Since July of this year, an increasing number of Native tribes have come together to camp alongside the Missouri River, near Cannonball North Dakota, to stop the continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline project (DAPL).
The Standing Rock Sioux originally filed a lawsuit against the Army Corp of Engineers, asking for a preliminary injunction to stop construction of the pipeline. As stated on the Standing Rock Sioux’s website: “First, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River (at Lake Oahe) just a half a mile upstream of the Tribe’s reservation boundary, where a spill would be culturally and economically catastrophic. Second, the pipeline would pass through areas of great cultural significance, such as sacred sites and burials that federal law seeks to protect” (standingrock.org).
The Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,175 mile long oil pipeline would run through four states and potentially pollute the water supply of approximately 17 million people. In recent weeks, conflicts have escalated, and on September 8, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple activated the state’s national guard in response to continued action against the construction.
A contingent of four Socialist Alternative members from the Bay Area recently drove to the construction site. We delivered over $1,600 worth of food and supplies we had raised at a neighborhood fundraiser in Oakland, to answer the needs of those organizers running the kitchen, and supply tents at the Sacred Stone campsite – one of several sites where approximately 3,000 people have gathered.
Speaking with the all volunteer staff at the kitchen and supply tents, we learned that contingents of caravans, like ourselves, continued to arrive almost daily from all parts of the country. The Standing Rock Sioux’s call for material aid is being answered. Solidarity with the indigenous people in this fight is an indication of the increased support for direct opposition and struggle against big oil, and finance capital, which threaten to not just destroy the Standing Rock Sioux’s sacred sites, and land, but represent the larger forces of capitalism, driving us towards climate catastrophe.
We were warmly welcomed by both native and non-native people alike. Over the course of our brief stay, we spoke with several tribal elders; many of them made the broader connections between the fight against DAPL, and the banks, and system which set it in motion. As the indigenous peoples of the United States have suffered from U.S. and European colonialism for several hundred years, they stand out as one of the most constantly oppressed groups under capitalism.
A Fight that Must Be Won
The fierce determination of native people, environmentalists, and other movements who have combined at Standing Rock is already making an impact; Obama has been forced to instruct the Army Corps of Engineers to halt construction near the river, until they can re-evaluate the legality of the permits it previously issued for construction.
While this is a real victory, the ruling class’ intention is not to halt the pipeline, but to halt the convergence of people and to halt this protest against corporate America’s destruction of lives and the planet in its greed for profit.
To defeat the pipeline once and for all will require a wide mobilization. As the pipeline protests have picked up momentum, progressive unions such as the Communication Workers of America, the National Nurses United, the United Electrical workers, and the Amalgamated Transit Union have come out in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. Disgracefully, however, the AFL-CIO labor federation has come out in support of the pipeline, buckling to pressure from the construction unions.
Speaking with Socialist Alternative member Dakota Boyd during a native ceremony, one elder, a medicine man from Manitoba, summed up the feelings of so many. “In Iceland they are jailing the bankers. We need to think about that. There is a revolution happening all around the world.” One day we will look back and mark the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline as a key event in the revolution against the continued use of fossil fuels.