1: Omaa Akiing: Here on Earth
to Be Better Ancestors
Holy Land Is Here
of Hope: Mino Gitigaaning
In Praise of Frogs
Do We Grieve the Death of a River?
Should Save the Amazon
Is Time for Reparations
3: Mni Wiconi
Buffalo to Black Snake
Rise of the Water Protector
Siege at River’s Edge
Art of Indigenous Resistance
The Dust Settles
4: The Last Tar Sands Pipeline
Pipeline Runs Through It
The Month You Remember Me
The Telescope and the Mauna
Spreading the Sacred Fire
Let’s Be Good Neighbors
Dirty Secrets: Enbridge and That Indigenous Peoples Policy
Violence, Fossil Fuels and Enbridge
Can Only Be One
the Party’s Over: Starving the Wiindigoo
to the Kill Zone: The Shadow of Husky
on a Dime
Finland, Must You?
New Iron Horse
Sweet It Is
Renaissance of Cannabis
Hearts — Poetry and the UN Declaration
Dish One Spoon
Reconciliation, Just Transition
When the Bat Challenged the Wiindigoo
Part 5: Eighth Fire
is Life. I live at the headwaters of the Ottertail River. I live at the place
Round Lake meets the Ottertail River. is river is clean; swans, geese
eagles greet you. I live in the place where the wild things are. When the
leaves my beloved lake, it is clear and clean. is water travels down to
the Red River, joining there with many other tributaries until its
Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean. By the time this river is
this same water to which I pray is not so clean or so full of good life.
what I know.
is the time of the Water Protectors. It has always been. It’s also the time of
Wiindigoo. I am writing and editing this book at a time when the world
still, quarantined with -19, a virus. It is an amazing time. I’m
to be here and to share these stories of Water Protectors. Or as Isaac
In the future, our descendants will be sitting around a
re in their
telling this story of when the two legged tried to destroy the
We are no doubt in a sacred legend that will be told for thousands
years. For whatever reasons, we have been speci cally placed here on
to participate in this incredibly sacred time. We need to believe in
what our heart tells us and to nd the strength to follow it.
needs heroes and we are the chosen ones. Rise strong and never
believing in the great power of this earth. We are completely
surrounded by our ancestors. 1
I am not the
rst Water Protector, nor the last. And as I write this
I want to acknowledge the Water Protectors I have known —
role models and leaders. ere are many, they are young and old.
I remember riding a train with the great Creek leader Phillip Deere.
year was 1977. I had seen 18 winters, and we’d just
nished the UN
on Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and the Land.
years later, that historic gathering would have launched three decades
international work to recognize and protect the rights of Indigenous
at was the beginning of what, 30 years later, would result in the
of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Deere and I are on a grand adventure. We are sitting on a train, and
said to me, “One day, water will be more expensive than oil.” And, I didn’t
understand what he meant. I thought that sounded strange, but now I
e world needs water, not oil; that’s the basics. And, as a liter
Fiji Water, having traveled 8000 miles so I can pick it up, costs $7, we see
water costs more than oil. What that’s really about is that Water is Life,
oil is not.
as Mohawk Chief Sakokwenonkwas (
omas Parker) told a
University audience in 1972, “Someday President Nixon and the
world leaders are going to nd out that once they catch the last sh,
they cut down the last tree, they won’t be able to eat all the money they
in the banks.” 2 He would know, as the Akwesasne Reserve was heavily
by a set of industries, and their water quality severely
for decades Indigenous Peoples have been saying this and putting
bodies on the line for our water. People have opposed mega dam
ranging from those on the Klamath River to those on the Columbia.
like the Dalles (Celilo Falls), Kinzua (Seneca Territory), to the battles
the dams in James Bay, in northern Ontario, and throughout the
People who live with water still understand that Water is Life. e
is old, and it’s profound.
narrative is subsumed by corporate advertising and mythology,
for instance, Enbridge Energy uses the moniker “Life Needs Energy.”
relationship with water has changed dramatically — ocean
oceanic nuclear testing in the Paci c, over shing, more plastic in
ocean than sh, the list goes on. A er consuming a lifetime of Pepsi
a good lot of people become consumed by Wiindigoo Economics,
perhaps become Wiindigoos themselves. In a way, this book is a calling
to that. And a reminder to be sensible people, to do things which make
begin this book, I want to acknowledge those who I remember rst
“Water is Life,” and reminded us all of that. John Trudell, in the early
1980s, began this Water is Life set of concerts, music and awareness.
water is our beginning
hear the ocean
with musicians like Jackson Browne, Jesse Ed Davis, Bonnie Raitt,
Kristo erson and others, Trudell traveled up and down the west coast
with that message. He understood fully.
life before pro t
water is our relative
water loves us
us her power is real
Water for Life 3
long ago spoke of the rights of Mother Earth. More than just civil
or human rights, it is Natural Rights. I am grateful to him for his
I knew Trudell through ve decades of my life. He was a friend
mentor, and his commitment to life, art and protecting Mother Earth
an inspiration to so many of us. A Santee man, born in Nebraska, he
politicized a er he returned from the military in 1968. e
of Alcatraz was the moment for John, like many young Native
on the west coast, and nationally, as Native people demanded the
of the former military prison, something which is provided for
used his skill set to establish Radio Free Alcatraz and served as
of the American Indian Movement for most of the 1970s. at’s when I
Trudell. A profound thinker and orator, Trudell’s in uence was
cant. As the power of the movement grew, so did the repression, as
other federal intelligence, police and military programs
into the reservations and Indian Country. A er his pregnant wife,
Manning, and his three children and mother-in-law died in 1979 in a
house re, John’s life turned to more music and he ranged further
further. His poetry, music and acting lit up a generation of youth, with
word and political insight. In 2012, he formed Project Hempstead,
Willie Nelson, to co-create the hemp economy. His words live on in
lm and music, with Bad Dog. John crossed boundaries. He crossed
nal boundary to the spirit world in December of 2015. Or as John
say, “I caught my ride.” I had visited him two days before.
raise my hands to you.
sing praises for the Water Protectors. I sing praises in these words.
Mandamin, a Water Warrior, is also one of those whom I look to
guidance, as a living being and as a spirit woman.
have known for a long time that water is alive. Water can hear you.
can sense what you are saying and what you are feeling. ere’s a
I put tobacco in the water where the water is so still. It was dead. I
for it, I put my tobacco in the water and it started oating
So the water was alive, it heard my prayers. It heard the song.
I know it listened. I know that if you pay attention to it, it can come
alive. Give it respect and it can come alive.… Give it love. 4
Indeed, the Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto in his NYT bestseller
Messages in Water, documented the same knowledge in a scienti c
Emoto would freeze water into crystals from di erent locations, some
polluted and some pristine.
e water crystals were all di erent, but the
water was highly deformed. He found that water crystals from clear
and crystals that were exposed to loving words were complex,
and colorful. His scienti c research created a new awareness of the
of good intent and practices to heal water and ourselves.
I came to know Josephine Mandamin in the
ree Fires Midewin Society,
she too prayed with the Anishinaabeg for the good life and healing.
Anishinaabe from Fort Williams Reserve, Josephine had grown up in the
shadow of the
under Bay Smelters, where acid rain and mining projects,
gold to uranium, plagued the waters of her territory, as well as mercury
at Grassy Narrows. Josephine became a Water Walker, a leader of
movement and an inspiration to thousands of people for her
to the Great Lakes. She walked around the Great Lakes, in
and with companions.
the ree Fires Midewiwin Society, spiritual leaders told of a time when
will cost as much as gold.” at time was the year 2030. e
to care for the water is with Ojibwe women. We are entrusted
with water ceremonies and songs.
at movement and traditional way was
revitalized and brought back in a strong way by Josephine. In 2003,
began her rst walk, walking the perimeter of Lake Superior, carrying a
copper bucket and praying for the water.
at was the beginning of many
walks, and more walks inspired by other
ree Fires Lodge members like
Sharon Day, another Water Walker.
e movement has grown and continues
prayers for the water. It is estimated that Josephine walked more than
kilometers during her lifetime for the water. Josephine completed her
sacred walk in 2017, passing over the next year. 5
I raise my hands to you.
was a long time back that I came to meet Milton Born With A Tooth. He
a Water Protector. A Peigan leader of the Lone Fighters Society, Milton’s
was with the Oldman Dam on the ree River, a dam project not
the Kinzua Dam. “I was born by that river,” Milton would tell me.
in a small house to a large family that made their life in that world of
Old Man River.
the Alberta government proposed a new dam on the river, this one
both electricity and to provide ood control for agricultural interests in
region, Born With A Tooth restored the Pikani Lone Fighters Society, an
medicine society, to protect the river. In the 1990s, when I came to
him, Milton spoke of a dream about a beaver, noting, as others have,
“beavers are the only ones allowed to make dams in our territory.”
by the beaver, Born With A Tooth, who argued that the Pikani
the rights to the water in the river and that the dam would result in
ooding of sacred places, resorted to a beaver-like action. at’s to say,
With A Tooth borrowed an excavator on the construction site and
the river into a canal bed. is action ended in a shootout with
and jail time for Born With A Tooth. Legal challenges continued
the dam was built, but the commitment of a man to a river remained.
2003, a 32 megawatt hydroelectric plant has operated, providing 114
gigawatt hours per year.
at hydro plant is 25% owned by the Pikani
Milton Born With A Tooth passed away in 2019.
will never be peaceful. It’s like a nice beautiful day that changes
into a thunderstorm, or a snowstorm — that’s how change is going to be.”
Born With A Tooth.
raise my hands to you.
Caceras is another Water Protector. She too has passed on, though in
case it was a bullet, not cancer, that ended her life. Hers is the story of
water and land protectors everywhere, as hundreds of us are
by corrupt governments and corporate goons. A Lenca Indigenous
from Honduras, Caceras also faced a dam project, Agua Zarca,
dam that supported rich interests in a corrupt country. In 1993, she
an Indigenous Honduran organization, Consejo Cívico de
Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (
, Council of
and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras), which is committed to
protection of Indigenous Peoples and the environment, particularly the
Lenca people in Intibuca.
e organization’s 2004 history recalls that the
“began to discover their indigenous face, a face of resistance and
identity.” 6 at is a story everywhere, from the Zapatista Movement
the movement of Water Protectors.
organization was known for mobilizing masses. In 1994,
on the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, with multiple demands.
other things, they demanded self-government, a moratorium on
and investigation into violence against Indigenous Peoples. In
to the protest, the Honduran government signed a 48-point
7 In another action, on October 12, 1997, the anniversary of the
arrival in the Americas, about 150 protestors knocked down a statue
Christopher Columbus in Tegucigalpa. Arguing that they were protesting
history of exploitation of Indigenous Peoples, one of the leaders arrested
this action, Salvador Zuniga, declared, “It would seem that in this
clay leaders matter more than the real problems faced by indigenous
If there is justice, we will be released, but we are not sorry for the act
dignity carried out on October 12.” 8
Cáceres was a leader in the movement opposing the Aqua Zarca
project. She was assassinated in her home on March 3, 2016. A
weeks later, another Indigenous leader, Nelson Garcia, was also
While Cáceres’ assassins were later convicted, Honduras
a place where Water Protectors are always in danger. A 2016 survey
by Global Witness found that 185 water and land protectors in 16
were killed in 2015 alone. Eight of those were in Honduras. 9
sometimes those deaths stop projects. e Aqua Zarca project had
$17 million, or just under 40% of the necessary funding from its
major European funders, when an employee of the company building
dam was charged with Cáreces’ murder. Amidst international outrage at
murder and other human rights violations, the banks divested. “ e
is no longer funding the project. Nor is there any intention to further
in the project. Each bank is going to have their own exit strategy. Our
stopped all disbursements,” said a spokesperson for the largest investor,
Cabei. 10 e
I raise my hands to you and to other Water Protectors and Friends of
Butter ies who are killed by the Wiindigoos.
are many more Water Protectors, and as the younger generation
like Clayton omas Muller, Gitz Crazy Boy Eriel Deranger, Dawn
Kimberly Smith, Tara Houska and Melina Lubicon, they continue
work to protect the waters of the north. I raise my hands and put them to
heart. You are loved.
book is written in the spirit of acknowledging that Water is Life.
book is a testimony to the resistance and defeat of the Wiindigoo.
Protector” became mainstream under a hail of rubber bullets at
Rock. is book is about that spirit, and that spirit is forever.
ancestors and those to the west used to keep track of historic events on
wiigwaas, our bark, or Winter Counts — records inked on bu alo and
robes. Our ancestors would remember in these Winter Counts the winter
the snow was higher than the tipis, when the smallpox came and when
the people were victorious in a battle.
ey would remember important
this era, I am not sure how I keep track of these moments; maybe
or perhaps in my writing. I have yet to draw a Winter Count,
on robe or perhaps hemp canvas. at may, however, be in the
What I know now is that I write, usually each day.
will remember this as the year that the Bat Changed the World.
e fact is that a virus brought to us by a bat is changing the world,
world of the Wiindigoo. We have some stories of the epic bat in Ojibwe
and this will be a new one.
has caused unprecedented social disruption and wreaked havoc
the markets, but it has also resulted in lower energy demand and a
signi cant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.
is is where we
understand that crisis is opportunity.
is will be remembered, I am sure, as
time when we changed our direction, and that is because of a bat.
are long ago stories. Sometimes the changes come fast, and then it
we slumber for years of solitude. We come to take a moment for
a person for permanent. We are a transient bunch, myself
We travel faster than perhaps our spirits can travel, and our
of time change. When we return home, Giiwedinong, we look
something familiar, or maybe, in some cases, an improvement, a healing
a horse, a person or a place; scar tissue remains. Travel changes your
perception of time.
ere is much that can be missed.
we are home, or perhaps when we return home, we remember the
of the land. at’s not digital, hourly or mechanical. e time when the
maple syruping season is when the crows gather; it’s called Aandeg Biboon,
Crow Month, the time when winter is breaking, the Wiindigoo is leaving,
and the sap will run. en there’s a snow storm, and it’s the
for the maple. at’s the time on the land. en the swans come.
Hearty and majestic, they stand on small ice patches at the
beginning of the Ottertail River.
at river, traveling to the Red and one day
Hudson Bay, begins on my lake, Round Lake, Gaawaawiye Gaamag. Here
water is clean, long before industrial agriculture and long before it turns
the Red River and carries the bodies of my sisters, the Missing and
Indigenous Women. Long before the polar bears of Churchill
Manitoba. Here it is peaceful.
e pheasants are enjoying some early thaws;
and turkeys, they stay the winter.
friend Georgianne Baker used to talk to me about calling your spirit.
we travel so fast that our spirit may not catch up with us,
behind, stunned or pleased by the moment. She used to make a call,
tell the spirits she was home, remind her spirit to be present. In the time
air travel, digital time and the jackhammer of the industrial world, I nd
caught. I call my spirit back, back to the lake, the birds and the
return each winter, as my ancestors did, to see who has survived this
survived the time of the Wiindigoo, the harshest of winters. ey
used to talk about the times of the plagues.
ose came to our people with
missionaries and traders. Many would pass, according to the Winter
of the west. Omaa Akiing, here on this land and memories, you
know the family had perished when the smoke no longer came from
wigwam. at is what we remember.
year, I watched the deaths of the young from heroin overdoses and
and the old from illness. e smoke no longer comes from their
winter, to my modern day Winter Count, I remember the storms and
cold. I remember the big storm which froze the Dakotas, Iowa,
Minnesota, Wisconsin into a stillness. I remember feeling
and knowing I knew better. I remember this year past, of the
to the west, the winds and water to the south, and I prayed for more
to prepare for a future that is transforming patterns forever by climate
And then came a searing spring and a summer of water, water to
en I remember the time of the Bat.
you travel far, you may sometimes see what is coming towards you,
climate change or who has learned good lessons. You take these
and teachings home for the people and the future generations. You
just as in days of old, the sadness, joy and beauty of the large world. But,
the fast-paced time, you forget your own Winter Count. We forget to be
now. To call our spirits home.
bi daagoshin. It is a new spring which comes. Recognized as the
venture out, the aandegoog, crows, move in large numbers. ey
to the skies and signal that it is time to tap our trees and venture from
wigwams, our warm houses, into the woods, hoping that smoke comes
many res. It is time to go into the woods; nopeming to be grateful for
homecoming. It is time to call our spirits home. I pause from my travels
and look to see my world; she is beautiful.
How to Be Better Ancestors
long are you going to let others determine the future for your
Are we not warriors? When our ancestors went to battle they
know what the consequences would be, all they knew is that if they
nothing, things would not go well for their children. Do not operate
of a place of fear, operate out of hope. Because with hope anything is
— under Valley Community Development Corporation 1
to many who read this, to be a warrior may be something that rankles
sensibilities, but let us say that in the face of daunting forces we must
our courage, our hearts, our minds, and work together. Zapatista
Marcos would say: “Our word is our weapon.” Or
your organic goat cheese, your small energy company, your
way of teaching is your tool, your weapon. To be courageous
thoughtful, perhaps, is the key to being good ancestors.
Anishinaabeg, sort of like old guard Anishinaabeg, the cool ancestors.
are larger than life and memory and continue to be present in one of
eight worlds that surround the Anishinaabeg. ey are courageous and
practiced, intelligent, and kept a covenant with the Creator to
for all we are given and be grateful. ey are my role models.
believe in place. Anishinaabe Akiing, the Land to which the people
that’s where I live.
live in the same area my great-great-great-great grandparents lived.
I harvest wild rice on the same lakes, canoe to the same
patches and am eternally grateful for their consistency, their
to land and ceremony, and to those who had not yet arrived,
myself. My lake itself, Round Lake, is where the so-called last Indian
in Minnesota occurred. And I am eternally grateful to the Skip In
Day family for demanding justice on our Lake, and stopping the timber
from stealing all of our great and majestic pines. In walking, riding a
horse or canoeing these lakes and this place, I remember those ancestors.
And I o er them food and prayers.
ose are cool ancestors, great role
my mother, the artist Betty LaDuke’s side, my family originates in the
Jewish farmers who became union workers in New York City. My
grandfather had a windmill to grind wheat and was displaced by
burning of coal and the progress of new mills. My grandmother worked
the garment district and my grandfather worked as a house painter.
Decent people. Courageous, humble, sensible people.
imprint which maybe reminds me of where their journeys
them. Some days, I feel I continue their journey or see, perhaps, my
continue those journeys.
I re ect on the question of how to be good ancestors, I re ect on
accountability. How do I account for my behaviors and
to my ancestors and to my descendants?
is easier for some of us than others. America does not stay in
Akiing. Privileged by the fossil fuel economy, which has put all
on steroids, we are transient, we move. Few people live in the same
as their ancestors, and many more of us have historical amnesia.
always trying to run away from what we’ve done, so amnesia
becomes the coping mechanism.
en we continue in our anthropocentric
thinking we are kings and continuing as slave holders. Ecological
holders that is. Not knowing history has huge perils. Ecological
is when we forget what was there, complicated by all of this
means that we do not come to know and love a place; we move
and as such are not accountable to that place. Always looking for greener
a new frontier, I fear we lose depth, and a place loses its humans
would sing to it, gather the precious berries, make clean the paths and
on a worldwide scale, Indigenous Peoples represent about 4%
of the world’s people, but we live with 80% of the world’s biodiversity.
ghting for. My counsel is stay, make this place your home and
this land like a patriot.
look to minobimaatisiiwin, the excellent life o ered to the Anishinaabeg
the Creator. In this life, the basic teachings are elegant and resonant: care
yourself, the land and your relatives. Remember that this world is full of
spirit and life and must be reckoned with.
e land of berries, wild rice,
syrup and medicines comes with a covenant, an agreement between
Anishinaabeg, or myself, and the Creator. Keep that covenant, that
that we will take care of what is given to us, and your descendants
your responsibility for this moment. I understand mine. As I
my brothers and sisters to the west at Standing Rock facing rubber
tear gas and the spraying of poisons to protect the water, I was awed,
and reminded that I am one of them. In this moment, not unlike
Selma Moment, be present.
the Dark Lord rises in the East, nd your courage, my Hobbit brothers
sisters… (Wait, I can’t actually say that?), but remember the shire is
and your descendants would appreciate your voice, words and
Rock is not only a place; it is a state of mind, it is a thought and it
action. In a time when the rights of corporations override the rights of
stay human, and remember that the law must be changed. For civil
is made, as democracy is made, by the hands of people, courageous
and is not a spectator sport. While at one time slavery was legal; it is
longer, and soon we must free our Mother Earth from her slavery to an
economy and ensure her rights.
each day there is a heartbreak of story, a constant heartache for our
whether they have wings, ns, roots, paws or hands, but there is
much beauty and joy. Remember always that in these times of -
the virus brought by a bat, we retreated into our human worlds, and
took a breath, strolled our streets with ease and enjoyed a fresh
day. Hold your sorrow and grief to remember, but be grateful for this
e Creator has given us a good one. And your descendants will be
for this good life, this minobimaatisiiwin.
this time, do not underestimate yourself, nor the power of the larger. As
saw at Standing Rock, unity, hope, a worldwide outpouring of love and
emboldens Water Protectors worldwide — and that is something we
all need, along with our Mother. How that power is actualized is up to
of us, but acknowledging our responsibility for power is how we are
lessons I take from one of my great teachers, Wes Jackson of the Land
Institute. As you contemplate your choices, mill about.
is is to say, if you
live in your one acre, do so, mill about on that one acre, and do not
Perhaps that lesson is to live simply and care for the place you know
so that those who follow can live there too. He calls it the Mill About
believe. Wes said one time that if you’re working on something that you
on nishing in your lifetime, you are not thinking big enough. Let us
the gi of our thoughts, and in the words of the Great Hunkpapa leader
Bull, “Let us put our minds together to see what kind of future we
can make for our children.”
en we will be great ancestors.
