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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/7/16

A Protest Victory at Standing Rock

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From Consortium News

In at least a temporary victory for the Standing Rock protesters, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blocked plans for running the Dakota Access Pipeline across Lake Oahe and began to examine alternative routes, although it is unclear how the incoming Trump administration will proceed.

The 1,200 miles Dakota Access Pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, is largely complete, except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River, the longest river in North America.

In a statement, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said the tribe welcomed the decision as very good news, but he also sounded a note of concern regarding what might happen after Jan. 20. He urged President-elect Donald Trump to "respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point."

Archambault II went on to say, "When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes. Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples."

Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, told reporters, after talking with tribal officials and hearing their concerns that the pipeline could affect a crucial source of drinking water, it became "clear that there's more work to do. The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing," Darcy said in a statement released by the Corps of Engineers on Sunday.

U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the "thoughtful approach established by the Army [on Dec. 4] ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts" and "underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward."

"Our prayers have been answered," National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said in a prepared statement. "This isn't over, but it is enormously good news."

Meanwhile, veterans from all branches of the United States Armed Forces have been arriving for days at Standing Rock to join in the anti-pipelin protest. They came in waves of buses, cars, trailers and even planes, to offer their support to the tribes in its many months-long resistance to protect its drinking water and sacred sites. Many believe it was this flood of veterans from many wars that the Army Corps' hand to decide in favor of the Standing Rock Tribe.

Activists carry the American Indian Movement flag at a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Seatte, WA; September 16, 2016.
Activists carry the American Indian Movement flag at a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Seatte, WA; September 16, 2016.
(Image by (Flickr John Duffy))
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Anthony Gonzalez, Executive Director of the American Indian Movement (AIM) was at Standing Rock, where he had helped to deliver solar panels to "sustain the resistance" through the long, often brutal, North Dakota winters.

Gonzalez said there were tears of joy in his eyes: "Our hearts soar like an Eagle's having heard this very good news." Gonzalez himself is a Vietnam veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

Just before the decision came down from the Corps, I spoke with Matt Howard -- co-director of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and one of the veteran organizers who has joined the resistance at Standing Rock. Howard told me that by Sunday evening over 2,000 vets had converged at the multiple Standing Rocks Camps, despite the sub-freezing weather and all the hardships that go along with it.

Dennis Bernstein: Thanks for joining us from Standing Rock, Matt Howard. Tell us why you traveled there with thousands of other vets.

Matt Howard: Thanks for having me. ... I can say for myself that Standing Rock has felt like a real important moment in convergence, to push back on the kinds of militarism that we're seeing that's coming home.

Both in the ways the police departments are militarized, but also the way the corporations are utilizing their own kind of private military, to push their extra-active industries. ... I think that for myself and my organization and my community, we've been really monitoring this because it's frustrating.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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