From Consortium News
The DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) being installed between farms, as seen from 50th Avenue in New Salem, North Dakota. August 25, 2016.
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On his second business day in office, President Donald Trump signed executive actions to restart construction of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, sending shockwaves through the indigenous environmental communities at Standing Rock and their supporters across the U.S. and around the world.
After Trump's actions, I spoke with Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, who has worked on various grassroots environmental issues with tribal governments to develop indigenous-based environmental protection infrastructures. He was a key organizer at the Standing Rock protests that convinced President Obama to consider alternative pipeline routes.
Dennis Bernstein: Give us your initial response, your overview.
Tom Goldtooth: Yes, our network, which is a grassroots Native organization of frontline organizations and individuals and tribal members throughout North America, are very concerned. We're very alarmed at how fast he has put this ... insane initiative forward.
["] We definitely are opposed to their recklessness, and the political motivation behind these kinds of fossil fuel development projects. As we know, [Trump] is invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline. And this is just a really bad step on his behalf, as a new-seated President of the United States.
He is violating existing, government-to-government policies between the United States and tribes, as federally recognized tribes. He never consulted... no one in his administration consulted with the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, nor any of the other federally recognized tribes, on this initiative that he is putting forward.
And so, we're very concerned as he's taken this executive action towards making the first step towards approving of the easement of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River. So, you know, we're very concerned. We had a couple calls with members in the community at Standing Rock. Some people in leadership with the Oceti Sakowin Camp, as well as many of our other supporters. So, we definitely are bringing attention to this ... where's this going to end? [...]
We know that these kinds of pipelines are violating the private rights of private land owners, ranchers and farmers along that corridor, with threats of imminent domain. They were forced. It was a forced choice many of those private land owners were faced with, on these kinds of energy developments. So we're going to see that more under this privatization initiative that Trump has put forward around jobs and economic development. But at what expense?
DB: This is about the most blatant... one of the most blatant things I've seen in my lifetime. But this really does continue, shall we say, Columbus' American tradition of genocide... I mean, this is a white ruler acting on behalf of the white race. Wouldn't you say? It has to be seen that way.
TG: It's a continuation of those colonial policies that are at the foundation of the United States. And throughout past decades under social justice and environmental justice movement initiatives, we begin to try to unwrap these colonial policies built upon racism. And here we are. We got a president in office that is racist and, many people say, is a fascist. And so, this is just another continuing practice that we have to stop. We have to mobilize and stop this right now.
Like I said, this initiative is indicating to us, right now, that he doesn't respect the sovereignty rights of our American Indians and our Alaskan Natives. And this decision he's making, if he moves forward and implements this action with these executive orders, it's going to violate the treaty rights of the Lakota/Dakota people. But where's it going to stop? It's going to violate, again, all of our Native rights. So, we've spoken out against this pipeline and the Black Snake initiative, with all these pipelines. And Trump is portraying his true self, joining forces with that darkness.
Protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on September 13, 2016
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There's no light in his decisions. These prairie lands are very rich culturally, and environmentally, and it's a very spiritual relationship our people have with the land. And he's violating that, as well.
DB: It seems that all the actions at Standing Rock were, in a way, preparation for the resistance of this next level of violence. Would you say that the work that people have done will do them well, in terms of the continued resistance? And perhaps people are already thinking about that, in deep ways?