Native Americans Fight Modern-Day Genocide: Critical Juncture in Battle at Standing Rock
November 14, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Standing Rock encampment, November 5, 2016. Photo: Special to Revolution/revcom.us
The battle taking place near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, which straddles the border between North and South Dakota, to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL) may be reaching a critical turning point.
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On November 11, media outlets reported that after delaying the pipeline since September 9, Obama is preparing to approve resuming its construction, perhaps as early as this week. One report said the approval is “related to the election of Republican nominee Donald Trump who would eventually approve the project anyway.” The Obama administration denied the reports. Kelcy Warren, head of Energy Transfer Partners that has funded the pipeline, recently boasted he’s “100 percent sure” that Trump will OK the pipeline.
The struggle to stop the DAPL is a battle against modern-day genocide of Native Americans and environmental destruction. The pipeline, being built right next to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation as part of its almost 1,200-mile route, threatens the tribe’s water, land, irreplaceable historical and cultural sites, and their future as a people. The DAPL, scheduled to carry nearly 500,000 barrels of oil a day, is also a potential environmental catastrophe for the planet.
The Standing Rock Sioux is a small tribe—8,250 live on the reservation near where the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers meet. They’re up against powerful forces: a juggernaut of big financial institutions and energy companies, backed by the government, the legal system, and the armed enforcers of the state.
The Standing Rock Sioux have been battling the DAPL for two years. Early this year, they made a bold move and set up a protest camp to stop the pipeline. This just and courageous stand by a determined few “water protectors,” as many at Standing Rock call themselves, has galvanized the fighting spirit of many more.
Hundreds of Native tribes have joined the struggle, including ones with longstanding historical conflicts. Environmental activists and a wide range of people compelled to take a stand against injustice and oppression have joined. Thousands of people have been part of the protest encampment. Well-known voices, such as Edward Snowden and Susan Sarandon, have spoken out in support, and actor Shailene Woodley was among those arrested at a protest. At least 19 city governments have passed resolutions or written letters opposing construction of the pipeline. Thousands have taken part in support actions in over 200 cities across the U.S. and in Canada and England. On November 3, over 445 clergy members came to Standing Rock to act in solidarity.
Cannonball River. Photo: Special to revcom.us
Protesters have repeatedly faced off with police and constructions crews. They’ve stood up to pepper spray, rubber bullets, attack dogs, and heavily armed police and hired thugs. They’ve built barricades across roads and forded the freezing waters of the Cannonball River. They’ve refused to back down in the face of a media-fueled climate of violent hatred whipped up among significant numbers of whites in the area, who are armed and openly threatening Native Americans and those they perceive as supporting them. Many Native Americans and supporters have been brutalized and hundreds have been arrested.
The System’s Ongoing Genocide and Environmental Devastation
Over 90 percent of DAPL is being built on private land—much of it on land granted to the Sioux by the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie and then stolen. The original plans called for the pipeline to cross the Missouri near Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. State officials worried that an oil spill could poison Bismarck’s drinking water. In a blatant act of environmental racism, they moved the pipeline crossing to within half a mile of the Standing Rock reservation, land taken from the tribe in 1958.
The determined actions of the fighters at Standing Rock—and now the possibility that Obama is preparing to give final approval to the pipeline and the near certainty that Trump will—are shining a light on the predatory nature of the oil-addicted capitalist-imperialist system. Whatever the differences within the ruling class, all of them are committed to increasing domestic fuel production (what they call U.S. “energy independence”) in order to gain strategic advantage over rival world powers. This is a key part of maintaining their position as top global oppressor and exploiter. All this is driven by the workings of their capitalist-imperialist system.
A Critical Juncture
The pipeline construction reportedly reached the Missouri River in early November, and Energy Transfer Partners has stated it plans to start digging under the river in less than two weeks. The election of the fascist Trump promises to further embolden the capitalists building the pipeline and reactionaries in the area.
Our correspondents at Standing Rock report that many at the protest camp are NOT in a mood to sit by as this pipeline continues to go through, and more people continue to arrive at the encampment. As we go to press, the November 15 national day of action in solidarity with Standing Rock is demanding that the federal government and the Army Corps of Engineers stop this pipeline.
This is a crucial juncture. Everyone needs to express clear, unequivocal, and public support for the fighters at Standing Rock, who are not only defending the lives, water, and humanity of the Standing Rock tribe, but standing up against centuries of genocide against all Native peoples in America, and against the further destruction of the Earth’s environment. What takes place at Standing Rock can contribute to fueling a more defiant and determined spirit of resistance against all this system’s crimes—including the election of Trump.
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