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Oglala Sioux Tribe enters pipeline legal fray

The Wakpa Wasté Pow Wow Grounds prayer camp at Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation continued to host pipeline resisters at the tribal government’s invitation in mid-May.

The Wakpa Wasté Pow Wow Grounds prayer camp at Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation continued to host pipeline resisters at the tribal government’s invitation in mid-May.

FT. YATES, N.D. –– As self-described water protectors carried the coals from the snuffed sacred fire at the former Oceti Sakowin Camp here on the banks of the Missouri River, their missions to the four directions spread pipeline resistance by means of a film festival, court actions, new prayer camps, and a redoubled bank divestment campaign.

“The latest news from Standing Rock,” said Monica Gillen, “is the first-ever Standing Rock Nation Film & Music Festival, taking place June 2, 3, 4 in Fort Yates.”

A publicist for the event, Gillen said the unprecedented benefit “has been created to support the water protector movement” and to celebrate the talent of Native American filmmakers, music makers, youth and women of Standing Rock.

Mitchell Zephier, executive director and founder of the Standing Rock Nation Film & Music Festival, said the goal of the three-day weekend is to “empower, enlighten, and entertain the native community and all global citizens through film screenings, panels, and roundtable conversations.”

The agenda also offers a jam fest. Everything is at no cost to the public. However, with large crowds anticipated, participants are encouraged to register in advance online for guaranteed admission at www.standingrockfilmfest.c om. Donations are being accepted for the success of the venture co-founded by Standing Rock tribal member Phyllis Young.

Organizers bill it as a collaboration by and for the Oceti Sakowin, Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation and their water protector allies.

Sponsored by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Project Launch, Lakota People’s Law Project, Sitting Bull College and others, the non-profit undertaking boasts as its original advisers the resistance champions LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Charles Walker, and Doug Crow Ghost.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland on May 18, dismissed Dakota Access Pipeline’s civil case against Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II, Tribal Councilman Dana Yellow Fat, Valerie Wolf Necklace, Clifton Hollow and Jonathan Edwards for Aug. 10-12 actions opposing the pipeline construction. Other defendants in the case remaining are Donald Strickland and Aaron Neyer, who did not file motions to dismiss, according to the Water Protectors Legal Collective.

“As resistance to oil pipelines spreads across the country, today’s ruling is a victory for the right to protest pipeline construction and will also make it more difficult for pipeline companies to threaten or extract monetary damages against protesters,” the collective said in a written release.

The Oglala Sioux Tribe has joined the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River and Yankton Sioux tribes in the federal litigation of a consolidated case against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permitting the Dakota Access Pipeline construction across the Missouri River a half mile upstream from a tribal drinking water intake.

On May 17, the companies behind the pipeline filed to intervene on behalf of the Corps against the Oglala Lakota Tribe’s claims that the permit violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the Mineral Leasing Act, as well as treaty and trust rights.

“The tribe’s claims substantially overlap with those in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in Yankton Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in which Dakota Access has intervened in support of the same defendant,” the pipeline companies say in the motion.

The pipeline is an enterprise of Energy Transfer Partners, Phillips 66, Enbridge Corp., and Marathon Oil Corp. The estimated $3.7-billion investment created a nearly 1,200-mile toxic fracked oil conduit running from the Bakken Formation, centered on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation, across unceded 1851 Ft. Laramie treaty lands in North and South Dakota through Iowa to Illinois.

The line experienced a spill in North Dakota and a spill in South Dakota after oil was introduced into the pipe but before the target date for putting the private infrastructure into service June 1. Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, which just merged, have had more than 320 reported pipeline incidents over the last 11 years.

The Iowa Supreme Court sided with nine Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter on May 16, rejecting Dakota Access Pipeline’s request to dismiss the landowners’ lawsuit alleging misuse of the doctrine of eminent domain to condemn their land for the route.

On May 9, Tara Houska, National Campaigns director of the non-profit Honor the Earth, announced the launch of a new, improved divestment campaign against the banks funding not only Dakota Access, but also the four tar-sands crude-oil pipelines currently proposed to carry fossil fuel out of Canada.

Speaking at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, she said a coalition of grassroots indigenous groups, together with 121 First Nations and tribes, have united in a Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion with a decision to integrate divestment campaigning against all the pipelines.