The Holy Land Is Here
Native People, the Holy Land is here. Whether Bear Butte, Manitoulin
Mni Sose or Gichi Gummi, people who have lived on this land for
years know this as the Holy Land, not elsewhere.
recognition is growing into a body of law, not just in North America,
worldwide. It’s about time, or as Indigenous Peoples will say, it’s time to
to the Creator’s law. ese laws are considered the Rights of Nature,
the Rights of Mother Earth, a body of new jurisprudence which is
2017, Mount Taranaki in New Zealand was granted the same legal rights
a person, in turn becoming the third major geographical feature in New
Zealand to be granted a “legal personality.”
e mountain is sacred to the
e mountain, named — poorly — Mount Egmont by
Cook a er the Second Earl of Egmont, was formally stolen with pen
paper by the New Zealand government in 1865. In 1978, the mountain
returned to the people of Taranaki by federal jurisdiction. 2
legal designation follows a set of similar acknowledgements, most
from India, which granted the Himalayan glaciers, rivers, streams,
air, meadows and forests the same legal rights as persons, joining
sacred Ganges and Yamuna Rivers as having standing under the law. 3
legal recognitions are intended to protect those living beings. is
set of international rulings represents the most signi cant creation of
legal rights for Nature since 2010, when Bolivia passed the Law of
Earth as a part of their constitution, 4 with a similar law being passed
the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma (2017) and the Ho Chunk Nation of
e 2017 jurisdictional decision by the Ponca Nation
the rights of Nature Nature came in response to their
to the water. “We all know that water is life. e years of sh
related to the fracking and injection wells amount to environmental
said Casey Camp-Horinek. “It is going to take all of us humans
because we’re speaking for those without voices, for the deer, the cattle,
the Laws of Men Are Wrong
a moment when the law begins to change.
that y. In our tribe we have a funeral a week now. We’re being fracked
death and it’s time to take a stand for our people and defend the earth.” 6
we look around us, we can see that the legal systems of nation states
failed Mother Earth and Indigenous Peoples. While laws like the
Species Act really speak to the essence of the right of a “species”
exist in the United States, the broad application and practice of regulatory
and law do not protect a river, a watershed, a species, a mountain
at’s the moment, when the
— created primarily by papal law, English common law and then
law — have created an untenable situation for most of the world’s
beings, from animals to rivers to people.
in the United States and Canada the situation is untenable, and
gives corporations more rights than humans, and certainly more rights
Nature. What the Canadian Supreme Court decided in the Percy
case was that corporations owned life. And what has happened in
case law is that the rights of corporations have exceeded the rights
most of us. Corporate personhood is the legal notion that a corporation
at least some of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by humans.
Supreme Court decisions, like Citizens United and Burwell v Hobby Lobby
the Court has ruled in favor of corporations, even extending religious
the case of Hobby Lobby, this ruling of the right to religious freedom
the corporation does not have to provide contraception as a part of a
care package to employees. Not only do corporations have rights,
religious freedom, but their rights are stronger than yours or
And their rights extend inside your body.
the time of Standing Rock, I was assured that Energy Transfer Partners
more rights than the Lakota People and the Water Protectors. In the
of Quebec Hydro and Manitoba Hydro (Muskrat Falls), what’s clear is
these corporations exercise authority over the rights of people and
at’s an aberration of justice.
be in reality. Corporations are ctitious creations, and the natural world
… well real. I also o en muse that if a corporation was a person, it would
e a person with a multiple personality disorder. A er all, those mergers,
and bankruptcies can certainly change your identity.
we enter the New Year in that Gregorian calendar, I remember the Holy
is also here.
us take the case of Mahto Paha, or Bear Butte, in the heart of the Paha
or the Black Hills. According to a Lakota story, long ago a giant bear
a water monster similar to a dinosaur battled for many days and nights.
of the erce battle, valleys lled with blood. e giant bear,
wounded by the sea monster’s jagged teeth, crawled away to die.
disappears, leaving in its place a hill in the shape of the bear’s sleeping
which continued to rumble and smolder. Today, hambleceya, vision
is o en done at Bear Butte, a sacred place, as sacred as Mount Sinai.
so di erent is the story of Mni Sose, the Missouri River. e longest
in North America, when combined with the Mississippi, forms the
fourth longest river system. e river, once drinkable, has been life
all of us for thousands of years. It gave rise to the ancient agricultural
of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Peoples and was a super
highway for trade travel.
e fertile Nile river valley of the Northern Plains.
that river is an industrial sewer to corporations that rarely pay nes,
alone remedy their crimes against Nature. Just as an example, since
of 2016 over 100,000 gallons of crude oil, waste oil, bio solids,
gas and brine have been spilled into the waters of the region, along
about 50,000 gallons of slaked lime solids which slid directly into the
River. e river is choked with industrial and agricultural runo
solids. Indeed, in some cases, a river, like the Animas River ( owing
Ute and Dine Territory of the Colorado Plateau), may be legally
dead, devoid of life from acid mine drainage or toxins. Who has the
to commit ecocide? And conversely: Should a river have a right to live
reality is that American, Canadian and other legal institutions are not
of regulating the intergenerational violence of technology. What is
in war and in industry exceeds the experience of any generation before
in scope and damage, and our regulatory institutions have no framework
understanding the impact of these decisions.
rather than being cautious, the legal institutions, to which Native
are asked to subjugate themselves, are inadequate to address
prudence and indeed justice. Historically, North American legal
have protected the rights of private property holders, not Nature
Indeed, private corporations continue to pillage the commons,
toxic poisons from their world into the world of rivers,
and sacred places.
leadership on the transition to a more enlightened set of legal canons
is being provided by Indigenous Peoples.
at’s because our legal systems
and will postdate those of the church and the nation states.
away, the question of the life of a river has taken on a new legal
In 2012, the Whanganui River became a legal entity 7 and in 2017,
given the same status as a person under New Zealand law. 8 In an
between the Maori and the Crown, the river has been given legal
under the name Te Awa Tupua, and two guardians, one from the
and one from the Maori, have assumed the responsibility to protect
river. is responsibility is a rea rmation of Indigenous practice and is
to the laws of nation states. One can easily argue that many
in an American or Canadian regulatory process are only
in their rights and rarely interested in their “responsibilities.” In
recently signed treaties like the Bu alo Treaty 9 and the Treaty of
Salish Sea, 10 between Indigenous Nations, pledge to care for the
of humans in relationship to these great spiritual beings, the
alo Nation and the Salish Sea.
on Turtle Island, another river is recognized. In May of 2019, the
Tribal Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution
the rights of the Klamath River, spanning through Modoc,
Hoopa, Karuk Territory to the Paci c Ocean.
to the Yurok Tribe, the resolution “establishes the Rights of
Klamath River to exist, ourish, and naturally evolve; to have a
and healthy environment free from pollutants; to have a stable
free from human-caused climate change impacts; and to be free
contamination by genetically engineered organisms.”
is resolution provides another powerful tool to protect our river,
has sustained the Yurok people since time began,” said Joseph L.
the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “We have always and will
always do everything in our power to preserve and enhance the
Klamath for all future generations.” 11
is the time to make legal institutions that re ect the world we live in,
the anthropocentric world we fantasize is a reality. It really is not
to regulate watersheds until there is no water in a river. Now is the
to make laws which rea rm the spirit of place, of beings, and rea rm
the relationship between humans and the Holy Land. Omaa Akiing.
The Month You Remember Me
is this magical made-up time in the United States between so-called
Day (or Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the enlightened) and
anksgiving, where white Americans think about Native People.
our window. Honestly. Now, let me tell you the truth; I think about white
every day … every day. How o en do white Americans think of
2019, November was known as Native American Heritage Month,
in the middle is that Halloween thing, and until about three years ago,
of the most popular Halloween costumes was Pocahontas. So, people
nothing about us, but like to dress up like us, or have us as a mascot.
President Trump renamed Native American Heritage Month as
Founding Fathers Month, so we might have lost out on a few
of collective acknowledgement. In other words, will you still think
Native People if we don’t have a month?
are invisible. Take it from me, I travel a lot, and o en ask this question:
you name 10 Indigenous Nations? Sometimes I ask for 25. You can ask
in a room full of PhDs, or a lecture hall full of college students, and
en no one can name us. If we are to be named, it is Lakota, Cherokee,
Cheyenne, Blackfeet, mostly Native People from westerns, or maybe
that Cherokee great-grandmother someone believes they have.
is is the
of history: writing out the victim, making the victim disappear;
is no victim so there was no crime. We just disappeared.
always, when I am traveling, there will be this feeling that someone
seen a unicorn in the airport. at would be me, in my Pendleton jacket
an apparition from times long ago. ere will be that awkward question
whether I am Navajo or Cherokee, and then we will sort it out …
on how much patience I have. Most people are very well
do I want to tell you while you are thinking of me? Let me squeeze
in: ere are over 700 Indigenous Nations in North America, and, in
and Bolivia in South America we are the majority population.
Indigenous presidents have been elected — Evo Morales in Bolivia and
Chavez in Venezuela. We are doctors, lawyers, writers, educators, and
are here. we
are land-based and intend to stay that way. Our land and water is our
I hear White People (using the term White as a social construct) talk
how the Americans gave us land. Treaties reserved land, and
were reserved. America was stolen, or purchased for a pittance.
Andrew Jackson forced the removal of thousands of our people,
then sold our land. Some historians point out that Jackson’s Louisiana
knocked US debt from $58 million in 1828 to $38,000 in 1834.
deal, except for us. Of the 4% of our land base that remains, we intend
keep it. Of our treaties which were signed between our ancestors and your
we intend to stand by them.
are not you. Worldwide, there are about 7,000 languages in the world
and they are primarily Indigenous. Some languages are very close to
At least 52 North American Indigenous languages have
46 languages are known to have just one native speaker, while
languages have fewer than 50 speakers. 12 Of those languages, this means
roughly 2680 languages are facing a risk of extinction. 13 It’s called
the forced loss of a language, and the US government and
carried it out well. e UN has declared 2019 the year of
languages, to raise awareness about their loss. Lakota and
are two of the strongest living languages in North America. We
to keep our words.
intend to keep our spiritual and religious practices — I am not a
and it was not until 1978, with the passage of the American
Freedom of Religion Act, that Native people could freely practice our
at is, unless someone wanted to mine your sacred site or put a golf
on it. course
women are here, and we birthed this Nation. We created the agro
of 8000 varieties of corn, and a multitude of beans, squash and
varieties which are now touted by big agriculture and are the
for most crops. We are the ones whose hearts cannot fall on the
Despite that my heart breaks every day I see an opioid epidemic
brought to me by the pharmaceutical industry or see another Native person
cannot get health care.
are also at risk; been that my whole life. I, like many other Native
have been beaten, and have a female relative who was missing,
and ended up in the Mississippi River. Over a thousand Native
are missing or murdered in the past decade. I am tired of being
to you all. I am tired of the lack of compassion of the settler state, or
president who slashes health care and access to food, or the state that seeks
contaminate the remaining wild rice with sul de to keep a dying mining
a oat. And I am tired of North Dakota pretending that Standing
does not exist. I am tired of being invisible and demand that you see me.
right here, I’m the stu this country is made of. Honest.
I want to say is that we are beautiful, amazing, tough-as-can-be
It would be nice if we thought of each other kindly and with
Civil society would bene t; the legal, political, economic,
systems would bene t if Indigenous Peoples were not written out of
public policy and thinking. A er all, if you want to gure out how to
out on the continent for 8000 years or so, you might want to see us.
I want Native American Heritage Month back. But more, I want to be
seen, heard and respected.
Seeds of Hope: Mino Gitigaaning
father used to say that there will be a time when there will not be food in
stores. at would be a good time to know how to grow food. I am
what American historians would call a Victory Garden. Well a
of them. I am calling it Mino Gitigaaning. A Good Garden. It is full
heritage varieties of corn, beans, squash, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes,
and hemp. en, there’s a he y tomato, basil, cucumbers, eggplants
other produce section of the gardens, and more to come. I am planting
and a commitment to the covenant I have with this world. I am
in a time of ongoing wars. I’m planting for life, because I love her.
Garden: a vegetable garden, especially a home garden, planted to
food production during a war. Answering the federal government’s
by May 1943, there were 18 million victory gardens in the United
— 12 million in cities and 6 million on farms. Together, they
almost 10 million short tons of food. In 1944, that was an amount
to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. 1 It’s time for a
Garden as our transition to the next economy. Or maybe a Garden
Gratitude and Joy.
fact is that food systems of the globalized capitalist economy are
ey are Wiindigoo Economics at their best. We see shrimp raised in
deveined in China and served on a platter at Walmart in North
at’s not a web that can last. In 2020, we saw this unravel quickly
as the coronavirus moved through globalized economies.
e New York
reported that, as restaurants, hotels and schools close in the face of the
Wisconsin and Ohio, farmers are dumping thousands of gallons of
milk into lagoons and manure pits. An Idaho farmer has dug huge
to bury 1 million pounds of onions. And in South Florida, a
that supplies much of the Eastern half of the United States with
produce, tractors are crisscrossing bean and cabbage
perfectly ripe vegetables back into the soil….
e amount of waste is staggering.
e nation’s largest dairy
Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are
as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single
chicken processor is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs every week. 2
e response by people has been life. Seed companies are
a surge in sales, back orders and more as people become home
People want to grow food, and that’s a great thing. Crisis is
I had to put my thumb on it, I would say people are worried about their
security right now,” said Emily Rose Haga, the executive director of the
Savers Exchange, an Iowa-based nonpro t devoted to heirloom seeds.
lot of folks even in our region are putting orders into their grocery stores
having to wait a week to get their groceries. Our society has never
a disruption like this in our lifetime.” 3
seems that my father was right about the grocery stores. His name was
LaDuke, his name was also Sun Bear. Now looks to be that time,
time to garden and return to the seeds.
e New York Times reminds us, “
is isn’t the rst time in recent years
there has been a run on seeds. ‘When the market crashed in 2008, there
a big increase in people starting to grow their own food,’ Ms. Kruysman,
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, said. But that uptick was more gradual.” And of
our Elders who lived through the Great Depression remember times
these, and they remind us that “this is the time to be saving these seeds
making sure that we can feed ourselves.” Native Seed Search is one
that sells seeds to the public, “But our priority is seeds for
communities,’ Mr. Schlager said, pointing out that the Navajo
Nation is already su ering because of the new coronavirus. ‘
o entimes the last place where real aid, or
support, or anything really
handed out to people,’ he said.” 4
and water will be pretty essential, perhaps with more long-term
bene ts than federal
the corporate food system fails, President Trump further destabilized
foods with his unrelenting attack on people of color. Of the l.5 to
million people working in agriculture today, 50–70% of them are
farm workers, according to a report by the American Farm
5 Donald Trump has suggested the deportation of many of those
ere are about 11 million of them. It was particularly striking
many of these workers were deemed “essential” during the -19
but they are still “illegal.” Business Insider reports that if the
sector were to eliminate all undocumented workers, the US
be le with a $30–$60 billion food production loss. 6 ( ink of the
A Day Without a Mexican). I am not sure who is going to pick my
for me, frankly, let alone most of the food that comes from
to the deportations, retail food prices could increase by 5–6% on
with some categories seeing higher jumps than others. For example,
National Milk Producers Federation expects a 90% increase in milk
if the country removes the immigrant labor supply. 7 Add to that a
million loss from the 2016 California drought 8 and the unstable
brought to us by climate change. Sprinkle that with some bad water
California is using groundwater in fracking operations, and Nestle
sucking up groundwater in California and elsewhere to bottle.
is about a promise and hope. Gardening and rebuilding our
relationships with the relatives which have roots. Rea
with plants is a rea
rmation of our agreements and responsibilities with
at’s if, indeed, we are able to survive.
grow a really old squash. We call it Gete Okosomin, or “really cool old
at variety has been around 800 or more years and is well adapted
northern Minnesota. It keeps over the winter, and when opened up,
well over a thousand seeds within beautiful orange esh. Each year,
plant more heritage varieties, watch them grow with wonder, have a large
family who weeds together, a pony we use to cultivate, and some
that we are intent upon improving a er forty years of scorching with
agriculture’s pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. All together we
looking to grow not only food for our community, but with our
family by family. And we are intent upon growing hemp, or
as the anecdote to the fossil fuel era. A er all, in the early days of
American farming community, people would grow a half acre of hemp
a half acre of ax — which would supply the needs of each extended
before cotton from Pakistan, before polyester from China. Native
people also grew hemp; it was a useful and magical plant.
e White Earth
hemp crop, focused on ne textile varieties, is ourishing, well over
high by the fourth of July. We are ready for peace and victory.
is a wondrous time now. Mandaamin, the Anishinaabe word for corn,
wonderous seed, and in many ways re ects understandings from
land-based cultures. Vandana Shiva, Indian physicist and political
reminds us that seed is sacred. In Hindi, seed is bija or “containment
is created to renew, to multiply, to be shared, and to spread. Seed is
itself.… Globalized industrialized food is not cheap,” Shiva writes,
“it is too costly for the Earth, for the farmers, for our health.
no longer carry the burden of groundwater mining, pesticide
disappearance of species and destabilization of the climate.
can no longer carry the burden of debt, which is inevitable in
farming with its high costs of production. It is incapable of
safe, culturally appropriate, tasty, quality food. And it is
of producing enough food for all because it is wasteful of
water and energy. Industrial agriculture uses ten times more
than it produces. It is thus ten times less e cient. 9
understanding guides me in the Victory Garden — Mino Gitigaaning,
have been planting my eld of dreams. I started early this year, as it was
degrees in May–August weather. I plant for peace and so that people will
have food this year and in the years ahead. I plant for victory and hope.
Omaakaakii: In Praise of Frogs
I would like to sing the praises of frogs. Omaakaakii.
at’s the Anishinaabe
for them. Ancient beings here of this place, maligned in European
of frogs and princes; I love them. As a young child, in a small town in
Oregon, we lived on the hill, next to the irrigation ditches that ran
the reservoir to the elds. I remember frogs. ey were loud, in
abundance, captured, looked at in wonder and then released.
at was the
of my mother.
know how this story ends.
ere are no frogs in those irrigation
these days; victims of pesticides and chemical poisoning, they
days remain here in the north, but in less abundance; that’s on a
scale. e frog populations are plummeting. ey are, in many
a mirror of our relationship to that land and water. I have unearthed
sleeping peacefully in the garden, dormant, almost corpselike for the
I am always happy, relieved, when they return to the marshes and
of our north country. Spring, Ziigwan, is welcomed by their songs.
nights, during a certain rain, the frogs move by the thousands — I am
sure why. I only worry and fret as I drive the northern roads, hating to
them in my fast life and deadly combustion engine.
all know what happens to the frogs. Amphibians, they absorb
everything we put in the environment.
ey live between land and water. As
we, 60% water. As Anishinaabe People, we always recognize that we are
related, even the little guys.
fact is that industrial agriculture doesn’t really recognize this. Atrazine
one example. According to the National Academy of Science, “atrazine can
turn male frogs into females that are successfully able to reproduce.
suggest that atrazine … a weed killer used primarily on corn crops,
have potentially harmful e ects on populations of amphibians,
animals that are already experiencing a global decline.”
at’s what Tyrone
B. Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley said in the study. 10
Atrazine is banned in Europe.
Lost Boys of Aamjiwnaang
ere’s a reason it’s banned in Europe. Maybe this is it:
reserve in southern Ontario surrounded by a bunch of
plants and tar sands re neries. Some of the chemical companies
include Dow and Syngenta, and
is the big tar sands re nery.
62 separate industrial facilities cluster there, comprising 40% of
chemical facilities. 11 e village there, Aamjiwnaang, has been the
of numerous international studies, mostly because of the birth ratio.
how it goes: over the past twenty years, there’s been two times as
girls born as boys. Writing for Men’s Health, Melody Peterson and
LaMarca pen: “ ese tribal lands have become a kind of petri
for industrial pollutants. And in this vast, real-time experiment, the
of Aamjiwnaang (AHM-ju-nun) are the lab rats.” 12
go on to explain: “Scientists turned their attention to the reserve a
years ago, a er a study of the tribe’s birth records con rmed what tribe
had already sensed: a steady plunge in the number of boys born
1993 and 2003. In fact, by the end of the study period, two girls had
born for every boy — one of the steepest declines ever reported in the
of boys to girls. With fewer boys, the community of 850 has had to
adjust, although in subtle ways so far. One year, the tribe had enough girls
for three baseball teams, but the boys could ll just one team.
team has been disbanded.” 13 And so forth.
here I am; it’s spring. ere are no frogs in the valley of my youth. And
I remember them. I do not have ecological amnesia. I remember not only
frogs but the stories.
