The Irony of Trump’s Executive Action to Advance the Dakota Access Pipeline
“When did the term ‘job-creating’ become an excuse for almost anything and a charitable description for any employer?”
-Christopher Hitchens, [Minority Report,” Nation, 5/08/95]
In 1993, Donald Trump testified before a House subcommittee claiming that the mafia controlled Native American casinos. In a dialogue with Rep. George Miller of California, Trump said,
“If you look at some of the reservations that you’ve approved…they don’t look like Indians to me, and they don’t look like Indians to Indians… and a lot of people are laughing at it, and you’re telling how tough it is, how rough it is to get approved…but you go up to Connecticut, and you look. Now, they don’t look like Indians to me, sir.”
To which Rep. Miller replied,
“Thank God that’s not the test of whether or not people have rights in the country or not. Whether or not they pass your look test.”
Mr. Trump, now President of the United States, is clearly an intellectual when it comes to Native American history and the influx of white settlers on Native American territory. His history of clashes with Native American communities (I encourage anyone reading this to research this) now comes to surface with his executive action to advance the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is simply a slap in the face to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a reflection of the brutal history the United States has with indigenous peoples in this country. After the executive action was signed, President Trump was asked by a reporter to comment on the Standing Rock community and protestors. He simply looked down, and turned the other way. It’s either he is unaware of the protests that have been going on since early 2016, or that he has no regard about the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. I presume it is a combination of both.
The pipeline, which is intended to cross the Missouri River, poses a great threat to Standing Rock’s access to clean water and ancient burial ground. This is a reservation with a poverty rate triple the national average. It’s original route crossed the Missouri River just north of Bismarck, a city off of the Standing Rock Reservation. City residents raised concerns of a possible oil spill, which led the pipe to be rerouted south to go under the same river, right next to Standing Rock. Rightfully so, Native Americans across the Untied States and indigenous peoples around the world have protested in solidarity with Standing Rock. Too often throughout history, Native American communities have been ignored. Land slowly chipped away at, forced conversion into Christianity, exploitation of resources, rape, indiscriminate killing—the list of atrocities against indigenous peoples in this country goes on and on. Captain Richard H. Pratt in the late 19th century said that we must “Kill the Indian, and Save the Man.”
However, these protests are not just about the pipeline, or what the Lakota call, the “black snake.” These protests are also about bringing to surface one of the most violent stains in American history. The residual effects of Indian genocide are certainly apparent today. A simple analysis of statistics on the Native American population show that the youth suicide rate is 2.5x the national average, Native American women have the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, poverty rates on certain reservations are staggering, lack of access to quality healthcare and education is far too common, and alcoholism and other drugs claim the lives of many. The 2014 Native Youth report, spearheaded by the Obama administration, is no longer available on the White House’s website, thanks to the new administration.
The irony of this all is that if President Trump wishes to be a president for “all Americans”, then he has already failed the Native American community in this regard. Let us not forget that Native Americans are American citizens. They vote and are subject to taxation. There have also been well over a hundred thousand Native Americans to serve in our armed forces. We must hold Donald Trump accountable for his statements. There is also absolutely nothing on his campaign website regarding his administration’s intentions to continue the work that the Obama Administration began (and is far from finished) for Native American youth and families.
Take a look at the history books. You would soon realize that despite your political party, the United States has a moral obligation to pull the thousands of Native Americans living in poverty out of the cycle. This is a population that has the longest history of facing injustices in North America. And what does Trump do? Advance the Dakota Access Pipeline. One thing is sure — the Native American community will not give up until the pipeline is either halted or rerouted so that it no longer poses a threat to their people and ancestral land.
Adyel Duran, Sacred Heart University ‘17