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The Optics Say Birmingham 1963, but It’s Standing Rock 2016

Or could it be Selma 1965, Bloody Sunday, when the President had to federalize the National Guard. Many of the water and land protectors may feel it’s like the Greasy Grass Fight in 1876, Alcatraz 1969 or Wounded Knee 1973. A new generation of activists are being passed the drums and pipes. But right now they need lawyers and funds to bail them out of North Dakota jails. Dozens more were arrested at the Red Warrior Camp including media with their cameras (probably to be used as evidence). If hundreds of the protectors went in to get arrested that would shut down the system. Perhaps shut down the camps too, but more people will come to sneak past the checkpoints, just like 1973.

The land they are on, folks keep calling it private property or Army Corps of Engineers land. But the Oceti Sakowin say the land was theirs until the Army Corps of Engineers at the behest of North Dakota politicians came in and flooded Standing Rock and Cheyenne River lands where Lake Oahe is now. There was no consultation and no compensation for their homelands, for this violation of the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868. Now it’s where the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens to be built 100 feet below, crossing the Missouri River three times. The Indians say the whites flooded the river, stole their land and left them nothing but poverty.

What we Natives are fighting, among many things, is the perceived numbers against us. We cannot deny that we are the very bottom 2% of the population. For every person talking about #NoDAPL and #Standing Rock, nine are arguing over various media distractions. But don’t get mad, just get even. Keep talking, texting, tweeting, posting, writing about #NoDAPL, Sacred Stone, Red Warrior, the indigenous activists coming from around the world and Lawrence O’Donnell too. Billionaire Kelcy Warren set-up his Energy Transfer Partners as a Master Limited Partnership (MLP) company which does not pay taxes. North Dakota politicians are in lock step with the oil & gas industries, Congressman Kevin Cramer as an energy advisor - and climate change denier - to Donald Trump (see no evil), Senator John Hoeven who sits on both Native American and Energy Committees (hear no evil), and Senator Heidi Heitcamp’s non-sequitur responses who also sits on a Native American Committee (say no evil). Is this a pattern of conflict of interests in North Dakota? John Oliver had something to say about that. Natives are told to go home, do your protest legally, petition the government as citizens do and depend on the courts. Sovereignty, treaties, environmental justice?

Kelcy Warren and the ETP strategy is to keep buying up weaker pipeline, oil & gas companies, because the price of oil is low. The plan for DAPL/ETP in Iowa was all this dirty fracked Bakken oil in the pipelines was for domestic consumption. But Congress changed the 40 year ban to allow U.S. companies to export crude oil, this dirty fracked Bakken oil, to counter the oil price war the Saudis have unleashed on the world. All thanks to Warren’s friend, ex-Texas Governor Rick Perry who joined the board of ETP and lobbied to end the ban.

It’s no longer about American Energy Independence but outright profits for the U.S. and foreign banks who’ve invested in a futures deal to get cheap oil to their countries. The biggest problem for the citizenry (and for ETP) is that these huge pipelines need to be full to maximize profits. Bakken crude is dirty and needs to be heated to move better. This bakes the soil and along with oil and brine spills, the once black fertile land becomes useless. ETP heats, cools, or liquefies the oil & gas for its 70,000 miles of pipelines and is aiming for a goal of 150,000 miles. ETP says, “this is a growth project” and they are “exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on U.S. energy exports.” So forget any carbon reduction and pollution treaties, this sets the stage for more fracking and environmental degradation for years.

8000 protectors at Sacred Stone and Red Warrior are now facing reinforced law enforcement and the National Guard, and dozens are being arrested as DAPL continues to work where they can. The lands in question allegedly belongs to the Army Corps of Engineers but was taken and flooded by North Dakota sixty some years ago contrary to the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty. But the nation and the world is watching now. I remember the story, the Crow scouts told Lt. Col. Custer the day they looked down at the biggest gathering of Indians anyone had seen. You don’t have enough bullets for all the Indians down there. Custer didn’t believe, didn’t care about those numbers.

We got to think like that, that whatever they think they got, we got more. They fight for a paycheck. We fight for all we got and all we will have and all that we lost. We got them now. Now it’s them stuck in the past trying to impose a nationwide system of pipelines that will degrade the environment for the next 50 years. The Native water and land protectors, #NoDAPL, the Raging Grannies, farmers and ranchers of Iowa, Bold Nebraska now Bold Alliance that took down Keystone XL, all need to prepare to fight for the future. The country needs to rebuild its infrastructure, go into debt if need be to create millions of jobs not just thousands, with new transmission lines for all manner of green energy projects and not just pipelines. This is the time to start the switch to renewables.

Remember The Greasy Grass River 140 years ago. They don’t have enough “bullets” if we all stand up.