removed, we had to stop because they were like, "Get out of here." Then, they said, "We had to clean this. It is all their fault." It is like, "You forced us out at gunpoint." All of that led up to the police, fully geared up with rifles, machine guns and tanks, that came out against unarmed water protectors. They had made it sound like they were going to find weapons or something. But the Sheriff of Morton County, Kyle Kirchmeier, put out a report that said, "We did not find any weapons in the camp." We thought, "Of course you didn't! We have been saying this all along." On my on Facebook page I was teasing them saying, "Did they find my stash of snowballs?" because that was one of the things they complained about, that people threw snowballs at them with their machine guns pointed at us.
The whole point is that all of this still exists in this country. It really woke up the country. In fact, it woke up the world to see that the U.S. isn't just one almighty entity against the rest of the world but that we are broken down into factions within our own country. It is founded on a legacy of taking, pillaging of native lands for the gain of capitalism and colonization. Other countries were on board with us and were standing with Standing Rock.
How do we continue that fight on? It is to say: No more fossil fuel industry anywhere in the world. Do not allow the U.S. to be the bully it has been. It is really ridiculous that all of these other countries are on board with changing their energy systems and their transportation systems and yet, the U.S. keeps holding on to oil, gas, coal and uranium. It negatively affects other countries because of that need or that greed for the fossil fuel industry.
Sarah Jaffe: How can people keep up with these different camps and with the movement and be supportive?
Kandi Mossett: Even if people can't go to a camp they can support the defund campaign and the divestment campaign. We have DefundDAPL.org, which shows you the 17 banks that are directly funding these projects. No matter who people bank with, we are asking them to take their money out of big banks and put them into their local credit unions to bring power back to their communities and away from corporate interests.
Standing Rock showed people, "Oh, we do actually have a lot of power. We didn't realize it." We are encouraging people to fight against the Trump administration's push for fossil fuel resources. We want people to do that by having community gardens and local community education events on how to live more sustainably. If that means not having strawberries in December, depending on where you live, then so be it. Food sovereignty and transportation systems are all tied into it.
Another layer in addition to doing grassroots work is to get involved in politics. I know that is hard for some people because they hate it. I used to hate politics myself because I felt like politicians didn't represent me. They won't represent you unless you make your voice heard in your town, community and state.
In North Dakota we are battling against all of these ridiculous laws—for example, they are trying to ban wind projects for two years so they can bring back coal projects. I have to talk to my family and say, "Here is a letter for you. Just sign it." You have to do whatever it takes to get people involved and aware of the issues in your own communities. We have to make a political impact. If that is not good enough, then people should run for office if they want to make change.
Interviews for Resistance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute. It is also available as a podcast. Not to be reprinted without permission. Reposted with permission from our media associate BillMoyers.com.
As they have before, the tribe argued the pipeline's construction would lead to the desecration of their sacred lands and water. Since it would be built under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, the tribe argued it would interfere with their religious practices.
But Judge Boasberg dismissed those claims.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the construction of the pipeline, had already "modified the pipeline work space and route more than a hundred times in response to cultural surveys and tribes' concerns regarding historic and cultural resources," Boasberg wrote, as reported by RT, adding that rerouting the pipeline "would be more costly and complicated than it would have been months or years ago."
This ruling means the $3.8 billion, 1,170-mile pipeline is slated to be finished.
"It is simply unacceptable that the government is allowing Energy Transfer Partners to build this pipeline through our sacred lands. The water the pipeline threatens supplies the Lakota and more than 17 million other people downstream," said Chase Iron Eyes, Lakota People's Law Project lead counsel in a statement, on the decision.
"The latest court ruling against my people is unjust and unacceptable. But I am here to tell you, this fight is not over and we will not surrender. Several steps remain in the legal process," he continued.
"On March 10, Native Nations and water protectors from around the country will converge in Washington, DC to let the president, Judge Boasberg and the army know that they are accomplices to a dangerous, criminal corporation. If there is a spill, they will have oil and blood on their hands and we will not let them forget it."
That demonstration in Washington began Tuesday, with tribal members and supporters planning to camp each day on the National Mall, set to bring along teepees, light a ceremonial fire and hold cultural workshops. In the four days of protest, Indigenous leaders also plan to lobby lawmakers to protect tribal rights.
Reposted with permission from our media associate teleSUR.
Members of Native nations from across the country will begin a four-day demonstration against the Trump administration and the Dakota Access Pipeline in Washington, DC today, culminating with a march on the White House on Friday.
"They want us to believe the fight is over—but we can still win this. We can unite in peaceful, prayerful resistance against this illegal pipeline," said Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. "Now, we are calling on all our Native relatives and allies to rise with us. We must march against injustice—Native nations cannot continue to be pushed aside to benefit corporate interests and government whim."
A status report filed by Dakota Access LLC Monday estimates that oil could be flowing through the completed pipeline by March 13.
While water protectors were ordered off the Cannon Ball protest site at the end of last month, the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstration continues to inspire other pipeline fights around the country and NPR's Morning Edition visits two hot spots in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
For a deeper dive:
Other fights: NPR
Commentary: KCET, Dina Gilio-Whitaker analysis
The deadline set by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum for evacuating the Cannon Ball Dakota Access Pipeline protest site passed Wednesday and most protesters peacefully vacated before the 2 p.m. cutoff time.
Authorities arrested 10 remaining protesters refusing to leave the campground and an estimated few dozen people are still at the site. The Chicago Tribune reported this morning that the North Dakota's governor said the remaining people "will have another chance to leave peacefully Thursday."
New polling released from the Pew Research Center Wednesday shows nearly half of Americans oppose building the pipeline.
Despite continued public protest across the country—including divestment movements in several major cities—lawyers for the pipeline estimated in a court filing Wednesday that oil could be flowing as early as mid-March.
"These water protectors inspired people around the world by standing up for the right to clean water and a future free from fossil fuels," Greenpeace USA Climate Campaigner Mary Sweeters said. "Allies around the world acting in solidarity with Standing Rock cannot stop now. We must expose every institution pushing the Dakota Access Pipeline project through and projects like it."
For a deeper dive: