Obama Steers Clear As North Dakota Pipeline Protests Veer Out Of Control


A person with a hand drum paces between law enforcement officers and a line of protesters along North Dakota Highway 6, south of St. Anthony, N.D., Oct. 10, 2016. Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP

Reader Submission:

The Washington Times – Oct 25, 2016

Having lent support to the North Dakota pipeline protesters, the Obama administration is stiff-arming requests for more federal assistance as the situation on the ground at the massive encampment grows increasingly volatile.

Six states sent law enforcement support to the Dakota Access pipeline site after several law enforcement officers were hurt in last weekend’s clashes that saw 127 arrests, the shooting of a drone that buzzed a helicopter and the use of pepper spray against protesters who charged a police line.

Even so, the Justice Department said it has no plans to provide more resources. So far the agency has provided mediators to “facilitate communication, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests and maintain public safety,” said spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle.

“The department has also offered technical assistance and community policing resources to local law enforcement in support of these goals,” said Mr. Hornbuckle in a statement, adding that the agency is “taking the situation in North Dakota seriously.”

He also reiterated the Obama administration’s request for Energy Transfer Partners to stop work voluntarily on the pipeline project, which the company has declined to do, in order for the Army Corps of Engineers to review issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

For those living and working in Morton County, North Dakota, however, waiting for the administration to research a project already approved by state and federal regulators comes at a cost.

Cody Schulz, chairman of the Morton County Commission, said that the rural community has been roiled by the 10-week-old Dakota Access protest, which has prompted road closures and school lockdowns.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II ‘blasted law enforcement in a Monday statement for actions taken against “peaceful protests at Standing Rock.” But Mr. Schulz pointed out that the demonstrations are occurring in Morton County, not on the reservation.

“I would like to remind everyone here that the situation and illegal activity is actually happening in Morton County,” said Mr. Schulz at a Monday press conference. “It’s happening in the yards, driveways, pastures and fields of Morton County residents. It’s happening on the roads and near the schools where Morton County children are being educated.”

He called on Mr. Archambault to consider the rights of local residents as well as the rights of the protesters, who number between 1,500 and 2,500, camping within a few miles of the construction site.

“It’s disrupting the lives and injuring the economic well-being of everyone that lives in the area,” said Mr. Schulz. “I believe that the chairman’s statement demonstrates that he has little regard for the rights of Morton County citizens that have been routinely trampled on by this illegal activity.”

For example, Sunday the North Dakota Highway Patrol shut down portions of Highway 1806 after protesters set up blockades with vehicles, rocks, barbed wire and tree stumps. The activists later removed the debris at the request of law enforcement, but remained at the site and kept the items in nearby ditches.

“Basically they [protesters] are controlling that area by stopping traffic as it travels through, so it’s not safe for law enforcement to allow people to travel through that area,” said North Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind. “There’s people that commute back and forth through that area. It’s just not safe at this point to allow them to go through there.

Militarization of law enforcement

Requests for more Justice Department support have come from the North Dakota House and Senate members, who said in a letter last week that local sheriffs don’t have the budgets to keep up with the flood of out-of-state protesters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Archambault called Monday for the Justice Department to intervene against what he called “strong-arm tactics, abuses and unlawful arrests by law enforcement.”

The chairman blamed the rising tensions on “the militarization of local law enforcement and enlistment of multiple law enforcement agencies from neighboring states.”

“We do not condone reports of illegal actions, but believe the majority of peaceful protesters are reacting to strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement,” Mr. Archambault said.

The tribe and national environmental groups launched the demonstration Aug. 10 in an effort to stop the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline, arguing that the project threatens water quality and sacred cultural and burial sites.

A federal judge rejected in September the tribe’s lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, but the Obama administration announced afterward that it would not authorize construction on corps land bordering Lake Oahe pending the review.

The conflict shows signs of intensifying. Protesters set up tipis and tents Sunday in the path of the pipeline about two miles from the Cannon Ball River, declaring it “unceded territory affirmed in the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie as sovereign land under the control of the Oceti Sakowin.”

Negotiating with demonstrators has also been difficult because the tribe appears to have lost control of the protest. A group of about 200 to 300 activists is driving the lawbreaking, while the protest’s leadership is split among different camps, according to law enforcement.

“We’ve made numerous attempts and have talked to both different tribal leaders and camp leaders at times,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. “We’ve got to find someone who is a legitimate leader with the camps. Right now some parts are unorganized, and I think it’s very unorganized as far as who the leaders are.”

