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The Dakota Access Pipeline: Another Epic Clash Between America’s Military-Corporate Powers and the Great Sioux Nation
As the eve of the 2016 US presidential election draws nearer, and the world inches ever-closer to the edge of their seats, wondering who the winner will be to lay claim to the world’s most powerful seat for committing acts of good or evil, there is yet another David & Goliath story unfolding. It’s yet one more spin on the same old story that has been told in America for eons; a story that pits ‘The People’, who seek to do good for the planet, against ‘The Powerful’ who desire to pursue the same pathways of evil that continues to destroy the people and earth alike. This time the ‘David’ in this epic clash is the Standing Rock Sioux & The Great Sioux Nation, and the ‘Goliath’ is America’s Military forces in the guise of North Dakota’s Department of Homeland Security, its National Guard troops and a host of law enforcement agencies. The other ‘Goliath’ is Energy Transfer Partners and a host of Wall Street speculators, investors and worldwide banking interests who, collectively, could be likened to General Custer and his 7th Cavalry regiment of another time and place in Sioux Territory.
To fully understand what the conflict between the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access Pipeline represents in the bigger scheme of things one has to know something about the history of the Sioux people and their relationship to America’s military-corporate powers. This latest epic invasion in the 21st century of the Great Sioux Nation’s territory in North Dakota isn’t anything new under the sun. It’s but the latest episode in a centuries-old saga of American military and corporate might operating in tandem, hand-in-glove, to constantly dispossess the Sioux and other Native American Nations of their homelands and all its natural, cultural and sacred resources.
Starting in the early 19th century there were the incursions into Sioux territory by American fur companies that sought to strip from the land, as much as they could, all its precious fur-bearing animals for Wall Street’s profiteers in the East; ever since, the homelands of the Sioux has been a non-stop scene of one epic clash after another between those who want to preserve the land and its natural resources and those who want to rape and pillage it.
This epic clash started in earnest in the mid-19th century with the westward movement of immigrants and refugees from the East. What started as a trickle quickly turned into a horde-like swarm of locusts. This epic struggle continued on with the building of wagon roads and railroads by one corporate enterprise after another across Sioux lands.
It really kicked into high gear when General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry regiment undertook their Black Hills Expedition in 1874 in search of gold, in defiance of the terms of the Treaty of Laramie of 1868 between the U.S. Government and Sioux Nation that legally granted to the Sioux the lands and natural resources of the Black Hills, and specifically forbade trespass by non-Indians. Custer and his troop’s illegal incursions ultimately led to the gold rush that decimated the Sioux’s sacred Paha Sapa (Black Hills) and stripped it of all its precious minerals, timber and water resources under the protection of General Custer and his troops. This led, as a result, to General Custer engaging the Sioux Nation in a series of battles until he and his 7th Cavalry regiment were finally annihilated by the Sioux at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
General George Crook picked up where Custer left off and continued America’s relentless military-corporate war against the Sioux’s Chief Crazy Horse at the Battle of the Rosebud and Battle of Slim Butte. Following the murder of Chief Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock Agency where he lived, Chief Spotted Elk (also known as Chief Big Foot) fled with his band of Minniconjou and Hunkpapa allies before they were eventually caught by a remnant detachment of the 7th Cavalry who massacred them at Wounded Knee, in reprisal for Custer’s defeat, for which many received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Like the modern-day treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza by the Israelis, the survivors of the Great Sioux Nation were all forced onto open-air prisons by America’s military-corporate powers who later more politely rebranded these prisons as Reservations. Canadian military-corporate powers did the same thing to their First Nation people with the only difference being that they used a copycat derivative to brand their open-air prisons as Reserves.
This thumbnail sketch of the horrific history of the relationship between the Sioux Nation and U.S. military and corporate forces is a sordid one that must be understood in order to properly comprehend and gauge the significance of today’s clash between the Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Access Pipeline and how it fits into the bigger historical picture.
This colossal struggle underway around the extraction of the earth’s diminishing natural resources, not only on the lands of the Standing Rock people but everywhere in North America, continues to mount ever since the genesis of the original Keystone XL pipeline proposal when the Rosebud Sioux Nation in South Dakota and other native nations first declared it “An Act of War”, that violates their sovereignty and is an abrogation of their treaty rights. It continued onward when the Bank of America became the lead financier of the lofty-sounding Plains All American Red River II Pipeline that violated the native peoples of Oklahoma same rights.
This undeclared war continues as Canada’s controversial Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline and export terminal facility proposal also now seeks to plow new pipelines and shipping lanes through the pristine wilds of Canada and its Salish Sea in order to transport some 890,000 barrels of Alberta tar sand liquid bitumen every day through the lives of indigenous, non-indigenous peoples and the natural world. Kinder Morgan, the largest pipeline company in the U.S., was founded by Richard Kinder, who took over from Jeffrey Skilling, CEO of Enron Corp who is now servicing 24 years in prison for fraud and insider trading. Called “the luckiest ex-Enron employee” by the Wall Street Journal, Kinder is the 110th richest man alive with a net worth of 8.2 billion. This current pipeline proposal, if approved by PM Trudeau’s Liberal Government, will make Richard Kinder even that much richer, but, in the end, will it also make the lives of the people, the earth’s natural world and its denizens an even richer Kind-er place, as well? Trudeau’s recent approval of the Petronas LNG pipeline proposal doesn’t bode well.
Singer, songwriter, activist Neil Young – of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame – who wrote the song Who’s Gonna Stand Up? to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline in 2014, has since composed another brilliant artistic music-video Mother Earth that speaks to Canada’s pipeline proposals and its repeated violations of First Nation peoples treaties and sovereign rights. (To see Neil Young’s Mother Earth music video go to:www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7hTATM4i_8).
If or when the Canadian government finally does give the highly controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline the green light to proceed, another explosive confrontation with First Nation peoples, environmental groups and the citizenry will no doubt lead to the same kind of confrontational debacle that is currently unfolding in North Dakota with the Sioux ever since the US Army Corp of Engineers approved the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). If that proposal is also approved by the new US President, and the current “voluntary pause” is lifted, it will plow through 1,168 miles of Indian tribal lands, farming communities, endangered nature areas and wildlife habitats, stretching from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through to the Gulf of Mexico, as it transports up to 650,000 plus barrels of crude fracked oil per day.
On the David side of this new-old story of struggle is the Standing Rock Sioux people who oppose the DAPL’s incursions into the sacred lands and waters of their homelands on the basis that it violates their treaty rights as spelled out in the 1851 Treaty of Traverse de Sioux and 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.
The Sioux are joined by many other David’s that includes some 200 Native American Tribes and Nations in Canada and the United States alone, not to mention the support of indigenous nations throughout South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. And while powerful corporate Union and Labor leaders, like AFL-CIO Union president Richard Trumka, endorse the Dakota Access Pipeline on the supposition that it will stimulate employment and a healthier economy, there is a host of ordinary AFL-CIO minority union workers – like the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition of Labor Union Women, and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement – who stand in solidarity with the Sioux. The Coalition refers to the Sioux as “our Native American kinfolk, who are one of the most marginalized and disenfranchised groups in our nation”. Naming the proposal, “A Pipeline of Corporate Greed”, this widespread coalition challenges the American Labor Movement to better engage native peoples and other marginalized people in the labor movement as a whole. One could characterize their collective ‘David vs. Goliath’ resistance as an essential plank in the Our Revolution Movement that originally began with Bernie Sanders run for the U.S. presidency.
On the Goliath side of the story is the Energy Transfer Partners, a huge Texas-based corporate conglomerate involved in the extraction of natural gas, gas liquids (NGL’s), crude oil and refined petroleum products from the earth that, if truth be told, could just as easily by titled the Energy Suckers Partners; because its primary investors among Wall Street’s largest investment firms and financiers representing a vast array of banking institutions in Canada, U.S., France, UK, Scotland, Germany, Italy and Japan who, themselves, are energy suckers who continue in every conceivable way to suck the natural resources and life force out of all the people and the earth.
This never-ending struggle between ‘The People’ & ‘The Powerful’ rages unabated in every sector of world society, pitting tiny indigenous nations, workers unions, environmental groups, celebrities and alternative press against the world’s mightiest giants in the corporate-mining-political-financial mainstream media.
The list of environmental groups throughout North America that support the Standing Rock Sioux’s defense of their homelands is an impressive one that includes: the Indigenous Environmental Network; Sierra Club, Greenpeace; Honor the Earth; Bold Alliance; 350.org; MN350; Rainforest Action Network; Center for Biological Diversity; Oil Change International; 350 Madison; Stand.Earth; Family Farm Defenders; Save Our Illinois Land; Power Shift Network; Rising Tide North America, Minnesota Public Interest Research Group; Midwest Environmental Advocates; For Love of Water; Wild Earth Guardians, Friends of the Earth; International Forum on Globalization; US Climate Plan; Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; Earthworks; Water Keeper Alliance; Environmental America and the Science and Environmental Health Network.)
Widespread coverage of this David & Goliath story by the world’s alternative news networks has been led by the investigative reporting of Democracy Now who continues to report what the ‘Goliath’s’ mainstream corporate press refuses to print or air. Gradually, in spite of this not surprisingly virtual news black-out by the mainstream media, this story continues to seep into every corner of the earth and spark a mounting ground-swell among grass root movements. The organization Archaeologists & Museums has now denounced the destruction of the Standing Rock Sioux’s burial grounds by the Dakota Access Pipeline and created a sign-on letter via email@example.com which invites the world’s archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and museum workers to add their names.
Like Neil Young’s earlier moving Mother Earth music video, Young has again taken it upon himself to create yet another equally emotional, thought-provoking music video called Indian Givers that brilliantly summarizes, with news footage and lyrics, the issues behind the Standing Rock Sioux’s struggles. Young sings, “There’s a battle raging on sacred lands/our brothers and sisters have to take a stand against us now for what we all been doing/On the sacred land there’s a battle brewing. I wish somebody would share the news and bring back the days when good are good and stand against the evil ways” (To listen to and see Neil Young’s music video go to: and click on the article “Neil Young Releases ‘Indian Giver’s Song & Video”).
To give further perspective to how little coverage the mainstream press in North America has given to this conflict, FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting), in a Sept. 22nd report, states that according to its search of the NEXIS news database, Neil Young’s song is “actually 5 minutes, 39 seconds longer than the initial combined coverage of the controversy on the ABC and NBC networks, not counting the some 48 words read at 4 o’clock in the morning on the CBS Morning News (9/5/16)”.
In spite of this pre-meditated blackout by the mass media, many celebrities have already begun to take Neil Young’s song to heart to show their support for the Sioux peoples. Counted among them are: Leonardo Di Caprio, Mark Ruffalo, Shailene Woodley, Susan Sarandon, Riley Keogh, Pharell Williams, Rosario Dawson and the cast of Justice League.
However, the lack of hard news reporting of the issues by the major television and newspaper networks still means that much of what thus far has gone on remains unnoticed and invisible to the general public. For instance, there is the fact that, as if it were a page taken right out of the ugly racial violence of the 1960’s civil rights movement in Selma Alabama, those who chose to stand in solidarity with the Sioux, and travelled to North Dakota to physically protest the pipeline’s construction, ended up being pepper-sprayed, bitten and bloodied by vicious guard dogs and roughed up by hired security thugs; while Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, who bravely broke the news story, was charged with criminal trespass for her courageous, fearless on-site reporting. Yet few in the mainstream press, either then or since, have rushed to Goodman’s defense; so much for protecting the freedom to report the truth.
Nor has the mainstream news networks pressed each presidential candidate as to where they stand on this contentious conflict. Donald Trump has yet to directly comment on the Dakota Access Pipeline Project, though Harold Hamm, his energy advisor, Founder & CEO of Continental Resources, recently announced to his investors that fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale Basin, destined to be transported to world markets by DAPL, anticipates huge profits once the project is completed. Hamm, originally an outspoken supporter of the TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline, shifted his support for the DAPL once he realized the northern leg of the XL was doomed. While another of Trump’s key advisors – North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, like Trump a strong advocate of Law & Order – recently ordered armed National Guard troops to man key concrete-barrier checkpoints around the DAPL Project ostensibly to guard against possible outside agitators and bolster massively-armed law enforcement security forces that includes the deployment or use of: MRAP’s (Mine-Resistance Ambush Protected Vehicles); LRAD’s (Long Range Acoustic Device) sound cannons; as well as guard dogs, pepper spray, tear gas, shotgun-armed police and SWAT forces in full Riot gear and bulletproof vests. This massive over-kill – looking more like a modern-day 7th Cavalry engagement, armed with the latest high-tech Gatling Guns and Hotchkiss howitzers – is ready to face off again against defenseless Sioux men, women, children ‘Water Protectors’ who are armed only with their prayers offered in peaceful protest. The ‘Goliaths’ are always so busy looking for ‘outside agitators’ and terrorists they wouldn’t recognize a real grass roots movement if it came up and bit them on the butt.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, whose campaign has taken more money from Wall Street’s oil and gas barons than Trump, also has refused, to date, to voice any opinion at all about the DAPL Project and its outrageous treatment of the Standing Rock Sioux and brazen violations of their treaty rights. Clinton’s silence is in harsh contrast to the lip service her party’s platform, in deference to the Our Revolution Movement, has paid to support native people’s tribal sovereignty, natural resources and sacred sites.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate who is an advocate for civil rights, has only ever issued a weak, insipid statement calling upon state and tribal leaders to work together to reach an agreement to respect both the rights of private businesses, landowners and treaty rights of native peoples, but, at the same time, like every other ‘Law & Order’ type, Johnson is quick to accuse outside forces of having latched onto the issue to further their own agendas.
On the other hand, Jill Stein, the Green Party’s US presidential candidate, and her VP running mate, Ajamu Baraka, are the only candidates to actually put their bodies on the line by participating in solidarity with the Sioux. As a result, Stein and Baraka, like Amy Goodman, also have been charged for trespassing and committing mischievous vandalism when Stein dared to spray on a DAPL Caterpillar bulldozer blade the message “I approve this message”, while Ms. Baraka sprayed the message “decolonization”. So much for the mainstream media’s coverage of what should be a seminal issue as it relates to the larger issue of climate change in the 2016 US Presidential Election.
Editor Jim Naureckas concluded FAIR’S commentary on the plight of the Standing Rock Sioux people by calling the public’s attention to Neil Young’s song ‘Indian Givers’ and its line that repeats over and over again, “I wish somebody would share the news “, while offering the observation, “I wish more corporate media decision-makers were Neil Young fans”.
And so ends this episode of David & Goliath, Good versus Evil that continues to remain relatively unknown in the general public’s conscious awareness.