American Elephants


Protests and Protesters, The Standing Rock Sioux Revisited by The Elephant's Child

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In the election just passed, in spite of the death threats and harassment of electors, pleas of celebrities, all but two of Donald Trump’s electors were unswayed. Hillary lost five votes to Colin Powell, Bernie Sanders, and Faith Spotted Eagle. The proprietors of one talk show, at least, thought someone was voting for a bird.

The latter faithless electors, at least four of them, were here in Washington State. The vote for Faith Spotted Eagle came from Robert Satiacum Jr, a member of the Puyallup tribe, here in Western Washington. He explained:

In the words of Robert Satiacum, Jr., the Washington elector who cast that vote, she is “a real leader” who has stood up for environmental causes. The 68 year-old is a member of South Dakota’s Yankton Sioux tribe. A licensed counselor, she began a group known as the Brave Heart Society to help bring back traditional knowledge and culture by working with youth, particularly young women.

On a national level, she is more well known for her environmental activism. In 2013, she led protests against the Keystone pipeline, which would have crossed South Dakota. During the protests, she feared not only environmental contamination but that the “man camps” that the company planned to build to house its primarily-male workforce would lead to violence against women. At the time, she likened the idea to U.S. Army forts in the plains in the 1800s.

Now, she is an ally of the protesters trying to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In September, she and other tribal leaders in Yankton sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, arguing that the project had failed to receive a proper environmental study.

Even if you are far from the Dakotas, it’s worth understanding what this is all about. Part is the glamour of “Protest.” Mounting the barricades to stand against oppression seems noble, excuses your own flaws, and doesn’t matter, really, if the protest succeeds. That’s why so many celebrities show up at protests. Becoming known for appearing in movies or on television is not exactly a record of great accomplishment, but of playing a bit part in a large collaborative effort often just because you’re pretty or able to follow directions well. Great actors are not usually the ones who show up at protests to get more media attention.

Here are two articles that do a good job.  One is from Commentary, by Naomi Schaffer Riley, and the other is from the Wall Street Journal by North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer. Our relations with the nation’s Indian tribes is certainly imperfect. But one big major flaw is that the Indian nations don’t really own the land of their reservation. In particular, they cannot drill for the oil and gas that exist under their reservations. They can build casinos which have helped to alleviate the poverty of many reservations, but there would seem to be no reason why they should not be able to exercise their own sovereignty over their own land, except for worthless objections to all fossil fuels by ignorant Greens.

Coming home last night and observing all the lights in the industrial part of Seattle, as well as the high-rise downtown, I was struck by the utter impossibility of powering that vast city with windmills and solar panels, and not biofuels nor algae either. Not going to happen. The two articles tell you a lot about protests, the environmental movement, Native American reservations and the media. Worth understanding. It is not about water. The pipeline crosses the river more than a mile and a half below the reservation. It’s not about reservation land, it is only on private or federal land. It’s not about safety. The pipeline is double strength, has automatic shutoff valves on each side of the river, and is 100 feet below the river next to an existing pipeline.  The pipeline is 93% finished, except for this last little stretch. Pipelines have an outstanding record of safety, oil trains and trucks do not.

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