Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline is the latest chapter in over a century of war against the Sioux Nation

1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie borders
The Lakota, Dakota, Nakota (Sioux tribes) and other indigenous peoples inhabiting the plains before settlers began expanding into their territory were not exactly pacifists, but it seems they preferred non-lethal warfare such as “counting coup”. Traditions of warfare were institutionalized by rules, much like sport. The discovery of gold in California in 1849, and subsequent encounters with the US Army, began changing this. The first Treaty of Fort Laramie was signed in 1851, including a number of indigenous groups including the Sioux Nation. The picture on the right, particularly the portion shaded in red, shows what the boundaries of the Sioux Nation would look like had that treaty been respected by the U.S. government and by settlers. It should be noted that there was considerable cultural misunderstanding and that not all of the tribes actually signed it. Another treaty was attempted in 1868. Again, not all tribes signed it, a notable non-signer including Sitting Bull's tribe.

The details of all that happened in our history are beyond the scope of this article, but to go over a few highlights: the beginning of the transcontinental railroad. Red Cloud's War. Wholesale killing of buffalo, an important source of food, clothing, and shelter for the Sioux, after the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The Indian Appropriation Act in 1871. Western Indians forbidden by military orders from leaving reservations. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874. US Government offers to buy land but Sioux refuse to sell. In 1875 war breaks out over the treaty violations. The Dawes Act in 1887, forcing western conceptions of land ownership on the Indians and stealing a lot of the land for settlers in the process. The Wounded Knee massacre, an indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children, in which 20 Congressional Medals of Honor for Valor were given to the 7th Calvary. In 1990, the Supreme Court rules that the Second Treaty of Fort Laramie was indeed violated, but rather than returning the land, offers a one-time cash payment, which the Sioux refuse to accept. Conditions on the Pine Ridge reservation today are worse than many third world nations. If you would like a more detailed history, you may watch Aaron Huey's lecture, the documentary Red Cry, the Republic of Lakotah website, and for a brief more worldwide perspective the short clip here.

What has been happening recently with regards to the Dakota Access Pipeline is a shameful continuation of long war, though perhaps part of why it is now receiving more attention is that non-indigenous people are beginning to be treated the way indigenous people have been treated for centuries. These things may seem unrelated, but if you'll bear with me, I'll attempt to demonstrate that they all tie together. Additionally, we have video cameras and the internet now so that news of what is happening can be more easily shared, even if it's not the story the U.S. government wants us to see.

For example, Cindy Coppola, an Iowa farmer, was interviewed by Lee Camp of Redacted Tonight after being arrested on her own farm for protesting and blocking the construction equipment that was tearing apart her farm. Welcome to the regime of the USSA, I mean USA, where it is apparently not permitted to protest on your own land. Cindy and the other Iowa farmers fighting the eminent domain of the pipeline in court requested a stay until their court date, which isn't until December 14th. The pipeline's lawyers claimed it would cost them half a million dollars to skip over these farmers and come back, if granted the stay, so the request for a stay was declined, unless the farmer's agreed to put up a half million bond each. About a week later, the pipeline company skipped ahead to their land to bury their pipes, even though they hadn't dug on either side yet. When this whole fight started a couple years back, there were many more farmers fighting the eminent domain. The nine still fighting are the ones actually able to afford to go to court. The pipeline company has convinced the state that they are a utility, so they are being regulated by the Iowa Utilities Board. While putting the pipe in, the company left behind and buried a lot of their debris. Ms. Coppola jokes that she'll believe a corporation's a person when Texas executes one. She mentions that she attended nonviolent training before protesting, other occasions she protested this pipeline, and wishes good luck to anyone else fighting a large corporation's eminent domain. If you watch Lee Camp's full episode, he does an excellent job of making fun of CNN and their war against “fake news”. Highlight: CNN tells people it's only legal for the media to look at the Wikileak's emails.