About 269 people have been arrested since the protests began, mainly for trespassing and rioting, but Capt. Niewind said law enforcement has actually shown remarkable restraint.

“If you think about all the incidents [that] happened since Aug. 10, we could have made 1,000 or more arrests for all the criminal acts that have occurred,” said Capt. Niewind. “And we haven’t done that because we’ve been patient and we’ve tried to work with the groups that are down there and let the court process work its way through.”

He said one officer was temporarily blinded at last weekend’s melee by pepper spray from a protester, while two other officers sustained minor injuries and another was spit on as he tried to free an activist who had chained himself to a vehicle.

Another protester shot in the direction of officers with a bow and arrow.

The six states sending law enforcement help are Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Rob Port, a North Dakota conservative radio talk show host who runs the Say Anything blog, warned that more federal involvement could come back to haunt the community.

“If the feds get involved, I hope it is to stand up for property rights and the rule of law, which have been trampled by the protesters,” Mr. Port said. “I’m afraid if they get involved, it will be to take up the cause of the tribe and protesters against state law enforcement, which would only further inflame this situation.”


‘Dead on Arrival’: Senate Vote Fails to Override Keystone Veto

Republican Senator James Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, brandished a snowball while giving a Senate speech about the "hysteria on global warming" on February 26. (Screenshot via C-SPAN)

Republican Senator James Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, brandished a snowball while giving a Senate speech about the “hysteria on global warming” on February 26. (Screenshot via C-SPAN)

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer | Common Dreams

Eight Democrats align with Republicans in attempt to force tar sands pipeline project

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday failed to override President Barack Obama’s recent veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project.

The 62-37 vote fell just five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to nullify the presidential veto.

Eight Democrats—the very same lawmakers who voted to approve the $8 billion pipeline project in January—voted to override the veto. They are: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Jon Tester (Mont.). Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly, who also backs the pipeline, missed the vote.

Failure to override the veto does not mean that the Keystone project is no longer a threat, environmental advocates warned on Wednesday afternoon after the vote.

In a reference to a recent stunt pulled by Republican Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), during which he brandished a snowball on the Senate floor as evidence against climate change, 350.org U.S. communications manager Karthik Ganapathy said in a statement: “This vote does to Keystone XL what Jim Inhofe’s snowball does to the overwhelming consensus on climate change: absolutely nothing.”

“Congress has known from the beginning this bill would be dead on arrival—a fact even Denier-in-Chief Inhofe acknowledged when he said last week that Big Oil simply doesn’t have the votes to override,” Ganapathy continued. “Keystone XL has always been President Obama’s decision, today does nothing to change that, and we’re confident the President will do right by our climate and reject the pipeline once and for all.”

According to The Hill, undeterred proponents of the pipeline vowed to attach its approval to an upcoming transportation bill or include it in a broader energy package.

The Keystone Pipeline Debate Is Missing A Huge Human Cost: Indigenous Rights

Matthew Black Eagle Man of the Sioux Long Plains First Nation of Manitoba protests in front of the U.S. Capitol, against the Keystone XL pipeline in April 2014. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

Matthew Black Eagle Man of the Sioux Long Plains First Nation of Manitoba protests in front of the U.S. Capitol, against the Keystone XL pipeline in April 2014. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

By Jake Flanagin | Quartz

On Feb. 24, president Obama vetoed a congressional bill that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline expansion. Although the debate surrounding the project was widely seen as a conflict between environmentalists and industrialists, the case also raised important questions about one of America’s oldest bad habits: trampling on indigenous rights.

The Rosebud Sioux, also known as the Sicangu Lakota, reside on a reservation that includes all of Todd County, South Dakota, and additional lands in the four adjacent. That land, originally encompassing all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, was entreatied to the greater Sioux nation in 1851 and 1868, but has been gradually reduced to its current boundaries by decades of territorial whittling by the federal government. Only in 1934 were the Rosebud Sioux officially recognized as a self-governing nation—see the Indian Reorganization Act (pdf)—and thus formally allotted ownership of land that, prior to the arrival of European colonists, had been their’s for centuries.

Today, life on the typical Native American reservation is far from perfect: Poverty, high unemployment, substandard education and healthcare are all major issues these communities face. Choosing to live on reservations, therefore, can be a powerful statement of sovereignty. To some, it is an act of self-determination intended to stand against centuries of forced-assimilation policies which stripped land, resources and even children from tribal communities.

