No, I am not going to talk about the brutish BigOil oligarchs today. Today I want to talk about the other bullies, the protesters. Now, don’t get me wrong; I would rather not have streets covered in Petrochemical detritus, a State beholden to BigOil, or pipelines threatening the health and safety of one and all. But I don’t rule the world. Neither does my pet delusion, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, nor his prophet, The Great Noodle (pbuh), make or enforce the rules in the United States. That means, believe it or not, that based on our demographic, we are ruled by the stupid. Huzzah!
Of course, there all types and varieties of stupid. You have your garden variety ignorant, and then you have your rampant dumb and proud, and all manner of clueless, right and left, betwixt and between. A regular megaplex of morons. But that is, as it were, the nature of the beast, and surely Hobbes saw as clearly as anyone what Homo sapiens’ natural state portends. On occasion the Historian observes that the stupid rise, bellow like unmilked cows, and then usually return to shitting on each other. My argument today, is that the Great Chest Beating of 2016 is one such event, as I shall try to demonstrate below.
What we saw is that a company interested in moving sweet crude across country (you know, the stuff you have to have in order to drive that Dodge Tough Truck around the block) spent millions of dollars (almost $4B to build it) on a permitting process that involved each State that the proposed pipeline was to pass through, and several agencies of the federal government. In North Dakota, the permit process was completed almost nine months ago, and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to issue permits for the pipeline to pass underneath the Missouri River near Cannonball North Dakota in August 2016, over a month ago.
The path of the pipeline on its approach to the Missouri “crossing” was on private land through licensing by the private land owners in question. This land had never been owned by any local tribe. The land had never been the subject in fact of any inquiry by any tribe, nor the subject of any filings before the ND Public Service Commission by any tribe.
The surface water in and around the Missouri is unfit for consumption because of its coliform load. All other water in the region is subject to appropriation (i. e. is “property” in a sense) as is the case on the local Reservation (which has never had its water regulations approved, but they have been recognized as being in effect in no small part because they are consistent with water regulation and control throughout the Southwest).
In late August, members of the Standing Rock Reservation began trespassing on private property for the purpose of (illegally) obstructing the construction of the pipeline. This eventually became a media circus with hundreds of screaming individuals crossing fences and interfering with heavy machinery. The pipeline company’s security personnel became embroiled in altercations with the protesters, of course, and a lawsuit was filed seeking injunctive relief.
In the aftermath of this media drama, there has been a great deal of chest beating about how the Indian Nation stood up to protect Earth and their sacred sites. Unfortunately the facts, as is so often the case, tell a bit of a different story.
The records of James MacKay indicate that in the late 1700s the land in question was still occupied by Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. The Dakota were woodland people of the Great Lakes who left the Great Lakes because of pressure from the Ojibwa and Cree, who had been armed by the French. So, the Dakota arrived along the Missouri in what is now North Dakota after the white devil was already there, and went about “displacing” the existing Native occupants (as in, killing them off). This was hurried along by the 1837 Small Pox epidemic. The US tried to promote inter-tribal peace in the region through the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 , but the process was problematic and the results spotty and unsuccessful (the Lakota, for instance, were reported to have violated the treaty no sooner had it been agreed upon).
The Native Interlopers, as it were, the Lakota, eventually also entered in to a treaty, the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. This treaty did not cover any lands in North Dakota. In fact, the portion of the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota (across which the pipeline does not run) was added by executive order in 1875 after the treaty in order to further protect the residents of the reservation by making the agency more functional (there was a deep water landing at the mouth of the Cannonball).
There have been numerous surveys of the area, and in a 58 page decision (link below) the US District Court made it clear that the Army Corps had done everything it was required to do. The federal Administration, however, while deferring to the Court’s opinion, decided to temporarily hold off on the permits issued pending further study.
The result is that people with no property interest in the subject land, who don’t consume surface water, who had never, during the State pipeline process, ever filed any documents evidencing any concern until after the final permit was issued, who were afforded every legal protection during the Corps permitting process,who arguably were themselves murdering interlopers who first appeared in the area of Cannonball circa 1875 and whose presence outside the reservation at the time would have been “problematic”, suddenly see the area North of the reservation as sacred though no evidence of use has been found by anyone but the tribal archeologist in the last couple of weeks, and then trespass en masse in order to secure the “purity” of water too foul to drink and the sanctity of sites that arguably don’t exist. Yup, I want to jump on that bandwagon right now! The fact that these people have decided to heat their homes by burning wood, instead of using propane, well that’s just icing on the cake.
Yes, that was all a bit harsh. But I wanted to demonstrate how darkly this could be seen, and that an accurate appreciation for what is going on is likely somewhere short of the rhetoric issued by the Council’s counsel.
Order denying Standing Rock Council the relief requested
Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers