Monday, October 31, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline - the final harvest?

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I'd like to say I waited deliberately to post to the blog today so that I could post on Halloween -- but it's not true. The truth is that Kitty and I spent last night driving home from Columbus, Ohio, and this year's World Fantasy Convention. The panel I was on went very well, judging by the fact that a few people I'd never met came up to me afterward and told me they enjoyed it. Maybe it was because I got to mention Nanabush.

Anyway, I had a swell time at the convention, but was glad to sleep in my own bed last night.

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Samhain is the Pagan version of New Year's Eve: the final harvest on the Wheel of the Year. And I think that makes this a good time to talk about something that's been going on in North Dakota for the past several months: the Native American actions against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Earlier today, a post encouraging people around the world to "check in" at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota flew around Facebook, and tens of thousands of people did. The post said the idea was to confuse the Morton County, ND, sheriff's department into believing the crowd protesting the DAPL was much larger than it actually was. While a spokesman for the department said they don't use Facebook for such surveillance activities, the technology does exist. And the Standing Rock protesters said they're grateful for the publicity.

What's this all about? Briefly: The $3.8 million project is already under construction. When finished -- assuming it's ever finished -- the pipeline would stretch 1,172 miles, bringing crude oil from northern Montana and North Dakota to Illinois. There, the DAPL would hook up with existing pipelines to route the crude to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The project has won approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the pipeline route crosses a corner of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, threatening some of the tribe's sacred sites. In addition, the pipeline would cross the Missouri River twice, endangering water for crops, livestock, and people (not all of them Indians - the Missouri River watershed is home to some 12 million people) if the pipe were to spring a leak, which happens more often than pipeline advocates care to admit. The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, David Archambault II, says the government didn't follow its own rules for negotiating with the tribe. Members of the tribe have been protesting since April, blocking construction crews and prompting police to beef up their presence at the site. Protesters and police have clashed several times since then, resulting in arrests, injuries, and compelling photos of unarmed Indians facing cops in riot gear. Last week, police arrested more than 140 people blockading a road, first subduing them with pepper spray and tear gas. In September, Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman was arrested while covering the protest. A judge later dismissed the charges against Goodman, but the fact she was charged at all is troubling to this former journalist.

Indigenous peoples from across North and South America have announced their support for the DAPL protesters, as have A-list actors, numerous politicians, Muslims, gay pride groups, and many others. The United Nations International Indian Treaty Council is investigating reports of human rights abuses at the site.

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Those speaking in solidarity with the Standing Rock protesters have focused largely on environmental issues: not just the danger to the watershed -- #WaterIsLife, as the hashtag goes -- but also climate change, and our continued reliance on oil and gas rather than developing cleaner sources of power like wind and solar. But the environment is not the only issue at stake -- and for the Standing Rock Sioux, it may not even be the most important one.

Not long ago, I read a book called The Shawnees and the War for America by Colin G. Calloway. It's a quick read, but it highlights the way the white man -- from the British to the French to the American government -- have been lying to Native American tribes ever since whites first came to North America. In treaty after treaty, Indian nations agreed to give up some of their hunting lands in exchange for other lands, beads, and money -- and the government has lived up to the terms of none of them. Now, again, with the DAPL, the United States government is violating a treaty with Native Americans and skirting its own rules. But this time, in a way that has been impossible until the advent of social media, the whole world is watching -- and this time, finally, the U.S. government may reap what it has sown.

Blessed Samhain, everyone.

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This bloggy harvest moment has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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