Keystone XL brought this hard-won spirit of sovereignty under threat. The plan to expand an existing oil pipeline system, linking oil-rich tar sands in the Canadian province of Alberta with refineries and distributors across the US, would essentially bisect South Dakota, cutting straight through Rosebud Sioux tribal land. A longtime topic of concern for environmentalists, the Keystone XL pipeline raised hackles, being yet another instance in which the American government attempted to circumvent Native sovereignty in the pursuit of economic gain.

Passions boiled over in November following a vote in the US House of Representatives approving expansion. In a press release issued in response to the vote, Rosebud Sioux tribal president Cyril Scott said, “Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.” It was a statement intended to stoke passions, and perhaps rightfully so.

Tara Houska, a tribal rights attorney in Washington, DC, and a founding member of NotYourMascots.org, is more measured in her wording, but generally agrees with Scott’s assessment of the situation. The risk for local tribes would have been huge. Keystone XL brings with it the risk that spilled diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” might contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the only source of drinking water for tribes like the Rosebud and Ogallala Sioux, that latter of which Houska helped negotiate terms of the project.

In the event of a spill, “what does the federal government expect them to do?” Houska told Quartz, “Survive on bottled water? For years? Are they serious?”

Federal disregard for Native stakes in the pipeline expansion are part of a larger pattern of inattention, she added. Many area tribes, including the Ogallala Sioux, feel they were inadequately consulted by authorities in Washington prior to congressional approval earlier in February. “When I got brought in, they had already had their quote-on-quote consultation,” Houska said. Washington’s envoys were apparently well out of their depth, seemingly unaware (or uninterested) in Keystone XL’s specific impact on Sioux reservations. “[Tribal representatives] ended up leading the meeting!”

Even if a major industrial project, such as Keystone XL, skirts officially recognized tribal boundaries, sufficient consultation with area tribes is required by law, she explained. “There are often times when we have rights to treaty lands that were never officially ceded.” The lackluster meeting between Ogallala Sioux representatives and federal authorities “did not meet the requirements of consultation,” she said.

In addition to potential environmental impacts, tribes require consultation on projects like Keystone XL for a number a reasons, chief among them issues pertaining to community safety. “It’s going to bring a large number of men into the area,” Houska said, citing concerns raised by South Dakota law enforcement and women’s rights advocacy-groups. The housing of about 1,000 pipeline laborers, mostly men, in TransCanada work camps placed close to reservations could cause an uptick in sexual assaults against area women. Native women are already2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than women of any other race, reports Mary Annette Pember for Indian Country Today. “The perpetrators of this violence are overwhelmingly non-Native,” she noted.

Beyond the practicalities of community health and security, the potential impact of the pipeline on the earth is of course of great concern as well. But, for Natives, a commitment to environmentalist values extends far beyond the political. “As a woman, I’m a waterkeeper. That’s part of my culture,” Tara Houska explained. (She is Minnesota Anishinaabe and a citizen of the Couchiching First Nation in Ontario.) “Being stewards of the earth, moving beyond fossil fuels, is more than just about sustainability for us. It’s a cultural requirement.”

“The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land,” president Scott said in his statement, insisting that weaning society off of its fossil-fuel dependency is key to brighter futures both on and off reservations. “We feel it is imperative to to provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to tribal members, but to non-tribal-members as well,” he added. “We need to start remembering that the earth is our mother and stop polluting her, and start taking steps to preserve the land, water, and our grandchildren’s future.”

“It’s the fourth-largest aquifer in the world,” Houska said of the Ogallala Aquifer. “The largest in the United States. It provides 30% of the irrigation water for the country.” Any future industrial projects in the region could have similarly devastating aftermaths. “This issue affects you, whether you live on a reservation or in a big city.”

Environmental activists rally in all 50 states to remind Obama to veto Keystone

Climate Activists Rally Country-Wide to Fight Keystone XL

Climate Activists Rally Country-Wide to Fight Keystone XL

By Black Powder | Red Power Media

Thousands of environmental activists rallied in all 50 states on Tuesday to remind President Barack Obama of his promise to veto the Keystone XL Pipeline bill while Congress is rushing to approve it.

Over 150 events were organized in less than 72 hours, according to 350.org. The rallies came together after a series of crucial developments over the past week.

On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court paved the way for construction of a key portion of the tar sands pipeline in the state, and the bill to approve the project advanced on Monday after a 63-32 cloture vote in the Senate, with a final vote expected soon.

