DAPL goes dormant for winter, Standing Rock echos on
Since April of this year, hundreds of thousands of people have risen to the call of action after catching wind of the environmental injustice unfolding in North Dakota, a stirring fact given that mainstream media has not reported on the issue until recently. People lined the streets, called administrators, and traveled from afar to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, whose sacred cultural sites and access to clean water were threatened by the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Resistance to the pipeline has been energized by and organized around prayer, which is the Oceti Sakowan camp’s cornerstone effort to halt construction of the pipeline non-violently. These concerned citizens refer to themselves as Water Protectors instead of pipeline protesters and have held resilient despite facing life-threatening forces by militarized police.
News arrived on December 4th that the Army Corp of Engineers has denied easement for the pipeline to cross the Missouri river just as the droves of veterans arrived at the camps to offer their protection. One day before the governor of North Dakota’s planned eviction of the camps, the Army’s Assistant Secretary of Civil Works announced that alternate routes were to be considered, supported by an “Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis”. While this decision is a significant win for the resistance to this pipeline, the main investor Energy Transfer Partners issued a statement of determination to see the completion of this pipeline through despite the “transparent political actions by an administration that has abandoned the rule of law”.
It has been reported that President-elect Trump has sold his entire share in Energy Transfer Partners over the course of the summer, down from his $1 million dollar investment. However, the Trump administration said on Monday that they support the building of the pipeline, suggesting that an appeal of this decision will be made once he takes office. This decision comes as no surprise to the Tribes in Standing Rock, who determine to remain resolute in their fight for conservation.
The phenomenon of this movement transcends during a time of mass confusion. An insufferable election cycle produced an unanticipated result, heightening awareness that we all may be living in a bubble of fabricated truths. Social media has proven to be an insufficient source for news, imploring many to reflect on how far their voice is carried in the virtual world and how the world is being shaped by living in separate echo chambers.
However, the mass support for Standing Rock could not have been possible without Facebook. The air underneath grassroots journalism’s wings is the people and their resolve to share what concerns them. Updates from the camps came mostly from live feeds, water protectors orally updating their followers, and blog posts from several grassroots organizations. The Morton county sheriff’s department provided updates of their own, choosing diction that suggests the activists be seen in a more condemning manner. Despite the inclination to subscribe to one side of the story, the unbiased truth about the matter remained clear and readily accessible in public documents, holding the storytellers accountable.
The word-of-mouth communication succeeded in carrying voices out of the echo chamber, and carrying people away from their virtual world to a freezing reality, that environmental racism was quietly being touted . While the media and government failed to listen to the people, the people listened to each other. The hundreds of veterans committed to serving their oath showed up to acknowledge that basic rights were being violated, and it would not be tolerated. Now news of the pipeline’s denial is on every network, and this victory can be attributed to citizens organizing together.
Threats to the American people’s safety is nonpartisan. Threats to the American environment are nonpartisan. What are we but people and the ground we live on, the water we drink? The Native Americans have always remained close to this humbling fact, that humans and nature are locked in a cycle of dependence. Those of us living in cities and suburbs tend to forget the cycle that our goods and resources reach us. The convenience of running water and same-day delivery allow us to overlook where they originate, and we certainly overlook the latter half of the consumption equation. This resolution to protect clean water brought awareness of our true necessities for many people locked in the dependence cycle of their own privileges.
Life in the chamber is comfortable. Conflict is minimal, people enjoy the company of like-minded others and having values reinforced by them. There’s no problem with joining a country club, but you cannot make the country club your entire world. Your actions reverberate beyond the golf course, your words inflict others beyond the conversation at the table. There are obvious problems with living in an artificial world; all it takes is one definitive moment for reality to flip all of the comfort and security of that world upside down like a tsunami wave wreaking havoc, and by the time it comes there’s no escape.
Empathy for Standing Rock’s sorrow echoed so loudly that the chamber was broken. Conflicts between marginalized people and corporations are discolored by diatribe and the presumptions of one’s own bias. Over a period of months Standing Rock gained support from people reaching their own conclusions from the story. The governor’s intent to keep the camps safe from harsh winter threats was met with the obvious reminder that Native Americans have sustainably inhabited this land for far longer than the settlers have. Should the Sioux people’s safety be the top concern of the government anyhow, they would take precaution against jeopardizing their life resource and refrain from using deadly force against them. An environmental assessment conducted by the corporate investor produced results necessary to drill on, and consultation meetings with the Tribe were so inflammatory that they were considered a done deal to one side and insufficient to the other. No matter how disputable the issue became, the voices calling from Standing Rock became loud enough to demand that people be put before profit.
The events transpiring at Standing Rock illuminates how government, corporate, and public relationship will develop going forward. Although many believe the “purely political” denial of easement may not be the end for Standing Rock’s struggles, witnessing the unquantifiable collective of diverse people standing in solidarity reminds us that the power of organization will be critical in keeping people at the heart of our nation’s interest. Government is generally discouraged from interfering with the free market, but the Constitution undeniably demands they first serve the well being of its citizens. Media, politics, and the deals behind closed doors should not win out against the people uniting to protect each other and our common ground.
Ensuring this power stays balanced requires us to return to the source. Remain close to the people involved in movements that concern us and take action when called for. Keep close to heart the fact that earth provides us with our livelihoods before money does. The nation is approaching a critical juncture for defining our values, and being comfortable with stasis in the echo chamber will ensure that the people will have no say in shaping those values.
December 7th, 2016