Bill Davis and Dr Matthew Mitchell investigate the success of the months long sit-in in the U.S. by thousands of protesters including non-native Americans who have joined with the Sioux Indians to divert the course of a major oil pipeline.
THOUSANDS OF determined protesters have won a massive victory along with the Sioux Standing Rock Indians. They have successfully changed the course of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). This was to be a major oil pipeline running 1,100 miles from North Dakota to Illinois.
There are many Indigenous sites of significance throughout both South and North Dakota. The Treaty of 1851 reserved millions of acres for exclusive use of Lakota/Dakota peoples forever.
Bill Davis explains his interest:
'As a descendant of Yankton Sioux, I still feel strongly that these are my brothers and sisters, and I am so proud of the Standing Rock tribe for standing up to corporate greed. The water basin of the Missouri river supplies fresh drinking water to 17 million people, all the way down to Kansas City and beyond. Indigenous Indians and many others were concerned that the pipeline threatened the local water supplies.'
The pipeline was originally approved for development by Dakota Access Corporation by the Army Corps of Engineers, after being re-routed from an earlier route, which also met resistance.
On 4 December, the Army issued the following statement:
'The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, the Army's Assistant Secretary for Civil Works announced today.'
It seems that the key turning factor in stopping the pipeline was the arrival of thousands of veterans who were determined to stand as human-shields — protecting the protestors from the police and military trying to displace them from their camps in the Black Hills of Dakota. These protestors come from all walks of life and included among them are representatives of other Indian tribes from across North America.
Dakota Access Pipeline denied! A victory for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all Native Americans.
This is a major victory against the fossil fuel industry and for the environment. A timeline of the DAPL protests is available here. Importantly, what those protesting with the Standing Rock Sioux have demonstrated is that protesting can work, that if enough people get together – from all walks of life – and really show courage and determination, then they can make a difference.
These veteran soldiers were not going to stand down, as one of them – Don Trent Jacobs, who is also a Cherokee Indian called Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) – made clear in his public statements. What would it do for military moral if the army was to start attacking its own? The country would be literally tearing itself apart. What message would it have sent to the rest of the population if this had happened? If the veterans really had to sacrifice themselves as they surely intended? As it is they showed they had the power to turn the tide here — without needing any violence.
What a phenomenal realisation that is for everyone! What a new hope this gives for standing against corporate power and of the environment. It can be done, we just need everyone to be involved — not just regular citizens, but veterans, former police officers.
These people have real power. They are no longer subject to the commands of the military or law-enforcement hierarchy but in a sense are still of that system. They are still comrades with those in the army or the force and their presence restores the humanity that these bureaucracies lack.
The presence of people who have worked within the power structures breaks down the artificial barriers — soldiers are citizens, and many like Don Trent Jacobs are also native Indians. What sort of soldier, what sort of police officer attacks his own? It would be an unheard of travesty. The authorities had no choice but to back down.
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