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Protesters Vow December Action to Continue the Fight at Standing Rock Despite New Hurdles

Auditi Guha

Faced with dropping temperatures and continuing opposition, some water protectors provided food and warm clothes for law enforcement. “We are dropping off donations because we are self-sufficient and we still respond with love and compassion in the face of all their brutality,” said one demonstrator.

Demonstrators at Standing Rock have no intention of backing down despite worsening weather, escalating police violence, the North Dakota governor’s vacate order, and President-elect Donald Trump’s support for the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

“We are struggling in the cold and fighting here because of the love and compassion we have for the children and grandchildren to come. We want them to have a home and clean water, and we are not leaving until we are assured their futures are secured,” said Native American protester Aldo Seoane from Standing Rock in a Friday phone interview with Rewire. 

Tribes have called for a December-wide #NoDAPL action to continue the months-long protest that has stalled the four-state oil pipeline construction.

Three tribes—the Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, and Yankton Sioux—on Friday asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a press release to call on the U.S. government to adopt “precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm” to Natives and their supporters, and to stop “the harassment and violence being perpetrated against people gathered in prayer and protest in opposition to DAPL.”

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“Tribal concerns and treaty rights have been disregarded and ignored under the pretext of the ‘letter of the law’ for far too long,” said David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in the press release. “Our people have tolerated this kind of treatment for over 200 years and enough is enough. It is time the United States finally and consistent with its legal and international obligations fully recognize our right to be treated like human beings and as sovereign nations.”

Seoane told Rewire that he was among 150 Native Americans delivering food, water, and warm clothes Friday to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, which put out a call for supplies to help its staff and volunteers during this week’s inclement weather. 

It is also one of many law enforcement groups that have attacked unarmed demonstrators with weapons and cold water in recent weeks, and it recently agreed to fine people $1,000 if they try to bring food and supplies to the activists. The department has since backtracked on the fines.

“We are dropping off donations because we are self-sufficient and we still respond with love and compassion in the face of all their brutality,” Seoane said.

He estimated there were 15,000 people at the camp Friday, including hundreds of veterans who responded to give the Native demonstrators a break this weekend.

Trump on Thursday announced his support for the completion of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline being built to move domestically produced crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

Groups like Greenpeace have condemned the support that Trump’s transition team claimed “had nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans.”

Trump’s May 2016 financial disclosures reveal “significant stock holdings” in Energy Transfer Partners, Exxon, and Phillips 66 (which owns 25 percent of the pipeline project). Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, donated thousands of dollars to Trump’s campaign as well, a Greenpeace release noted.

“In supporting the Dakota Access pipeline, Trump has shown us the crony capitalism that will run his administration,” said Greenpeace spokesperson Mary Sweeters in the release. “This is the definition of corruption. The President of the United States should not be trading favors with oil and gas corporations.”

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that activists who refuse to leave the camp could soon be arrested. Officials have since changed course, saying they have “no plans for forcible removal.”

Despite the hurdles, the protest has gathered national and global momentum in what has been called the largest gathering of Native American tribes in a century, according to the Associated Press

Many have publicly announced solidarity with the Native Americans in their continued fight for justice, equity, and the environment at Standing Rock.

Hundreds marched in a #NoDAPL Solidarity rally in Philadelphia Thursday chanting “Water is life,” a week after law enforcement in North Dakota trapped some 400 water protectors on a bridge and attacked them with water cannons and concussion grenades in freezing temperatures. About 300 were injured, 26 hospitalized, and a 21-year-old woman reportedly faces potential amputation after being hit in the arm, according to a news release from Philadelphia activists.

“In addition to being an environmental disaster, this project violates the national sovereignty of the Sioux nation,” said Liz Ellis, a member of the Peoria tribe at the rally, according to the release.

Social media has been flooded with similar support—including actions, videos and letters from Greece to Indonesia—calling for customers, countries, and banks to divest from the pipeline project. DNB, the largest bank in Norway, already sold off its assets. TD Bank, Citibank, and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UJF (Japan’s largest bank) are among the others financing a $2.5 billion loan to complete the project.

“The DAP project violates international treaties, signed by the United States, which stipulate the rights of indigenous peoples to their territories and to previous informed consent to projects that affect these territories. For the Sioux and other affected tribes, this project represents one more egregious violation of the historical treaties with the U.S. government that have been abrogated in the interest of private ventures,” reads a letter from Mexican groups supporting the indigenous tribes at Standing Rock. “We stand in solidarity with the Sioux Nation of Standing Rock in its defense of its territory, water, and cultural identity.”

A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court Monday by the Water Protector Legal Collective on behalf of the people injured during the police attacks last week.

Hundreds have been arrested since protests in North Dakota brought supporters from around the country opposing the proposed pipeline, stalling the pipeline’s remaining construction under the Missouri River, which Natives fear could endanger crucial water supplies.

In mid-November, Energy Transfer Partners’ CEO Warren said that the pipeline would not be re-routed and that the U.S. government, in a joint notice issued by the Department of the Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers, delayed a final decision on permitting, urging more consultation with Native American tribes.

“The DAPL was re-routed through Standing Rock because Bismarck’s predominantly white residents feared it could poison their drinking water. The Sioux are literally being forced to accept ecological risks that the North Dakota’s white residents refused,” according to the Florida-based social-justice organizing group Dream Defenders, also supporting the natives at Standing Rock.

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