By Don Hutchins, Contributing Writer
Local residents gathered recently in front of the Farmington Post Office with members of the Women In Black and 350.org, in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and other water protectors working in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Temple resident Greg Kimber, with 350.org, worked with Eileen Klutz of Industry to bring people out to “make some noise about the issue,” Kimber said. “We all know that our resource on this Earth are finite,” Klutz noted; “these people in Standing Rock, ND, [are] water protectors.”
“I grew up in Missouri,” she added, “so it’s very personal to me that this pipeline not go under that river.” Klutz was also pleased with student turnout; among the attendees was UMF senior Gunnar Heckler, whose expressed distaste for “corporations and the influence they have” motivated him, and others, to attend. “Plus, water rights are so important,” Heckler noted. A second event was held that weekend in downtown Farmington and received just as much support.
In North Dakota, water protectors gathered around Blackwater Bridge the week approaching Thanksgiving in order to remove a blockade of burnt up trucks that was blocking southern road access, VICE News reported. Upon making campfires for tea and food, authorities engaged protesters as an “ongoing riot” of around “400 protesters” with tear gas, water cannons, and other means of force. The trucks were supposedly chained to the bridge by police after they evicted the 1851 Treaty Camp, likely to restrict HW1806 access to the scene.
Morton County Sheriff’s Department claims water cannons, percussion grenades, and tear gas weren’t present, while a number of journalists and water protectors, such as Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s LaDonna Brave Bull Alland, report otherwise. “They were attacked with water cannons,” Alland said in an interview with The Guardian. “It is 23ºF [-5ºC] out there with mace, rubber bullets, pepper spray, etc. They are being trapped and attacked. Pray for my people,” she added.
Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council called for “the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28ºF ambient weather with no means of rewarming,” after a reported 167 people were injured by police actions. The use of tasers, pepper spray, water cannons, batons, rubber bullets, LRADS, and percussion grenades has led observers to describe the situation as a “war zone.”
Reports say that elder tribeswomen, a 13-year old, and horses have been harmed, and water protector Sophia Wilanksy may lose her arm from wounds sustained from a percussion grenade. One water protector was quoted saying, “we’re not here for violence and cruelty: we’re here to protect the water.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe released an official statement on their Facebook page titled “Army Corp Closes Public Access to Oceti Sakowin Camp on Dec. 5th,” which is stationed near the site for the unfinished section of the pipe. Energy Transfer Partners have been in court and effectively gained support from the Army Corps of Engineers to finish the last section of the pipe– which will dip under the drinking water supply of the Sioux Tribe: the Missouri River.
The Washington Post reported earlier in the month that United Nations officials have denounced police treatment of activists at Standing Rock, while a number of celebrities, political figures, and folks around the world have vocalized their support for the Sioux and their opposition for the pipeline. #NoDAPL Banners have been sighted in Denmark, while donations have come from even farther; and countless indigenous tribes, including some from the Amazon, have flocked to Cannonball, ND to aid the cause.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has actively spoken out against the pipeline and recently called on President Obama to “stop the… pipeline and defend the rights of water protectors” after proselytizing “we will not go into the night.” Jill Stein, Ajamu Baraka, and Bernie Sanders have been the only candidates from the past election to be actively involved at Standing Rock, and have been the only political figures to address the issue since the election.
Native News Online, and other sources, have noted President of the Waterkeeper Alliance Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently spent time with the Sioux, concluding that Dakota Access and ETP are “violating the law.” Since Thanksgiving, supporters have begun to gravitate toward ND, and CNN and other sources indicate that an exodus of veteran supporters will mobilize to Cannon Ball, ND, on Dec. 4 to protect protesters, as one vet put it, “from a domestic enemy.” Similar feelings have led at least two officers previously occupying Standing Rock to turn in their badges as result of police actions.
As this issue has grown since the summer, John Bolenbaugh, a navy-vet and former EnbridgeGas employee turned whistleblower, has been actively working towards informing the greater public of the broader issue. “All my family works in oil industries,” said Bolenbaugh, who’s built pipelines, appraised environmental risks, and worked on cleanup crews for oil spills.
TYT Politics interviewed the activist, who’s using his own money to inform the public on the practices of the oil industry. “I’ve been to the Yellowstone spill… Mayflower, Arkansas, spill and it’s the same thing everyplace I go: sick residents, contamination covered up.” His main point: “every single pipeline leaks, even the brand new ones. If there is less than 1.5% pressure lost, no alarms will go off. On a 500,000 gallon/day pipeline, you could lose 5,000 gallons.”
Furthermore, companies profit from spills since closing a pipeline for repairs can cost millions a day, for 30-60 days. “If they wait for a spill… the insurance company hires them to clean up their own mess,” Bolenbaugh says. “They pay for lost revenue, they buy all the property for 70%… then they sell the property later when it’s clean at 125% & they have people sign off so that if they get sick, they can’t sue.” He adds that the oil companies “own cleanup materials [and] cleanup companies. They don’t care about it leaking.”
A day after an estimated 2,000 veterans, EMT, and firefighters formed a human shield around protesters on Dec 4th, U.S. Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy noted the Army Corps of Engineers would not allow the remaining 1,200-ft section of the pipeline to be constructed within a mile of the Sioux reservation. Darcy also stated that ETP and Federal agencies will “explore alternative routes” for the project.
While many are celebrating the decision, the 5,000+ inhabitants at Oceti Sakowin and neighboring camps are still working towards their efforts, much like the Farmington community. UMF students have organized a fundraiser and winter coat drive for the Standing Rock Sioux, to be held Dec 8th, 2016, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Roberts Learning center, room 201. In addition to the meeting, further information on this issue can be found at standwithstandingrock.net or the “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe” and “Sacred Stone Camp” Facebook pages.