Coastal Tlingit stories speak of Frog Woman, who called the
forth when the frogs were abused. Volcanoes erupt worldwide in
Ring of Fire. I am going to say that at some deep level, we are all related.
that Frog Woman asks us to be mindful. It is a metaphor; take it for that.
on the so-called Ponsford Prairie, the atrazine from the corn and
has wiped out the frogs, or changed their sexes, most likely. I even
a one-eyed frog once. By and large, they are no more. Spring is here,
and each year we can make new decisions. My companion has a
which had no frogs a er six years of agricultural chemicals, and now,
er three years of organics, the frogs have returned. Omaakaakii giiwewag.
frogs come home.
do my part, and kiss more frogs happily in my life, taking one for the team
it were… Noopeming, back in my woods I hear them still, clinging to
and water; a place between land and water, where the Omaakakii
live. Here Omaa akiing. On this land.
have missed you. I missed the butter ies for sure. My yard has milkweed in
— and there were no pods. I am not sure why, but I saw very few
ies. Monarchs are particularly impacted by Monsanto’s BT corn,
is genetically modi ed to produce an insecticide. But it’s more than
it’s all of you … little bugs, big bugs, mosquitoes … the windshield full
bugs, no longer. A fog of bugs, no longer by the lake. Where have you
I canoed and rode horse throughout the north country, and missed
e Ace Hardware, Menards, Fleet and every store is full of ways to kill
pretty well documented, as colonies collapse; the story of why is told
retold, attributed at one time to the cell phone towers, and then nally
neonicotinoids, the powerful pesticides now banned through most of
In short, in 2017, 33% of the bee colonies died o , down however
previous years. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation’s colonies
from 14 died.
in every three bites of food is directly or indirectly pollinated by
and other pollinators. 15 Honeybees alone pollinate about $15
300 species of plants, another 300 species of birds, tens of species of
and uncounted hundreds upon hundreds of insect species. Fast
to late summer 2012, when the air should have been buzzing with
and few will be found. One survey of an Iowan corn eld turned up
six creatures we might call bugs. 17 (Not simply six species — six
bugs.) Two grasshoppers, an ant, a red mite, and a cobweb spider
a crane y. Otherwise, silence. I attest to this, as I farm in the middle
the industrial agricultural zone known as the Ponsford Prairie. e prairie
I Miss You
they have been pretty successful.
all of you.
however, am pretty concerned … and I nd I miss them all.
being called an Insect Armageddon. Now, of course, the bee die-o has
worth of US crops each year. 16 Not to mention life.
the die-o is widespread. In the early 1900s, Iowa’s prairies were home
dominated by R.D. O utt and other farmers who overspray the elds.
days I have worked in the elds to the sound of crop dusters on both
of me, and some days we have been over sprayed.
eld, the non-sprayed eld, has insects in it. e rest do not. at’s the
nationally and internationally. A well-documented German study
in the last 27 years, the ying insect biomass measured in protected
nature reserves declined an average of 76%, with an 82% drop
the midsummer season, when insect populations should be
18 Another study found that Germany experienced a 15% drop in its
population over the last decade. 19 Clearly, an insect collapse also a ects
birds who feed on them.
here we are, the land of 10,000 lakes and hopefully a gazillion sh. What
was raised by an entomologist, a bug man. His name was Peter Westigard,
Norwegian by genetics, who worked on the insects of fruit trees. My father
to tell me that there were 800 million species of insects in the world
nothing could diminish the biomass of the insects. Now I wonder…
as we go dormant for the winter, I pose the question that Rachel
brought forth some y years ago in her book Silent Spring. e epic
manifesto documented the detrimental e ects on the
of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Silent Spring was met
erce opposition by chemical companies, but it spurred a reversal in
pesticide policy, led to a nationwide ban on for agricultural
and inspired an environmental movement that led to the creation of the
Environmental Protection Agency. To be sure, Donald Trump’s
are unlikely to read this book.
am going to do my part to bring back those “pests,” a short-sighted term
has been misapplied. I will grow organically, plant for bees, and in the
I plan to launch my beekeeper career. A er all, the Bear Clan should
began on January 1, 2018, in Maryland. Connecticut followed suit
a er Maryland. 20 Maryland lost 60% of its bees in 2015. 21 It is time to
into the billion pounds of pesticides applied in the US annually and
out if all the killing is worth it. I remember Joni Mitchell lyrics, “You
the sh going to eat if all the insects are gone, smart guys? What about all
secure with honey.
rst US ban on sales of products containing the neonicotinoid class of
know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
think my six-legged relatives are part of what we need. In the meantime,
is coming. Please rest, my six-legged relatives. I hope to see you in the
I miss you.
Free the Snake
rst time in 131 years, a Nimiipu (Nez Perce) dug-out canoe
the Snake and Columbia Rivers as a part of a restoration of
and salmon to a place. Each fall, Nimiipu and their allies from
Palouse, Colville and other nations, as well as hundreds of supporters,
on Timothy Island, just down from Lewiston, Idaho, on the
Greeting some strong-backed individuals who had canoed 17
to honor ancestors and a river, the Save the Snake otilla, the largest
gathering to date, pushed ahead in dam removal.
e focus: the Ice,
Monumental and all the dams that are aging.
e tribes want the dams
and so do millions of those downstream.
Talequah, the mother orca who carried her dead calf for 17 days in
a grieving, tells this story best.
ere are no salmon because of the dams,
and the orcas are starving. “
e southern resident orcas of the Salish Sea are
ing toward extinction. eir population has dwindled to just 75
Every calf that has been born in the last three years has died
it could reach maturity,” D.R. Mitchell writes in the Seattle Times. 22
are the keystone species of the ecosystem, feeding not only the
and the shers but the bears, eagles and every species with excellent
e Columbia used to have one of the largest salmon runs on the
o en 10 million salmon a year. Today, only a fraction return to
in an enormous unused habitat. A series of dams, beginning on the
cut the river from the sea; the Grand Coulee Dam, the largest of all,
built without a sh ladder, so salmon are trucked up the river to spawn.
makes sh and it makes soil. Fish are life. Today very few sh
And if you want to save the orcas, you have to feed them.
aquatic world is worsened by climate change. Salmon need moving
and cold rivers. Dams cut the movement, climate change heats things
In 2015, 250,000 salmon died at the mouth of the Columbia — the
warm water, a result of climate change, and slack water. 23
Dams are o en touted as green energy, but the fact is that mega dams are
from that. While Canada still pretends that big dams are a solution and
so en the country’s climate criminal status, the US is removing dams.
United States removed roughly 900 dams between 1990 and 2015, with
50 to 60 more removed every year. 24 In southern Oregon and
California, the Klamath River dams are slated for
the Elwha Dam is decommissioned.
federal dams were built on the Snake River in the 1960s and 70s to
atwater negotiations between Lewiston and the lower Columbia. 25
Nez Perce tribe, in close collaboration with the State of Oregon and
has successfully challenged ve ine ective federal plans to
the damage done by the dams, 26 and a er signi cant expenditures,
integrated plan to decommission the dams is under review at the federal
Removing four lower Snake River dams would yield bene ts that
outweigh the costs, according to a recent study. e study calculated the
costs of dam removal at $2.21 billion for loss of grid services the dams
$1.08 billion for actual dam removal and $170 million related to
On the other hand, the study also found that $90 million would
saved on transportation, mainly due to reduced operations and
costs, and $1.04 billion gained in the recreation category. With
billion in non-use bene ts, that brought the total value of dam
to $8.65 billion. 27,28
lobbies of agricultural interests push against the tribes and the
complicating the situation with a set of agricultural choices based
access to water, in an area with little. Once, thousands of horses, antelope,
and deer ranged the territory, now largely bere of those creatures. I
reminded of Charles Darwin’s theory of the “survival of the ttest” and
reminded that the decisions of men (and I say men deliberately) cause
Some would say, our minds are not t.
the Nimiipu, and so many others of salmon cultures, it is impossible to
a salmon people without salmon. Today, as diabetes rages in Indigenous
it’s clear that quality of diet and emotional and physical health
without salmon. Fishing is not only a source of food; it is what
do. Loss of salmon is loss of culture and well-being; study a er study
a rm that. For me, I have been gi ed some salmon from the river by a
Perce leader, Brooklyn Baptiste, and I hold close to the gi ; the salmon
the upcoming years, a window of federal review opens, as state, tribal,
and other interests look to federal decisions. A federal court has
ordered a review, and the Nimiipu and the state push for an exit plan.
River Treaty is the 1964 agreement between the United States and
that provides joint management of the river system. In May 2018,
US and Canadian o
cials began renegotiating the treaty. 29 Freeing the river
provide salmon to 5500 square miles of forests, lakes and ecosystems. As
come down to the south, policy makers come to recognize that old
is not good technology in this case. And, for those who lack an
geography, almost every dam has ooded a Native community
from Celilo (Columbia) to Oahe (Missouri/Standing Rock) — with
story of Snake River and the dams is hardly unique to the region. Most
dam projects, from the Garrison to the Colorado River Project, have had
results for Native People. Canada is the same. With over 900
dam projects, the largest, whether Quebec Hydro, Manitoba Hydro,
Hydro or BC Hydro, drown Native People.
of resistance to James Bay 2 saved part of the ecosystem, but new
came online just the same. Villages like South Indian Lake and Cross
have been devastated by these dam projects as the world they know is
beneath turbulent waters. Time and time again, the Canadian
has promised Indigenous Peoples that dam projects will bring
but the truth is always far from that. As James B. Waldram from
Department of Native Studies, University of Saskatchewan, would write,
And in 1965, when the
rst winter’s snows melted around the new
community of Easterville making painfully visible the
of soil and vegetation, and as the waters rising behind the Grand
dam changed forever the face of the lake they knew so well,
not only the shoreline but also the habitat for moose,
and sh, the importance of this clause became evident. How
the economy and the lifestyle of the Chemawawin people be
maintained in the face of such devastation? 30
with big dam projects continues to be a Canadian strategy,
the British Columbia government announces it will move ahead with the
highly controversial Site C Dam project near Fort St. John.
(US$8.32 billion) Site C hydroelectric dam project approved by the
Canadian province’s previous government has not surprisingly
anger and threats of court cases.
Columbia Premier John Horgan said he was continuing with the
Site C project with “a heavy heart,” but feared that electrical costs would rise.
is not a project that we favor, or a project that we would have
Horgan told reporters. e project, which would provide
electricity for about 450,000 homes a year, would ood more
5,000 hectares (12,355 acres or about 19 square miles) of land in
British Columbia, spurring opposition from local farmers and
forward with Site C is a “major setback to reconciliation,”
of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde said in a
statement, adding that the “next step will be legal challenges.” 31
on a river about to see freedom, it’s a di erent feeling. I canoed slowly
to a dug-out canoe, ate salmon and berries from the river and thought
the future. To the people of river and lakes, salmon and sh are our
e waters are a part of people as are the lands. And, the taste of justice
for a river, in this case the Snake River, is a good taste.
Do We Grieve the Death of
Krenak told me about the river his people call Waatuh, Grandfather,
Our people blocked the road. When the troops arrive, we will face them.
— Ailton Krenak, Krenaki People, Brazil
2014–2015 we saw three of the largest mine tailings pond disasters in
ese stories, like so many others, do not make many headlines,
raising so many questions about public policy, mining safety and
liability concerns. ey certainly don’t raise concerns about the
important question: what are the moral implications of the death of a
is became increasingly apparent as I interviewed Ailton Krenak,
of the Onassis International Prize and a leader of the Indigenous and
movement in Brazil.
sing to the river, we baptize the children in this river, we eat from this
the river is our life.” Really, how do you express condolences for a river,
a life, to a man for whom the river is the center of the life of his people?
is a question we must ask ourselves.
November 2015, the collapse of two dams at a Brazilian mine on the
River released a deluge of toxic sludge over nearby villages and
changed the geography of a world. “
e dam collapse cut o drinking water
a quarter of a million people and saturated waterways downstream with
orange sediment. Nine people were killed, 19 are still listed as missing,
500 people were displaced from their homes when the dams burst at an
ore mine in southeastern Brazil on Nov. 5. e sheer volume of water
mining sludge disgorged by the dams across nearly three hundred miles
staggering: the equivalent of 25,000 Olympic swimming pools or the
carried by about 187 oil tankers.” 32
Brazilians compare the damage to the BP oil disaster, calling it one of
2015 saw a similarly disastrous failure in a tailings pond feeding into
the worst environmental disasters in Brazilian history.
e water has moved
the ocean — not only into a delicate ecosystem, but also right into the
area for endangered sea turtles. “Renowned Brazilian documentary
Sebastiao Salgado, whose foundation has been active in e orts
protect the Doce River, toured the area and submitted a $27 billion clean-
proposal to the government. ‘Everything died. Now the river is a sterile
lled with mud,’ he told reporters.” 33
When the mining companies — including Australian-based
largest mining company in the world and the one that sold a 60-year-old
strip mine to the Navajo Nation in 2013 — wanted to come back, “we
blocked the road,” Ailton Krenak told me.
the Animas River in Southern Colorado.
e amazing thing about this dam
was that it was caused by the Environmental Protection Agency. In
case, the was looking into a mine water tailing pond at the Gold
King Mine near Silverton Colorado.
e mine had been abandoned, one of
astonishing 22,000 abandoned mines in the state, 34 meaning,
there could be more to come. It seems that on August 5, 2015,
along with workers for Environmental Restoration
the release of toxic wastewater when attempting to add a tap to the
tailing pond for the mine.
e workers accidentally destroyed the dam
held the pond back, causing 3 million gallons of cadmium-, arsenicand
lead-laced mine waste water and tailings to gush into the oddly named
Creek, a tributary of the Animas River. e was criticized for
warning Colorado and New Mexico until the day a er the waste water
e Navajo Nation, directly downstream, also did not receive the
did take responsibility for the incident and had the area declared a
e Navajo Nation has sought disaster relief, since this was a
source of water for Navajo livestock and agriculture, many of which
not survive the spill as the Dine irrigation system had to be cut o . e
Nation had a bit of time to prepare for the onslaught, in that
way that you know your life is about to change dramatically. By
August 7, the waste reached Aztec, New Mexico, then the next day, it
exactly a year before, in August 2014, in northern British Columbia,
Farmington, a major Navajo city, before the orange ood moved
the San Juan River. As of August 11, acidic water continued to spill at a
of 500–700 US gal/min (1.9–2.6 m 3 /min) while remediation e orts were
rate 35 Reporters noted, “ e heavy metals appeared to be settling to
bottom of the river because largely, they are insoluble unless the entire
becomes very acidic.” 36
e Navajo Nation attempted to sue the
to the tune of $130 million,
but in 2017 the
declared that it was legally protected from damages
caused by the spill and asked that the claims be dismissed. 37
is, despite the
that a Freedom of Information Act request found that government
cials “knew of ‘blowout’ risk for tainted water at mine” for at least a
38 Perhaps one of the most tragic sidebars of this story is that the Gold
Mine itself was abandoned in 1923. And, prior to the spill, the Upper
water basin was already devoid of sh due to previous acid mine
Animas 39 drainage.
Mount Polley Mine disaster spilled an estimated 1.2 billion gallons of
waste from the Imperial Metals mine into the pristine forests and
waterways of the remote region. 40 “
e dam’s failure was catastrophic,
nearly the entire contents of the mine’s tailings pond — an area the
of New York’s Central Park holding years worth of mining waste — to
out into Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake and Quesnel lake.” 41
Lake is one of the deepest ord lakes in the world, and home to
of BC’s salmon population. 42 e Secwepemc First Nation, on whose
lands the spill happened, were on the nearby Fraser River
the largest sockeye salmon return in recent history. Instead they
a river overrun with toxins from the largest mine waste spill in
history. In the days following the disaster, Secwepemc Elder Jean
said, “ e loss of the salmon for us as Secwepemc people is a
of life or death for our culture. Can our salmon survive this
matter 43 Indeed, a study commissioned by the First Nations Health
found that there were signi cant economic and social impacts on
Emotional stress and trauma as a result of the spill was shared across
22 communities which participated in the study.
impacts to traditional territory, such as loss of access to sacred
traditional foods and medicines, in three First Nations — Xat’sull
Nation, Williams Lake and Lhatko Dene First Nation. Impacts
immediate and ongoing.
decrease in individual
shing practice reported by almost all
resulting in changes to diet composition, physical activity
Impacts to commercial
sheries in six communities, leading to
economic income and employment opportunities for
over the potential devastation from spills of this kind spread
even before the cause of the breach was known, Native communities in
parts of the province began to speak out against mining operations on
e spill’s rami cations rippled to Imperial’s Red Chris mine in
BC, where elders from the Tahltan Central Council (with
the company previously had a positive working relationship)
a blockade to voice their concerns about the potential of a
incident in their territories.”… In order to continue operations,
company was forced to sign an agreement that would allow third-
party inspection of the operation under the band’s auspices. 45
that they would be powerless in the face of another spill, “the
took what some might feel was a bold step: It invoked its rights
a sovereign First Nation of Canada and evicted Imperial Metals from its
It also announced that it now had mining policies of its own, and
enforce from herea er.” Invoking the UN’s Declaration of Indigenous
the Secwepemc Nation argued that it’s their right to “determine and
priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or
and other resources,” including the right to close the mine and
mining companies as it sees t. As Jacinda Mack, council coordinator
the Secwepemc Nation, said, “One thing I want to make perfectly clear is
policy isn’t a wish-list. is is Indigenous law.” 46
two years a er the disaster the mine was repaired and reinforced
of the River?
2012, New Zealand’s Whanganui River became a legal entity and was
was once again fully operational. Shortly a er that, the provincial
announced that there would be no provincial charges related to
tailing ponds collapse. A year later it was announced that there would be
private charges. e h anniversary — and the deadline for federal
— came and went with no charges being laid. 47 And some residents
still reluctant to drink the water.
mining economy of northern British Columbia continues, along with
fracking pipelines and a host of extreme energy proposals, which seem
to be undertaken out of sight and out of mind, except if you live there.
the same status as a person under the law. In an agreement between
Maori, represented by the Whanguanui iwi, and the Crown in
the river has legal status under the name Te Awa Tupua. Two
one from the Crown and one from a Whanganui River iwi, are
given the responsibility of protecting the river.
agreement which recognizes the status of the river as Te Awa
(an integrated, living whole) and the inextricable relationship of
with the river is a major step towards the resolution of the historical
of Whanganui iwi and is important nationally,” said New
Zealand’s Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations. 48
the Animas River, the Fraser River and the Rio Doce have similar
or standing? Should the St. Louis River, or Gichigami Ziibi (River
Runs to the Sea) as it is known in Anishinaabemowin, have similar
And, importantly, who gets to determine what is alive?
Should Save the
Ever worry that one day you will wake up and
nd you are owned by
ey keep growing. With all their in uence, gobbling and growth,
would be great if they would do something good with it. Like save the
though, they are buying everything, and some days, I have to pinch
to see if I am really me or owned by Amazon.
from deep in the woods, I watch a circus of corporate
You’ve got Bayer buying Monsanto; General Electric — the guys
make appliances and nuclear power plants — well they own 80% of
; Enbridge bought Spectra; Exxon bought Mobil; Delta
Northwest; and Amazon bought Whole Foods. Kind of like watching
just can’t keep track of the drama in the corporate world. Seems like their
come and go so quickly, it must be hard to keep the right make up,
logo, on. I don’t really know who they are … I don’t think they really
who they are.
And then, they go bankrupt and aren’t around anymore. Poof.
at, however, usually occurs a er they have a catastrophic accident
Union Carbide, a er the Bhopal disaster).
California’s Paci c Gas and Electric.
is one of California’s largest
corporations, providing power transmission to 16 million customers.
not take care of their powerlines, so, those lines caused a re, aka the
was the one that took out the town of Paradise, where 86 people died.
is ling for bankruptcy, because they have $30 billion in liability. 49
means that they have to pay o their creditors rst — the guys who
them money. It’s unknown how much will trickle down to Paradise.
And poof, they are gone.
at corporation is no more. Somehow I am
trying to rectify in my little head why the president of
gets to sit in his
only that big Amazon would help save the actual Amazon.
in Bermuda, or wherever, having sucked millions annually out of
and not having to pay for any of the disaster he’s caused. 50
corporate gobbling and getting rich thing is really bothersome to me.
also boggles me why a corporation is considered a person under the law,
the same rights as you and I. Now, a corporation is not actually a
because a person has a soul. And, besides that, if a corporation was a
I think they would be su ering from a multiple personality disorder
er all those mergers and limited liability things are sorted out.
Now back to Amazon.
at corporation is one of my favorite corporations;
love that Amazon Prime. Now, Amazon is getting bigger. Je Bezos, the
has done well. Bezos is the rst person in modern history to
a fortune of over $200 billion, according to the latest Forbes
of his net worth. e company is now worth $1.49 trillion. 51
getting clear cut, dams are breaking and killing people, mining
are running amuck, and Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has
an assault on environmental and Amazon protections by
the regulation of Indigenous reserves to the agriculture
— a ministry known to be controlled by the powerful agribusiness
at the 2019 Bioneers Conference, executive director of Amazon
Leila Salazar-López, notes that Brazil had over 100,000 res in 2019
burning 3 million hectares of Amazon forest, and puts the blame for
squarely on the shoulders of the Bolsonaro administration:
lot of people ask us, well, who’s responsible?… It is the Bolsonaro
Let’s not make light of it. e Brazilian government has …
only the rhetoric, but the policies to destroy the Amazon to make
for economic development, to make way for agribusiness, to make
for soy and cattle, to make way for mining. It is their policy to
the Amazon for economic development. So it’s not a mistake.
