By Roy L Hales
The Standing Rock Sioux’s struggle to halt the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, a half mile north of their reservation, has gained international recognition. The Guardian’s coverage began on April 2, with a story of 200 Native Americans who “took to horseback” in a mounted protest. In August, Reuters reported on the tribe’s attempt to obtain an injunction against construction. As of this morning, Democracy Now has posted 154 stories. That’s just the media. Many North American communities have held demonstrations. Two events, in a relatively remote part of British Columbia, illustrate the extent to which Cortes Islanders Support Standing Rock.
Cortes Islanders Support Standing Rock
Between 175 and 200 people attended a November 25th benefit for Standing Rock in the Klahoose Nation’s Multipurpose Building. That’s both roughly 20% of Cortes’ population and suggests the vast majority of the islanders are sympathetic to the resistance.
One of the key organizers was Jeramie Peacock, who told me that the proposed Dakota Access pipeline was originally slated to go through Bismark, North Dakota. When the largely white inhabitants objected to the perceived threat to their water supply, Energy Transfer Partners decided to build the pipeline 30 miles to the south, beside the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. It would go beneath the tribe’s only source of drinking water and through an area with 66 village sites, with human remains, or cultural artifacts and sacred prayer sites.
Ignoring Standing Rock Concerns
Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, recently told the Wall Street Journal, “I really wish for the Standing Rock Sioux that they had engaged in discussions way before they did. I don’t think we would have been having this discussion if they did. We could have changed the route, It could have been done, but it’s too late.”
In response, the tribe brought forward the audio record a Sept. 30, 2014 meeting they had with with Chuck Frey, vice president of engineering for Energy Transfer Partners, and Tammy Ibach, North Dakota media relations for Dakota Access. The Bismark Tribune reported:
“Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II pointed out that while the pipeline crosses less than a mile north of the reservation boundary, the tribe recognizes its treaty boundaries and passed a resolution in 2012 opposing pipelines within the those boundaries.
Waste Win Young, the former tribal historic preservation officer, told the company about the cultural significance of the area near the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers, which was at one time home to several tribes.
“We have a really rich history here, and our history and ceremonies are who we are … I thank you guys for coming, but the risks are too great for our children,” she told the company.
According to the website Standing With Standing Rock, ” … Dakota Access Pipeline, LLC’s initial draft environmental assessment of December 9, 2015 made no mention of the fact that the route they chose brings the pipeline near, and could jeopardize, the drinking water of the Tribe and its citizens. It actually omitted the very existence of the tribe on all maps and any analysis, in direct violation of the US environmental justice policies.”
Jeramie Peacock she initially wanted to go to Standing Rock but later decided it would be more useful to do something closer to home. In the podcast above she describes a gathering at Manson’s Landing, on Cortes Island, and the inspiration for a benefit in the Klahoose Nation’s Multipurpose Building.
“A lot of the articles that I was reading from Standing Rock and the articles coming directly from people on the ground, were saying this isn’t just about sending us money, or having to come here physically. It’s about the native resistance efforts in your own back yard,” she said.
So it was decided that the benefit would be for both Standing Rock and a Klahoose Nation project. (She goes into this in much more detail, and gives a break-down of the proceeds, in the podcast.)
“It is wildly satisfying to organize events that run away with themselves and engage the community at its fullest- and for your attendance and support, I am deeply grateful. We (You!) raised $6000 and folks continue to contribute. Not only did you turn out in near record numbers but you turned out your pockets too! THANK YOU!” Of the latter she wrote on the Cortes Island Tideline.
The Campbell River Marches
Another initiative to grow out of that Mansens Landing gathering, was the marches in Campbell River.
After learning that the TD bank was one of the pipeline’s major funders, Bill Wheeler decided to demonstrate at the local branch. He organized three marches, the largest of which involved 18 people. Nancy Beach was one of the people who went with him.
All three of the Cortes residents allude to the continental wide struggle against an expanding fossil fuel infrastructure in the podcast above.
The recently approved Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion through British Columbia’s most populated area is of particular concern.
Time To Go Home
As for Standing Rock, on December 4 the Department of the Army announced it “will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.”
In the YouTube video below, Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II explains how he expects the struggle to continue in the months ahead. However, for the time being, it is time to celebrate a great victory and he asks the people who have helped to go home.
Top Photo Credit: Standing Rock Benefit on Cortes Island! – From the event Facebook page