We saw the police violence that occurred at Standing Rock, where Indigenous water protectors and allies were trying to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. We saw the police violence that occurred across the country in response to protests following George Floyd’s murder.
People are concerned about police violence that could occur in northern Minnesota in response to construction of the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline. We know there is strong opposition. We know that the state started organizing the “Northern Lights Task Force” in 2018, a coalition of law enforcement agencies preparing for Line 3 protests, including training and stockpiling gear. The Canadian pipeline corporation Enbridge is helping to coordinate communications, resources, and even funding the purchase of policing equipment through the Public Utilities Commission.
When it comes to crude oil pipeline projects, Indigenous concerns and opposition all too often get marginalized by decision makers.
Such conduct violates the principles outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a commitment both the United States and Canada support. The Declaration says that governments should get Indigenous nation’s free, prior and informed consent before “adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”
What happens in practice is that the powers-that-be have a “conversation” with Native nations, check the “consultation” box, and think they’re done. That’s not good enough.
The latest example comes from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota. It has found government documents that show how little Indigenous concerns mattered when it came to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Continue reading →
Attorneys for water protectors at the Standing Rock say they had a significant victory in court Wednesday, including the right to key information that the state so far has withheld. They also won the right to depose members of the private security firm Tiger Swan as well as other law enforcement officials.
The legal team also learned that key evidence most likely was destroyed.
Quick check in: Standing Rock hasn’t been in the news recently, as attention has shifted to efforts to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through Minnesota. But water protector cases are still being prosecuted in North Dakota, long after the Dakota Access Pipeline forced its way under the Missouri River near Standing Rock.
The Lakota Peoples Law Project sends out periodic updates on the cases against Chase Iron Eyes and HolyElk Rafferty. Here is the most recent update:
For months, the State of North Dakota has failed to pursue or provide required evidence to the defense team representing Lakota People’s Law Project Lead Counsel Chase Iron Eyes. At a crucial hearing on Tuesday, Apr. 4, Judge Lee Christofferson made several rulings in favor of the defense.
Christofferson ruled that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the State of North Dakota must hand over all missing evidence by May 1, and he scolded the deputy state’s attorney for his lack of action. Christofferson also granted defense lawyer Alex Reichert and Lakota People’s Law Project attorneys Daniel Sheehan and Lanny Sinkin the authority to subpoena employees of TigerSwan, the mercenary security firm hired by Dakota Access pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners. Our defense team alleges that TigerSwan ran a targeted, racist, no-holds-barred surveillance and smear campaign against Chase and other water protectors.
The defense team wants to show what it says was illegal collusion between industry, law enforcement, and TigerSwan. Click on the link above and you can watch a 36-minute video of defense attorneys talking about recent developments. The highlights follow.
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.
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.
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 →
One of the issues that has received little attention in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) debate is whether the federal government exercised its trust responsibility to protect Native American peoples and lands.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has prematurely scuttled the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a move both expected and discouraging. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club and thousands of Japanese protestors have joined the push to divest from the banks backing the pipeline, the Standing Rock Nation is struggling from declining casino revenues, and the FBI investigates DAPL protestors as potential terrorists.