Saying No to Oil

Instead of moving America toward renewables, our leaders call global warming a hoax. They stand with oil industry even with the many damaging leaks and sometimes catastrophic destruction of life. We have plenty of examples. Who can forget the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It caused a community to live in fear and dread for a summer as 200 million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf before it could be contained. We, as a nation, held our breath. We watched as the leak killed gulf wildlife, fish and sea plants, and migrating birds. It threatened jobs in the fishing and tourist industry. One man, gave up. Just gave up and killed himself. He knew his business, chartering fishing boats would never recover. His name was Rookie and in his mind, the Deepwater Horizon destroyed his future and the gulf. His boats were among those sent out to help clean the water, and capture the oil, but to him and others, the whole thing was a show, looking good for the camera. How do fishing vessels clean a slick that size and that deep in the water? In the end, fines were paid, clean up seemed to work, at least according to the commercials, and we moved on. Never mind that the damage is still there and the oil spill changed the gulf, probably forever.

That was in 2010. Could it have been so long ago? Have we changed? Did we learn anything?

It doesn’t look like it. The oil industry has once again forced a community to come to grips with its power and its legacy of the damage that comes with a spill. This time, it isn’t a spill itself, but the anticipation that one will come. And this time, someone is finally saying no in a big way. The small, rural, Standing Rock Lakota Sioux community has taken a stand as water protectors against Dakota Access Pipeline Company and they vow to stay.

It was bound to happen. That such a strong and defiant stand happened in North Dakota in a tribal community may have come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn’t have. This community clearly loves and respects the land that surrounds it. The people understand the importance of the water to their community. They honor those who came before them and who lived in the many villages where the remains and artifacts are still buried. Their Lakota community stretches beyond the ancient seven council fires to all indigenous people and when the others heard the call they came. They understand better than most. We are all related.

The issue of the pipeline might not have happened at all, but for a route change to satisfy and placate one community, only to put a burden on another. The proposed route was north of Bismarck. The people of the city objected when it became clear their water supply might be in danger if and when a pipeline leak occurred. The route was altered, crossing south through land the Sioux people believed to have been allotted to them with the Treaty of Fort Laramie. It would also be crossing what was sacred land to the people. Those agreeing to the route change believed differently, not taking into account that the land had been stolen over the years in land grabs.

It’s December 3rd as I write this. We are now seeing what the North Dakota state government and the powerful oil industry, in this particular case Dakota Access, will do in an attempt to overrun a people who are trying to protect their water. They will use whatever violence they can, just short of illegal. Their legal tactics are humiliating and the threats of prison would make most quake. What makes it even more disheartening is that while the Standing Rock community is taking a stand to protect the water supply for themselves and all those communities downstream, Dakota Access is in a desperate race to fulfill a contract . It’s a contract to finish a pipeline that Bismarck wanted away from their city, because they assumed, just as Standing Rock does that it will someday leak.

To state, as some have, that the tribe didn’t object early on, is false. The community of Standing Rock is on record, objecting to the project from the beginning. It wasn’t just a stand against damage to the water, but as they made very clear from the beginning, they feared the damage to the sacred sites as the equipment cut through the soil. Standing Rock reveres the ancient villages, where the remains artifacts lay. They should not be disturbed. Tribal Chair Archambault has been quoted saying, “We ask that you consult with Standing Rock, because we do have the expertise and we have knowledge of where the sites are.”

What the pipeline did instead, was gain access to the plans while in court with the Standing Rock legal team, and use the information to hop scotch over a construction site they had been working on, to those ancient sacred sites. That’s when things began to really heat up between Dakota Access and Standing Rock.

Continue to part 2.