It’s not a wild re. It’s intentional, and malicious, and destructive.…
moment Bolsonaro got in o
ce, he rolled back the rights of Indigenous
merged environmental and agribusiness ministries to
destroy the lands and the rights of Indigenous peoples. 52
to the west, Peru is moving quickly into the Amazon. One of the
ere will be an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous
Dinaman Tuxá, executive coordinator of the Articulation of
Indigenous People of Brazil (
), said. “Indigenous people are defenders
protectors of the environment.” 53
of Indigenous reserves was previously controlled by the
agency Funai, which fell under the justice ministry until
attempted to move it to a new ministry of human rights, family
women, under the control of an evangelical pastor. Fortunately,
cant public pressure forced him to return Funai to the justice ministry.
original executive order also gave Bolsonaro’s government secretary
far-reaching powers over non-governmental organizations
in Brazil, clearly targeting the successful work to support
Peoples. Bolsonaro, a political combination of Andrew Jackson
Donald Trump, issued an ominous statement, “More than 15% of
territory is demarcated as indigenous land and quilombos. Less than
million people live in these places, isolated from true Brazil, exploited and
by s. Together we will integrate these citizens.” 54
health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, is doing his part too
spending cuts to health care for Indigenous People. “We have gures
the general public that are much below what is spent on health care for
indigenous,” he said. 55
ending the demarcation of new Indigenous lands, reducing the
of environmental agencies and freeing up mining and commercial
on Indigenous reserves were key elements of Bolsonaro’s election
so it’s not like this is a surprise. It’s like the 2019 version of the
Allotment Act, which allotted reserve land to individual Indigenous
to create a more European model of land holding.
projects, the $2 billion Inter-oceanic Highway, connects Peru and
by way of the Amazon. e 2600 kilometers of highway travels over
Andes and through a large chunk of the Amazon. 56 Elsewhere, the Belo
hydroelectric dam, licensed under Lula’s government, was brought to
November 27, 2019, in the presence of Bolsonaro.
response to the “Blue Gold Rush” a sort of a green energy
Amazonian Tribes and COVID-19
gold means a gold rush, and during a pandemic like
as huge hydroelectric dams threaten other parts of the
the Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre (Xingu Alive Forever
Movement), issued a statement damning the dams:
a time when the people of the Xingu agonize over their lack of water,
hails the nal turbine of Belo Monte. At a time when the sh
the Xingu River are reduced to skin and spine because there are no
nutrients in the river, Bolsonaro celebrates Belo Monte. When the
tumbles like it never has before in the areas of Belo Monte …
honor him by setting res to the forest.…
Monte, as expected, is killing the Volta Grande of Xingu, and
new turbine requires more and more water for it, further
the river and its people.
you all! May those who commemorate Belo Monte be cursed.
the one who comes to inaugurate the last turbine of the dam be
May the pain of Volta Grande keep you up at night, take away
peace and quiet, and may it strip the laughter from your mouth.
all of the violence against the Xingu people come to haunt you one
day. Damn you all! 57
then there’s gold. Peru is the world’s sixth-largest gold producer, and
much of it comes from Andean mines, a growing portion — by some
16 to 20 of the 182 tons that Peru exports annually — comes from
or quasi-legal mining along the rivers. e mercury will choke and
poison the rivers, all for some baubles on a nger.
e Peruvian government
that 30 to 40 tons are dumped into the country’s Amazonian rivers
year. 58 each
, that’s a bad
for anyone. e rst -19 death in the Amazon was reported on
9, 2020. at, according to National Geographic, is a Yanomami youth
moved back and forth through an area full of wildcat gold miners.
isolated Indigenous communities have been protected under federal
since 1987, barring outsiders from entering the territories of these
principally because Indigenous Peoples have no immunological
Federal Public Ministry “warned on April 8 of the ‘risk of genocide’
amid allegations that
, Brazil’s indigenous a airs agency, had done
little to protect native communities from the coronavirus contagion.
Public Ministry also repeated its call for the immediate removal of
Lopes Dias, an evangelical missionary appointed in February to
’s Department of Isolated and Recently Contacted Indians.”
is concern that Dias’s history as a missionary might lead him to
the department away from its strategic role of shielding isolated tribes
the forces of the outside world.” e con rmed 28 — and suspected 80
— communities living in “extreme isolation” have been protected from
since 1987, principally to protect the tribes from communicable
National Geographic explains, “Many of their villages have little or no
with the outside, but their sprawling reserve has been illegally
ltrated by thousands of gold prospectors, posing a grave threat to the
Yanomami leaders have been pleading with o cials for weeks to expel
miners. “You should do your work to avoid the penetration of the
into our homes along the pathways opened by the non-indigenous
warned the Hutukara Yanomami Association in an open letter on
19, 2020, to federal health and Indigenous a airs o cials.”
-19 death wasn’t the only tragic death in these communities in
2020. As National Geographic reports, “On March 31, (2020) Zezico
a leader of the Guajajara people, was found shot dead outside his
in the Arariboia Indigenous Territory in Maranhão. Investigators
yet to produce a suspect, but the Guajajara have been locked in a war
with illegal loggers that has le
ve of its members dead since last
While the political power of the Kayapo has resulted in an
with miners to withdraw from their territory, and other nations,
the Muduruku, have posted signs prohibiting trespass into their areas, in
regions, illegal miners, loggers and land speculators continued their
moves into Indigenous territory during the crisis. 59
is considered the second-largest contributor to climate
a er fossil fuel use, accounting for about 10 percent of greenhouse
emissions. Forests act as sponges for carbon dioxide, soaking it up and
converting it into plant material. And oxygen.
e Amazon is the lungs of
Earth and the people who live there, the ones who have forever, they
want to be le alone. ere’s even about 5000 of them who are
— that means they want nothing to do with the rest of us. I,
one, want to support that. Leave them alone. A er all, oil mining
are causing enough messes in the Amazon, and I’d like to see
“Garden of Eden,” or maybe just a safe place for nature.
let me be clear about this. In 2018, Amazon, the company, was worth
billion, and earned $11 billion in pro ts. 60 ey will pay zero in federal
It used to be that when I thought of the Amazon it was the lungs of
Earth, but a Google search will rst point me to shopping. ey
the name of a place, and apparently don’t give a damn about
place. I nd that sad.
stated, before you gobble up anything else Mr. Bezos, aka. Mr.
can you pay some royalties to the protection of the Amazon? Or
some of what you could have paid in taxes if you didn’t have all those
the little people don’t have. ose Forest Guardians, the guys with
on scooters protecting the Amazon, could use some gear and some
Maybe get it delivered Amazon Prime to a nearby town. at
would be swell.
ey tried to bury us.
ey did not know we were seeds.
Ihave always loved that quote, rooted, ancient and resilient.
at is my
not the Mexico of Donald Trump tales. Forty thousand years of
the origin of corn, potatoes, tomatoes, avocados and, let me say it,
e Mayans have a Goddess of Chocolate, Ixcacao. Now I can
that. A land which remembers, people who remember and are
as seeds. And a river, reborn.
early September 2018, I was invited to a conference on de-growth in the
city in the world, with 21 million people, Mexico City. ere,
and leaders of social movements talked of how we might live in
for another 100 years, maybe 1000. A er all, if the ecosystems
and there is no food, air or water and a few people head to another
well that’s not really a long-term plan. e conference, held at the
Nacional Autónoma de Mexico’s Museum of Medicine,
me pause, as I listened not only to academics but to the voices of a
social movement in Mexico. A movement for change and resilience.
does this story begin? With land and water, far before the people.
e Colorado River is one beginning.
e river was once alive, the delta
that invisible line called a border encompasses 3,000 square miles.
size of Rhode Island, the Colorado Delta is one of the largest desert
estuaries in the world.
e nutrients brought by the river nourished
the rare vaquita porpoise and an enormous relative to the white
bass which grew to 300 pounds, spawning in the brackish water and
the Sea of Cortez. When the Spaniards arrived, they spoke of ocks
birds so abundant they darkened the sky, deer, bobcats, beavers and
e people there, the Cocopah, have an origin story which reminds
they are children of the gods. When the Spaniards saw them, there
thousands of them, tall and strong, the women adorned with feathers
that fell from the waist, feasting on a cornucopia of gardens, with soils rich
de Jesus Patricio Martinez — or Marichuy, as she’s known — an
a river delta and harvests plentiful.
was before the dams. e United States has squeezed the lifeblood out
of the Colorado River, literally.
e Hoover Dam, built in 1935, reduced the
ow of the river to ll Lake Mead, the water supply for Los Angeles.
the Glen Canyon Dam, cutting the river ow for 17 years, then the
and Morelas dams, until the Delta is without water. Choked. e
fewer in numbers, many refugees in their own country, and sad for
world they knew. As Joni Mitchell would say, “You don’t know what
you’ve got till it’s gone.”
at is a story of a river, one of so many stories.
o cial period of the Mexican Inquisition was from 1571 to 1820. 61
a pretty long run as inquisitions go. at’s where a good deal of
burning of witches occurred and a good deal of torture.
e conference I
attended was in the former Holy O
ce of the Inquisition, the “palace” now
called the Museum of Medicine.
ick stone walls still smell like blood of
the tortured, I swear.
at’s another beginning of this story, little vignettes of
am reminded of the Inquisition in Diego Rivera’s mural “Dream of a
Sunday a ernoon in the Alameda.” Mexican history is told in art.
boasts more museums and public art than any in the world.
free education, from grade school to graduate school. It is beautiful,
woman backed by the Zapatista National Liberation Army
), ran for the presidency of Mexico. Her campaign changed the
in Mexican national politics and focused on the rights of women,
Peoples and nature. Running as an independent — which was
allowed for the
rst time in the country, on condition of collecting a
of 850,000 signatures — she collected signatures and told the
of Indigenous Peoples and the Zapatistas. Although Marichuy’s
was not successful, she was able to gain broad community
and marked a change in Indigenous politics. 62 In a country with one
the highest death rates for Indigenous and environmental leaders,
courageously traveled the country and provided courage and a
voice. A spokeswoman for the National Indigenous Congress, the political
then there is the river, resilient and hopeful. On March 23, 2014, the
arm of the
, she brought to the electoral politics a strong movement. As
record numbers of Indigenous women run for o
ce in the US, we are also
shunned party politics generally, the Zapatistas and the National
Indigenous Congress (
) formed independent autonomous communities
known as “Caracoles” across the country.
ese are founded on the principle
self-determination and are seen as resilient models of self-government for
across the globe. is campaign marks a move into national political
however, have come. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the new
of Mexico, a progressive leader, former Mexico City mayor,
and le ist. at’s who Trump is trying to get to pay for that wall.
Dam groaned open, unleashing a surge or “pulse ow” of water into
thirsty Colorado River. As the gray-green torrent roared south, children
had only known a dry riverbed played as the Colorado River came back
life. e Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River Project helped
through an international multi-agency initiative allowing the release of
acre-feet of water (52,000 Olympic-size swimming pools). e goal:
restoration of the Colorado River Delta. 63 In September 2017, the
administration’s Interior Ministry allocated 210,000 acre-feet of
water annually for delta restoration over the next nine years. 64
Life returns. Egrets, geese, cormorants, sandhill cranes, who
in the north country, to the Colorado Delta they y. To them, and
the Cocopah, this is life.
at is my Mexico.
Borinquén: A Rebirth
does Puerto Rico’s catastrophic 2017 hurricane teach us about
how we treat each other and the future? e Taino name for the
island is Borinquen; it is still that land. A er the disasters of
Irma and Maria, very little has changed. e country was
by the worst natural disaster to hit the island region, about 3,000
died, and President Trump bumbled a lot, including throwing paper
at Borinquenos and criticizing the Mayor of San Juan. And, as Naomi
reminds us, there is nothing natural about this disaster:
major causes of death were people being unable to plug in medical
because the electricity grid was down for months; health
so diminished they were unable to provide medicine for
diseases. People died because they were le to drink
water because of a legacy of environmental racism.
died because they were abandoned and le without hope for so
that suicide seemed the only option.
deaths were not the result of an unprecedented “natural
or even “an act of God,” as we so o en hear.
the dead begins with telling the truth. And the truth is that
there is nothing natural about this disaster. 65
According to a study published in 2019,
federal government responded on a larger scale and much more
across measures of federal money and sta ng to Hurricanes
and Irma in Texas and Florida, compared with Hurricane Maria
Puerto Rico. e variation in the responses was not commensurate
storm severity and need a er landfall in the case of Puerto Rico
with Texas and Florida.
even today, the administration is sitting on $18 billion in
aid to Puerto Rico that has been approved by Congress. 66
ere’s a lot of reasons: racism, ignorance, a hundred years of colonialism,
archaic colonial law called the Jones Act, which is basically stopping aid
getting in, an economy constantly structurally adjusted to
corporate interests and a crushing debt. But Puerto Ricans
with allies on the mainland and internationally, have a new and
better plan for their country; that vision is being born.
little history lesson: 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the US
absorption of Borinquén, or Puerto Rico, under the Jones Act,
citizenship, but not the full bene ts of citizenship. As an
territorial possession, Puerto Rico is the world’s oldest
Residents are US citizens, but have no say in presidential elections.
can die for this country in the military, but they cannot vote. And the
Act — the shipping law that requires that all goods entering Puerto
from the mainland arrive via US ships, dramatically driving up costs
limiting options 67 — restricts what can come into Puerto Rico and is a
signi cant factor in Puerto Rico’s economic di
culties, and it’s killing
today. Something is profoundly wrong about that second-class
which should rankle not just Puerto Ricans, but us all.
is not surprising that colonialism has not worked well for Puerto Rico.
the economic dominance of the sugar industry, to the military
of Vieques, a small Puerto Rican island, Puerto Rico has seen the
kind of relations as much of Indian Country. Take the example of
Between 1941 and 2003, two-thirds of this small island was
by the US Navy. Bombed an average of 180 days per year; in 1998,
last year before protests interrupted maneuvers, the Navy dropped
bombs on the island, the majority of which contained explosives.
the course of US Navy occupancy, nearly 22 million pounds of
and industrial waste, such as oils, solvents, lubricants, lead paint,
and 55 US gallon (200 L) drums were deposited on the western portion
the island.” 68 e US Military is the largest polluter in the world.
sounds quite a bit like many cases in Indian Country, whether the Ho
Badger Munitions Site, Fort Wingate, Western Shoshone Territory or
Pine Ridge’s Gunnery range, all territories occupied by the US military.
did some work to clean up Vieques, but by 2003 they had handed most
the island to the Department of Interior, who had the lands reclassi ed as
wildlife refuge. Since humans are not allowed to enter wildlife refuges, that
up can be avoided. is sounds a great deal like Badger Munitions in Ho
New Birth for Puerto Rico
brings opportunity. I think it’s time to support Puerto Rico to become
scholar Nelson Davis writes,
er one hundred years of citizenship, Puerto Ricans are prohibited
managing their own economy, negotiating their own trade
or setting their own consumer prices. Puerto Rico has been
more than a pro t center for the United States: rst as a naval
station, then as a sugar empire, a cheap labor supply, a tax
a captive market, and now as a municipal bond debtor and target
privatization. It is an island of beggars and billionaires: fought over
lawyers, bossed by absentee landlords, and clerked by politicians. 69
results: economic refugees, who leave their beloved homeland and are
onto the mainland, where they continue to be treated as second-class
citizens. From 2006 to 2015, more than 700,000 people
Rico, to cities like Orlando, New York, Philadelphia and Miami. 70
knew they were US citizens? One poll found that only 54% of
knew that Puerto Ricans were American citizens, 71 therefore
to the same disaster relief a orded Houston or any other city facing
climate change disasters. Donald Trump appeared quite unaware of this.
self-reliant, multi-racial and beautiful country, as it was intended. Early on,
Elon Musk came out and said that Puerto Rico should just go solar,
that was a moment to re ect. It turns out that a movement of Puerto
like Resilient Power Puerto Rico, supported by many allies, is
a future. As Naomi Klein writes in the Intercept, “Under the banner
a ‘just recovery’ for Puerto Rico, thousands have come together to design
bold and holistic plan for the island to be rebuilt as a beacon for a safe,
and thriving society in the era of accelerating climate chaos,
economic inequality, and rising white nationalism.” 72
is, frankly, an opportunity to do the right thing. A er all, a resilient
and energy system is sure better than a non-working system, and
climate change disasters on the increase, we will need to be prepared.
Puerto Rico’s energy system was ine
cient and outdated before the
hurricanes. So how bad was it? Imagine that they are operating on
at’s right, until 2012, 65% of their electricity came from
petroleum, with only 1% coming from renewables.
is has changed slightly
recent years. In 2019, 40% of Puerto Rico’s electricity came from
39% from natural gas, 18% from coal and 2.3% from renewable
at’s expensive and is forced through a surcharge in the US, via
Jones Act, which requires Puerto Rican imports to touch US soil. So, the
Rican Electrical Company uses fuel oil no. 6 (the heavy, dirty version
New York City has banned), or fuel oil no. 2, which costs about $3 per
It’s so expensive that the Puerto Rican Electrical Company decided to
cash from its capital works fund — up to $100 million — to buy oil. It’s
surprising that Puerto Rico’s electricity costs — at about 27 cents per
— are about twice what they are on the mainland. Puerto
however, use much less power. 74
let’s say we set up a power grid and a local food system which would feed
people, reduce the debt and make sure that they still had power in the
en maybe get rid of that Jones Act.
this plan. Sunrun and Tesla, two solar companies, brought over
solar panels with powerwall batteries to power water desalination
Funding for the project was provided by Empowered by Light (a
backed by Leonardo DiCaprio), roo op company Sunrun Inc. (which
donated the solar panels) and GivePower, a nonpro t that specializes in
installation in con ict regions. 75 at’s some solutions. It’s a
e ort for these companies, but it’s also a chance to showcase
energy source capable of enduring natural disasters. e Solar Energy
Association has received pledges for more than $1.2 million in
and monetary contributions from its network. 76
than perpetuate the island’s dependence on vulnerable distribution
and carbon-heavy fuel,” Resilient Power explains on its website,
prioritize clean production of energy that allows each household to be
well, many of the island’s farmers are creating a similar revolution in
Most of the season’s crops were destroyed by Maria, but the
for a restorative agriculture system is clear. Because so much of the
farm land is not being cultivated, Puerto Rico has been importing
of its food. Even before the hurricanes there was a movement to restore
or Indigenous knowledge and modern appropriate
into farming, adding in the bene t of carbon sequestration. It
out that organic agriculture sequesters carbon, which is what we need.
like Boricuá Organization for Ecological Agriculture have
brigades,” now traveling from community to community to
seeds and soil so that residents can begin planting crops immediately.
Naomi Klein writes, “Katia Avilés-Vázquez, one of Boricuá’s farmers, said
a recent brigade: ‘Today I saw the Puerto Rico that I dream being born.
week I worked with those who are giving it birth.’” 78
and nationally, internationally acclaimed musician Maria Isa,
Borinquena, worked with leaders like Minnesota State
Melissa Lopez Francis (Edina) to leverage relief, and as of May 2018,
$270,000 and delivered it directly to Puerto Rico. 79 e Puerto Ricans
Minnesota Coalition along with Borinquen will continue to support the
of a new Puerto Rico. And in its own example of being, so much like a
reservation, let us support this rebirth, as it is our own.
not going to give a long speech about the Wampanoags and the Pilgrims.
Is Time for
anksgiving morning. Everywhere in America. anksgiving seems
important to white folks, but it needs to mean something to Native
people too. Perhaps it could mean something like justice and reparations.
a brutal history that begins with the beheading of their leaders (which
then displayed on spikes for decades in Puritan towns) and continues
the most recent attack on the People of the First Light by the Trump
March 2020, the Secretary of the Interior made the unprecedented
to take the land of the Wampanoag Cape Cod Reservation out of
trust and disestablish the reservation.
e status of the trust had been in
for some time, but the announcement of the decision, coming
late Friday a ernoon in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic is
said William Keating, Massachusetts senator. Tribal Council chair
Cromwell said, “It feels like we’ve been dropped o into a new world
never seen before, i.e., in this pandemic and the way my tribe is being
With this happening now, this is a direct, hardcore blow to
and disestablishing my tribe.” 80
Pierite, of the North American Indian Center, argues that this is
power grab and a land grab by the Trump administration.” He suggests
this, along with a decision to withdraw trust status from lands owned by
Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians in California, demonstrates that
Trump administration is willing to use its discretionary powers to
to take lands away from tribes. 81
real estate, like Cape Cod, is always a bitter ground for Native
people; just ask the Hawaiians or the Wiyots of California.
Parks as Land Theft
well-being is land based. And, nationally, most of that land is not
by Native people. Prime real estate is not the only land that has been
from Indigenous Peoples — national parks are literally a treasure
stolen from Native people. Historian Phil Burnham describes the
of tribal lands for national parks in his book Indian Country, God’s
A few of the takings include Glacier, Badlands, Mesa Verde,
Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and of course the
the west, the Pikuni, or Blackfeet Nation, have begun to push for more
to Glacier Park. Indeed, the Lame Bull Treaty of 1855 recognized the
lands, as well as those lands to the north and south in Glacier
by Kootenai and Salish people, respectively. But in 1896, because
potential mineral resources on the land, the Blackfeet were starved into
transferring more land to the federal government for $1.5 million.
or perhaps leased — the land, but on the grounds that it remains public.
the land was declared a national park in 1910, Blackfeet hunting and
rights were revoked, though gathering rights remained. Since then,
people have been arrested and forced to ght in court for their use
the land. of
2019, the Blackfeet announced their own national park project, led by
DesRosier, a thirty-year veteran of park tourism and owner of Sun Tours,
Loren BirdRattler, project manager for the Blackfeet Nation’s
Resource Management Plan. Approximately 55 percent of
biodiversity is present on Blackfeet Nation’s 1.5 million acres,
tourism an important industry in the area. But the revenues do not
t the Blackfeet Nation, so some members have decided to change that
opening a national park as “a way to assert the tribe’s place in the region’s
protect its natural resources and provide new economic
to its members.” A er all, the history of Glacier is the Pikuni,
they call themselves. 82
the Salish and Kootenai continue a collaborative management
with the National Bison Range, carved entirely out of their
Meanwhile, here in Minnesota, the Tamarac National Wildlife
was carved out of the White Earth Reservation, and really should be
there are many ways to make good on this
to the tribe. Almost one-third of the White Earth Reservation is
by federal, state or county governments, all of it taken illegally.
fact is that the national parks and wildlife refuges hold more land than
people nationally. As Keller and Turek point out in American Indians
National Parks, “tribes today contain 50 million acres; the Park Service
approximately 80 million.” 83 at’s ironic and tragic.
