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No Sitting for Standing Rock, Please

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I write this piece so as to help answer four questions that have been circulating in the aftermath of the recent victory at Standing Rock. I intend for my responses to help keep supporters pressing onward and to prevent us from becoming divided. My ultimate goal is to encourage water protectors worldwide to be more determined than ever in the face of the incoming administration of Donald Trump. This may seem an impossible task but perhaps without the deceptive language of those who came before that only veiled Trump's anti-environment intentions, it may be easier than we can imagine if we keep up the effort.

Question #1: What exactly was the victory? The Department of the Army's Assistant Secretary of Civil Works (not the Army Corps of Engineers), housed in the Pentagon, issued an order to "not grant an easement" for DAPL "to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location" until an "Environmental Impact Statement(EIS)" is "prepared." According to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (Bobby), it would be very difficult for the incoming president to reverse this because a mandate for an EIS essentially becomes federal law. For American Indians, it may be an unprecedented victory. As Vine Deloria, Jr. writes in a chapter for my edited text, Unlearning the Language of Conquest: Scholars Expose Anti-Indianism in America , for us conquest has always masqueraded itself as law.

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Question #2: What legal enforcement of the order is occurring now? As of December 10th the Blackwater bridge just north of camp is still dangerously blocked, forcing people to drive hours out of the way in dangerous winter road conditions. This is in spite of ABC news reporting on December 4th that the Sheriff Department said it had lifted the blockade. The state police and National Guard defending the pipeline are still in place as well, though further down the road, and at this point they are still on the scene "protecting" the drilling operation that is supposed to have stopped. The U.S. Attorney General made a statement indicating her office would "monitor the situation" and "provide resources to help "in easing tensions." It says nothing more specific about assuring DAPL is complying with the order. One of my Vets for Peace comrades said he talked to a person from the Army Corps of Engineers who said they would not allow DAPL to continue working, but one can only hope this is true. This apparently seems to be being upheld. Based on one report, not only has DAPL and ETS and their efforts to appeal been rejected by a district judge this week, but the Army Corps of Engineers told them they would open the dam and flood the lake if they attempted to proceed. So this is all good news.

On the other hand, a newly released audio of DAPL's Chief Operating Officer claims that there is no doubt that the company will go through "on time" and where it was planned. It further states that "the election changes everything" revealing that the pro-oil administration will be sure to support the original pipeline route as will the courts who will respond to ETS's challenge to the Army's request for a full environmental impact report.

In any case, Ronald Reagan's famous dictum, "Trust but verify" (and forgive me using a Reagan quote to present a good idea) is appropriate here. Any efforts to verify would be warranted in consideration of five things I have learned about ETS. First, as I wrote previously for Truthout, during my first trip to Standing Rock in September found that DAPL had probably violated the mandate from the U.S. Court of Appeals not to drill within 20 feet . Second, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners announced to the world they would continue as planned, describing the order (rightly or wrongly) as a temporary political play and that they were "fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe."

The third reason I think it is important for verification relates to some information I received from an expert on laying oil pipelines. In response to something he had read that said that DAPL was being allowed to drill vertically but not horizonally, he wrote me:

Remember, this company like all the oil pipeline companies have professional PR people. In truth, "vertical drilling" for any waterway is A FICTION. Horizontal Directional Drilling turns its' angles with a "Swivel" gadget. The typical river or lake pipeline bore only uses ONE swivel. Vertical drilling would call for a 90 degree swivel angle, which is preposterous. (It would actually need about 7 Eleven degree swivels~ outrageously expensive, and just NOT what any sane HDD company would even attempt. You can bet they are making ONE angle "swivel", on a directional bore, at the deepest part of the river, then, they'll climb the bore back up, towards the opposite shore. That's how it's done. No need for "vertical" anything.

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This person also told me you can tell from the color and texture of the dirt being piled up where they are in relation to the river.

The fourth reason is the Energy Transfer Partnerships (ETS) is getting deeper and deeper into financial losses with a number of risks if further delays occur.

A fifth reason is that ETS is not a trustworthy corporation on many levels. It is responsible for 29 major oil spills and damage since 2006 for starters. For its business dealings in general, Bloomberg covered a story where it was ranked dead last as the worst company among its peers. As for human rights, all we have to do is look at the past few months in North Dakota.

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Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows) is faculty at Fielding Graduate University and was formerly Dean of Education at Oglala Lakota College and a tenured professor at Northern Arizona University. Named by AERO as one of 27 educational visionaries, he is the author of 20 acclaimed books on wellness, critical education and Indigenous worldview such as his most recent (more...)
 

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