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      Standing Rock Stands Solid and Strong Against Big Business Degradation of Environment and Abusing Indigenous Rights

      By Thomas Davies

      “We are fighting the Dakota pipeline, but we're also fighting the whole system of violence. The whole system which has called us savages. Which has denied us our ability to be human - and we're responding to that by creating a community that has it's own values...When we have natural resource development which is unsustainable, which threatens the very life of human beings and the natural world, we say absolutely no, it's unacceptable.” - Michelle Cook, Diné of the Walk Around Clan from Oak Springs, Arizona. Standing Rock legal advisor

      It's fair to say that no one really anticipated what is happening today at the Sacred Stone camp in Standing Rock, North Dakota. Thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous camp members trying to halt construction of a billion dollar oil pipeline have become a global symbol in the fight for indigenous self-determination, and against climate change and the unsustainable economic system forcing our entire population and planet towards the brink of destruction. If we take a closer look at the factors which led to the Standing Rock uprising, it's clear that the Liberal government in Canada and their oil company friends should be worried that the same is in store for them if they try and force these kinds of projects on us.

      The camp began in April as a protest against the 3.8 billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which is planned to cross the traditional and sacred territories of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation without their consent. It is also planned to carry 450,000 barrels-a-day of hydraulicly fracked oil under the Missouri River and Ogallala Aquifier – which millions of people rely on for their drinking water.

      While the camp had grown steadily, footage of bulldozers destroying ancient burial grounds while peaceful protesters were pepper sprayed and bitten by private security attack dogs burned the Standing Rock movement into the consciousness of people around the world. Many, like Fire Time Time, travelled long distances to participate and document the struggle.

      Since then the camp, its profile, as well as the brutality subjected against it have continued to grow. In one Thursday at least 142 peaceful protestors were arrested, while many more suffered from the attacks of police. Private security firms are now playing a secondary role as video footage shows police forces from 8 different states moving in with riot gear against a newly established winter camp on the pipeline route. Snipers were positioned on tanks, tear gas, bean bag rounds and pepper spray were fired, people were clubbed, dragged, and tazered.

      Medics were also attacked, and the National Nurses Union issued a damning statement:

      “Let’s be clear; only one group came dressed for war this week: the police and armed guards. And while this is a peaceful resistance to a public health crisis, not war, nurses feel duty bound to publicly condemn those who came dressed for war. We condemn them for violating not only the rights and safety of the protectors (a violation under review by Amnesty International USA) , but also violating a basic, international law of humanity, even in times of actual war: medical facilities and medics themselves are not to be targeted.”

      Unfortunately for the pipeline company and their police allies, their violence has only strengthened the resolve of those in the camp, and led to more awareness about the situation at Standing Rock. Despite the famously cold North Dakota winter setting in, people continue to join the camp. An anonymous donor covered the 2.5 million dollars for all of the arrested to be released on bail, and online donations to the camp have topped 1 million dollars. When it was reported that police officers were using the Facebook geo-location “check-in” feature to keep track of who was joining the camp, in a few days over 1 million people responded to a call to digitally “check in” at Standing Rock and confuse the authorities.

      Why It's so Necessary

      Even conservative estimates by scientists show that if all of the existing oil wells and coal mines around the world are fully exploited, it would release enough CO2 into the atmosphere to take the planet above the 2 C temperature rise countries including Canada and the United States have agreed must be avoided to save the planet. We must limit consumption even more not to rise past the 1.5 C most agree is the real climate “point of no return”.

      So as drastic as it might sound to some, there really is no possibility to save the planet while building major fossil fuel infrastructure like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Luckily we now have many renewable energy options available, which could be improved upon if given the kind of focus corporations put on ramming new fossil fuel projects down our throats.

      We are told that pipelines and the fossil fuel economy provide a lot of jobs. Well, tell that to indigenous nations in Canada and the United States. More than 1 in 4 indigenous people in the United States live in poverty, and their unemployment rate is almost double the national average. Meanwhile in Canada, the people of Attawapiskat live in crowded, freezing shacks while a De Beers diamond mine operates just 90 kilometres away makes huge profits.

      All people in Canada has been suffering from our dependence on the fossil fuel centred economy. With low oil prices we've see companies lay off thousands and suicide rates skyrocket. Meanwhile, according to the International Monetary Fund, energy subsidies in Canada top an incredible $34 billion each year in direct support to producers and uncollected tax on externalized costs.

      It's no wonder more and more people are becoming more and more active in opposing these large fossil fuel projects in Standing Rock and around the world. They are literally destroying the planet, and aren't really a good deal for most people to begin with! As the saying goes, “There are no jobs on a dead planet.

      Same Struggle

      As people were being arrested in North Dakota, 99 young people in Ottawa were standing up for the environment and being arrested on Parliament Hill in Ottawa while calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline. The government has said they will make an official announcement in December on whether they will approve the 890,000 barels-a-day tar sands expansion project that definitely fits with the Dakota Access Pipeline in the “not possible if we want to keep living on this planet” category.

      In opposition to their adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, this government has already approved two major energy projects in BC opposed by Indigenous peoples - the Pacific Northwest LNG project on Lelu Island and the Site C dam. This is hardly surprising if you take into account that oil companies and oil company lobby groups met with Federal Government officials almost 300 times this year.

      If Trudeau thinks he can get away with approving the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion he might have a rude awakening. There were already over 100 people arrested for trying to disrupt Kinder Morgan's coring operations on Burnaby Mountain – and the sense of urgency grows as the science piles up regarding climate change. A major mobilization has been called in Vancouver for November 19, one month before the expected announcement, and organizations across Canada are discussing further coordinated actions.

      We should also not underestimate the confidence everyone fighting for a sustainable planet has gained from seeing the strong, principled and united resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock struggle has renergized the global climate movement. It has given us a glimpse of what is possible if we stand up to big corporations, it we stand up to their friends in government and the violence of their police officers. The main demand of the November 19 mobilization in Vancouver is, “Stop Kinder Morgan. No Consent. No Pipeline!” Justin Trudeau will have to realize that we will not allow this pipeline to be built, but we are committed to building the just, sutainable and better world we know is possible.


      To the organizers of the Sacred Stone Camp: Thank-you for allowing us to participate and document the struggle. We will be back! For current updates check:

      Follow Thomas on Twitter:@thomasdavies59

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