Monday’s total count fell short of the 67 votes necessary to allow Congress the power to override President Barack Obama’s promised veto, leaving the option open for him to put an end to the contentious project.

“Obama has been saying for months, ‘I’m going to wait for the Nebraska decision to come down to make my decision,’ so we’ve just been waiting for that,” 350 organizer Deirdre Shelly, who participated in the D.C. protest, told ThinkProgress. “Now, with that decision out of the way, he finally has all the room he needs to veto.”

Activists from 350.org, CREDO, Rainforest Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International and the Sierra Club gathered to give to White House officials a petition with more than 500,000 signatures from people who are against the pipeline.

While organizers waited to hand the petition to White House staff, Greg Grey Cloud, a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe and co-founder of Wica Agli, sang and beat a drum. Wica Agli refers to Lakota men protecting the tribe’s women and children.

Grey Cloud said he could not speak for all the tribes of South Dakota, but if the bill passes his organization would “gear our men and train them how to protect our women and children from outsider’s violences coming into our communities.”

The Keystone XL a 1,179-mile pipeline is planned to run from Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and all the way to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The pipeline would carry about 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day.

In South Dakota, Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation have publicly spoken out against the proposed pipeline. Despite the supposed financial “benefits” that the pipeline is said to provide, it will be at the expense of human lives, wildlife and have devastating environmental consequences.

Huge concern among Native people and supportive organizations is the displacement, the disruption of sacred sites, and spiritual important archaeological material with in regard to the development and building of the pipeline and future threats of oil leakage causing contamination around the pipeline.

Obama Administration Intervenes In Native American Voting Rights Lawsuit



 | ThinkProgress

The U.S. Department of Justice has intervened in a lawsuit accusing a South Dakota county of disenfranchising Native Americans living on the Pine Ridge Reservation, arguing the case should move forward because the issues in question fall under the still-enforced sections of the Voting Rights Act.

In the months leading up the November election, Native Voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit against Jackson County, South Dakota accusing it of requiring Native Americans to travel often prohibitively long distances to vote instead of opening a satellite office on the reservation. In response to the litigation, Jackson County opened a satellite center for voter registration and early voting in the town of Wanblee on the reservation, but the legal action continued in order to ensure the voting rights would be maintained for future elections.

County officials filed a motion to dismiss the litigation after the November midterm, arguing that Native Americans still have three ways to vote absentee including traveling to the county auditor’s office which is more than 27 miles away from Wanblee. But when the DOJ intervened, it said the issues presented in the lawsuit should be considered as violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which designates Native Americans as a protected class.

“It shows the Native Americans that the Department of Justice is actually coming to light to the plight of equality of the Native American vote,” OJ Semans, director of the Native voting rights group Four Directions, told ThinkProgress about the government’s decision to become involved in the lawsuit.

The suit against Jackson County is unique because it is the first in which Native Americans are asking for the DOJ to reestablish preclearance under the Voting Rights Act since the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated that requirement in the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision.

“If we’re able to show the court that the lack of providing equality at the ballot box was because of race, then they are required to be under the watchful eye of the Department of Justice for the next ten years,” Semans said. “Section 3 is what we’re using in light of Sections 4 and 5 disappearing to put the county back under the Department of Justice.”

Semans said he is hopeful about the result of the lawsuit considering Four Directions’ prior success in similar litigation in which Shannon and Fall River Counties agreed to settle with Native Americans, giving them most of what they asked for including satellite voting centers on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

South Dakota counties that open satellite voting centers on reservations receive reimbursements through Help America Vote Act funds, which are specifically designated to expand voter access to groups including Native Americans. As a result, counties’ refusal to open satellite offices has no reasonable explanation, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson said.

“Let’s be clear, South Dakota does not have a proud history when it comes to providing Native Americans an equal right to vote,” Johnson told the Argus Leader. “We should be doing more, not less, to protect the right of every South Dakotan to vote in our elections.”

Like other Natives across the state, most Pine Ridge tribal members in Jackson County are living in poverty and are unlikely to have the resources to travel to vote in the location of the county seat, the lawsuit alleges.

“Native Americans in Jackson County also lag their white counterparts on a variety of socioeconomic measures, including access to reliable transportation,” the DOJ said in its brief. “As a result, Native American citizens residing in Jackson County face significantly greater burdens and have substantially less opportunity than white citizens with respect to casting in-person absentee ballots and using in-person voter registration.”