This is hardly the only shenanigans that's been going on in Iowa. Like when a number of protestors were arrested for trespassing with the permission of the landowner. That's right, trespassing, with the permission of the landowner. While the Dakota Access workers were there without the landowner's permission. Some of the people making the arrests were apparently private security.

Drilling rig violating land without consent
of landowner. Source: Split Estate

Oil and gas companies have been trampling all over the land of farmers and other country folk without their permission for years now. It's not just about the pipeline. It's also about how they are obtaining the oil and gas to begin with. One interviewee in the documentary film Split Estate states, “We are in a split estate situation where we own the surface and someone else owns the mineral rights, and what happens in Colorado and in I think in most western states is the mineral rights are dominant.” I suppose I can't hope to convince readers who believe that property rights are whatever the government says they are, but if you believe in any type of natural property/homesteading rights and/or stewardship at all, then this is essentially eminent domain for oil and gas drillers. Only worse, since eminent domain usually involves better compensation. (Not mentioned in Split Estate, forced pooling is another method used by oil and gas corporations to drill without landowner consent.) Another interviewee states, “We have uh 70 acres here, and I can't convince them that they need to drill somewhere besides 200 feet from our house.” Another, “Sometimes I said, you come out here and live, you come out here and live in my house for a week. I have no rights.” A representative from ConocoPhillips also admits that, “We do drill in populated areas,” so this isn't limited only to farmers and ranchers.

This is not just about landowner rights. This is also about human health and life. Between 2003 and 2008, it is estimated that there were 1435 spills in Colorado alone. Laura Amos, landowner, stated “As everyone in this room probably knows, my groundwater has been contaminated with methane [inaudible] gas. There's a lot of people in this room with contamination and pollution issues. So who then is responsible to me for that, that loss of my welfare if it's not you the gas commission?” Another Split Estate interviewee said, “You know they were doing okay as long as the rigs and that weren't there and it was just the working well and um you still got of smells and that and I just couldn't be outside, it wasn't in the house. But, uh, then they brought in, um, the temporary rig, cause they were having problems with one of the holes I think. And then the smells all started up again, cause they were they were doing the fracking, and it all blows right over here. We had one back there behind us, we had two on the side here, that were all working, you know, flaring with gas, and um, and I got much more ill after the fire, whatever was there just burned and came right at me. You know, it was like somebody had just dumped chemicals on me. Finally I couldn't stand it anymore and Monday my husband took me to the emergency room at the hospital.” However, without information on what chemicals were used, all the tests were inconclusive. Regarding her grandchildren, “Yeah, they've been pretty sick, they've had colds, asthma, lung infections.”
Another interviewee, speaking of his wife and himself, says, “And then everything changed. Chris would get in the shower and her skin turned bright red. I think it was in '96. It hurt her skin, it was burning, on fire, she would swell. […] I'd feel dizzy, um, I'd get bloody noses. […] I was afraid she was gonna bleed to death. She'd wake up in the morning and she would be covered in blood and her nose would be bleeding just like crazy, the pillow was covered in blood, the sheets were covered with blood. […] Put a glass of water out and let it sit overnight and there was like a little oil slick on top […] it burned […] this was the water that they said was safe to drink.”

Flaming tap water. Source: Gasland
In his documentary films Gasland and Gasland 2, environmentalist Josh Fox continues the theme of interviewing landowners, with special emphasis on health effects. An interviewee states, “Sometimes [the water] bubbles and hisses when it comes out. […] When Cabot and them came in to get the water and they were telling me it was okay to drink I said well here go ahead and drink it, and they wouldn't drink it. […] There were days when four kids were out of school sick. Everybody was sick, pretty, including me, we were all, our stomachs were really really acting up, couldn't handle eating anything for over a month, right, and then Gene next door talked to me at church and said, 'You notice anything funny about your water? Our well's gone bad.'”

