I’m struggling a bit with feeling helpless these days. Indigenous peoples from around the world are freezing and risking life and limb to act as “water protectors,” and they are being attacked by militarized government forces. Is there anything you or I can do about it?
A Little Background on #NoDAPL
Oil companies are building a pipeline to carry oil across the Dakotas, the so-called Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). It was supposed to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, ND. Having an oil pipe cross a river raises a very real risk of water contamination. The mostly White residents in Bismarck said, “Not In My Backyard!” So the pipeline path was rerouted to a river crossing further south. The new route cut across sacred Native American burial sites and lands that were given to native tribes by treaty. It still threatens the water supply of the entire sovereign nation of Standing Rock Sioux. Jesse Jackson has called this re-route “environmental racism.” And it’s only gotten worse.
Last night, police injured hundreds of protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, and water hoses sprayed in freezing temperatures. The ACLU confirms that over 300 have been injured and explains that North Dakota’s local police forces have received $3 million worth of military equipment through federal programs. They call on the Department of Justice to investigate and intervene.
There is also a long history of broken treaties having to do with the presence of non-Sioux settlers, miners and companies on the land where the pipeline is being built. As Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe told ABC News, “today we are saying, ‘No, don’t put this pipeline here, enough is enough.'” And indigenous people from around the world have come to join them, as have busloads of volunteers, according to a neighbor of mine who has been out to visit the protest camps.
Supporting the Water Protectors NOW
I’m heartened by the fact that major news outlets are actually covering what’s happening. And organizations like 350.org are helping indigenous leaders assemble large groups of supporters in locations around the country. There were 300 rallies in various locations last week. My little guy and I attended one near us, and many other families were there, too. The great-great-grandson of Chief Sealth greeted us in the Duwamish language, reminding us that all humans are close relatives in the grand scheme of things, and the trees around us are only slightly more distant cousins.
Another Native activist speaker said, “The Earth gives us everything we need: water, fire, wind… We don’t need oil. All we need is each other.” I was glad to have brought kiddo out to his first rally in this sensitive time. We were unprepared and hadn’t brought signs, but this nice couple let him hold theirs for a bit. Most of the cars driving by were honking in support.
Other things we can do are to sign petitions calling on President Obama, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Justice to put a stop to the pipeline project. There is hope. USA Today reports on four ways the pipeline could be stopped, including one scenario in which their customers cancel contracts because the project is not completed by January 1st, 2017. The fact that a groundswell of scrutiny and protest are delaying the project is great. It may make companies less likely to attempt such fraught projects in the future.
Supporting Clean Water in Our Conflict-Free Future
There are also ways we can protect the water and avoid such conflicts for the long term. We can vote for fewer risky pipelines by reducing our consumption of oil and divesting from oil companies and the banks that fund them.
This is what I’m working on doing for my own family. We got rid of our oil furnace and are heating our home only with an electric heat pump now. This week we’re having a pellet stove installed as back-up and as support for periods of colder weather when the heat pump is less effective. We’re also looking at getting an electric car. I’m very thankful to have the resources to make these kinds of changes, and I know it’s not possible for everyone. But we can all set some goals for finding ways to use less oil.
In terms of divestment, I broke up with the big banks long ago in terms of everyday banking. I highly recommend the Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union – they pay 6% interest on the first $500 in your checking account! But I do admit to still having a credit card with a major bank that’s on the list of DAPL funders. I’ve been looking at this document to learn about options for credit cards that support community development instead of Big Banks, Big Oil and other Big Projects that just enrich the 1% while costing us our planet.