FBI Investigates DAPL Protestors as Terrorists, Sen. Franken Asks Why; and More Updates

Minnesota U.S. Senator Al Franken is asking the FBI to explain why its terrorism unit is investigating Dakota Access Pipeline protestors.

Honor the Earth is asking state residents to join efforts to stop the expansion of Enbridge’s tar sands pipelines through northern Minnesota.

The Apache Nation in Arizona is trying to come to terms with the federal government’s use of toxic chemicals on tribal lands decades ago.

These stories are nothing new. Indian nations have suffered broken treaties and environmental damage to lands in and around their reservations.

Let’s start with the DAPL update. According to an article in The Guardian:

The FBI is investigating political activists campaigning against the Dakota Access pipeline, diverting agents charged with preventing terrorist attacks to instead focus their attention on indigenous activists and environmentalists. …

Franken, who sits on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has weighed in, according to a story in Native News Online.Net. On March 1, he wrote FBI Director James Comey, asking for an explanation why at least three citizens opposed to DAPL wee being investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

“I am concerned that the reported questioning of political activists by one of the FBI’s terrorism task forces threatens to chill constitutionally protected conduct and speech,” Senator Franken writes in the letter.

The FBI’s approach seems to fit well with how DAPL business interests see the world. Joey Mahmoud, executive vice president of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, used the terrorist narrative when testifying before a hearing of a U.S. House energy subcommittee, according to a Minnesota Public Radio story

Mahmoud said protestors assaulted company personnel, destroyed millions of dollars of equipment and fired a pistol at law enforcement: “Had these actions been undertaken by foreign nationals, they could only be described as acts of terrorism,” he said.

(For more on this particular issue framing, see our earlier blog: DAPL Rorschach Test: Pope Appears to Back Standing Rock While Pipeline Exec Sees Terrorists.)

Minnesota’s Version of DAPL

Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth has sent out a request asking for support to stop a proposal that would increase the flow of Canadian tar sands through northern Minnesota pipelines. Her email reads in part:

We invite you to join us in Bemidji on Tuesday, March 7, to continue building our movement to protect the water and our rights as Anishinaabe people.  Hundreds of tribal and non-tribal community members will attend the US State Department’s only public meeting on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the expansion of the Alberta Clipper crude oil pipeline, which transports tar sands across the lake country of Northern Minnesota, including the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac Reservations.   We will rally outside the event with traditional drumming and jingle-dress dance, and hold a press conference to tell our story.

For more background, click here. For bus transportation to the event from the Twin Cities, click here.

Apache Nation Seeks Answers About Herbicide

Members of the Apache Nation in Arizona are trying to understand the human and ecological toll from a toxic herbicide the federal government sprayed on their lands in the 1960s and 1970s, according to a disturbing story in Indian Country Media Network. The dioxin-containing herbicide called silvex was similar to Agent Orange.

The government started the spraying program “to destroy groundwater-guzzling vegetation in order to save water for the burgeoning city of Phoenix,” the article said. The tribe did sign off on the spraying in 1962, with BIA approval.

(Compare that to the situation in North Dakota, where the federal government dammed the Missouri River to form Lake Oahe. It was a flood control project to protect down stream cities like Omaha. The dam flooded prime reservation lands; Standing Rock paid a high price for flood control, just as the Apache Nation paid a high price to increase the water flow to Phoenix.)

Even at the time the silvex was being used in the 1960s, the federal government would have known how dangerous it was. The product had warning labels against reusing the containers, the article said.

[There were] special warnings against contaminating irrigation ditches, water intended for domestic use, waterways and lakes. But that didn’t stop the BIA from allegedly giving empty silvex drums to the tribe’s Game and Fish Department, which handed them out to people on San Carlos [Reservation] to use as water barrels during ceremonies. …

Today, many of the orchards of fruit trees that had flourished for hundreds of years are gone, as are other food-producing crops—exactly the results one would expect on land sprayed with one of the most powerful defoliants known to science

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing a limited study, seeking sites where the herbicide drums might have been stored improperly.

Click here for the full story.

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