On October 21, 2019, Tuluwat, known as Indian Island, was
to the Wiyot Tribe of northern California. e Wiyots are
speakers, a linguistic miracle, thousands of miles from the rest of
linguistic family. e Wiyot tribe, who still live on this small stretch of
had begun purchasing plots of land years ago, but in 2015 Eureka city
began to explore returning the land to the tribe. In 2019, it was
nally approved. 84 “
is is the rst known transfer of land from a city to a
of this kind,” Eureka Councilwoman Natalie Arroyo said. “We are all
to do what we can to actively participate in healing. I will be so
as to say under current conditions Eureka owns the land, but it was
truly ours.” Eureka Mayor Susan Seaman con rmed that “the vote to
the Tuluwat island to the Wiyot Tribe was unanimous and the motion
return 85 passed.”
at’s a good way to begin reparations. Return of stolen land.
ere’s a lot of
on that island. In 1860, Tuluwat was the site of a massacre, one of over
dozen that occurred in a ve-day period in the area. Most of the adult men
away, bringing back essentials for their Earth Renewal Ceremonies,
the massacre, which took the lives of about 250 men, women and
local newspaper, the Northern Californian, described the scene
follows: “Blood stood in pools on all sides; the walls of the huts were
and the grass colored red. Lying around were dead bodies of
sexes and all ages from the old man to the infant at the breast.
had their heads split in twain by axes, others beaten into jelly with
others pierced or cut to pieces with bowie knives. Some struck
as they mired; others had almost reached the water when
and butchered.” 86
Back the Land
2018, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe secured the return of part of the
e work of vigilantes, but also the responsibility of those
stood back and said nothing.
Tuluwat/Indian Island massacre was part of a coordinated
attack on other Wiyot villages, including those on the Eel
and South Beach. ough the attack was widely condemned in
outside Humboldt County, no one was ever prosecuted for the
newspapers 87 murders.
e only compensation for land is land.
at’s what Oren Lyons, the
Faith Keeper, has always reminded us. “Land acknowledgements”
a start. Indigenous People’s Day declarations begin a process. But the
only compensation for land is land.
Chippewa National Forest.
at was about 11,700 acres stolen from the
band by the National Park Service in the 1940s.
at’s the story of Indian
However, although the Leech Lake Reservation is the second
reservation in Minnesota and is wealthy with water and land, less
5% of the Leech Lake Reservation actually remained in Ojibwe hands.
of the reservation’s prime lakeshore and islands were held by non-
why, in 2017, Leech Lake made the decision to phase out leases to
Over 350 lots of prime land along the lakeshore were occupied
non-tribal members. At the same time, noted former Natural Resources
Levi Brown, there were 500 homeless tribe members looking for
to live on the reservation, and 100 more applying for tribal land
where they can build a home.
Brown told Minnesota Public Radio, “You can put a dollar sign on what
have to spend on somebody. Or you can say, ‘You’re Anishinaabe. You’re
from the water. We’re going to allow you to live and be who you
same year, the Bad River Band of Ojibwe in Wisconsin also ended
with non-band members. In 2014, the band made the decision not to
the 50-year lease, up in 2017, of 17 plots of land that were held by
members in the remote and pristine Amnicon Bay on Madeline
the long arc of history, we nd that enlightenment is possible. And on
anksgiving, I am reminded that the brutality of history only nds
redress in reparations and justice.
The Telescope and the Mauna
e Mountain brought us together,” Luana Busby tells me. It’s 200 days into
prayer vigil and blockade which has brought the proposed irty Meter
( ) to a stop in Hawai’i. at’s to say, the project, the fourteenth
telescope in Hawai’i, has met with resistance, big time. Luana is one of
Kapuna, or Elders, who was arrested in July of 2019.
is the rst major Indigenous occupation since Standing Rock, and,
Standing Rock, it’s a Selma Moment. It’s a moment which unites people
understanding with water and land. ousands have come.
Understanding this as a battle over the
, one also sees a story that is not
about a telescope, but about who gets to decide the future and
and interpret the world. It’s about deciding if we will look to the
or the Earth. And it is about deciding if we want bombs or water. It’s a
of the Kia’i, or the Protectors.
is is the place where the Earth is born.
e farthest and most remote set
of islands in the world is a magical land. Pele rules.
at happened in a big
way in 2018, when a four-month lava
ow out of the Kilauea volcano
the landscape of the island, vaporizing a lake, covering a bay
toasting 700 homes. Pele is a force to be reckoned with and not one that
can be controlled by humans.
at’s this place too. Mauna Kea is not only
to some 13 giant telescopes, but it’s also home to a huge military
range and a volcano which erupts and transforms the Earth. ere
some strange bedfellows in the military industrial complex.
July 17, 2019, Native Hawaiian Mauna Protectors faced o with 200
police on the Hawaiian Homesteads Road to the proposed site of the
billion . Native Hawaiian Kia’i or Protectors watched as the oldest
among them were carted o , one by one, by law enforcement o
in wheelchairs or using canes or walkers. Some 35 Elders were arrested
day, as they told their children and supporters to stay calm. “ ey
arrested our 80-year-old Kapuna
rst. Kapunas are the bedrock of the
communities, they created our front line.
ese are our beloved sacred
the center of the occupation is culture and a worldview of the Mauna as a
Luana Busby, one of the defendents tells me in an interview. “We
charged with the obstruction of the road. We really shouldn’t be
being. To Indigenous Peoples, the Earth is alive, and there is no place
this is more obvious than here on the Big Island, the land of the
Each island has a spirit and a place in the universe. “Kapiko o
that’s the summit of Mauna Kea. at’s the umbilical cord to the
Luana explains to me patiently. “Piko of Kanaloa or Kaho olawe,
was the umbilical cord of the sea. e shining vagina of the ocean. Kaho
like Mauna Kea, is a portal of the spirits.” Hawaiians are clearly much
sexually liberated than their colonizers.
camp, set up there to resist construction of the telescope, “works under
strict discipline. Everything is based on ritual and based on the
of our ancestors,” Pua Case, one of the leaders in the Mauna Kea
tells me. “Our traditional practice includes Cities of Refuge, a
Kapu system and village system.
at’s the model we use here, our
traditional governance and organization.”
is means there’s a list of rules,
those who are here agree to the rules and the boundaries, including no
and no smoking of any kind. “ at keeps us clean,” Pua tells me.
this is a well-run camp. I have developed a theory that women are
campers and good camp leaders. A er all, feeding big families and
all those needs is good practice. Women are pretty practical.
from Standing Rock, the medical tent at the Mauna Camp is
ed by doctors and health practitioners, and includes an examination
a lot of basic medical supplies, a room for acupuncture and
healing massage. “We are keeping the camp small for now,”
tells me in the middle of January 2020. New arrivals are encouraged
to sign in at an orientation station.
ere is a tented cafeteria providing free
meals and a community-run medic station, daycare and school.
Hawaiian Kapunas, traditional, and a good group of Water
and allies. “We set up a university,” Chancellor tells our group.
ere are over 200 classes being taught here. We are also challenging who
to set up a university.”
irty Meter Telescope project was birthed in California universities.
the Hawaiian tradition, it’s the season of Lono, and not the time for war,
is why there is basically a truce between the Hawaiian police and the
Protectors, or Kia’i, the Protectors. Each day, people gather three
for ceremony, morning, noon and night. “ at way, we remember why
are here,” Case tells me. It’s a highly organized camp, again, with some
taken from Standing Rock.
It doesn’t look like anyone is going anywhere soon.
e camp is
Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the Kia’i leaders and a spokesperson
Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, a Native Hawaiian group, said even the arrests
ect how the ongoing protest has played out so far: emotional, respectful
tense. “It’s a temple. You can’t make war in a temple. You can stand for
righteousness. It demands aloha.”
at’s a good start. And, in this Selma
this set of Kai’i water and land protectors have stopped, thus far, a
billion telescope project.
at the University of California and Caltech began development of
design that would eventually become the , consisting of a 492-segment
mirror with nine times the power of the Keck Observatory, latest
thing. e Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation put up a good $200
for the project. While the idea was born, the telescope has not been.
was due originally to start in 2014, but was temporarily
due to a blockade of the roadway. While construction of the telescope
set to resume on April 2 and later on June 24, 2015, it was blocked by
protests each time. In 2015, Governor David Ige announced several
to the management of Mauna Kea, including a requirement that the
site will be the last new site on Mauna Kea to be developed for a
at made it look a lot better, in his mind. But that did not satisfy
Native Hawaiians, nor in fact many Hawaiians, who are increasingly
to the fragile ecology of the islands.
e guys put rocks in the road. at’s how they nally stopped the police.
June 24, 2015, there were around 40 people there at the Mauna. e line
had people in lines about twenty feet apart. By the time all the
came, we had 700 people on the Mountain,” Mililani Trask, another
Native Hawaiian defendant in the Mauna case and long-time political leader,
is is, indeed, how ballads and legends are made: “ e women
the babies held them o for about ve hours.” en they had to go
the fog which had emerged, “you could not see 10 feet in front.
the fog li ed the cops found the rocks in the road. e police nally
Kanuha, a Hawaiian language instructor, had been charged in
2015 blockade of the road for Mauna Kea. He only spoke in Hawaiian.
told a story of a Chief long ago who had to stop an invading force from
up the Mountain. at is what the Chief of long ago did. en
explained that the Chief was his ancestor. ‘I was not able to stand
before, but I am standing here now. I have the same right as my Chief.’
was magic. He was a Native person speaking in a Native language in the
ey had to bring an interpreter for him,” Mililani Trask remembers.
at was in 2015, and the story continues.
is is a story of a genealogy, a
set of beings — mountains, islands, sky and water — and it’s a story
a land and its people.
the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the
but the Supreme Court of Hawaii invalidated the building permits
December 2015, ruling that the board had not followed due process. On
30, 2018, the Court approved the resumption of construction, and
been ghting telescopes and the military for
Gov. David Ige announced that construction would resume the week
July 15, 2019. at’s when the Hawaiians threw down on the road. In
words, the current protest is just the latest time over the past ve years
Protectors have intervened at the construction site, and the second time
they’ve halted construction altogether.
y years,”Luana Busby
me. Indeed Hawaiians have been protecting their waters and lands
long before the time of live Facebook feeds. at is, pretty much since
the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
e military occupation
we are all looking at this giant telescope project, the ultimate phallic
right next to the telescope project there’s this military base called
at’s a bombing range for the US military where they just bomb
side of the island without a live volcano. Because the military seems to
that’s a smart thing to do. And they want more land. A er all, the
is the largest land owner in Hawaii, or thief of land, since
most of the Hawaiian lands belong to the Hawaiians, since they
never relinquished title.
e road to the Mauna Kea observatories is a good
of this, as the road actually belongs to the Hawaiian Homelands.
the end of World War II, Hawaii has been the center of the US
military’s Indo-Paci c Command (
), from which all US forces
the region are directed. It serves as an outpost for Paci c expansionism,
with Guam and the Marshall Islands, Samoa and the Philippines.
the center of US military activities over more than half the
from the west coast of the US to Africa’s east coast, from the Arctic to
Antarctica, covering 70% of the world’s oceans. 90
at’s not getting any
smaller with the US military budget.
at’s to say, if the US spends 57% of
the federal budget on the military, half of that is spent in Hawai’i.
is is big
military owns or controls more than 200,000 acres, about 5% of the
state’s total land area.
e army has the largest landholdings: approximately
acres. Although Hawai’i Island has the largest acreage devoted to the
(102,000 acres) much more signi cant are the roughly 80,000 acres
the military controls on O’ahu — a staggering 21% of the island’s limited
ase. 91 land
is big business. “Direct and indirect impacts of military expenditures
reported to generate $14.7 billion into Hawai’i’s economy, creating more
102,000 jobs for residents that collectively report household incomes
$8.7 billion. Military expenditures totaling $8.8 billion annually have
the defense industry. Military procurement contracts amount to
$2.3 billion annually, making it a prime source of contracting
for hundreds of Hawai’i’s small businesses. 92 Hawai’i has also
the presence of the nation’s top prime defense contractors: Boeing,
Martin, Northrop Grumman, Systems, General Dynamics,
and several others.
are new military and there are old military sites on the islands. In
report, the military determined that there were over 236 former military
in Hawai’i, at 46 separate installations, all of which were contaminated.
just to be clear, the military is bombing an island with a live volcano.
guys for sure. e Pohakuloa training area ( ) is a 108,793 acre
range between the sacred mountains of Mauna Kea and Mauna
in the center of the big island, Hawai’i. Right next to the telescopes. And
in this, an old traditional name for Mauna Kea comes to mind,
at means the water holder or water vessel. e Mauna is actually a
aquifer, a mountain lled with fresh water. Bombing an aquifer is a
proposition, particularly because even the military needs water.
least seven million rounds of ammunition are red annually at that base
Pohakuloa has the “highest concentration of endangered species of
army installation in the world” according to former commander Lt. Col
Owen, and it has over 250 ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites. 93
species and archaeological sites are pretty much “toast” with the
in charge. e military proposes to expand the base by 23,000 acres,
the Military Transformation Proposal, and has brought the Stryker
to the area. e latest military expansion was 79,000 more acres. 94
ongoing battles of the Hawaiians against the military occupation of
lands continue. Each year, from the Makua bombing ranges in Oahu to
successful battle against the Super Ferry in Kauai, the stories grow in
“It was like Fern Gully,” a Native Hawaiian teacher told me. “A
of us old farts went to non-violent civil disobedience training” and
of us were out on paddle boards. “It’s a bard’s heaven, the stu legends
allads are made of, for sure.”
occupation of Hawai’i began with the illegal overthrow of Queen
Liliokalani in 1893 by Samuel Dole.
e military has continuously taken
from the Hawaiians, and in 1941, Hawai’i was placed under martial law
er the attack on Pearl Harbor. at’s when the US military took over
operations on the island of Kaho’olawe.
e Navy began ship-to-shore
bombardment of the island.
en the military began the destruction on
island, detonating three 500 ton Trinitrotoluene (
) charges which
the island. Ultimately, the military “cracked the bedrock of the
the military bombed it so hard, they broke the bedrock of the island.
means that the aquifer broke, seeped through the crack in the bedrock
now there’s just saltwater on the island. ey broke the bed rock,” Busby
me. I really can’t imagine a more violent act.
is the Hawaiian island you will never visit, that and Ni’ihau.
is the place where Hawaiians can live as Hawaiians, in other words
no tourists there. But Kaho’olawe was the only national historic site
used as a bombing range.
1976, Dr. Emmett Aluli, a Native Hawaiian medical doctor, led Aluli v.
challenging the military occupation of the island in federal district
Brown, 95 A 1977 judgement in favor of what would become the Protect
Ohana began the process of Hawaiian recovery of the island, and
a 1980 Consent Decree between the military and the Protect
Ohana began the full military decommissioning and clean up.
$400 million later, the island is less full of ordnance, but still full of
And there is no aquifer or bedrock.
however, is far from the only Paci c Island used by a military.
1946 and 1996, the United States, Britain and France conducted
testing in the deserts of Australia and the atolls of the central and
south Paci c. Over
ve decades, more than 315 nuclear tests were held
the region. “Later underground testing fractured the base of fragile
contaminating the marine environment.” 96 at radiation doesn’t stay
the test site; that’s an unfortunate reality.
arrogance met a citizens movement, of which Protect Kaho’olawe
a big part. From the 1950s, churches, trade unions, women’s
and traditional leaders on the islands opposed these nuclear
tests. Networks like Nuclear Free and Independent Paci c (
), the Paci c
are realms we do not belong in.
of Churches ( ) and the Paci c Trade Union Forum ( )
self-determination for Paci c colonies and the abolition of
weapons. Protests were diverse, with demonstrations at embassies,
writing, trade union bans and boycotts of French products.
was widespread, from Polynesians, and from Europe, leading to
French Intelligence agents sinking the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior
the Auckand, NZ, Harbor in 1985. “Operation Satanique” was carried out
the French military and intended to stop the opposition to French
testing. Fernando Pereira, a photographer, died in the sinking, and
act of state terrorism solidi ed a movement to end nuclear testing. 97
a clear result of the alliance between Paci c Islanders and the people
the countries which bombed their islands, more countries withdrew
nuclear and conventional weapons testing. In the 1980s, at the height
the US–Soviet arms race, Vanuatu, Palau and New Zealand declared their
nuclear-free. On Hiroshima Day in 1985, members of the Paci c
Forum also signed the Rarotonga Treaty for a South Paci c Nuclear
Free Zone (
), an important regional contribution to global nuclear
Australian disarmament campaigners worked to strengthen
Rarotonga Treaty, in the face of government attempts to limit its scope to
US nuclear deployments in the Paci c. 98
Aluli (Aluli v. Brown) remembers, “In the 1980s, we sent
out to talk to di erent countries about withdrawing from
that’s the tests that they do of the weapons every other year. We
successful in getting New Zealand, France and Japan to withdraw from
1983–4.” at’s how change is made, by people like Emmett Aluli
a strong Nuclear Free and Independent Paci c movement, challenging
militaries from around the world, continuously.
ose are the realms that proliferate
forms on the planet and they need to do what they do without us in
— Luana Busby
ey are saying that the telescope project may go to the Canary Islands.
we’ve always opposed the telescope project, we’ve been opposing
Is It about Telescopes?
people always have to look to space. It’s an ironic moment of
y years. In the Canary Islands they are not so opposed to it
we are,” Luana tells me. Indeed, with the advent of live Facebook feeds
of course the added presence of superstars like Jason Momoa and
Johnson, aka the Rock, it’s clear that this movement has big support.
one ever heard our story before, but with all the technology we are
able to get our story out more.
e Mauna is about that there are a lot of
who have found themselves getting clean up there,” Luana tells me.
in my limited experience with front-line occupations, it’s a
community up there, so you have to be clean. “We need to keep
papa clean. No drugs, no alcohol, no cannabis. A’ha morning, noon and
All of this is built on the well-being of the Mauna.” I stand in a
of new visitors to the camp. We are all being told clearly that this is
the Mauna; it’s not about us. “Pick up your garbage, including your
garbage,” the Kapuna tells us. “Even sacred people pick up
trash and wash dishes,” our guide tells us.
is is indeed a spiritually
grounded and well-disciplined movement.
systems. Polynesians, like the Hawaiians, navigated the Paci c
thousands of years, guided by the stars. A very di erent worldview is that
the realm of science, where universities and surprising entities like the
continue a quest to look far into space. As such, Native Hawaiians
not the rst to be embroiled in a battle over a telescope project.
Graham — called in Nnee biyati’ (Western Apache) Dził Nchaa
“Big Seated Mountain” — was at the center of a bizarre battle between
Apache and the Vatican, which erected a large meter telescope,
a ectionally known as the Pope Scope, or
: Vatican Advanced
are usually not long-term employment opportunities. But
they sure look big.
may employ up to 300 people, but that number will
replaced with a much smaller number of astronomers. If Hawaii was
interested in creating jobs, rebuilding the homes and buried
a er the 2018 lava ow might employ more. Or maybe just
the masses of people, some farming and all. One thing’s for sure, it’s
busy on the island without the .
always about payo s and corruption in Hawaii. Make no mistake, this is
pretty corrupt state. In September of 2019, investigative journalists found
of con icting interests with Governor David Ige’s agencies and
interests friends receiving $3 million in payments to promote the
part of the Mount Graham International
on Mount Graham in southeast Arizona and
operated by the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest
research institutions in the world, in
partnership with the University of Arizona.
the Mauna Kea, pitted a Native people against a set of
and political forces. e land is Apache land, but
1873, Mount Graham was removed from the
of the San Carlos Reservation and placed in
the public domain.
e spiritual value of Mount Graham
to the Apache was not considered.
is action set the stage
for con ict a century later.”
land had been transferred to the Forest Service, but
1988, the United States Congress authorized
of the observatories on the mountain by a
peace-time Congressional waiver of US
laws. In 1984, the University of Arizona
the Vatican selected Mount Graham as a site for a
of 18 telescopes. To get around the legal barriers
the American Indian Religious Freedoms Act, the
hired a lobbying rm to put pressure on
to remove this and other regulatory roadblocks.
the declarations of the sacredness of Mount
by the Apache Survival Coalition and the San
Apache Tribe, the Vatican in 1991 declared that
Graham was not sacred because it lacked religious
Jesuit Father George Coyne, director of the
Observatory, indicated that he could not nd an
authentic Apache who thought the mountain was sacred.