Another interviewee, “Four and a half years ago, Ronda got really sick with an extreme neuropathy and--and is in a lot of pain, and she just faded fast.” Another, “The deck was enveloped and it had this big grey cloud […] so we were in the house I'd say mostly at the most 15 minutes when I got up and passed out and you get pains, pains all over your body, you don't know why you're getting the pains, and then they come and go and they'll show up in another part of your body. So I got to the point where, um, I was walking with a 4-pronged steel cane because I couldn't walk on my own.” Another, “It really started to bother me when my boys were having nosebleeds. Josh, he'd wake up and then he'd be panicked because he has blood everywhere. Seeing my baby in that way was kinda traumatizing. At what point do you say nosebleeds are one thing, but I don't want to see my child with leukemia and then look back and go well if I had moved, maybe my child would be healthy.”

Josh Fox also managed to obtain recordings and other information from an industry strategy sharing meeting. A highlight, “We have several former PSYOPs folks that work for us at Range because they're very comfortable in dealing with um localized issues and local governments. [...] Having that understanding of PSYOPs in the Army and in the middle east has applied very helpfully here, um, for us in Pennsylvania.” Another, “In almost every instance where I've gone up against a strong activist insurgency, it does not matter what the facts are. Because the facts stand in the way of your ability to raise funds.” If you would like more details on oil and gas drilling operations across the US and also a bit of footage from Australia, and how this is impacting landowners, families, and communities, feel free to watch Split Estate, Gasland, and Gasland 2 for yourself.

Part of what I'm trying to demonstrate here is that the process of dehumanization, once begun, doesn't end with whomever is the initial target. For centuries, the US government and other governments of colonial nations, and whatever corporations and citizens are their accomplices, have oppressed, warred against, and stolen land and resources away from indigenous peoples, and now we see them turning against farmers, ranchers, and anyone else in the way of their imperialistic profiteering. Our national governments train military personnel in PSYOPs and send them to the middle east, and then they come back and are hired by imperialist corporations to use PSYOPs against our fellow citizens. Soldiers who develop PTSD sometimes lash out at their spouses after coming home. A society which is willing to hurt foreign nationals tends to be more willing to hurt its own as well. It is a common charge of nationalist war hawks that those of us who oppose war do not care enough about our fellow citizens. While the notion that one human life is more worthy of not being cut short than another, merely by virtue of the location of their birth, is offensive to many of us who oppose war, this is unfortunately how many people think, and it is possible to counter their argument, within the context of their own values, by pointing out the harm our nation's warmongering ways has on our fellow citizens. Indeed, quite a number of nationalists, including some self-admitted racists, have already realized this on some level and joined the anti-war/anti-imperialism cause.

All this means that when we see the Lakota and around 280 other tribes (perhaps more by now) standing up to the oil pipeline companies, they are not just standing up for themselves, nor do they stand alone anymore. Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, and other pipelines, is an area where a number of interests converge. Hope that one day we might be able to compel our governments and corporations to treat indigenous people respectfully. Farmers, ranchers, and other landowners who are tired of having little or no rights on their own land thanks to mineral rights and forced pooling, tired of getting sick so that others can profit. More farmers who don't like their land being taken by eminent domain to make way for the pipeline, and can be arrested for trying to protest on their own land before they've even had their day in court. Black Lives Matter activists who want to show solidarity with indigenous people. Veterans for Peace. Food Not Bombs. ACLU. Amnesty International. Anyone concerned about melting polar ice caps and living in a low elevation area somewhere in the world. And for that matter, anyone, even folks all the way in Australia, who is pained in their hearts to witness what is happening.
We're talking about the drinking water for 8 million people. Concerns about the danger posed to the potability of the water are not unfounded. In October, a pipeline run by Sunoco Logistics, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, one of the companies behind DAPL, broke and dumped 55,000 gallons of gasoline into the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. An oil pipeline in Peru had 23 ruptures since 2011, as of August. The Peruvian Amazon has been referred to as a “sacrifice zone”. The USA has a long history of “sacrifice zones”. According to Amanda Starbuck, 80 people have been killed in the USA in pipeline leaks and ruptures since 2010.

