American Elephants

It isn’t About Tribal Rights, And It’s Not About the Water Supply by The Elephant's Child


The protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline are, like so many protests these days, not about what they purport to be about. A piece in the Wall Street Journal clarifys the situation. The author, a resident of North Dakota who represents his state in the U.S. House writes:

Like many North Dakotans, I’ve had to endure preaching about the pipeline from the press, environmental activists, musicians and politicians in other states. More often than not, these sermons are informed by little more than a Facebook post. At the risk of spoiling the protesters’ narrative, I’d like to bring us back to ground truth.

It isn’t about tribal rights or cultural resources. The pipeline does not cross any land owned or controlled by the Standing Rock Sioux. The land in question belongs to private owners and the federal government.

The courts have rejected any claim that the tribe was not consulted. More than 50 tribes were consulted and resulted in 140 adjustments to the route. It’s not about the tribe’s water supply. The drinking water intake is about 70 miles downriver from where the pipeline is slated to cross the Missouri River, 100 feet below the river. Other pipelines cross the river upstream of the tribe’s intake, this one would run directly adjacent to a natural gas pipeline that already runs under the riverbed.

It is not about the climate. The oil is already being produced, and transporting it by train or truck is much more susceptible to accidents and spills. Trying to litigate historical grudges onto the back of a legally permitted river crossing makes no sense.

It’s largely about a White House attempt to build on their climate legacy by a president who doesn’t want to be bothered with the rule of law. ” That the economy depends on a consistent and predictable permitting regime seems never to have crossed the president’s mind.”

The signs of the protesters: “Water is Life”, “Don’t Take Our Land,” “Defend the Sacred,” “Oil and Water Don’t Mix” demonstrate the distance between the actual situation and the emotional supposed causes of the protesters. The tribe, flush with the attention they get from their protest, has even appealed to the UN Human Rights Council. Lots of theater, many teepees, tribal costume and celebrities turn up to get their pictures taken. This has been going on since August. They even ran a herd of buffalo through the area, but winter has arrived, and teepees are not nearly so comfortable in the snow.

Do read the whole thing. (Subscription barrier, but you can Google it) The battle continues in the comments.

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