F th r C n t t d th t t n in him th t th
“Why Is the Vatican the Largest and Longest Owners of Telescope
Including the Newest Named L.U.C.I.F.E.R.? Aplanetruth
Coyne stated that to convince him that the
was sacred he would need to see evidence of
and that he would not accept Apache oral history
statements by Apache-speaking Euro-American
Father Coyne further declared that
beliefs were “a kind of religiosity to which I cannot
and which must be suppressed with all the force
can muster.” Tough sledding with the Vatican for sure.
known corruption and the hiring of more private security forces
rumored that $10 million was appropriated to quell the Kia’i), rumor has
that the political and social consequences of the telescope project are
it more di cult than ever. “ can’t a ord to go up in the
future. ey don’t have the funds to go up. ey don’t feel safe to
up,” Busby explained. Arresting 80-year-olds for a telescope project seems
to be a public relations problem for the proponents.
at “gave us a two-
break, kind of like a détente. And they moved ahead with their
for the Canary Islands.”
within a week of the arrests, old friends from the Canary Islands
to make statements. e agency that manages telescopes in the
Canary Islands says it’s “ready” to support the irty Meter Telescope. 100
Duque, Spain’s minister of science, innovation and universities,
local and national government entities would support if the
cancels its plans for Mauna Kea and opts for its back-up site in
Canary Islands, according to Spanish media reports. But so far,
cials have said they still prefer to build in Hawaii.
e site in La Palma is an excellent place for astronomy. We have not
all the regulatory processes complete there and there’s no time
for when so it is not viable in that sense at this time,” said Gordon
vice president of external a airs for .
e Canary Islands is an “autonomous community” of Spain.
archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean is home to the Observatorios de
Up Some Old Messes
proponents have cried out about the potential loss of this
of the Times
are … joining the world’s indigenous movements,’ Pisciotta says. ‘We
Canarias, with telescopes on the islands of Tenerife and La Palma. 101
project. “Hawaii will lose its status as a world leader in astronomy
the telescope isn’t built, Bob McLaren, the director of the University of
Institute for Astronomy, worried. Existing telescopes may not want
upgrade facilities and make further investments, and it could lead to a
spiral for the eld, he said.” 102 It appears the sky is falling for
In the meantime, the Kia’i have forced movement in a state which
to rarely hold either the military, the tourist industry or any industry
that matter, accountable. e rst of ve old, rundown telescopes is
ve old telescopes; now that’s going to create jobs, and
It turns out astronomical garbage exists in space as well as on Earth,
countries look to the skies to gure out how to clean up some old
and “space junk.”
on Earth, the Hawaii Tribune Herald reported that on January 13,
the Mauna Kea Management Board approved environmental
for the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory. e observatory is
of ve telescopes scheduled to be dismantled. A number of them had
been out of use but had remained on the mountain, essentially as
garbage. Now, in a time of “deal making” in exchange for permitting
construction of the irty Meter Telescope, there will be some space
clean-up. at’s if all goes according to the state’s wishes. e
remains on schedule to be removed by the end of 2021, said
Simons, a management board member. e observatory
process involves a full site restoration, including removing
structure, lling its foundation and restoring the terrain to its original
e idea would be that, by the end of next year, you wouldn’t even know
was a telescope here at all,” he said. 103 at’s hopeful.
need Kapu Aloha … to bring back the balance from the insanity and
of our earth.’ We want to show the world how ‘to really live
erently’ while protecting the land.” For any veteran of Standing Rock,
story resonates. “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
a quiet day, I can hear her breathing,” said Arundhati Roy.
Native Hawaiians, there is a question of our right to selfdetermination
as de ned by international law, but I think it’s so much bigger
that,’ said Pisciotta. ‘It’s about us learning to live and be
Pisciotta, a spokesperson for Mauna Kea Anaina
told Michelle Broder Vandyke from the Guardian
e movement is ‘pushing back on the
culture’ through Hawaiian concepts of ‘Kapu
which emphasizes compassionate responses,
towards opponents, and ‘Aloha ‘A¯ina,’ a saying
translates to ‘love of the land.’”
a larger sense it is about two di erent worldviews, and who gets to
the future. As Doug Hernan would write in the Smithsonian
“For many … Indigenous peoples, sacredness is not merely a
or label. It is a lived experience of oneness and connectedness with
natural and spiritual worlds. It is as common sense as believing in
is experience is very much at odds with the everyday secular….
of course, seeing nature as inert facilitates both commercial
and scienti c exploitation.” 105
a time of con ict between sacred beings and technology. And it’s also a
of the Water Protector. Kalani Souza, a Hawaiian scholar, talks about
beyond the Doctrine of Discovery, to the Doctrine of
moving 106 He reminds me again, “It’s really about the water, a name for
mountain is also Ka’ohe, the Water Holder, but the name also refers to
at’s because this is the largest freshwater aquifer in the world. It
created in the ice age. From the inside of the largest mountain in the
— that’s Mauna Kea. “Snow, rain, are living entities that have a
on the earth, it’s all this that we are ourishing from…. ose
are interconnected from the Wakea to the bottom of the ocean.”
Native Hawaiian traditional knowledge of realms above and below led to
their success in navigating the largest body of water in the world.
Nation treatied with over 140 nations in the world and navigated
world long before Captain Cook. As we understand the genius of
Hawaiian thinking, adapted over the centuries, one can’t help be in awe.
Iolani Palace had electricity before the US president had electricity
the White House. As the Hawaiians contemplate the most complex of
systems, the people know the Mauna is a sacred living being.
knowledge is not held by those who seek to colonize land and space.
You must remember, never cease to act because you fear you may fail.
— Queen Lilio’kalani
From Buffalo to Black Snake
2016, late summer, and the weight of American corporate interests has
to the Missouri River, the Mother River. is time, instead of the
Cavalry, or the Indian police dispatched to assassinate Sitting Bull,
is Energy Transfer Partners and Enbridge, with their Dakota Access
). Every major pipeline project in North America must cross
lands, Indian Country. And these days, every project faces bold
But something special is happening here. e people of the Oceti
(Great Sioux Nation) and their allies have gathered en masse to
road west of Fargo is rarely taken. In fact, most Americans just y over
Dakota, never seeing it. Let me take you there.
head clears as I drive. My destination is the homeland of the Hunkpapa
the Standing Rock Reservation. It is early evening, the moon full. If
close your eyes, you can remember the 50 million bu alo—the single
migratory herd in the world. e pounding of their hooves would
the Earth, make the grass grow.
were once 250 species of grass. Today the bu alo are mostly gone,
by 28 million cattle, which require grain, water and hay. Many of
elds are now in a single crop, full of so many pesticides that the
butter ies are dying o . But in my memory, the old world remains.
you drive long enough, you come to the Missouri River. Called Mnisose,
great swirling river, by the Lakota, she is a force to be reckoned with. She is
“ e Missouri River has a xed place in the history and
of the Lakota and other Indigenous nations of the Northern
author Dakotah Goodhouse explains. 1
the time before Sitting Bull, the Missouri River was the epicenter of
agriculture, the river bed extremely fertile. e territory was
known as the fertile crescent of North America.
at was then, before the
that reduced the Lakota land base. But the Missouri remained in the
— the last treaty of 1868 used it as a boundary.
came the the of land by the US government and the taking of the
Hills in 1877, in part as retaliation against Sitting Bull’s victory at the
of the Little Big Horn. In a time prior to Native Lives Matter, great
like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were assassinated at the hands of
e Lakota people have survived much.
into reservation life, the Lakota attempted to stabilize their society,
the dams came. Over the course of 20 years, the six large dams
authorized by the 1944 Pick Sloan Plan
ooded out the Missouri River
displacing thousands of tribal people and taking the best bottom
from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, the Lakota and Dakota. e
Oahe and Fort Randall dams created some of the largest reservoirs
North America, eliminating 90% of timber and 75% of wildlife on the
destroying infrastructure that to this day has never been
inundating entire tribal communities and desecrating countless
archaeological sites. 2 On the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River
alone, over 200,000 acres were ooded by the Oahe Dam itself,
not only relocation but a loss of the Lakota world. According to
author, historian and activist Vine Deloria Jr., the “Pick-Sloan Plan
without doubt, the single most destructive act ever perpetrated on any
by the United States.” 3
is how a people are made poor. Today, the Standing Rock poverty rate
triple the national average, food insecurity is widespread, and many go
electricity, running water or access to health care and education. 4
land and Mother River are what remain, a constant, for the people. at
what is threatened today, as Enbridge and Energy Transfer Partners
to drill through the riverbed at Lake Oahe, where the Cannonball
joins the Missouri.
September 3, 2016, private security forces working for the pipeline
attacked Water Protectors with dogs as they put their bodies in
of heavy equipment to stop the intentional destruction of a known
site, sacred ground. On that day, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard,
historian and genealogist, matriarch of the o resistance and
of the Sacred Stone Camp, published an article honoring the 153rd
of the Whitestone Massacre of September 3, 1863. 5
On this day, 153 years ago, my great-great-grandmother Nape Hote
(Mary Big Moccasin) survived the bloodiest con ict between the
Nations and the US Army ever on North Dakota soil. An
300 to 400 of our people were killed in the Inyan Ska
Massacre, far more than at Wounded Knee. But very few
we struggle for our lives today against the Dakota Access Ppipeline,
remember her. We cannot forget our stories of survival.
50 miles east of here, in 1863, nearly 4,000 Yanktonais, Isanti
and Hunkpapa gathered alongside a lake in southeastern
Dakota, near present-day Ellendale, for an intertribal bu alo
to prepare for winter. It was a time of celebration and ceremony —
time to pray for the coming year, meet relatives, arrange marriages,
make plans for winter camps. Many refugees from the 1862
in Minnesota, mostly women and children, had been taken in
family. Mary’s father, Oyate Tawa, was one of the 38 Dah’kotah
in Mankato, Minesota, less than a year earlier, in the largest
execution in the country’s history. Brigadier General Alfred Sully
soldiers came to Dakota Territory looking for the Santee who had
ed the uprising.
is was part of a broader US military expedition to
white settlement in the eastern Dakotas and protect access to
Montana gold elds via the Missouri River.
my great-great-grandmother Mary Big Moccasin told the story, the
came the day a er the big hunt, when spirits were high. e sun
setting and everyone was sharing an evening meal when Sully’s
surrounded the camp on Whitestone Hill. In the chaos that
people tied their children to their horses and dogs and ed.
was 9 years old. As she ran, she was shot in the hip and went
She lay there until morning, when a soldier found her. As he
her into a wagon, she heard her relatives moaning and crying on
battle eld. She was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Crow Creek
she stayed until her release in 1870.
grew up on the banks of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers and
a young girl when the oods came in the late 50s. She remembers it
ey took all our trees, all our forest, when they ooded us.
ey took all
our medicines, our plants, the things that we survive on. And so, if you
to the people that are my age and older, you can hear the grief in our
because we still grieve for the loss of this land. And they moved us
top of the hills, where it is more of a clay-based soil, so we could no
grow gardens, we could no longer plant trees, we could no longer do
things that we did. 6
As the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s former historic preservation o
historian and genealogist, Allard also carries the larger history of
the Cannonball River joins the Missouri River, at the site of our
today to stop the Dakota Access Ppipeline, there used to be a
whirlpool that created large, spherical sandstone formations.
true name is Inyan Wakangapi Wakpa, River
at Makes the Sacred
and we have named the site of our resistance on my family’s
the Sacred Stone Camp. e stones are not created anymore, ever
the US Army Corps of Engineers dredged the mouth of the
River and ooded the area in the late 1950s as they nished
the Oahe Dam.
ey killed a portion of our sacred river.
north and east now, toward the construction sites where they
to drill under the Missouri River any day now, and you can see the
Sundance grounds, burial grounds, and Arikara village sites that the
would destroy. Below the cli s you can see the remnants of the
that made our sacred stones. Of the 380 archeological sites that
desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to
26 of them are right here at the con uence of these two rivers. It
a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux
but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.
it is the US Army Corps that is allowing these sites to be
US government is wiping out our most important cultural and
areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us
a people. ese sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is
that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are.
have a right to language, to culture, to tradition.
e way they learn
these things is through connection to our lands and our history.
we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories,
ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?
on this same sacred land, over 100 tribes have come together to
in prayer and solidarity in de ance of the black snake. And more
is is the rst gathering of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux
since the Battle of the Greasy Grass (Battle of Little Bighorn) 140
father is buried at the top of the hill, overlooking our camp on the
below. My son is buried there, too. Two years ago, when
Access rst came, I looked at the pipeline map and knew that
entire world was in danger. If we allow this pipeline, we will lose
are the river, and the river is us. We have no choice but to stand
I drive west through the Plains towards the Missouri River and take the
route around the roadblock that state law enforcement has put up in
of dissuading people from joining the protest camps or spending
at the tribal casino, I remember the bu alo. I remember the grass. I
the beauty of the way of life so freshly taken from these people.
I am grateful for memory. e great Lakota leader Mathew King once
“the only thing sadder than an Indian who is not free, is an Indian who
not remember what it is to be free.”
movement here at Standing Rock represents that ongoing struggle for
and the future of a people. ere are many at Standing Rock today
remember their history and the long stando at Wounded Knee in
a similar battle for dignity and human rights. In fact, many of those at
Rock today were there.
am not sure how badly North Dakota wants this pipeline. If there is to be
siege, it will be here. For a people with nothing else but a land and a river, I
not bet against them.
this is also a battle for a future for all of us. An old Lakota prophecy
of a time when a great black snake would come to the land, bringing
and destruction not only to Lakota and Dakota communities, but to
water and land of all Mother Earth. And that the people would have to
come together to kill that black snake.
at time is now.
The Deep North
Dakota did not become the Deep North, as it is now called, overnight.
people have been treated poorly here for more than a 150 years,
with the Indian Wars and the smallpox epidemics that wiped out
of their population. en the dams drowned their villages, drowned
agricultural wealth, drowned their history and rewrote it into
manual of agricultural progress. ere is an unspeakable poverty
of loss, and it is di
cult to imagine a deeper grief.
most, North Dakota is something unknown. We y over the plains,
about how the movie Fargo was funny and wonder sheepishly how it’s
out in the Bakken. Very few visit, and there is almost no civil
to advocate for the environment or the people — as evidenced by the
that, before o , the Sierra Club had one sta person in North
and the American Civil Liberties Union had one sta member
both North and South Dakota. It is as if North Dakota is just too
for a progressive movement. Instead, we have watched.
North Dakota is a place of entrenched, systemic racism. It is a place
Nazis move. e Native incarceration rate is six times higher than that
whites, 8 Native suicide rates are several times that of North Dakotans
of 9 and basic infrastructure on the reservations — like hospitals,
schools, grocery stores — is profoundly insu
cient. People freeze to death
overdose in the shadow of the Bakken oil elds.
of this is just a second layer of abuse, of course, underneath the day-to-
discrimination, harassment by cops and white supremacists now
by Morton County and the Trump government, and the
of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Almost every family
my community has one of those women. It’s not because we’re not
anything. It’s an ongoing stress in the community, something we live
population decline of North Dakota was pretty well documented in
and Deborah Popper’s book e Bu alo Commons. Young people
I’m an economist by training, and I refer to our current economic
moving out, to anywhere but North Dakota, so the state became a
people le , particularly white people. Native populations continue to
dramatically, at a rate almost twice that of non-Indians. In the midst of
a state that clearly had some populist progressive history became
comes the oil industry. Along the gentle rolling hills of the northern
Missouri River is the Fort Berthold Reservation, home to the
liated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara. It is also known as the
spot for Bakken crude oil. I went to Fort Berthold a er riding
with family, friends and allies to raise awareness about a pipeline
to pump this fracked oil through my community and the sacred
of Lake Superior. I wanted to see what was happening at the source,
where this oil is extracted.
as Wiindigoo Economics. In our Anishinaabe stories, the Wiindigoo
a giant murderous monster that used to rampage through the north
fueled by an insatiable greed and a relentless desire for human esh.
fuel era capitalism is like the Wiindigoo: a predator economics, the
of a cannibal. It is a system based on colonization, wastefulness
ravenous greed, a system that destroys the very source of its own wealth
well-being, Mother Earth. In my lifetime, we’ve consumed 50% of the
oil. at means there’s still a whole bunch le , but most of it is really,
hard to get out of the ground. So this system of cannibal economics,
the Lakota might call Wasicu, Taker of the Fat, economics, has led us
the era of extreme extraction. Extreme extraction is when you blow the
o of 500 mountains in Appalachia to get coal for export to Asia; it’s
you strip mine tar from the oil sands of Northern Alberta and turn
First Nation communities into sacri ce zones; it’s when you inject
of millions of gallons of chemical-laced water into the bedrock of
Earth at such pressures that you cause earthquakes. at’s where we
at right now.
around 2007, extreme extraction came to the Northern Plains in
form of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as
— two relatively new technologies that allowed the pro table
Needs Regulations Anyway?
North Dakota, sex tra cking, violence, pollution and corruption have
of tight shale oil formations like the Bakken Formation of North
e resulting boom was dramatic. By 2011, the State of North
had a billion-dollar budget surplus and the lowest unemployment
in the country. 10 Along with the money and rapid population growth
profound housing shortages, skyrocketing rates of violent crime and
of drug and sex tra cking. 11 e man camps — temporary trailer
where transient oil workers are housed — are hubs for all of this.
men have more money than they know what to do with, and they are
from their families. Indigenous women and girls from surrounding
are kidnapped, bought, sold and murdered.
industry claims about health and safety, fracking is actually just a
experiment, made possible by a lack of regulation and the unlimited use
the commons as a dumping ground. Fracking involves the use of
amounts of water mixed with salt and toxic chemicals. Proponents
to say that the process uses chemicals that are regularly found in the
home. at might be true — if we all ran meth labs out of our
In fact, the water used by fracking companies is laced with over 1000
and carcinogens. 12 ose chemicals are considered trade secrets and
so are not subjected to federal scrutiny. 13
is has become a bit of a problem.
with spills simply do not know the nature of the chemical
of the polluted water is simply being dumped into deep
caverns. A 2017 report found that “US industries have injected
than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad
of the nation’s geology as an invisible dumping ground.” 14 It seems
have built an entire industry on the unquestioned belief that what goes
can’t come up.
the state’s capacity to address them. Or perhaps it is the
that have overwhelmed the state. In North Dakota, as with
corporations direct state policy. Known as “regulatory capture,”
and gas companies move in, take control of a state’s regulatory process
manipulate it to serve their bottom line. In other words, North Dakota
sold not only its water, but also its soul, to the oil companies.
Berthold is the tribal epicenter of the fracking industry, home to about
this happens, states nd themselves doing weird stu , like excusing
spills without penalty. Less than one 1% of spills result in nes from the
Dakota Industrial Commission or Department of Health, and even
they do issue nes, companies o en negotiate them down to a fraction
of the original amount. 15
is is hardly surprising since states regularly fall
over themselves to ensure corporations don’t have to compromise their
ts by putting money into the public purse.
some of the other decisions made by the state may be more surprising.
the decision to legalize nuclear waste in municipal dumps. Yes, you
that correctly. In 2016, in an e ort to accommodate the fracking
the North Dakota Department of Health approved a 10-fold
to the allowable level of radiation in municipal and county
lls. 16 ey call it — Technologically Enhanced Naturally
Radioactive Materials. It’s naturally occurring so it must be safe,
I testi ed against it at the public hearings, but they approved it
at same year, a study conducted by Duke University found soil at
spill site that was contaminated with radium, and at one site, “high levels
contaminants were detected in residual waters four years a er the spill
17 So nuclear waste is in our dumps, our soil and our water. And,
the height of the oil boom in 2012, the Associated Press in Bismarck
that North Dakota had experienced over 300 oil spills and 750
eld incidents” in just over a year and a half. Not one of these 1000+
was reported to the public. Why? Because regulators are not
by state law to do so. 18 Of course, this corporate takeover of
processes has been supported at the federal level. e
Amendment” of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted
sectors of the oil and gas industry, especially fracking, from most major
environmental laws, is a particularly egregious example of this. 19
of the state’s oil wells. 20 At night, Fort Berthold is lit up with gas aring
the wells, like the omnipresent lidless Eye of Sauron. ese ares burn
natural gas that is a byproduct of crude oil extraction. Without enough
to transport the gas, about a third of what’s released each day —
$1.4 million — goes up in smoke. 21 According to Bloomberg News,
a percentage basis, more gas was ared in the state [of North Dakota]
in any other domestic oil eld and at a level equal to Russia and twice
in Nigeria.” 22
there is twice as much aring on the reservation as anywhere else in
state. Tribal members say as much as 70% of gas from wells on the
is ared. “Every single day, more than l00 million cubic feet of
gas is ared away. at’s enough to heat half a million homes. at’s
much carbon dioxide emitted as 300,000 cars,” Fort Berthold tribal
Kandi White observes. “ at’s crazy.”
White is sta with the Indigenous Environmental Network and part
the grassroots advocacy group is Is Mandaree, along with many other
community members, like
eodora and Joletta Birdbear. Together with
like Lisa Deville of Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights
), is Is Mandaree has been ghting the threats to their community
for over a decade. “
e companies have generously put up signs for us to tell
that the toxins are present in the air,” says White. “What do we do? Just
health of the Missouri River has been especially taken for granted.
the Missouri is the seventh most polluted river in the country. 23
runo and now fracking have contaminated the river. In the
days of the Sacred Stone Camp, my sister shed a gar out of the river, a
prehistoric sh, only to nd it covered with tumors.
2013, North Dakota su ered the largest oil spill in state history when a
Tioga farmer discovered 800,000 gallons of oil in his
elds, about two
a er it had started seeping out of a quarter size hole in a pipe. It
ve years and $100 million to clean it up. 24 Two years later, another
occurred at the Garden Creek gas processing plant resulting in a
spill of about 10 gallons. at’s fairly insigni cant as far as spills go.
that it turns out they lied. A whistleblower later revealed it was
over 11 million gallons, larger than the devastating Exxon Valdez
25 Not so insigni cant a er all.
out these companies have a bit of a problem with truth-telling.
companies generally claim a 99% safety record, but studies have
that to be grossly inaccurate. A 2012 study by the US Pipeline and
Hazardous Material Safety Association, found that “the ‘average’ pipeline
the while, North Dakota has become a petri dish for neo-Nazis.
has a 57% probability of experiencing a major leak, with
over the $1 million range, in a ten-year period.” 26 Not good
is against this backdrop — of lackluster regulation, regular spills,
contamination and outright lies — that the Dakota Access Pipeline
proposed to cross the Missouri River just upstream of the tribe’s water
intake. What could go wrong?
say, in the midst of chaos, more chaos came.
e town of Leith, North
was the focal point for an attempted takeover by white supremacist
Cobb, an American Canadian white nationalist neo-Nazi. In 2010, he
to the town of 16 and purchased 12 plots of land with the intention
building a community of people that share his white nationalist ideology,
gaining the electoral majority. His battle for political power
failed as a result of multi-racial organizing and opposition. e
Welcome to Leith, which was directed by Michael Beach Nichols and
Walker and premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival,
documented the con ict over Leith.
at was right before Standing Rock.