While litigation is moving forward in Jackson County, Four Directions has not taken legal action against county officials in Buffalo County— another place where South Dakota is attempting to suppress the Native American vote. Unlike in Jackson County where white residents actually make up a majority of the county’s population, the county seat in Buffalo County is in the town of Gann Valley which has a population of less than a dozen people.

“The hypocrisy of it is that we would be picking on a white minority in Buffalo County if we were to sue them under the Voting Rights Act,” Semans said. “The best thing to happen there is if the majority would take a petition to move the county office [to the reservation] and in turn they can always supply a satellite office in Gann Valley.”

The Final Indian War In America Is About To Begin

Dale Looks Twice, left, and Acorn High Hawk lead the procession out of Manderson to the Wounded Knee massacre gravesite.

Dale Looks Twice, left, and Acorn High Hawk lead the procession out of Manderson to the Wounded Knee massacre gravesite.

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji) / HuffPost

South Dakota’s Republican leadership of John Thune and Kristi Noem always march lockstep with the other Republican robots. Neither of them care that South Dakota’s largest minority, the people of the Great Sioux Nation, diametrically oppose the Pipeline and they also fail to understand the determination of the Indian people to stop it.

The House vote was 252-161 favoring the bill. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who is trying to take the senate seat from Democrat Mary Landrieu, They are headed for a senate runoff on December 6 and Landrieu has expressed a strong support of the bill in hopes of holding her senate seat.

Two hundred twenty-one Republicans supported the bill which made the Republican support unanimous while 31 Democrats joined the Republicans. One hundred sixty-one Democrats rejected the bill.

Progressive newsman and commentator for MSNBC, Ed Schultz, traveled to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota this year to meet with the Indian opponents of the Pipeline. Firsthand he witnessed the absolute determination of the Indian nations to stop construction of the Pipeline.

He witnessed their determination and reported on it. Except for Schultz the national media shows no interest and apparently has no knowledge of how the Indian people feel about the Pipeline nor do they comprehend that they will go to their deaths stopping it. What is wrong with the national media when it comes to Indians?

As an example of the national media’s apathy, the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota have turned their backs on the $1.5 billion dollars offered to them for settling the Black Hills Claim and although they are among the poorest of all Americans, the national media does not consider this news.

Why do they protest the XL Pipeline? Because the lands the Pipeline will cross are Sacred Treaty Lands and to violate these lands by digging ditches for the pipelines is blasphemes to the beliefs of the Native Americans. Violating the human and religious rights of a people in order to create jobs and low cost fuel is the worst form of capitalism. Will the Pipeline bring down the cost of fuel and create thousands of jobs?

President Barack Obama has blocked the construction of the Pipeline for six years and he said, “I have constantly pushed back against the idea the somehow the Keystone Pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices. Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

In the meantime Senator Landrieu conceded that it is unlikely that the Senate and the House will have the two-thirds majority needed to override an Obama veto.

Wizipan Little Elk of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a coalition of tribal leaders from across the Northern Plains and the United States have pulled no punches on how they intend to fight the Pipeline to the death if that is the only way to stop it.

South Dakota’s elected leadership has totally ignored the protests of the largest minority residing in their state. They have also totally underestimated and misunderstood the inherent determination of the Indian people. This is a huge mistake that will have national implications and it is taking place right under their Republican noses.

What is even worse South Dakota’s media has also buried its collective heads in the sand even though Native Sun News has been reporting on the Keystone XL Pipeline since 2006. Award-winning Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News, Talli Nauman, has been at the journalistic forefront of this environmental disaster about to happen from day one and she has been rewarded by the South Dakota Newspaper Association with many awards for her yearly series of articles on this most important topic. Until this issue became a political football, the rest of South Dakota’s media had been silent.

The Keystone XL Pipeline that is being pushed by TransCanada may well be the beginning of the final war between the United States government and the Indian Nations. A word of caution to TransCanada and the U.S. Government: please do not disregard the determination of the Indian people when they say they will fight this Pipeline to their deaths if need be. They mean it!

When asked if he truly thought that a handful of Indians could stop the construction of the Pipeline, Little Elk simply said, “Try us!”

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe stands its ground against the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline ‪#‎NoKXL‬ ‪#‎StandTheLine‬

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe stands its ground against the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline ‪#‎NoKXL‬ ‪#‎StandTheLine‬

(Note: This column will appear before the Senate votes on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The House has already approved the construction of the Pipeline)

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is the editor and publisher of Native Sun News.

Source: www.indianz.com/News/2014/015666.asp