Climate Change Social Justice United States Government

Of Indigenous American Dreams, and Oil

There’s a gentle warm breeze on my face as I look out across the seemingly endless North Dakotan Indigenous American lands and I think about my future and my hopes and dreams. The construction site in the distance seems to be approaching all too much closer by the day. They tell me that the pipeline will run over our sacred burial sites and under our River. Some of the folks in town tell me it’s progress and it’s for the good of the country. But I don’t believe them. I think oil is dirty, and it’s hurting the Earth. I hope someone will tell them that. I hope someone will help stop them?

The injustices that the the Sioux indigenous American Tribes have been subjected to across the last 500 years is heartbreaking. And now they are in a fight against the U.S. government’s plan to force a portion of a 1200 mile corporate oil pipeline to run through their sovereign lands and under their waters at Standing Rock in North Dakota just south of Bismarck. What is happening there is symbolic of a corrupt U.S. government that is forcing energy policy in the wrong direction. In the end, the fight over the construction of this pipeline is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with money in politics. It’s the result of a history of a Corporate controlled Congress and Senate and U.S. exceptionalism ideology.

There are three issues.
First, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River just half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation boundary, where a spill would be culturally and economically catastrophic. Second, the pipeline will pass-through areas of great cultural significance, such as sacred cultural sites and burial grounds. Incredibly, these are sacred sites and burial grounds that federal law is supposed to protect. And third, oil pipelines and fossil fuels are catastrophic to this planet.

In 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the Citizens United Ruling which allows corporations to give unlimited contributions to political campaigns. It’s important to first understand that the relationship between giant corporations and Congress is nothing more than a circle of favors. Powerful Corporations such as oil companies contribute unlimited amounts of money to elect pro-oil sympathetic politicians who will then vote in favor of anything the oil companies want them to legislate.
Our government is corrupt and has become nothing more than the strong-arm of the corporations.

The consequence of this led directly to the decision by president Obama, the Department of Justice’s Loretta Lynch, and the Army Corps of Engineers to standby and do nothing for the last 3 years since 2014 while the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, known as Energy Transfer Partners, or ETP, bulldozed their way towards Sioux sovereign territory at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Many feared that the Dakota access pipeline was simply a back-up solution to the Keystone XL Pipeline, which Trump has now also fast-tracked towards approval.

We should not be building more pipelines at all. Possibly one of the biggest misconceptions of people in the United States is that this oil would be used in the United States. In actuality this oil will be exported to countries across the world and only profit the oil companies. The Media is hiding this from us. Also of importance is that this oil is produced from extracting it from the massive tar sand mines in Alberta Canada, which is one of the most atmospherically harmful methods for producing oil. We need to be investing that money into less expensive renewable energy infrastructure instead.

And of course money in politics goes much deeper than that. The Sioux indigenous Americans brought a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers in July of last  year in an attempt to stop the pipeline from crossing their land and from endangering their waters. But the Army Corps of Engineers has also succumbed to the influence of money in politics. Instead of ruling quickly in favor of the indigenous Americans who were the proprietors of this country’s land in it’s entirety just 400 years ago, the Army Corps brought in the National Guard to protect the interests of the oil companies instead. The National Guard put the Water Protectors through hell.

It’s here you probably wonder why the Sioux would file the lawsuit specifically against the Army Corps of Engineers. So here’s why.
The Army Corps of Engineers regulates and oversees all work in the wetlands and waters of the United States. And this is a dispute about a pipeline crossing a river. The Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental branch program has four functions; compliance, restoration, prevention, and conservation. Therefore, they are the only agency that has the legal power to stop the pipeline from being built across the Missouri River right next to the Sioux territory. It is the Army Corps of Engineers’ responsibility for protecting US waterways and cultural resources. And the request of the Sioux tribes to protect their land and waterways is falling on deaf ears.

First…the Army Corps of Engineers did not do a full environmental impact study, which is the law in the U..S whenever projects like this are initiated. Instead there was an Environmental Assessment Study done. The difference between an Environmental Impact and Assessment study is that with an Assessment study, the oil company is allowed to choose who will do the study. So Energy Transfer Partners hired a known pro-oil climate denier firm to do the study, who of course concluded that there was not an environmental impact to the Sioux tribes from the pipeline.
And this is in conflict with EVERY assessment from EVERY other environmental scientist. In January of 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order for the impact study to be waived.

And then there’s this. Initially the proposed route for the 1,200-mile pipeline had it crossing the Missouri River just north of Bismarck North Dakota…which has a largely white population. The citizens of Bismarck simply voted no. They rightfully rejected it in the interest of protecting their communities and water. So the pipeline was instead rerouted 20 miles south through the Sioux tribal lands. And so our corporate controlled government was doing what they have always done to the indigenous Americans; disregard their rights and sovereignty. This is environmental racism. And when future climate change begins affecting billions of people on this planet, it will once again be environmental racism as the underprivileged will suffer and the rich will be able to avoid and minimize the impact of climate change on their privileged lifestyles. If any of you remember learning about Custard’s Last Stand in grade school, please be aware that these are the same Sioux American tribes that were slaughtered by Custard in the 1800’s to gain access to gold that was found on the small pieces of lands that criminally imposed treaties had left them with.

Ultimately a corrupt government and media and their collusion with the powerful oil companies that control them won’t change overnight. We each need to fight the misinformation in pop culture perpetrated by climate deniers and the media and speak with everyone we can about the importance of moving quickly to renewable energy alternatives. Trump’s executive order to fast-track the oil pipeline’s approval is being challenged in court. But public pressure is one of the most effective tools we have.
This fight is emblematic of the bigger fight to end the collusion of the fossil fuel industry and corporate media’s attempt to impose a journalism media blackout on climate change.
We need to move forward on a global initiative to switch to renewable energy sources.

And as Bernie Sanders tweeted….
You can call the White House at 202-456-1111 or tweet @POTUS & demand they:
-Call off the National Guard
-Stop Dakota Access Pipeline

End.

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