Recently, we've been seeing a rather brutal crackdown on non-mainstream journalism. Deia Schosberg arrested for filming a pipeline-related protest from public property, charged with felonies. Says Josh Fox, “We've been in situations throughout the entire world including tracking into the Amazon for you know 12 kilometers to find oil spills that no one is reporting on the film goes to the you know Samoa and um you know China where I'm chased by the secret police and enter Mongolia, never did I think in a million years that Deia's livelihood and her life would be most threatened and this is a person I've seen negotiate tarantulas and green pit vipers in the Amazon but I never thought her gravest threat would be from our own government.” Erin Schrode was shot by police with a rubber bullet while interviewing a protestor on camera. Unicorn Riot reports four of their journalists being arrested in connection with the protests. Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman was charged as a rioter due to her filming, though the charges were dismissed. Police firing on airborne media drones. Furthermore, journalists who attend police press conferences are being lied to. In an interview with RT, Josh Fox states, “What's really alarming, is that not only is there an attack on journalism, but there is an attack on the truth. If you are in the [inaudible] I mean look as journalists you know how often we have to quote the police, but if the police are being 100-percent untruthful, if there's no credibility coming out of the police department whatsoever, how can you say that they're doing anything like enforcing the law. They're just becoming a criminal gang protecting the pipeline.”

Protestors have been shot with rubber bullets, tear gassed, water canonned, grenaded, pepper sprayed, attacked with dogs, allegedly held in dog kennels after being arrested, etc. A DAPL security worker wielding a rifle is believed to have attempted to infiltrate a protestor camp.
The protestors have been using non-violent tactics. (To clarify, I mean non-violent in Ghandian sense, not the Rothbardian sense, in case any libertarian-leaning people are reading this.) Nonviolent tactics are apparently so threatening to the US government, that they have apparently used “agent provocateurs” against the anti-war group “Food Not Bombs” as part of their efforts to brand the group as “terrorists”. According to their website, the group believes they were labeled as terrorists because, “All we had done was claim we had the right to feed the hungry in protest to war and poverty. […] The U.S. government was also concerned that our failure to stop sharing food as directed would threaten their ability to manipulate the hungry by moving food programs to more desirable locations or by threatening to withhold food if the public didn't cooperate with the authorities. Since we will provide food wherever and whenever it is needed, this interferes with the government’s ability to use food for social control.” Against the DAPL protestors, we primarily see the government cracking down on journalism and lying at police press conferences (though this does not rule out the possibility that there may be agent provocateurs, especially considering that DAPL security worker found with the rifle). Nonviolent resistance aims in large part at reaching the hearts of the public – but this requires the public to be able to see what is happening.

While I was writing this, the DAPL protestors did manage at least a limited victory, when the US Army Corps of Engineers denied a particular easement request, specifically relating to the part of the pipeline that would go near Standing Rock. However, it is unknown if this decision will be able to hold. A number of protestors are remaining. Even assuming the pipeline companies are ultimately forced to reroute, it would still have to cross water somewhere, unless the whole project is called off. (Yes, I realize that was over a week ago, but I tried to publish this article on another website before giving up and posting it on my blog instead.)

Of course, the oil and gas companies, the government… these things do not act on their own. Oil and gas corporations do ultimately serve at the whims of the consumers. For example, most people who pay an electric bill have the option to buyrenewable energy instead of fossil fuel energy. For an idealist, analyzing one's full complicity, even if accidental, in this is likely to be painful. But not unimportant – is it possible to fight war or any other injustice with any level of effectiveness or authenticity, if we ignore our own role in causing it in the first place? However, in the short term, looking at their requests might be more practical.

On a final note, philospher-artists Giordano Nanni and Hugo Farrant suggest, “Why are some of us now being called 'non-indigenous'? It's fitting, I guess, for a population that wants to mimic this meme of invading aliens from Hollywood picture flicks who kill the natives and ravage the planet of all its riches quick. To survive, some say we need to heed indigenous people. Perhaps what we also need need is to be indigenous, people. Do we belong to planet earth, or to an alien invasion?”

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