In Returning the Sacred Red Rock to the Dakota, Methodists Want to Build Relationships, Lead State Towards Healing Path

The Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) is in the early stages of returning In-Yan Sa (the sacred Red Rock) to the Dakota people, according to an article the UMC published online. The UMC says this is part of a larger effort of healing, building relationships with indigenous peoples, and leading the rest of Minnesota along this important journey.

(The Dakota word for the Red Rock also is spelled Eyah-Shaw.)

The article continued:

“We live in Dakota and Ojibwa lands—land systematically taken from the Dakota and Ojibwa through treaties violated or broken by the U.S. government, land long sacred to its native inhabitants,” said Bishop Ough. “Since the 2012 General Conference, our Minnesota Conference Commission on Native American Ministry has been preparing us to walk the path of peace and reconciliation with the Dakota people and to heal the lingering wounds form the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. This is the moment for the Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church to lead the entire state down this path of healing and reconciliation. This is the moment to return Eyah-Shaw. This would be a powerful and just step toward peace and harmony.”

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Congress Needs to Investigate Corporate Influence on Law Enforcement’s DAPL Response

An Open Letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, and Rep. Keith Ellison:

Regardless of your view on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), I hope we all can agree that the standoff and violence that occurred near Standing Rock should never have happened. We must learn from this tragic event.

In that regard, I ask you to investigate the actions of the National Sheriffs’ Association and  its role in doing opposition research against water protectors and its ties and coordination with TigerSwan, the private security firm hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect DAPL. This should include a review of the rationale and appropriateness of the law enforcement tactics used.

Screen capture of 2016 video showing the heavily militarized response to water protectors.

This is a national issue. Law enforcement  from several states — including Minnesota — were deployed to Morton County, North Dakota through mutual assistance agreements. What are the lessons these law enforcement agents will take back to their home communities?

This should be of particular to concern to those of us in Minnesota. Canadian company Enbridge Line 3 has proposed expanding a tar sands crude pipeline through the state, called Line 3. It would run from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, and includes 337 miles of pipeline through Minnesota. It would cross the Mississippi River, twice, and cross many wild rice lakes. This project most likely will provoke a similar resistance movement as happened in North Dakota. (See MPR story: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock.)

How will we respond if and when that happens?

We need a thorough review of law enforcement’s response at Standing Rock so that we don’t repeat the mistakes that were made.

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Reflections on the Sacred and Recipes from the Sioux Chef

I have been reflecting on an article I read recently in the Washington Post headlined: Catholic nuns in Pa. build a chapel to block the path of a gas pipeline planned for their property.

It’s a story about Sister Linda Fisher, 74, and her fellow nuns who are trying to stop a natural gas pipeline from crossing their rural Pennsylvania property.

“This just goes totally against everything we believe in — we believe in sustenance of all creation,” she said.

Their solution? Dedicate an outdoor chapel on the pipeline right of way. Continue reading

FYI Water Protectors: Governor Dayton is Holding Water Quality Town Hall Meetings

Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith have organized ten town hall meetings around the state giving Minnesotans an opportunity to discuss the water quality challenges, learn from experts, and engage with policymakers. The goal is to spur collaboration and action to improve Minnesota’s water quality 25 percent by 2025.

This is another opportunity for those opposed to the expanded tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota (Enbridge Line 3) to engage with state leaders and make your voices heard. A major tar sands pipeline spill would set water quality back significantly. Enbridge, a Canadian oil transportation company, has proposed abandoning an existing and failing pipeline (Line 3) and installing a new and larger pipeline, including a partial reroute. The proposed route would cut right through the Mississippi headwaters region as well as prime wild ricing areas. (For more background, click here.)

Here are the cities and dates for the Town Hall meetings.

More news and events follow.

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MPR Tar Sands Pipeline Story Flawed, Slanted

DAPL protest sign.

Let’s starting watching how the media covers the proposed expansion of a tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota, a project that threatens our environment and provides no significant benefit to Minnesota. Today’s example is MPR’s story: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock.

Quick background: Enbridge Line 3 is a tar sands pipeline that runs from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, via northern Minnesota. Enbridge wants to abandon its old and deteriorating pipeline in the ground. It wants to install a new and larger pipeline, running 337 miles along a new route through northern Minnesota. It would cut through the Mississippi headwaters, threaten lakes and wild rice beds, and violate treaty rights.

The MPR story is deeply flawed.  Starting with the headline, the story raises “threats” and “fears” over the pipeline fight. So the first question to come to mind is: Who is doing the threatening and creating fear?

Here’s how the story sums it up:

Activists are pressing Minnesota officials now to deny the permit and kill the project. State officials and company executives working to head off a confrontation say they’re doing more than ever to listen to the concerns of those in the pipeline’s potential path.

That may not be enough to stop a confrontation.

Comment: In this frame, activists are “pressing” and even trying to “kill” the project. (“Kill” is a violent word.) State officials and company executives, on the other hand, are framed as peacemakers. They are “working” to head off a confrontation. They are doing “more than ever to listen” to concerns. As this frame goes,all that hard work and listening might not be enough to stop the confrontation, the threats, the fears.

You get the picture. This makes the activists seem unreasonable and the state and the company seem reasonable. The people — not the pipeline and the damage it would cause — are the threat.

That’s bunk. Continue reading

North Dakota Very Late Addressing DAPL’s Unlicensed Security Firm, A Sad Commentary on Justice

North Dakota has operated at a snails pace responding to something it has known for at least nine months: The owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) hired a security firm that was not licensed to work in North Dakota.

That security firm, TigerSwan, worked to intimidate and infiltrate the water protectors, according to an Associated Press story run by MPR. The story (again) raises troubling questions about government’s impartiality in the DAPL dispute.

State intervention now is all but irrelevant. The water protectors have withdrawn for the most part; opponents are hoping for help from the courts.TigerSwan’s penalty will likely be a slap on the wrist for a company its size — that and a request for it to stop doing business in the state.

North Dakota’s inaction is stunning. The state of North Dakota’s Private Investigative and Security Board notified TigerSwan last September that it was operating without a license, the story said. TigerSwan’s first zigged, saying it was not doing security work, then zagged by applying for the license anyway. The state rejected its application in December. Continue reading

DAPL Court Ruling a Mixed Bag: Reveals Deeply Flawed Environmental Justice Review, but Weak on Treaty Rights

A recent court ruling on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is stunning for what is reveals about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted its so called “environmental analysis” of the project.

The June 14 decision by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg will require the Corps to go back and do the analysis correctly. He left open the possibility that the court could shut down the pipeline until these issues are resolved. That decision will come at a later hearing.

The court ruling says the Corps analysis “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” Read more deeply into the decision, and it raises questions about whether the Corps is simply oblivious to the concept of environment justice or whether its staff willfully slanted the review to get the outcome it wanted.

(In a related matter, the Trump administration has proposed eliminating the Environmental Justice Program altogether and making deep cuts to other civil rights services. See this CNN story.)

According to the court decision on DAPL: “The purpose of an environmental justice analysis is to determine whether a project will have a disproportionately adverse effect on minority and low income populations.”

The problem with the Corps’ environmental justice analysis boils down to this: It drew such a tiny circle defining the project’s impact area that it excluded the Standing Rock Nation from consideration.

That’s right. The Corps’ environmental justice analysis only looked at the impact on a predominantly white community mostly upstream from where DAPL crossed under Lake Oahe. It did not consider the impact on the Lakota people of the Standing Rock Nation just downstream from the crossing — the community that would be impacted by any spill. Continue reading