We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Divestment—What It Is.
When people with no easy access to money take on big money, it’s always a hard, uphill battle. The side with lots of money can afford to take some losses and burn through resources in court proceedings that those without money cannot. Therefore, a variety of strategies are necessary to even the playing field: direct action, media pressure, shaming, etc. One such method that has worked when dealing with well-moneyed opposition is divestment.
GoFossilFree.org defines divestment as “the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.” Put simply, when companies or institutions show that they are not our friends, that they do not value us and are willing to risk our safety, then we do not give them one dime. Hit them in the pockets, which all corporations care about. So for example, here, with the Dakota Access Pipeline (and other projects that would hurt Native people), we would say, “You want to harm Native communities, that’s your choice. But let’s make sure that that we make it painful for you to do so.” Instead, let’s do business with those who actually support our communities.
Now that the Army Corps of Engineers rejected the easement for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross the Missouri River pending an Environmental Impact Statement, there is a momentary pause in construction. This pause allows water protectors the world over to direct energies toward strategies other than simply physically keeping Energy Transfer Partners from constructing the pipeline on a day-to-day level. Instead, there can be some focus on taking the fight to Energy Transfer Partners. That is the reason we have the opportunity for an unprecedented global effort to target the pipeline company’s financiers.
According to research by Food & Water Watch 17 banks are directly financing the pipeline construction by Dakota Access LLC. Seven banks are financing both the pipeline and providing significant lines of credit offered to parent companies Energy Transfer Partners, Energy Transfer Equity, and Sunoco Logistics.
The financial backing of the Dakota Access pipeline is, of course, just one of the many reasons to not bank with the major banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, US Bank, JP Morgan Chase and Citibank. These large institutions have a history of predatory lending practices to creating fake personal bank accounts. For many, financing the DAPL should be just another reason to take your funds from these institutions. Yet, for Native people, for Native institutions and for allies in this fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, divesting from these banks is the next step in our multi-faceted fight against DAPL.
Close your Account
Closing your personal bank account at one of the large financial institutions that is helping to fund the DAPL is one of the easiest ways to support the efforts to stop the DAPL. When you close your account, ask to speak to the branch manager and tell them why you are closing your account.
Opening an account with a Credit Union is a great alternative to banking with for-profit Bank. Banks are for-profit institutions whose goal is to make money for their stockholders. Credit Unions are not-for-profit member owned entities whose goal is to pass profits on back to its customers. Find a local Credit Union here
Approach your Tribal council to inquire about with whom your Tribe banks. If the Tribe’s bank is one of those large banks that funds DAPL (it most likely is), find allies on the council who want to stand against DAPL. Draft a resolution for your Tribal council to end its financial relationship with banking institutions financing the DAPL (and most likely other energy destructive projects). Finally, help research a socially responsible Bank or Credit Union alternative.
Educate your council about the DAPL and other environmental destructive projects that their Bank might be involved in.
City and Municipality Divestment
The Seattle City Council, when introduced to the notion of divestment by Matt Remle (Hunkpapa) of Last Real Indians and Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, recently began working toward ending its banking relationship with Wells Fargo. As mentioned above, Wells Fargo is one of the large banks that helps to fund the Dakota Access Pipeline and works against Tribal interests. Wells Fargo is currently contracted to handle $3 billion in city government business, including the cities employee payroll. An ordinance was drafted and has been put forth to the full council who will began hearings on the ordinance in January.
Passing an Ordinance
Tribal and city council members are busy and undertake many responsibilities. The more effort you put into proposed new legislation the better chances you’ll have of it getting passed. Educate council members on the DAPL, draft legislation for them, and rally community members and other social justice minded people to support the efforts.
There is no “one solution” when it comes to fighting a large, well-funded opposition like the Dakota Access Pipeline. But divestment—hitting them where it hurts, the pocketbook—is a great way to continue to put pressure on during this pause in construction.
This piece was co-written by Matt Remle, Hunkpapa, of LastRealIndians.com and Gyasi Ross, Blackfeet, of Indian Country Today Media Network.
Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories