Russ Diabo

Republished with authors permission from The Eastern Door, Vol. 25, No. 37, September 16, 2016, www.easterndoor.com.

The Standing Rock Sioux opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Mohawk opposition to the Energy East Pipeline raise important questions about North American oil pipeline infrastructure because of Indigenous Peoples’ concern for water and land. As one commentator put it:

"Oil pipelines are inherently dangerous, and threaten our communities and environment   with spills and explosions. They boost corporate profits and increase our dependence on fossil fuels, while bringing only risks and harms to those who live along the pipelines’ paths."

By most accounts the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens their water and land in North Dakota and the central plains, has led to the largest historic gathering of Indigenous Tribes and nations in over 100 years.

The Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock reservation has greatly surpassed the 1973 American Indian Movement (AIM) occupation of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge reservation, which I hitchhiked to for a time when I was a teenager and where I learned what getting shot at by U.S. Marshalls with 50 calibre machine guns with tracer bullets in the dark looks like, while flares are also shot in the air.

Unlike the 1973 Wounded Knee armed standoff the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation is weapons-free and peaceful strategies are employed to block the Dakota Access Pipeline; "protectors not protesters" is the mantra of those camped at the site.

The only violence has come from the company itself who on Saturday September 3, employed private security who used attack dogs on the land protectors when they tried to stop bulldozers from digging up and destroying sacred cultural sites the Sioux had identified as needing protection.

The Tribes on the Great Plains had a practice run over the last few years in their opposition to the now failed XL Pipeline, which no doubt prepared them for the current conflict with the powerful oil and gas industry, the corporate and financial interests from Wall Street, not to mention the US government departments and agencies.

The company Dakota Access LLC and the Energy Transfer family of companies has reportedly, "$10.25 billion in loans and credit facilities from 38 banks directly supporting the companies building the pipeline."

Last Friday September 9, a US Federal Court judge denied a temporary injunction application from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop the construction of the pipeline.

Immediately after the federal judge’s decision was handed down an unusual joint statement was issued by the US Department of Justice, Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior, halting construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock reservation and requesting that the company voluntarily stop construction of the pipeline "within 20 miles east or west of [the Missouri River]," while the U.S. government consults with the Tribes about the original approval of the pipeline.

However, even before the Federal Court decision was handed down, North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple militarized the situation by replacing the state police and sheriffs with armed National Guardsmen to man a check point on a highway leading to the reservation.

For the Great Sioux Nation its allies and supporters – despite the court loss - the fight is far from over as they prepare to winterize the camps and continue their legal and political strategies to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, or as they call it the "Black Snake" from destroying their water and land!

Meanwhile in Canada, after 10 years of the Harper government, the newly elected Trudeau government has inherited the thorny issues of trying to balance environmental protection with developing Canada’s national economy.

One of the young prime minister’s first actions after being elected into power was to lead a Canadian delegation into the Paris Climate Change Conference negotiations last November and ultimately endorse the Paris Agreement on Climate change.

The "Paris Agreement" is a global agreement for countries to try and limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, by setting voluntary national goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions and review their progress globally every five years.

To reach this global target zero emissions from humans will have to be reached by the second half of the 21st century, according to some scientists.

Scientists have pointed out any rise over two degrees Celsius means dangerous climate change.

Many scientists say impacts due to climate change become catastrophic if temperatures are allowed to rise anywhere near three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Despite signing onto the Paris Agreement, a main federal goal under the Trudeau government remains getting Tar Sands crude to tidewater through pipelines, but it appears the federal regulatory process headed up by the National Energy Board (NEB) is imploding with three of the Commissioners assigned to review the Energy East Pipeline Project resigning amid charges of conflict-of-interest for a secret meeting with former Quebec premier, Jean Charest, while he was employed as a lobbyist for TransCanada the Energy East Pipeline company.

Also in BC there is widespread opposition from Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to the Northern Gateway and Kinder-Morgan Pipelines from Alberta, as well as the associated oil tanker traffic off the BC coast.

Let’s be clear, all of these pipelines are to transport crude oil to storage refineries at ports on the saltwater coasts to ship the crude oil overseas for corporate profits, not for the benefit of Indigenous Peoples.

Oil from the Tar Sands is one of the dirtiest sources of energy produced and a big contributor to carbon pollution and climate change. This is why US president Obama rejected the XL Pipeline as not being in the US national interest.

As Indigenous Peoples with our history of witnessing environmental destruction, our traditional knowledge and the original instructions given to us by the Creator, we should be leading the debate in North America and globally about moving away from dependency on fossil fuels and

developing low carbon or zero carbon renewable energy sources.

It’s not enough to oppose pipelines, a low carbon footprint starts with the habits and choices of the individual, the family and the community. This includes Standing Rock and Kahnawake!

For Indigenous Peoples on the north side of the Canada/US border the Trudeau government is using Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde and the AFN Executive Committee as the main consultation body for First Nations’ input into Canada’s climate change


Using the AFN is a façade to give the public appearance of Indigenous Peoples’ consent to Canada’s climate change strategy and national targets developed by the federal, provincial and territorial governments in keeping with the Paris Agreement.

In Niagara Falls this past July the AFN Annual General Assembly adopted a resolution creating an AFN Advisory Committee on Climate Action and the Environment (ACCAE) whose mandate is to:

"Engage meaningfully with federal, provincial, and territorial governments in the development and implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to ensure that First Nations are meaningfully included in all aspects of this process."

Unless Indigenous Peoples mobilize more like what is happening in Standing Rock, the colonial constitutional framework of Canada means that Indigenous Peoples will have no meaningful say or inclusion in climate change strategy or policy measures, and since AFN is being used to bypass Indigenous communities and Nations, the media and Canadian public will continue to be misled by the prime minister and premiers about Indigenous involvement in Canada’s climate change strategy of targets to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.