Archive for the ‘#standingrock’ Tag

False Protest   Leave a comment

Since August, my social media timeline has been fairly well-inundated by updates on the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

I have family in North Dakota. My mom grew up in Dickey County. My grandfather used to work roundups in the area we’re discussing. A cousin owns land up in the Bakkans and has expanded his business to a town in the area. So, of course, I discussed the situation with him and he sent me some information about it.

At the same time, my cousins on the Res — the other side of my mom’s family who live in Oklahoma — have been sending me posts where the builders of the Dakota Access are the default villains in this whole situation. Add to that all the people who have jumped on the bandwagon of the “poor beleaguered Indians who are having their land stolen” and my irritation meter is starting to tick over into the red.

Protests always get the media attention. People are drawn to civil disobedience that seem to pit David against Goliath. It’s an American tradition to accomplish great social good by waving signs and refusing to move. Idealistic sacrifice for a grand cause is a powerful narrative.

Big corporations, like the one building the pipeline, cannot count on media or public support, especially not in a day when the public is weary of crony deals amid powerful elites crushing the rights of others. “Why should anyone take the side of wealthy entitled bullies?” is how the narrative plays out.

The problem with this narrative is that it doesn’t apply to this particular situation. The real story is a contest between a commercial enterprise that is respecting the property rights of the Standing Rock Sioux in its effort to vastly improve the energy infrastructure of the Bakkans and bring new prosperity to the area and a coalition of interest groups that couldn’t give a care about the Standing Rock Sioux.

Amy Goodman of the protest group Democracy Now broke into a construction site on private land and, apparently unaware of the 5th Amendment, conveniently filmed the crime for our enlightenment. The film with commentary and other related videos is available to view here.

If you follow all the videos, you’ll see how Goodman captured Sioux trespassers walking in formation, beating security dogs with sticks, which resulted in injury to at least one dog. These dogs were not “set lose” on the protesters. The dogs’ job is to protect the equipment when humans are not available to do so. The dogs were responding to trespassers as they have been trained to do … as my yellow Lab would attempt to do if you broke into my house when I wasn’t around. Back in August, this breakin was reported as the trespassers being the ones attacked while passively strolling along, but the film shows them being active and aggressive.

Related imageHere we are, two months later and the civil unrest in Cannon Ball is escalating to dangerous levels as the protesters increasing work to damage infrastructure and possibly harm themselves in the process. The destruction has grown from cutting a wire fence to break into the construction side to setting trucks on fire and rendering the bridge the trucks were on unusable and unstable. The aggression has heighted from sticks and flag poles to guns, Molotov cocktails and improved explosive devices made of propane cylinders.A woman lost her arm and the protesters claimed the police somehow did it while deploying beanbag loads for crowd-control, but there’s reason to believe it was actually a homemade bomb created by the protesters. The FBI is investigating.

I would note that there’s about 300 protesters and about 20 cops to contain them, so it’s a fraught situation.

So, what about the claims that police are using water cannons on the protesters. I suppose you could consider it partially true. When police used fire hoses to douse the burning trucks, the 400 or so protesters who started the trucks on fire and gathered around them did get wet. There are many photos and videos available on line (including a heavily-edited Standing Rock protest site photo that crops out the blazing fire in the background) that show protesters atop piles of burning rubble, dancing in the water stream.

My North Dakota cousin says the hope is that with winter coming, this protest will die off.

It’s important to understand that the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for this pipeline, which runs in parallel with existing pipelines. In other words, this is not pristine wilderness where cultural artifacts (if any exist) have been undisturbed. This is a major infrastructure corridor. The Army Corps of Engineers proposed a December 5 2016 deadline for protesters to remove themselves from a rancher’s leased land.

Most people really don’t know what to believe, but find the professionally edited campaign videos by the environmental groups driving the protest to be very moving. After all, they have music and dramatic imagery and imaginative location names like “Red Warrior Camp.”



Please understand that its no longer just the Standing Rock Sioux involved in this thing. Similar to how Wounded Knee started with a small group, this has drawn support from very far away and there is some large money circulating.

