These are some of the factors that complicate the DAPL issue:
1. Bureaucracy, communications, and tribal sovereignty: “proper” advanced notification and acquiring permission of where pipeline was scheduled to be placed…did Standing Rock Sioux Tribe not act in time to decline the idea of the pipeline being rerouted after Bismarck had declined the first suggested route?
2. Environmental concerns: fear of negative impacts on people’s drinking water, land, water, flora, and fauna due to the pipeline (it’s insertion? or in the case of a leak?)
3. Unwarranted violence by the police on unarmed protesters
4. Protesters’ aggressive tactics to derail pipeline construction (mobbing construction workers’ efforts to get home?)
5. Media clusterfuck that perpetuates opinion instead of objective reporting and fact-checking
6. The pipeline is going through lands that are sacred to the Dakota people living on Standing Rock…this statement is contested by some, trivialized by others, fiercely defended by others
7. Uncomfortable ironies: SRST’s Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II owning a gas station, conflicting sources about who said or did what, and means to get to Oceti Sakowin…via car, and thus a direct beneficiary of oil
8. Misinformation about who owns or is entitled to the land the pipeline is going through: is it governed by the Fort Laramie treaty? Is it private land?
9. Ongoing cultural misunderstanding and interchange between Native peoples and non-Native peoples: different groups have different ways of accomplishing a task
When I went to Oceti Sakowin, 500-some clergy stood with Standing Rock. We had convened the day beforehand and agreed we would abide by the following principles: prayerful, peaceful, non-violent, and lawful. So that’s what we did. Among others, the following Christian denominations were present: Baptist, United Methodist, Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Lutheran. Thursday morning they each picked a representative who read their denomination’s statement rescinding the Doctrine of Discovery. This doctrine was issued in 1493 in a papal bull by Pope Alexander VI*1 ; it is known as one of the staple documents that endorsed North American colonization of indigenous peoples. Also present were different religions such as Judaism (they blew the ram’s horn! so cool!), Islam, and Buddhism. By sheer numbers and presence, we made a statement, and that was welcomed by some and looked down on by others. Of these clergy, 14 or so got arrested while doing a sit-in at the capitol grounds in Bismarck; they wanted to speak to Governor Jack Darlymple.*2
My gut reaction is that this protest is the headliner, but the serious complicated murky stuff about who did or didn’t participate in the conversation leading up to digging the pipeline…that’s the real issue that doesn’t go away with protesters yelling or police using mace. That involves the tribe’s legal team.
Media is less than nuanced in all of this, for both sides. I personally believe this is an opportunity where Native groups are pushing hard because they’re sick of being a minority that is not taken seriously, and it’s coming to a head- not just because they’re upset about the pipeline. When it comes to tribal sovereignty, I don’t think the standard American knows that the US government is required to negotiate with tribes on a nation to nation basis, which is why, for example, tribes operate under their health care systems (Indian Health Services).
Native religious tradition is a huge aspect of camp; the fight they’re fighting isn’t just legal and environmental, it has huge spiritual significance to them that are connected to prophecy. My last day at camp, the leaders initiated a sacred ceremony that was not privy to media- they’re seeking strength because their people’s lifestyle is (and has always been) threatened.
Cultural differences are key- the Natives I know do not approach negotiation with papers and an outline. They approach it by inviting those conversation partners into their lives, figuring what they are about and if their intentions are honorable, then they convene with each other and come to a consensus. That takes a great deal of time- I liken it to zig-zagging from point A to point B instead of the white man way of drawing a straight line to point A then B.
The provoking that both water protectors and the police are doing is messy, at best. Sources are rife with conflict when determining what is fact and what is opinion…it’s a blame game as far as I’m concerned. One source says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approached Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) ahead of time and that they even compiled a committee of indigenous people to look and see if they’d go through ancestral burial grounds…meetings were set with SRST and it’s unclear whether they happened or if they got cancelled; the same opinion piece said that SRST has a complicated relationship with where it receives its water, and that the pipeline location may as well be a moot point (?)*3. Regardless, if the pipeline leaks, many will be watching and there will be immediate backlash…who knows if it will be enough to cause the oil company to act.
Some actions on the part of the protesters have been drastic. Before the videos of protesters being sprayed from hoses with cold water, certain protesters stood in parts of the river…I’m not sure why. I don’t understand why you would stand in water of your own volition when it’s 26 degrees? There are more effective ways to get a message across and that doesn’t seem like this was a helpful way to accomplish that. It’s far from simple…I hurt for the people getting maces and shot by rubber bullets. It looks like over there it’s way past the opportunity for conversation and compromise for different parties. People are angry on all sides … I think there’s a lot of misinformation.
Let’s be real, we are all touched by oil. Environmentalists, vegetarians, Trump-supporters, your grandma, your future children: we are all touched by oil. Our lifestyles here in the U.S. necessitate this commodity called oil. Unless you bike to work, grow all of your own food, and buy locally so you don’t pay for shipping, among other things…you have contributed to the “need” for oil. My impression is that the population of people in the U.S. who do at least these 3 things consistently…are a relatively small population in comparison to those who use cars or buses to commute, who buy food from grocery stores, and who purchase items that must be shipped to them. What price do we pay for convenience? What price do we pay for necessity? How do we differentiate and then prioritize between these two? Those questions are bottomless pits for a wealthy country with a consumer-based culture.
At the end of the day, DAPL-supporter, who is your neighbor? At the end of the day, water protector, who is your neighbor? At the end of the day, bystander-who-doesn’t-hold-an-opinion, who is your neighbor? At the end of the day, person-who-shakes-head-and-keeps-scrolling-down-their-facebook-feed, who is your neighbor?
We got one earth, people. We better figure out how to share before we tear each other to pieces.
*1 The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, accessed 12/3/16: https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/imperial-rivalries/resources/doctrine-discovery-1493
*2 Max Grossfeld, 11/3/16, KFYR TV: http://www.kfyrtv.com/content/news/14-arrested-ND-State-Capitol-put-on-lockdown-due-to-unforeseen-DAPL-protest-activity-399912791.html
* Scott Gates, 10/24/16, “On the Standing Rock tribe’s Dakota Pipeline Protest …” facebook note:https://www.facebook.com/notes/scott-gates/on-the-standing-rock-tribes-dakota-pipeline-protest-/10154529600627457?__mref=message