Christopher Hagen, a reporter for the High Plains Reader (
have received a Pulitzer Prize for his writing on Standing Rock and
undercover journalism in North Dakota. His January 25, 2017,
entitled “White Supremacists’ Hit List of Small Towns” documents an
the town of Leith’s victory against white supremacists, eleven
across North Dakota made their hit list. e towns range from
of 16 to nearly 7,000. Listed by names, pictures and real
advertisements by Pioneer Little Europe North Dakota, a white
operation welcoming Nazis, the Creativity Movement, Ku
Klan, militants, white nationalists and racialists, the North Dakota
are the group’s next targets to become Aryan enclaves. Known
Underwood, Carson, Kenmare, Washburn, Tioga, Newburg,
City, Antler, Sherwood, Landa and Leith. Operative concept:
Little Europes are identi ed as the “vanguard model for the
next form of a white community, a vessel for its cultural revival,”
to white supremacist Hamilton Michael Barrett, a prominent
and author of the operation. Operative goal: create “arks of
for the white race, and prepare for RaHoWa, or racial holy
survival” 27 war.
a pretty tall order in the face of climate change.
Dakota represents a state of mind and a moment in history. One
for sure, the Native community is not going anywhere; in fact, it’s
Another thing: We will all be drinking the same water.
The Seventh Generation
April 2016, with snow still on the ground, a small group of Standing Rock
members erected a tipi and lit a sacred re on Ladonna Bravebull
Allard’s land at the mouth of the Cannonball River.
e Sacred Stone Camp
founded. For months the camp remained small, made up mostly of
of the local community of Cannon Ball. e Dakota Access
had been proposed to cross just north of the reservation, a 570,000-
pipeline to carry that fracked oil.
July, a group of Standing Rock youth organized a prayer run to hand
petitions opposing the pipeline. ey rst ran from Cannon Ball to
Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District branch in Nebraska, then
on to Washington DC, over 2000 miles in all. e youth named
campaign “Rezpect Our Water” and quickly gained the support of a
key celebrities that helped amplify their voices. In addition to the
of the black snake, there is a second prophecy held by many tribes
reiterated in the nal vision of Lakota Chief Crazy Horse, that tells of a
that the seventh generation would rise up and join with those of other
to bring healing and unity to the world. ese courageous young
announced their arrival on the world’s stage as the ful llment of that
As 23-year-old Terrell Iron Shell put it, “We’re the answers to our
August 1, we nished the spiritual horse ride of our fourth annual Love
Not Oil tour in Northern Minnesota, with a celebration feast in our
Rice Lake, on the White Earth Reservation. We rode and prayed
our Dakota relatives for two weeks, along the route of the proposed
and Line 3 pipelines. e next day, we threw a party in Bemidji to
the tour, with fabulous music, food and friends. As we drove away
the venue and watched the northern lights dance on the horizon, we
the phone call saying that the Sandpiper project was likely dead.
had just announced their purchase of 28% of the Dakota Access
Pipeline, with plans to terminate their joint venture partnership with the
anchor shipper, Marathon Petroleum. 29
proposed Sandpiper would have carried 640,000 barrels a day of
oil out of the Bakken in North Dakota, weaving through the Ojibwe
of Northern Minnesota and through a vast aquatic ecosystem of
lakes, wetlands teeming with biodiversity and some of the largest
rice beds in the world. Enbridge said it was the only route that would
And so for four years our people went to every single regulatory
and, whether single mom, traditional rice harvester or tribal
said the same thing: Gaawiin, No. We prayed, we held
and we rode our horses. We fought in the courts, in the media,
the streets and on the land and water. And we were not alone, because
is not North Dakota, and a lot of non-Indian people love the
as much as we do. And we won.
was a historic victory, one that showed us how powerful we are when we
together and take a stand. Enbridge, the largest energy infrastructure
in North America, had planned to be long nished with
by then, but we stopped them. But it was also a bittersweet
for although we won the battle, the war remained. e black snake is
hydra — cut o one head and two more will emerge.
headed west to team up with Energy Transfer Partners, which
not on the best nancial footing, to help get that oil out of the Bakken.
by four years of accountability in Minnesota, they changed
course to follow the path of least resistance.
ey thought that, as usual, no
was paying attention to North Dakota. And so, although our
in Anishinaabe Akiing still faced the expansion of the Alberta
pipeline, a proposed new Line 3 pipeline in a brand new corridor,
daily threat of a whole set of ancient crumbling pipelines already in the
and proposed nickel and copper mines that would poison
we have le , we too headed west, to answer the call from the
Stone Camp and stand with our Lakota and Dakota relatives.
Lakota legal and regulatory objections, construction on the Dakota
Ppipeline had recently begun, in May 2016, a er an egregious rubber
job by the states and the US Army Corps of Engineers, without tribal
consultation or meaningful environmental review.
e 1600 mile route
to snake through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, where it
to connect to a larger pipeline network with access to the re neries in
Cancer Alley and export markets via the East and Gulf Coasts. A
pipeline, Dakota Access would carry a proposed 570,000
a day of fracked Bakken crude oil, crossing hundreds of water bodies
hundreds of historic and archaeological sites.
important but o en forgotten detail: the Dakota Access Ppipeline was
slated to cross the Missouri River just upstream of Bismarck. But
order to avoid the predominantly white population — indeed, in response
concerns about proximity to their drinking water source — the company
the route south to Lake Oahe, just 500 feet from of the boundary of
Standing Rock Reservation and just a mile above the tribe’s water intake
30 One cannot imagine a clearer or more egregious example of overt,
late July, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, represented by Earthjustice,
a lawsuit in US District Court for the District of Columbia, against the
US Army Corps of Engineers. 31
e Army Corps has jurisdiction over all
waters in the country and must issue a permit each time a
pipeline is to cross one. Standing Rock claimed that the Army
Corps’ approval of
’s crossing of the Missouri River violated federal law
failing to uphold the trust responsibility to protect rights guaranteed to
Great Sioux Nation in the treaties — in this case, hunting, shing and
gathering rights. Standing Rock also
led an intervention at the United
in coordination with the International Indian Treaty Council.
Chair David Archambault Jr. explained, “ e Environmental Protection
the Department of the Interior and the National Advisory Council
Historic Preservation supported more protection of the tribe’s cultural
but the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners turned a
eye to our rights. e rst dra of the company’s assessment of the
route through our treaty and ancestral lands did not even mention
tribe.” 32 e Army Corps had approved the water crossing without even
conducting an environmental impact statement (
). Instead, they issued a
brief document that simply concluded a “ nding of no signi cant
very 33 A rubber stamp.
is this possible? Well, through the usual loopholes. One of the main
of pushing these projects through is fragmentation — divide it up
that many di erent jurisdictions each look at their own small piece, such
no one is responsible for the whole thing and no one even seems to have
the power to say no.
e particular loophole used in this case takes
to the extreme. As they have done for many other pipelines,
Army Corps approved the 203 water crossings using a fast-track
called “Nationwide Permit No. 12,” a general permit process for the
Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act that grants
from environmental reviews for small construction projects with
impact. 34 e general permit program was intended for things like
ramps, mooring buoys and small recreational facilities. But by abusing
program and arti cially treating the project as simply a collection of
of tiny, separate construction projects, the Corps avoided entirely
transparent and thorough review process required by federal law.
September, Honor the Earth, the Indigenous Environmental Network
the Sierra Club sent a letter to the US Army Corps of Engineers, making
case and asking for a full environmental impact statement on the
Dakota Access Pipeline. at never happened.
wish I could say that what happened to Standing Rock was unusual, but it
not. Typically, what passes for “tribal consultation” is, at best, simply a
for the corporation to “get to yes.” Sometimes, it is just a letter sent to
tribe to inform them of the corporation’s plans. For me, consultation
doesn’t mean that. It’s just like sex: each party has a right to say no.
in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
which sets the standard of “Free, Prior, and Informed Consent.”
state of North Dakota and the federal government say to the tribe,
you didn’t participate in our process!” But the tribe had voiced their
clearly and directly, at a tribal council meeting held on Sept. 30,
when and the ND Public Service Commission rst noti ed them
the new route. And frankly, I have participated in “the process.” I have
time and time again to work within the system. Even in Minnesota, a
with at least the accouterments of a sensible regulatory structure, the
is thoroughly skewed against us. In North Dakota, the system is
came the desecration. In mid-August, Standing Rock Tribal Chair
Archambault II and Councilmember Dana Yellowfat were arrested by
police, a er charging onto a construction site when archaeological
are laws to protect historic and sacred sites. On Friday, September 2,
day before Labor Day weekend, Standing Rock submitted to the court
ndings of rare cultural sites, which include 27 graves, stone prayer
and other sacred artifacts directly in the path of the proposed pipeline.
are at least 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the
entire pipeline route. Early the next morning,
responded by bringing
construction crews and bulldozing the speci c areas described by
Rock in their ling. When protectors of the site entered the
area, private security guards attacked them with dogs and
is demolition is devastating,” Tribal Chair Archambault said. “ ese
are the resting places of our ancestors. e ancient cairns and stone
rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been
into hollow ground.” 35
National Historic Preservation Act expressly prohibits the Corps from
the nal permit for the river crossing if it is shown that the company
destroyed or impacted potential historic sites along the
path. But despite our e orts to hold them accountable, the Corps
a blind eye.
in Iowa, as the lawsuit of three Iowa farmers moved forward
the pipeline company and the Iowa Utilities Board attempting to
the loss of their land through eminent domain, three res erupted
heavy damage to equipment and an estimated $2 million in
Investigators suspected arson. 36
oil companies are a lot like Custer, no idea what they’re walking into.
clearly thought they’d bought a slam-dunk pipeline. ey were wrong.
The Rise of the Water Protector
Protectors. ey came from the four directions. ey came from the
ey came from the mountain they stood and protected. ey came
from the depths of the beautiful ocean.
ey came from the corn pollen
and sage they had gathered in their hands.
ey came wounded from
generations of pain.
ey came bearing gi s of strength, tears, and song.
is is where they stood in the four directions.
—Inyan Wakankagapi Wakpa, Sara Juanita Jumping Eagle
simply do not know what brought about the rise of the Water Protector.
our people have been protecting water since time immemorial, and we
continue to do so as long as we live. But something special happened at
Rock in 2016 — a ful llment of prophecy, the blossoming of a
social movement led by Indigenous Peoples and rooted in
teachings, but o ering a home to anyone, of any race or culture,
to ght for the water. Water Protectors are everywhere.
of all places, why Standing Rock? We do not know. I do not say that to
in any way, the courage of LaDonna and Joye Braun and the
people who founded the Sacred Stone Camp, or the power of those
youth’s 2000 mile run to Washington DC. With no material
beyond their own willingness to take a stand in the face of
odds, they started a movement. All alone, they stuck their necks
to demand clean water and defend their sacred sites. And they ended up
the rst gathering of the Oceti Sakowin since the Battle of the
Grass in 1876. ey inspired the largest gathering of North
American tribes in modern history.
ey started the most powerful and
confrontation of colonial and corporate resource extraction in recent
right in the heart of America’s most backward petro-state.
why here? Why now? Of all the terrible projects constantly being
and resisted across Indian Country, why was Dakota Access the
one that ignited a movement?
e answer, most will say, is in the stars and
with the greatest of mysteries.
st exposure to the American Indian Movement was at 17. Having
my rst year at Harvard, I went to work for the International Indian
Council in researching natural resource exploitation on Indigenous
at was in l977. e International Indian Treaty Council had just
in 1974. In 1977, the Council held their meeting, prior to the rst
Nations Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Peoples,
Wakpala on the Standing Rock Reservation. Indeed, the modern political
of the American Indian Movement was formed at Standing Rock,
the leadership of the Lakota traditional Chiefs of the Oceti
and the Lakota Treaty Council, who had strong convictions and
spiritual guidance. A er all, the Lakota had rejected the proposed
Claims Commission settlement of $105 million for the Black Hills of
Dakota, reminding the US that the Black Hills were not for sale. As
interest on the account increased (it’s over $1 billion now), the Lakota
to the United States with a bill, telling Congress that the only
for land is land. Called the Bradley Bill (introduced by former
Jersey Senator Bill Bradley), the bill called for the transfer of 1.3 million
of Black Hills National Forest land to the Great Sioux Nation, lands
excluded Mount Rushmore National Memorial, private lands,
and other park lands. Interest from the judgment award
be distributed amongst the tribes as compensation for the loss of use
the land; the principal would remain in the trust fund. Appropriations
be provided to assist the Sioux Nation in managing the returned
would 37 lands.
this is to say that, as astonishing as it is, some people still have integrity
moral convictions that remind them that money is not God, and that a
wellspring, like the Black Hills or the Missouri River, is in fact
at said, even without looking back to the 70s and the
Indian Movement, the constant struggle to survive as Indigenous
in a place as repressive as the Dakotas meant endless legal cases,
defense of children and human rights — and always ghting to
our water. e emergence of stronger sovereign governance
and the increasing aggression of late stage extractive capitalism
more organizing, that is, tireless organizing which laid the
for more Indigenous resistance — from Idle No More and
opposition to extraction in the Bakken, to tribal resistance to the
Here and Now
that proposed Keystone XL pipeline, for example.
Are the Water Protectors?
the summer, it was mostly local folks from Cannonball and
Keystone XL pipeline.
scientists and historians can always identify the conditions that
it possible — the long history of oppression that eventually reached a
point, the vision and bravery and leadership that paved the way —
there remains a mysterious spark that eludes all attempts at analysis.
no exactness in the re of a social movement. We hope that people
nd their power, their understanding and the strength of collective
as it is there that change is made. But what is it that brings about a
James Cameron, director of Avatar, would say that righteous
and hope are the tipping point, when people come together and
— like the Zapatista did — “Enough.” Or take to becoming magical
and rage against the machine. We can make plans, we can develop
strategies and workplans, but there are forces at play much larger than
ourselves, and sometimes that spark comes when we least expect it.
by the two pipelines to the environment, public health and tribal and
rights are strikingly similar. But before it ever received permits,
a seven-year, multi-million-dollar campaign of opposition led by some
the largest environmental nonpro ts in the world, with regular media
attention in major international outlets.
e advocacy campaign to stop
Access — well, there wasn’t one. It passed largely under the radar.
in early August, as the youth ran to DC and a dozen people from
Stone set up a tipi on the North Dakota capitol lawn during a special
session, many assumed the pipeline to be a done deal. It seemed it
simply end up like the 16 other crude oil pipelines already operating
North Dakota. 38 But just a few weeks later, a thousand people from across
continent were camped at river’s edge, many of them prepared to
ce everything to keep that pipe out of the ground. A people had been
awakened. A historic siege had begun.
communities on the Standing Rock Reservation holding it down at
Sacred Stone Camp. When construction began in early August, just days
er the youth runners reached DC, people from Sacred Stone started
vehicles from entering the nearby Cannonball Ranch. ey were
arrested. Upon rumor that
had encountered archaeological artifacts,
Rock Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II and Councilmember Dana
were arrested while attempting to push through the police line to
39 Each day the confrontation escalated, and each day more and
people showed up, mostly from Standing Rock, Cheyenne River,
Pine Ridge and other Lakota and Dakota reservations. But many
tribes from across the continent were soon represented, and plenty of
allies answered the call to support as well. Soon, LaDonna’s land
couldn’t t another tipi or tent, so new arrivals were sent to camp on
adjacent federal land, just on the other side of the Cannonball River.
they just kept coming. Something magical was happening. Prayers
being answered. Whole families were showing up, with Elders,
horses. ere was excitement in the air. A paddle demonstration
organized and the Cannonball River was covered in canoes all the way
the con uence with the Missouri. At night, hundreds of camp res lit up
sky across the prairie. It became clear that the “Over ow Camp” had in
become the setting for the rst gathering of the Oceti Sakowin, the
Seven Council Fires, in 140 years.
us was born the Oceti Sakowin Camp.
within it, dozens of other smaller camps soon emerged — Rosebud
Red Warrior Camp, Two-Spirit Camp. Wild Oglala, Ponca, Yankton.
whole tribal universe.
really are no words to describe what that space meant for people, the
power in it. If you were there, you understand.
at is really all we can say.
me, it was in the camps at Standing Rock that we remembered what it
like to be free. We remembered what it was like to create a village of
of people, a powerful Indigenous space that welcomed people of
di erent colors and nations. And we remembered what it feels like to
the infrastructure we need to care for ourselves entirely outside the
money economy — to feed and clothe our people, to have stable
and quality medical care for everyone, to have control of our
upbringing, to practice our spirituality freely and share our stories
Every single night, all through the night, the drums would echo
across the plains — the heartbeat of Mother Earth — and the singers
would pour every bit of themselves into those songs, their ancestors owing
them as they cried out to future generations that we were all there
protect. I was so proud to be a part of that moment. Everyone was.
came from the far corners of the world. Many gave up their jobs,
houses, even their relationships back home. ey came with the shirts
their back and found a place in the movement. Some felt called to the
lines, others helped cook and wash dishes, cared for children, chopped
winterized shelters or supported the legal defense of those
e Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council was sta ed by top-
professional herbalists, doctors, nurses and other medical
from around the world, but drawing on generations of plant
held by Linda Black Elk and other Indigenous leaders. Families
child care, and Sacred Stone Camp built a beautiful school. People
what was going on and said, “You know, I want to be the person that I’m
to be. I’m going to go to Standing Rock to nd myself.” And that’s
we did; we found ourselves at Standing Rock.
siege escalated quickly, with the State of North Dakota declaring a
State of Emergency in order to fund their brutal response, including setting
a military style checkpoint on the highway between Bismarck and the
as a form of economic sanction against the tribe, which relies on
casino revenue to survive.
e rst lockdown actions came at the end of
when two Lakota Water Protectors — one from Standing Rock and
from Rosebud — locked their bodies to heavy equipment and stopped
for the day as Morton County Sheri s spent more than six
clumsily and recklessly trying to extract them. In early September, the
companies intentionally desecrated the sacred sites disclosed by the
archaeologist in a legal ling the day before. When Water Protectors
to intervene, private security guards attacked them with dogs, injuring
including one pregnant woman. A few days later, the Canoe Families
the Salish Sea and across the Paci c Northwest paddled down the
to the camps — some 18 canoes in all, massive ocean-going vessels
in a majestic display of pride and solidarity. e journey ful lled a vision
the late Tribal Canoe Journey Elder Tom Heidlebaugh had over 20 years
in which he saw the canoe people and the horse people come together at
mighty river to join forces to protect the earth.
of such visions and prophecies were not uncommon, and tribal
became almost a daily occurrence, as representatives from
all over the world were received at the sacred re in the Oceti Camp,
gi s, words of support and resolutions of solidarity from their tribal
By fall, the main dirt road in camp was lined with hundreds of
ags. Many came in full regalia and o ered their traditional songs and
ere was a spirit of celebration, reverence and determination. e
people of Northern Russia and Scandinavia sent a delegation. e
community of Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, sent a
in ful llment of the ancient Incan prophecy of the Eagle and the
in which the Indigenous Peoples of North America and South
come together and the Earth awakens. Delegations also arrived
non-Native liberation movements — the Palestine Youth Movement,
Lives Matter — and from faith communities of countless di erent
religions and denominations.
e Veterans came, in an epic show of
and force, and found their place in a moment of struggle
enemies foreign and domestic. ousands of people came to
Standing Rock, thousands of Water Protectors.
ey came from everywhere,
from every economic sector; clergy, veterans, school children, families,
Native people from all these categories, elected o
cials and many more.
ey came because they wanted to protect the water.
ey came because
Earth needs us.
sent semi loads of logs for rewood, endless bu alo meat, dried
salmon, plant medicines.
e food was good, our spirits and prayers
For all of us it was a magical place to be, to have an understanding
a battle on the ground, to see yourself in history. Walking through camp or
Rock’s Prairie Knights Casino (that’s where you could get a hot
if you had a friend) was like time traveling. People who had known
other for four or more decades, veterans of other Indian Wars, veterans
social justice struggles, would meet and smile, greet each other and be
pleased that we were in this moment in time.
en we would look and see
children and our future. We were together. We were epic, and we still
the battle continued and the state’s militarized response escalated,
continued to build, beyond what anyone imagined was possible.
faced an outrageous militarized and violent response from North
law enforcement with knowledge that millions all over the world
watching and supporting us. In addition to the hundreds of tribes
resolutions in support, labor unions started to follow suit, then
cities across the US — Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland, Minneapolis,
St. Louis, Nashville and more. In mid-November, organizers in the
called for a National Day of Action, and demonstrations were
online in over 300 cities across the world, including several
numbering in the thousands.
yet, on some level it was a moment we all knew had been coming, in
the violence and perversion of our economic system would start to
It was a moment of extreme corporate rights and extreme racism
by courage, prayers and resolve. It was remarkable what our
were able to do. We learned that when we work together, we can
change, that when we stand together, we can nd our courage. For
of us, Standing Rock was a Selma Moment where all of our mettle and
was tested as we faced down large multinational corporations
lots of guns and said: “We’re still standing.” A moment when we all
woke up and said, “
is is when we become the ancestors our descendants
will be proud of.”
not that we were free
on a clear day
could see what
The Siege at River’s Edge
I did not experience these confrontations with police rsthand, but have
my best to reconstruct the events based on descriptions from my relatives
A small procession of women walks slowly, humbly, towards a pink
and orange sky.
ey carry a copper vessel to the bank of the Cannonball
o er prayers and tobacco and sing songs for the water, as they do each
It is October 27, 2016, a day that will be remembered for many
four days, Water Protectors have maintained blockades on the two
connecting the camp (and the reservation) to the rest of North
A small radio tower has been erected to facilitate communication
outposts. And a new encampment has blossomed on the
Ranch, the private land adjacent to the Army Corps’ land where
the Oceti Sakowin camp is located.
