So, They’re Drilling Under the River…Now What?


photo: Rob Wilson Photography


This is an update on the fight at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access pipeline, and a call to action.  

Easement Granted, Tribes File Lawsuits

On January 31st, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum directing the Army Corps to expedite approval of the Dakota Access pipeline.  On February 8, the Army Corps issued the final easement for the crossing of the Mni Sose (Missouri River).  Without a single word of explanation, this reversed the December 4th Army Corps decision to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement on the river crossing.  It also skipped the 14-day congressional notification period required by law for that type of easement.  Now DAPL is drilling under the river, around the clock.  

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe both filed lawsuits today requesting a temporary restraining order and injunction to stop construction, and oral arguments will be heard on Monday, February 13. But unless their requests are granted, which seems unlikely, construction will proceed.  We expect it will take DAPL a few weeks to drill and pull the pipe through, and then they'll do some finishing touches and hydrostatic testing, and oil will be flowing smoothly by May.

Water Protectors Are Still Fighting Back

Despite the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s attempts to send everyone home, hundreds of water protectors remain in the camps, especially the Sacred Stone Camp, the original spirit camp founded by our dear friend LaDonna Allard back in April 2016.   We support them 100% in their determination to stand for the water.  As LaDonna says, “This movement is not just about a pipeline.  We are not fighting for a reroute, or a better process in the white man’s courts.  We are fighting for our rights as the indigenous peoples of this land; we are fighting for our liberation, and the liberation of Unci Maka (Mother Earth).  

When the Army Corps first gave notice of the easement, the Indigenous Coalition at Standing Rock (Honor the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Sacred Stone Camp, and the International Indigenous Youth Council) put out a call for emergency actions in a last stand against the pipeline, and we're seeing hundreds of powerful solidarity actions planned and executed all over the world.  

Countless water protectors have also taken the energy at Standing Rock to other battles across Turtle Island - to other pipeline resistance camps, to banks and corporate offices, and to urban streets.  The divestment movement against Dakota Access is growing rapidly, with several major victories in the past week.  On February 7, the same day the easement was issued, the City of Seattle and the City of Davis, CA both divested from Wells Fargo, pulling out over $3 billion.  The Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, and the Muckleshoot Tribe in Washington have all divested from Wells Fargo as well.   Water protectors and allies continue to shut down bank operations with direct action, and individuals and businesses continue to close their accounts.  

The Courtroom Is the New Frontline

Meanwhile, the State's tactics of repression are escalating rapidly. At least one grand jury is active and cranking out federal indictments, and federal agencies are interrogating people's families at home.  Red Fawn Fallis remains in federal custody facing a possible prison sentence, along with two others.  The ND courts are handing down misdemeanor convictions with preposterous fines and fees and the Judges have refused to move these cases to Fargo despite documented evidence of profound bias in the local jury pool.  And the ND legislature has passed four bills designed to crack down on water protectors by increasing potential fines and penalties, and protecting drivers fromliability if they injure or kill a pedestrian obstructing traffic on a public road.  

So for this particular fight, the frontlines are moving to the courtroom.  And frankly we are unprepared.  Over 700 water protectors face charges.  Our legal defense teams have rented offices and apartments, and are working around the clock to coordinate travel logistics, communication, education, and criminal defense efforts.  Dozens of attorneys are coming from across the country to provide legal counsel.  But they are currently seeking more attorneys, legal workers, and organizers to come live in Mandan and Bismarck and work with them to protect the water protectors.  

They also need more money.  The Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund has raised about $3m so far and basically, that needs to double.  It is possible that many water protectors will end up in prison, and we have to fight back to minimize that, which is very expensive, while also setting up prisoner support systems, etc, and all that is in addition to the hundreds facing charges in ND. The most effective way to support this fight now is to donate to the legal defense fund.  You can track the activity of that fund on the website of our partners, the Freshet Collective.  You can also support the attorneys from the Water Protector Legal Collective by donating here.  

What Else Can You Do?

Continue to ramp up the divestment pressure and execute solidarity actions to support the tribes’ request for an injunction to stop construction.  But also, think long-term.  We are facing a white nationalist administration with clear intentions to dismantle what little remains of our democratic institutions, and to serve corporations at the expense of human rights, Indigenous rights, and the rights of nature.  Wherever you are, connect with other local struggles against fascism and the domination of people and Mother Earth (deportations, the Muslim Ban, attacks on labor, the deregulation of Wall Street, other fossil fuel projects, censorship of the press and academia, etc).  Build networks that can sustain long-term strategic organizing led by those most affected.  


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