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs spoke on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion: “We call on all banks and financial institutions to withdraw their investments in the corporations proposing to build new pipelines to carry even more tar-sands oil out of Canada,” he said.

“We call on individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments to withdraw their money from these financial institutions until they divest from these pipeline companies who are violating our rights, our treaties and our sovereignty,” he said.

“We stand in solidarity with the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation and all communities impacted by the Dakota Access Pipeline, and also call for divestment from any financial institution invested in Energy Transfer Partners.”

Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and participant in the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion opined: “We cannot allow Big Oil to divide us or weaken our resistance: Every one of these four tar sands pipelines needs to be stopped in order to stop the expansion of the Alberta tar sands. We stand united in the protection of our water, our communities, our climate, and our ways of life as First Peoples,” he said.

“Much of my community is under water right now due to historic flooding,” he added. “These are the climate fueled disasters that banks are funding by pumping money into these pipeline projects.”

The divestment campaign has created the Mazaska Talks website. Mazaska is Lakota for money. The site is “a centralized resource for this campaign, with detailed financial data as well as tools for taking action,” it claims.

The campaign targets all 61 banks that still provide financing to Energy Transfer Partners or the three companies proposing new tarsands pipelines: TransCanada (Keystone XL and Energy East), Kinder Morgan (TransMountain Expansion), and Enbridge Corp. (Dakota Access and Line 3 Expansion).

Enbridge Corp. was also behind the proposed Northern Gateway tar-sands pipeline, which was defeated by First Nations and popular resistance in 2016, and the proposed Sandpiper Pipeline, which would have been along the same route as Line 3, had the resistance not brought the plan to its knees with a court decision the same year.

The list of primary divestment targets includes the 17 banks that fund all of these companies, as well as the conveners of major multibank credit facilities: Bank of America, Bank of Montreal, Barclays, BNP Paribas, CIBC, Citi, Crédit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Mizuho, MUFG, RBC, SMBC, Scotia- Bank, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo.

BNP Paribas of France, as well as DNB of Norway and ING of the Netherlands, already have responded by selling their shares of loans for the Dakota Access Pipeline development.

“Divestment is the next stage in the fight against the black snake that has come to poison our lands,” said Matt Remle of Last Real Indians, a leader of the coalition that successfully pushed the City of Seattle to divest over $3 billion from DAPL banks earlier this year.

“Big oil and their financial backers are not persuaded by moral and environmental arguments, so it is time to hit them in the pocket book. The resistance at Standing Rock changed the world. Indigenous nations are rising up to create a future with clean water and respect for human rights.”

So far, the divestment movement launched during the resistance at Standing Rock has withdrawn more than $5 billion from DAPLfunding banks, including the money from Seattle in the state of Washington, and the California cities of Davis and Santa Monica, as well as over $80 million in individual accounts.

“Many of these banks already have human rights directives in place and all should have policies respecting indigenous communities. Houska said. “Financiers should follow their own rules. Passing the blame onto companies committing atrocities and a federal government willing to overrun its citizens’ rights for profit is unacceptable.

“We are consumers; we have agency, and we have a say in how our money is invested.” she added. Houska recently traveled to Norway and Switzerland as part of an indigenous women’s delegation that met with several banks and Norway’s oil fund.

The remaining targeted banks also are backing the new expansion of the DAPL system into the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana, as well as the four proposed tarsands pipelines that together would dispense some 3 million barrels a day of the world’s dirtiest oil.

TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL Pipeline seeks to supply 830,000 barrels per day. Its Energy East Pipeline would pump 1.1 million barrels per day. Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain Pipeline would ramp up the company’s supply from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day. Enbridge Corp.’s Line 3 would expand capacity from 390,000 to 915,000 barrels per day.

A draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) came out on May 15 for the Enbridge Corp.’s proposed Line 3 project.

The DEIS announcement initiated a public comment period that runs through July 10, on the plan to build the new oil pipeline in Minnesota to replace the existing Line 3. This line serves the Alberta Canada tar sands located in Dene and Cree territories.

Enbridge Corp. says the new pipeline would follow the existing Line 3 route from North Dakota to the Clearbrook Terminal in Clearwater County, Minnesota. From the Clearbrook Terminal eastward, the company would build in a different right-of-way, south of the existing one, with the object of reaching a terminal in Superior, Wisconsin.

