Standing Rock standoff inspires others
CANCUN, Mexico –– As icy blizzards pelted the spirit camps in Lakota Territory – where defenders of water and Native American treaty land have stood in the way of Dakota Access Pipeline construction since April – representatives of indigenous peoples who gathered here on a blazing hot beach for a two-week international meeting said the historic resistance movement in the Northern Great Plains inspires their hopes for recognition of territorial and human rights in Latin America.
The oil pipeline’s recent setback with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ positive response to spirit camp prayers for permit denial of a proposed Missouri River pipeline crossing upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s main drinking water intake resonated with Cuna Grand Chief Igua of Panama, among others.
In Mexico for the 13th annual round of negotiations over the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, Igua, whose name translates to Tropical Almond, told Native Sun News Today, “The Cuna people share this triumph and we applaud it. We feel it is a victory for us, too.”
Like the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, and other tribes who claim the pipeline construction violates territorial and civil rights under the U.S. Constitution and 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty, the Guna, Embera and Wounaan of the Caribbean Coast are grappling with Panama’s federal imposition of police-enforced restrictions on their use of ancestral homelands that are being damaged by roads and other infrastructure projects.
Igua said that maintaining spirituality is the key to success. “Today the talk is all about science, climate change, biodiversity and politics. But that’s all new. The original peoples have kept equilibrium based on a thousand-year-old philosophy,” he said.
His Panama hat’s band is decorated with the universal whirling-log design, which he described as a symbol of harmony, stability, peace, “and when we’re fed up, war,” he added. “We are products of the cosmos and Mother Earth. Without spirituality our struggle will not prosper,” he said.
During the two-week U.N. Biodiversity Conference of national parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, indigenous peoples’ authorities, subnational governments, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and business leaders all scheduled events to promote their agendas.
On Dec. 11, more than 180 people took out canoes and kayaks along the coast of the conference venue in Cancun on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to join Greenpeace in conveying a demand for convention negotiators to recognize the central role that indigenous communities play in assuring conservation of air, soil, water, habitat, animals, plants, food, medicine and cultural survival.
The event was sponsored by the Mesoamerican Peoples and Forests Alliance together with the Amazon Basin Indigenous Organizations Coordinator.
Many of the 50 participating native leaders from rural Mexico, Central America, the Amazon, the United States, Indonesia and Morocco, were introduced by Ihanktonwan and Chickasaw tribal elder Chief Phil Lane Jr., chair of Four Worlds International Institute, a Panama-based foundation.
Wearing a headdress and sneakers, Lane said the convergence of native nations in the 6-mile rowing event sought to stress their shared demand for guarantees of the rights to land bases, consultation, and free prior informed consent on habitat decisions, as well as their demand for an end to criminalization of “defenders” of the environment.
“For us it’s one in the same struggle from the coasts to the forests to the high plains,” he told Native Sun News Today. “All of the people I’ve met here are inspired by Standing Rock.”
North Dakota law enforcement officers have arrested 571 people who call themselves “water protectors” during militarized police operations to thwart pipeline civil disobedience actions and prayer vigils along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the Army, which is a foundation of the resistance and remains to be litigated in federal court, argues lack of consultation, the danger of water pollution from an oil spill, and destruction of sacred historic cultural properties.
More than 700 tribes and organizations worldwide have endorsed the tribe’s stance on DAPL, noting that not only is cultural heritage at stake, but crude oil spilling into the Oahe Reservoir on the Missouri River would affect more than 17 million people’s lives and livelihoods downstream in the breadbasket of the United States.
On Dec. 15, Cheyenne River Sioux Chair Harold Frazier, whose tribe has joined the Standing Rock lawsuit, formally requested the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation “take steps to investigate all of the abuses committed against my people during this DAPL debacle, to include identifying and investigating perpetrators, taking witness statements, writing police reports and referring potential defendants for charges to be filed by the appropriate authorities.”
After visiting the spirit camps, Frazier concluded the state response there reveals that “our very right to exist as Indian people is at stake.
“We were told by North Dakota police we could not touch the water; we could be arrested or shot if we touched the water,” he said. “That is not right, because that river and water is ours through treaties.
“North Dakota has a terrible bias against Indian people and abuses its criminal jurisdiction against us,” he observed, recalling the Tasers, tear gas, concussion grenades, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water hosing, and bean bag pellets, armored vehicles and airborne surveillance that North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s $17 million in emergency loans have allowed officers to unleash on pipeline demonstrators and prayer vigils.