Related imageMany of the Standing Rock Sioux who are involved in protest say their tribal administration did not adequately inform them of the project. That’s kind of hard to believe because according to the Army Corps of Engineers, project leaders participated in 559 meetings in communities along the pipeline route. There were 43 regulatory hearings, public meetings and open houses where people could share their concerns with public officials. Regarding specific tribal concerns, the Army Corps of Engineers participated in 389 meetings with 55 tribes. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe itself had nearly a dozen meetings with the Corps — they refused or did not show up to several others.

I work in a field where public meetings are required for every project we do and they are well advertised because the law specifies what is required. We work in Alaska Native villages a lot and they show up … so long as we bring pizza and soda (sorry, that is a truth that makes me snicker).

In the case of Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault, who failed to show up seven times to scheduled meetings, it is possible he did the common Native American thing of thinking he could wait until sometime in the future to protest. Sorry, that’s another observation from a fringe-insider. Reservation Indians always seem to think they have decades to deal with a situation. It is possible the DAPL project moved too fast for him. On the other hand, as I suggested in an earlier blog post, this might have been willful obstruction in hopes of a more profitable outcome. Tribal government is often quite lucrative for the tribal administration.

Archambault proved completely derelict in identifying sacred sites for the planners. Why would he do that? I don’t know the man, but his sister worked for the Obama administration until May 2016 and there is this photo of Archambault with the Obamas back in June 2014 … right about the time the public meeting process was going on. You don’t need a tinfoil hat to think promises might have been made … as they were when President Obama visited Western Alaska, a mess we’ll be dealing with for a decade or more.

Other protesters include white, middle-class, urban singles seeking adventure … rebels without a cause who are turning this into something like a Burning Man party.

“Just wanna note some white people – just showed up to Standing Rock – who want to spend donations on fluoride free water instead of tap.” — Nihiixoohoothitho (@teeteeseiht) November 13, 2016

In other words, they don’t know what they’re protesting, but if there’s some good ganga involved, they’re there!

Not all the Standing Rock Sioux agree with the protesters. Native communities have much to be concerned about today. Jobs would be nice and so would better education for their kids. The pipeline is part of a complex of pipelines that cross the Missouri River in that basic area. This pipeline poses no different threat than any of the others. It will provide a safe, efficient way to get Bakkan oil to the refinery without using trucks and tank cars, which are demonstratively less safe.

Putting on my tinfoil hat for just a moment, I think this was all planned back in 2014. Obama told Archambault to ignore the Corps meetings and promised to do exactly what he is doing now. Why? Because commercial enterprises like the construction company building the DAPL have bottom lines and they can’t afford to wait forever to build this thing. Their financing goes away if they do that. The regulatory system that pipelines require is lengthy, complex and expensive, but companies like this know how to shepherd their application to permit. Had the Standing Rock Sioux showed up at the public meetings to voice their concerns, they would have had their concerns addressed. The burial sites would have been protected, there would have been excessive and unnecessary safety protocols put in place to assure the construction did not contaminate the water. And, ultimately, the pipeline would have been built … just like the other pipelines in the area.

But violent protests … that has a propaganda cache that the environmentalists can use. President Obama knows that. And he knew that whoever  the President-elect was come this fall, he would still be president and he could make his last months in office memorable. And, in the meantime, the pipeline company is slowly being bled dry by these protests, so that it is entirely possible that a perfectly legal pipeline, planned with great care to avoid conflict with stakeholders, won’t be built because the company won’t be able to sustain financing.

Yeah, it’s the unethical world that we live in.


You Don’t Have Rights to …   Leave a comment

You don’t have a right to infringe upon the rights of others. This is what we have lost in our country. You have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — which our Founders recognized that included a right to property. You don’t have the right to infringe upon others’ rights to those things.

north dakota access pipeline

I’ve been watching the North Dakota Indian standoff with a pipeline company near, but not on, the Standing Rock Reservation. That’s my mom’s old stomping grounds, by the way, although not her tribe. I’ve watched as they have, sometimes violently, insisted upon protecting their water “rights” and their “sacred burial grounds”. I have cousins who have gone to join the protests and they’re proud of what they’re doing and they want me to join. They should know by now that I won’t.

