Native American Allies, Churches, and the United Nations Asked to Help Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

Native Americans and their allies are coming from across the country to support the Standing Rock Reservation’s efforts to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172 mile long pipeline that would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to Illinois for processing.

As tensions rise, they are asking for more help, from church people to the United Nations.

One of the key issues is that the pipeline will run under the Missouri River just one mile from Standing Rock Reservation’s drinking water intake. The pipeline threatens their drinking water and also will run through sacred sites, opponents say. (The reservation straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border towards the west.)

Several thousand people are estimated to have joined the growing protest at Standing Rock, called the “Camp of the Sacred Stones.” The gathering has triggered a strong reaction by the state. According to the Bismarck Tribune, in a story headlined: “State pulls relief resources from swelling Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp,”

North Dakota‚Äôs homeland security director ordered the removal of state-owned trailers and water tanks from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest campsite Monday, citing mounting reports of unlawful activity …

… the loss of their main drinking water supply came as a blow and sent local officials scrambling to find an alternative water source.

Those organizing the protests maintain they are peaceful.

The Indigenous Environmental Network has appealed for national and international human rights observers and church leaders to come and witness. Continue reading

At the UN: Who Decides Who Gets to Speak for Indigenous Peoples?

Who gets to decide who gets to speak on behalf of indigenous peoples? Is it the colonizing government(s) or is the indigenous people themselves?

These questions have a long history. In the United States, it includes the ugly legacy of “blood quantum laws,” which ignored the cultural practices of Native nations and instead restricted tribal membership by the blood quantum of their ancestors.In treaty negotiations, the U.S. government would pick which leaders were “legitimate.” For instance, in the 1805 Treaty with the Dakota (ceding land for what would become Fort Snelling) only two of the seven Dakota leaders present signed. Still, the U.S. government deemed that sufficient. They determined that two of seven — the two that agreed with the U.S. position — could speak for all the Dakota people.

These questions are not new but they have surfaced again, this time at the United Nations.

Most indigenous peoples have been colonized and therefore lack official “state status” to get a seat at the table at such places as the UN. The UN has committed to find a way to give indigenous peoples more of a voice on issues that affect them, what the UN is calling “enhanced participation.” Yet the devil is in the details.

As the UN presses forward with its proposals, there is going to be a fight over who gets to decide who qualifies to speak for indigenous peoples and gets to be involved in “enhanced participation.”

It is not an academic question. It has to do with power. Continue reading

Weekend Reading and Efforts to Resist the Dakota Access Pipeline

Below are brief synopses and links to articles. Pick the one(s) that speak to you:

  • The Canadian commitment to fully embrace the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Returning to Harmony, an essay about residential schools, intergenerational trauma, and healing by Richard Wagamese (Ojibwe)
  • A United Nations proposal to increase participation by indigenous governments — and some pushback
  • An update on resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline


Continue reading