Frazier dissed the pipeline security team members who illegally unleashed trained attack dogs on resisters, labeling the hired guards as “DAPL mercenaries”, and called to task law enforcement for failing to take into custody a man who plowed his vehicle through a group of bystanders and aimed a loaded assault rifle into a nearby crowd.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told Native Sun News Today that the law enforcement emergency response is not biased. “It doesn’t matter what race you are,” he said. “If you do what’s legal, you have no issues. Of you do what’s not lawful, then you do. It doesn’t matter what race you are when it comes to that.”
The private security and the public law enforcement under his command are protecting the business interests in the pipeline leases of a consortium comprised by Energy Transfer Partners, Phillips 66, Enbridge Corp., and Marathon Oil Corp., which estimates an investment of more than $3.7 billion in the nearly 1,200-mile toxic fracked oil pipeline.
The venture would move oil from the Bakken Formation centered on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation across the treaty lands in North and South Dakota through Iowa to Illinois. There it would meet another line the same companies are building.
They claim DAPL would distribute oil to “major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner.” It would substitute rail and truck transportation of the fossil fuel to Energy Transfer Partners’ wholly owned subsidiary Sunoco Logistics Partners.
Fingered for upwards of 200 leaks since 2010, Sunoco Logistics Partners has spilled crude oil more than any of its competitors. Together with its parent company, it has vowed that the Army’s decision to deny permitting will not stop the companies from finishing the job.
If the companies do not complete the project by Jan. 1, a majority of the stakeholders with contracts to ship oil through the pipeline will be able to renegotiate or cancel their contracts. Energy Transfer Partners recently failed in a bid to expedite its court case for permitting, so it will not have a new hearing until after the crucial date.
While the permit is suspended, $1.4 billion of bank loans are on hold, and pipeline opponents are rallying at bank offices worldwide behind a petition for bankers to cut their line of credit to the companies.
Water protectors from Standing Rock and New York shut down Chase, Wells Fargo and TD Bank outlets in New York City on Dec. 16, while 2,000 people marched in a Los Angeles solidarity action, carrying a mock pipeline through the city streets.
Idle No More San Francisco Bay, Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty Signers, and Friends of the Earth scheduled a peaceful action opposing pipeline financing in downtown San Francisco on Dec. 19.
The financial institutions involved with the deal are: TD Securities, CitiBank, Chase, PNC, US Bank, Bank of America, SunTrust, Wells Fargo, Citizens Bank, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Community Trust, HSBC Bank, Deutsche Bank, Compass Bank, Credit Suisse, Sumitomo Mitsui Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, UBS, Comerica, BNP Paribas, Bank of Nova Scotia, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho Bank, ABN Amro Capital, Credit Agricole, Intesa Sanpaolo, ING Bank, Natixis, BayernLB, BBVA Securities, ICBC London, SMBC Nikko Securities, and Societe Generale.
About 1,000 spirit camp participants vowed to tough out the winter on the banks of the Cannon Ball and Missouri rivers, while thousands more headed to take action elsewhere in the wake of Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II urging against risking months of inclement weather.
“The coming winter is expected to be one of the worst in recent history, but we stand committed to killing this Black Snake once and for all,” said official camps’ media representative Redhawk, as he bid adieu to the departing participants of Red Warrior Society, who were lodged inside the Oceti Sakowin Camp grounds.
For its part, Red Warrior Society (formerly Red Warrior Camp) released a statement responding to Archambault’s appeal. “After months of active duty as warriors fighting for sacred water and protecting sacred ground, and due to the current political climate here at Standing Rock, Red Warrior Camp is evolving. We are taking time to recoup and expand on who we are as a Society,” it stated.
“In order to best honor our ancestors and the future generations, we are living our principles by forming a warrior society rooted in combatting the indoctrination of our minds, bodies, and spirits. Our Red Warrior family has undertaken the responsibility and role to uphold not only Mother Earth but indigenous rights. It is with this duty in mind we must rise up and move on.”
As the resisters exited Morton County, the County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz and Sheriff Kirchmeier offered words of gratitude “to the many people and organizations that have given overwhelming support to law enforcement during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.”
Kirchmeier thanked the Girl Scouts of Mandan “for bringing in 100 ‘Law Enforcement Survival’ goodie bags. “The officers love them,” he said on Dec. 13.
“From hand-made cards and food donations to the regard and care given to law enforcement and their families, our community has truly honored the men and women serving Morton County. This outpouring of support has not gone unnoticed,” his department said in a statement.
(Contact Talli Nauman, NSNT Health and Environment Editor at email@example.com)