If they were trying to run the pipeline across reservation land, I’d be there. I fully support the right of landowners to protect their property. But this pipeline will run completely outside of the reservation (I suspect that was a deliberate choice by the pipeline company, actually). This is not a private property argument for the Hunkpapa and Sioux. They don’t own the land. If there were burial grounds involved, they might have claimed the land and taken it into the reservation before this. Why didn’t they?

We could get into a huge discussion of why they thought they could control land they don’t own (and I would welcome the discussion in comments), but that’s not really my point in this article. They wanted to control this land without having to own it. That’s another discussion.

But I’m discussing rights here. The Standing Rock Indians claim this pipeline violates their “right” to clean water. and that “right” overrides the right of a pipeline company to build a pipeline, the oil companies to make money from their product and the consumer to use those products and have them delivered to the market in a safe, low-cost way. So this gives the Standing Rock Indians a “right” to attack pipeline facilities and personnel and stop the construction of this pipeline, but the pipeline personnel don’t have a “right” to control their construction site or protect themselves from rioters.

All pigs are equal. Some pigs are more equal than others.

All rights are important. Some rights of some are more important than the rights of others.


Rights only work if we all have them and government’s only role is to protect the exercise of all rights. If you read the eight pages of the constitution, you will not find any authority for the US government to decide whose rights are more important.

The Standing Rock Indians don’t own the land the pipeline runs across and they don’t own the Missouri River. They own the Standing Rock reservation, which is a half-mile away. Could a pipeline breach endanger their surface water access? Yes. So could a tanker car spill if this oil was being transported by train or truck. We should strive to make oil transportation as safe as possible. We already know that the safest way to transport oil is via pipeline. So the pipeline company is not doing anything wrong. They’re fulfilling the purpose of pipeline companies, which is to build and maintain pipelines. They lose money when a pipeline leaks so they have an incentive to maintain the pipeline.

An oil pipeline breech could still happen. I maintain my car, but occasionally things break on my car that I didn’t expect. I then fix it. Nobody (yet) has made the argument that I shouldn’t be allowed to own a car because there is a possibility that my car might break and that break might cause a problem for someone else (I might breakdown in an intersection, causing a traffic snarl, and make someone five minutes late to work).

So, despite the strong incentive for the pipeline company to maintain its property, this oil pipeline could break and cause a water quality problem for the Standing Rock Reservation. Entropy is inevitable. Everything rusts or rots. Maintenance aside, things happen and it is possible that the oil might someday leak into the Missouri River and affect the water quality for the Standing Rock Reservation.

And this is the argument for them to be able to stop this pipeline. Because something MIGHT happen.

But ….

Why do we assume we have a “right” to water that runs on land that we do not own?

“But, we’ll all die without clean water, Lela!”

Will we? I live in a state where there’s a lot of water, almost none of it drinkable without filtration. Glacier river water is so silty, you are basically chugging mud if you don’t filter it first. The creek on my cabin site runs out of a mineral belt, so we have to filter the water so we’re not ingesting arsenic, lead and other naturally-occurring toxic metals. Down creek from us, beavers have built a dam, so the people below the dam must filter for giardia. Last month when we were berry picking, I went down to our fill hole to find both moose and bear scat on the edge. Our filter also screens for fecal matter, but it was so disgusting, I had to boil the water before I could drink it.

The government does not come in to regulate the geology or the animals to protect my “right” to clean water. They don’t provide us with free water to make up for our crappy (pun intended) water supply. If we get sick because we’re stupid enough not to filter the water we have, the government doesn’t pay our medical expenses.

We have a right to filter the water we have access to. If we had selected land that didn’t have a water source, we would have had the right to import water for our use at our own expense.

Grow up! You have a right to the proceeds of your own labor and nothing else. Stop expecting other people to give you something you refuse to take the effort to secure for yourself.

Posted September 10, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Liberty, Uncategorized

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