The old Line 3, which runs through Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations, would be permanently deactivated and remain in place, according to plans.

Enbridge states that the purpose of the project is to address pipeline integrity and safety concerns related to the operating Line 3 and to restore flow to the original line’s capacity.

Enbridge has applied for a certificate of need and a route permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to build and operate the project. Following completion of the environmental impact statement and public hearings, the commission is expected to make decisions on the certificate of need and route permit applications.

Line 3 resisters say that an Enbridge oil pipeline spill in Minnesota on March 3, 1991, was even larger than the company’s spill into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, which has been deemed the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

On May 16, a Kalamazoo County Commission vote made it the 60th Michigan governmental body to call for shutdown of the Line 5, which caused the spill. Opponents of the line fear it will rupture again in the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes at the head of the Mississippi River.

In the Minnesota incident, Line 3 pipe ruptured near Grand Rapids, spewing over 1.7 million gallons of oil, much of which flowed into the Prairie River, a tributary to the Mississippi. Were it not for an 18-inch ice pack on the river, the spill could have poisoned the drinking water of millions downstream “and would likely be remembered very differently,” they said.

Comments may be emailed, mailed, or faxed. Email address: Pipeline.Comments@state.m U.S. Mail: Jamie MacAlister, Environmental Review Manager, Minnesota Department of Commerce, 85 7th Place East, Suite 280 St. Paul, MN 55101-2198 Fax: 651-539- 0109 The department requires submitter use the docket numbers CN-14-916 and PPL-15-137 on all comments.

The new campaign to defund the tar-sands pipelines coincides with a time of unprecedented economic vulnerability in the tar-sands industry, marked by consistently low oil prices and an extremely high cost of extraction. Major oil companies have been withdrawing from the tar sands steadily over the past two years.

On May 19, Communities United for a Just Transition held a webinar called Divest to Reinvest. Capping off a Global Divestment Week, the free public training sessions promoted the idea of moving beyond pipeline resistance to “clean energy resilience.”

“There is great opportunity coming off the heels of the powerful organizing, victories and increasingly unified work among fossil fuel divestment, prison divestment, DeFundDAPL, DeFundPipelines, Boycott- Divestment-Sanctions, and BankExit,” organizers said.

“We can’t stop with divestment. It’s critical to move capital into indigenous, black, immigrant, and working class communities on the frontlines of the extractive economy. Capital must be put to use to build transformative local living economies under the governance of communities themselves rather than destructive financiers far from the impact of financial decisions.”

The webinar covered models for reinvestment campaigns in cities and universities, tools for individuals to move their money, building alternative institutions for banking and credit, local loan funds and financial cooperatives, as well as resources for individuals and campaigns to move capital.

The session featured experts in challenging the extractive economy and shifting to an economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable and just: Marnie Thompson, co-managing director of the Fund for Democratic Communities, Deyanira del Rio, is co-director of New Economy Project and Board Chair of the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union, Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan, a collective staff member of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, Jamie Trinkle, senior campaign and research coordinator of Enlace, and Vanessa Green, Campaign Director of DivestInvest Individual.

Climate Justice Alliance and the Indigenous Environmental Network promoted the occasion.

While the Wakpa Waste Pow Wow Grounds prayer camp at Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation continued to host pipeline resisters at the tribal government’s invitation, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council acknowledged a spirit camp is being staked west of Browning, Montana.

However, a statement signed by Tribal Business Council Chair Harry Barnes on May 18, distances the elected body from the development that is a response to TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.

“The Blackfeet Tribe is aware there is a self-proclaimed Water Protester Camp taking place west of Browning toward Starr School,” it says. “While the Blackfeet Tribe acknowledges the right to assembly and association, the Blackfeet Tribe is not affiliated with this encampment nor does the tribe sanction any of its activities, speakers, and solicitations.

“They do have the right to gather and express their concerns and opinions, but hopefully this is done peacefully and in a respectful manner,” it concludes.

At the other end of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, in Nebraska, pipeline fighters invited people to submit comments to the Public Service Commission, which is debating whether to give the project a green light to build through the state.

The comment form is available at: min_ forms/pipeline.html

Montana and South Dakota state governments have permitted the project. But tribes and non-profits are suing at both the federal and state level to prevent it.

(Contact Talli Nauman at

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