e 1851 Treaty Camp, as it has come to
called, is located directly in the path of the pipeline, just across the
from the sacred ground that was intentionally desecrated in early
on the day of the dog attacks. It is called the Treaty Camp
this land was never ceded to the US government, and in fact it was
preserved as sovereign territory of the Oceti Sakowin by the Fort
Treaties of 1851 and 1867.
autumn deepens, this escalation in tactics has birthed a new sense of
Water Protectors have gone on the o ensive. e resistance has
beyond questions of environmental racism and cultural preservation,
an assertion of fundamental rights to the land, a questioning of settlement
People have literally put their physical bodies in the way of
e point is not just to shed light on the fact that the state is
of trespass, that the treaties have been consistently violated for the
of corporate resource extraction ever since their signing. e idea
to take the land back.
absurd as North Dakota’s hyper-militarized response to unarmed
on prayer walks has been, to some extent the two sides have been
on this deeper level all along. Why else would hand drums
sage smudges be met so consistently with tanks, assault ri es and
weapons? e deployment of police forces to protect the oil and
barons and keep money owing out of the ground is nothing new, but
case has been di erent — Water Protectors have faced a uni ed, well-
military force of oil industry personnel, local, state and federal
enforcement, federal intelligence agencies, the National Guard and
from unlicensed paramilitary organizations fresh from the war
of Iraq and Afghanistan. In many cases, the line between that o cial
and everyday white supremacist North Dakotan vigilantes has
blurry to say the least. You see, the memory of genocidal colonial
is fresh here; in fact it is still happening, and North Dakota seems
understand very well a fact that much of the rest of America has managed
forget — that its entire economy and way of life is predicated on the the
is why they have come for the Water Protectors on this beautiful fall
wielding all their toys. A battalion of cops decked out with riot gear and
tactical equipment, armored tanks and snipers on the
come to clear out a few handfuls of tipis and tents. ere are long
of tense confrontation as the Water Protectors gather to face the
line. Eventually, a er an extended performance of Orwellian police
and threats over the loudspeaker, that line advances, and the Water
are pushed backward. Some are snatched to the other side and
Some are snatched back. As a young woman is seized by police and
to the ground, live gunshots are red. Cops with assault ri es slash
canvas walls of tipis and drag half-naked Elders out of their sweat lodges.
are beaten with batons and thrown to the ground. Pepper spray ies
the gallon. e sound cannon (long range acoustical device, or )
across the plains. Police shoot tasers, rubber bullets and bean bag
is disagreement among the Water Protectors about whether to stand
retreat — barricades are built, then dismantled, then built again. One is
on re. Vehicles and trailers are placed in the path of the police, and
dive under them and lock their necks to the steel. New tipis are
at lightning speed, hay bales are dragged and logs rolled frantically
a desperate attempt to slow things down. But the police line keeps
and the Water Protectors lose inch a er painful inch. Suddenly,
the east, the bu alo herd is charging, ying over the hills in a cloud of
e Water Protectors cheer and war whoop. A group of young Lakota
horse riders has herded them towards the con ict, and cops on
pursuit, ring rubber bullets at the riders in full gallop.
the midst of all the chaos, a private security worker races his truck
the road full of people, with an assault ri e visible through the
Water Protectors quickly hop in a vehicle and ram the truck o the
He jumps out and is chased into a backwater of the river, standing
deep as he points the assault ri e at the Water Protectors, nger on the
Eventually he gives up the weapon to a Bureau of Indian A airs cop.
the blockade of the other main access road has been lit on re.
crude pile of logs and tires blazes, and a vehicle has been ipped upside
into the ames, barring a second unit of police from anking the
Protectors in retreat. People will go to prison for this. On the side of
road near the burning vehicle, a few small bodies huddle around a pan
of sizzling grease, making frybread.
e tanks and riot cops are just beyond
crest of the hill.
the police reach camp, Water Protectors retreat to what will later
become known as “Backwater Bridge.”
ere, in a move of questionable
they build a massive blockade, and as darkness approaches they set
on re, facing o with police all through the night. In the morning, two
military trucks will have been burned, and their charred frames
remain on the bridge dressed in gra ti for weeks, a new obstacle
c between camp and the pipeline route, as well as between the
and the outside world. Over 140 Water Protectors will wake up
there is a turning point in the story of o resistance, this is it —
27, the raid of the Treaty Camp. e weeks leading up to it had seen
steady escalation on the part of law enforcement in response to relentless
actions by Water Protectors, shutting down work sites day in and day
In addition to consistent lockdowns, and daily marches and prayer
Water Protectors also led Toxic Tours, where caravans of dozens of
would gather at one of the camp’s exits and proceed to active
sites to stop work. O en these actions would result in mass
with police actively targeting journalists and medics, in violation of
humanitarian law. Just days before, on October 22, over 140
were suddenly arrested a er walking many miles down the pipeline
followed by police, singing songs and burning sage.
enforcement assembled an army over 1300 strong, drawing from
across North Dakota and nine other states, through what is called
Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an interstate agreement
to facilitate the sharing of resources for natural disaster relief.
own Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, sent many
cers, and they proved to be some of the most brutal.
Armed with mine-resistant armored personnel carriers (
), long range
devices, rubber bullets, mace, tear gas, water cannons, bean bag
concussion grenades and razor wire, and with the full force of the
government behind them, law enforcement injured, tormented,
and humiliated hundreds of Water Protectors. Many of those
were stripped and cavity searched and placed in dog kennels in
cold conditions, with numbers written on their arms with
marker. Some had hoods placed over their heads, a practice
was not until months later, thanks in large part to leaked documents and
excellent investigative journalism of e Intercept, 41 that we fully
the degree to which this multi-agency army of cops, feds, private
and oil men was actually coordinated by the private paramilitary
TigerSwan. Folks had grown accustomed, in the tragic way that
get used to trauma, to the daily low-level ights of privately owned
planes and helicopters circling over the camp, despite the “noy
zone” declared by the . We knew they were using hi-tech equipment
to jam our cell phones, folks had found bugging devices in their hotel rooms
er the raid of the Treaty Camp came something of a stalemate, North
the casino, and we assumed there were in ltrators among us. But we did
know that the hyper-militarized police program was being led by a
“war on terror” defense contractor hired by a Fortune 500 oil
comparing us to “jihadist insurgents” in order to sell the rural
on the need for “aggressive intelligence preparation of the battle eld.”
did we appreciate the depth of the so-called “counter-terrorism
they led, with a level of surveillance, in ltration and provocation
seen in Indian Country since the ’s of the 1970s, an
to destroy the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers and
revolutionary groups, by any means necessary.
le the burned trucks on Backwater Bridge for many weeks,
that the bridge itself might be structurally compromised. But
everyone knew the bridge was ne.
e truth was that the images of the
trucks provided media cover for their brutality, plus they got a free
out of the deal. e blockage of the highway connecting Bismarck
the Standing Rock Reservation was absolutely critical to their strategy, a
war tactic of restricting freedom of movement and su ocating the
e tribe lost millions in casino revenue, its main
of income. Meanwhile, construction could proceed on the
Ranch and Water Protectors had no way of accessing it — they
trapped in camp. Life went on, direct actions continued, and the
movement of solidarity ourished, but the tribe’s legal
were gaining no traction, and winter was on its way.
early November, Water Protectors used canoes and a makeshi oating
to cross backwater creeks and attempt to occupy a small hill north of
e hill, which came to be known as “Turtle Island,” is a sacred burial
home to the remains of several children and well-known local
women. ey climbed the hill to protect the sacred site, but law
attacked with tear gas and pepper spray from atop the hill and
motorized boats, destroying the bridges. So people swam across, in ice
water, only to emerge shivering at the base of the hill and be doused
pepper spray. On that exact same day, President Obama spoke about
the situation publicly for one of the rst times, making vague statements
a possible reroute but saying “we are gonna let this play out for a few
weeks.” No reroute considerations were announced, he did not
to stop the violence, and his federal agencies continued to work
with TigerSwan and North Dakota cops to repress the resistance.
had visited Standing Rock personally in 2014, becoming only the
US president to ever visit a reservation, and as he kissed the babies he
the tribe he would be “a president who honors our sacred trust and who
your sovereignty.” More empty promises.
than a week a er the stando at Turtle Island, Donald Trump was
as the 45th president of the United States.
November 20, Water Protectors tried to clear the trucks o the bridge.
ensued was one of the most dangerous and terrifying clashes of the
campaign, the Battle of Backwater Bridge. Law enforcement blasted
Protectors with water cannons in freezing temperatures for nearly
eight hours, causing widespread hypothermia.
ey sprayed mace and red
gas and rubber bullets, o en aiming for the groin and the face.
were injured, including multiple fractured bones, one grand mal
one permanent eye injury, severe lacerations, blunt traumas and
bleeding. Twenty-one-year-old Sophia Wilansky’s arm was blown
by a concussion grenade. Linda Black Elk, matriarch of the Standing
Medic and Healer Council, said, “We are 100% con dent that if our
medics and the Standing Rock
had not been there … local law
would have deaths on their hands.”
weeks later, on December 4, as a group of thousands of US military
arrived at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the Water
with talk of marching in formation to overtake the drill pad, the
Corps of Engineers announced a delay in granting the essential
for to drill under the Missouri River, with plans to rst
an environmental impact statement to “evaluate reasonable route
We all wondered, had the Obama administration nally
listened? Some celebrated, cautiously.
en the sun set and the oodlights
on the hill overlooking the camps. Snow dri ed down onto the
wire of the walled fortress surrounding the drill pad. e national
police and armored vehicles stayed in place. Nothing changed.
Transfer Partners described the decision as a “purely political
action” written in obvious “Washington code” and consistent with the
Filth of North Dakota
January of 2017, a newly elected Governor Burgum worked with North
handling of the situation for the previous four months —
intention to delay a decision in this matter until President Obama is
out of o
ce.” 42 Sadly, their take on the situation was one of the most
is uent in the language of death, destruction and lies, and at
moment when President Obama asked Native people to love him even
er his government had once again brutalized our grandmas and our
understood him perfectly. He was simply delaying a crisis and
kicking the can to Donald Trump.
authorities to peddle a story to the media about the feces and
runo into the river from the Oceti Sakowin Camp, requiring their
attention as a public health risk. 43 Rather ironic, since the state
ago removed all sanitation support to the thousands of people who
to live in the l4th largest city in the state of North Dakota. Forced out
thousands of pounds of food was bulldozed and tossed by federal
stores for a winter camp that might have gone to people, tents,
the whole is gone, along with strawbale structures, greenhouses and
more. All of this to clean up a er “protestors.”
e spin continued in North
corporate fed media. As Dr. Jumping Eagle explained in a
biased media use this as opportunity to talk smack once again.
empty tents and cardboard can be recycled, etc.… benzene, oil,
other chemicals in the water cannot be removed. So … when it
to trash and waste, I will take some jacked up tarps any day, over
years of contaminated water from oil pipeline spills and frack
contamination. It’s too bad that Morton County doesn’t look in
own trash — maybe they would nd their integrity, honesty, and
buried in there somewhere. ey likely burned them while
were busy taking sel es with half naked freezing Water Protectors
cages in the background ala Guantanamo Bay and Auschwitz.
be honest. North Dakota does not care about garbage. Nor pollution.
fact, in 2015, the state decided that instead of protecting citizens from the
radioactive waste from fracking, they would just increase the recommended
Those Pipeline Spills
January 2016, more than 100,900 gallons of crude oil, waste oil, bio
allowance of radiation allowed in the state from 5 picocuries per gram
50 picocuries per gram. 44 In Orwellian terms, “Technically Enhanced
Occurring Radioactive Materials” is really just a word for fracking
Let me remind Governor Burgum, that at no point has radiation
safer for your citizens.
just the beginning of the garbage insanity. Morton County sprayed a
of unknown toxins onto the Water Protectors — from antifreeze-laden
cannons, to mace — which then ended up in the river.
then there’s David Meyers, a “rancher” who purchased 40,000 pounds
Rozol, a prairie dog poison that causes animals to bleed to death, for use
land adjoining the Missouri River. An Environmental Protection
investigation determined that the Rozol poison had been
distributed across more than 5,400 acres on both the Cannonball
and the Wilder ranches. As the investigation noted, instead of
applied into the prairie dog burrows, the bright blue poison pellets
broadcast on the ground. Dead prairie dogs were le where they died
of being expeditiously removed to protect other wildlife. Six dead
were found in April, and dead bison were also found as recently as
documents said. According to the report, Meyer did not have
pesticide certi cation to apply the Rozol. Meyer was given probation
return for a timely guilty plea, $58,000 in restitution fees and a $50,000
in 45 ne.
you were worried, Meyer’s had no problem paying those fees. Six
a er he poisoned the land, Meyer sold the Cannonball Ranch to
Transfer Partners for a reported $18 million. 46 Nice ranching. And,
some garbage that will not be easy to clean up.
natural gas and brine were spilled in North Dakota and surrounding
according to the North Dakota Department of Health records. It’s
a weekly asco. Approximately 50,000 gallons of slaked lime solids
into the Missouri River in June causing unknown impacts.
companies are ever ned, in a North Dakota regulatory system that
to be controlled by oil companies. According to the Bismarck
Tribune, in early 2016, the Commission reviewed six outstanding spill cases
with nes totaling $600,000. 47 As journalist Chris Hagen writes,
past spills are still being cleaned up around the state, such
the Tesoro Corp. spill of 2013, the Energy and the Oasis
Inc. spills of 2014 and 2015, according to Bill Suess, Spill
Program manager of North Dakota Department of
Spills occur on a daily basis, Suess said, the cleanup is costly,
companies are rarely ned. “Not everyone gets ned,” Suess said.
“Usually we hold o as long as we can on the
nes because it is a
motivator to get them cleaning it up.” 48
2015 and 2016, North Dakota Industrial Commission proposed a total
$4,525,000 in penalties, collecting a paltry $125,976. 49 So, let us talk about
North Dakota cheered the completion of the pipeline, the Trump
Administration buried an Interior memorandum which rea
of the permit. A er all, if the pipeline was not good enough for the
supply of Bismarck, why would it be good enough for the water supply
things change but a lot do not. While the Water Protector clearances
out by the Burgum administration were portrayed as being in the
of public health, there’s something pretty egregious about destroying
and housing in the middle of winter. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard
us of the Whitestone Massacre, where General Sully, not unlike the
National Guard, Morton County and
cops, destroyed the food of a
to historical sources, Sully ordered all the Indian property
abandoned in the camp to be burned.
is included 300 tipis and 400,000 to
pounds of dried bu alo meat, the winter supplies of the Indians and
product of 1,000 butchered bu alo. 50 Some things don’t change much.
can’t say it’s water under the bridge, at this point. I can say that North
Governor Burgum has a lot of work cut out for him to clean up the
of the state. Not only the toxins of an oil industry, unregulated, but
toxins of human rights violations. is will be a challenge.
think North Dakota has violated the covenant with the Creator, and
of Nature. Filth is everywhere. It is time to come clean.
Art of Indigenous
the machines tore into sacred ground on the horizon, Dakota artist
Rencountre created a statue. Not Afraid To Look sits on a blu
the Missouri River, directly above the site of the Sacred Stone
at the mouth of the Cannonball River. Today, the statue is the only
that remains — the tents, the tipis, the barracks, the schools, the
and inipis (sweat lodges) constructed during the o resistance
all been bulldozed.
is a traditional pipe carver, and the statue is modeled on what
called an “e gy pipe,” a smoking pipe originally carved in the l820s. e
one of which wound up in the collection of President Andrew Jackson,
a small Native gure carved into the shank and facing the attached bowl,
depicts the face of a white man. e pipe had a name: Not Afraid To
at the White Man. “How much courage does it take to sit on the earth
no weapons looking straight ahead into the eye of the storm with no
It is much like counting coup on an enemy in the sense that one only
to touch the enemy, not take his life. Touching the enemy with your
with your gaze, is the highest capacity of honor, courage and
he explains. 51
found Charles Rencountre and his rst Not Afraid To Look statue at the
for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. e statue
large over us both, and his story was compelling — to take the gi s
from our ancestors and bring them into a modern medium.
Rencountre’s great-great-great grandfather was a signatory of the 1851
of Fort Laramie, between the US government and the tribes of the
Sioux Nation. As the o resistance blossomed in the late summer
2016, he came to Standing Rock to build another Not Afraid To Look, this
on Ladonna Allard’s land overlooking the river.
Afraid To Look begins as a symbol from my Plains ancestors, who
me that although we have faced genocide — we continue to
in many good and surprising ways. We are here. And we are here
outsiders who tried to kill or erase us all. We are also changing.
the human people face today is similar to what my ancestors
in the 19th century. Not Afraid To Look comes out of a living
and worldview. It may remind human people to use the
instilled within us to endure and face what seems
e piece symbolizes our relationship when we human
connect with the earth because that is the lineage it comes from.
the earth has faced many forces evoked by fear, anger, delusion,
denial by the human people, the earth endures and will endure.
people can do this too. ere is truth that when we listen we
face things that look like hell realms and still nd ways that are
and valuable to us … we, as human beings, have the
to overcome historical di erences, wounds and antipathies, to
together for what is sacred and what is our right to respect, to
protect, and to live, as part of its life. 52
will be more of these statues elsewhere, I assume. Rencountre and
wife, Alicia Rencountre-Da Silva, want to build one here on the shores of
(Lake Superior), in New York and Washington DC, and in the
alley” of Louisiana.
artists, my wife and I have visions to place Not Afraid To Look in
that are in need … places where humanity is avoiding
to look at what is happening … Art creates a response
builds community; that re ects and gives voice to those in need of
truths — and it is our way to move forward. We see art as a
and a gesture within and from a community that begins a
process for healing of that which has been unheard and denied. 53
e o resistance at Standing Rock brought together some of the best
and brightest Native artists and compelled them to create.
e result was no
than a renaissance of Indigenous resistance art in a multitude of
erent media, from tattoos to poetry and everything in between. New t-
banners and murals abounded in the camp, with new artists
silk screens on site, in a time of wearable art everywhere. And
er the siege had ended, the ood of creativity and expression that began at
Rock spread across the continent, breathing life into other
and struggles while processing the emotions and trauma, the
and defeats, of the history that had just been made on river’s edge.
Standing Rock it grows.
could, of course, never name them all — but here is a short sample of
of the incredible work inspired and ampli ed by the movement: the
Rock underbird Tattoo by Stephanie Big Eagle; poster art by
Moon; murals and music by Annie Humphrey; the roo op mural at
Indian Community Housing Organization in Duluth, Minnesota,
Votan; hip hop from Nataani Means, Immortal Technique, Yaz Like Jaws,
and others; clothing line Obsidian, recently featured in Vogue
visual art from Isaac Murdoch and Christi Belcourt of the
Collective; It Ain’t Over Until We’re Smoking on the Drill Pad, a
of poetry by Mark Tilsen; Standing Strong, a book of photography of
o movement by Josue Rivas; Akicita: e Battle of Standing Rock, a
directed by Cody Lucich. Honor the Earth has also sponsored two years
an exhibit called the Art of Indigenous Resistance, curated by Dine artist
Smith. It includes primarily paintings, giclees and fabric pieces, as
as mounted wheat paste murals. Smith explains the thinking that
guided the creation of the exhibit:
reservation areas where high rates of addiction, poverty, and loss of
threaten our way of life, we have to create ways to engage and
our communities. Our mission is to create awareness for, and
social and environmental issues, and to showcase empowering
indigenous art from across the country.
rough this indigenous lens,
want to show that indigenous self-expression is deeply embedded in
tradition and culture. Song, dance, storytelling, and prayer
all done to honor Mother Earth and to heal. Our connections to
Earth through cultural practices have sustained us for
Art has power. Art has the ability to wake up the people.
it, we can evoke emotion, tell stories, inspire and motivate, and
channeled as a vehicle for issues of consciousness, it can become a
for meaningful change. People are working hard to make a shi
and socially, and we must take this opportunity to show
and remind our communities of how resilient we are. With a
of art, music, and activism, we are taking this opportunity as
people to step up, be innovative, support one another, and grow
into our roles. 54
too must be not afraid to look at the enemy or at our own weaknesses.
the beauty of art should be in the darkest and brightest of times both.
How The Dust Settles
January 18, 2017, the Standing Rock Tribal Council voted unanimously
close the camps and serve eviction notices. 55 ey had been telling people
go home ever since the Army Corps delayed the key river crossing permit
early December, but hundreds had ignored that request and persevered
a harsh winter. With blockage of the highway strangling the tribe
they nally canceled plans for a separate winter camp and
they would bring in law enforcement and equipment to clear the
at the end of the month. eir repeated instructions to have faith in the
and the legal process were curious; for the past six weeks,
taking control of the federal government.
days a er the Army Corps’ decision in early December, former Texas
Rick Perry resigned from the board of directors of Energy
Partners, parent company, and was named Trump’s rst
for Secretary of Energy. 56 Trump also tapped three other friends of
join his cabinet: Rex Tillerson, the of Exxon, one of the main
shippers of oil through
, as secretary of state; Wilbur Ross, the majority
shareholder of Navigator,
’s major export partner, as secretary of
commerce; and Gary Cohn,
of Goldman Sachs, a major nancer of
as director of the National Economic Council and chief economic
to the president. 57 On January 20, two days a er the tribe’s decision,
became the 45th president of the United States. Four days a er that,
signed an executive order directing the Army Corps to scrap the
Impact Statement and issue the permit to drill under the
Protectors made their last stand on top of a hill just outside of camp,
the Backwater Bridge, on unceded treaty land owned by .
Child Camp was created in honor of Crazy Horse, who had founded
warrior society of the same name. On February 1, a highly militarized
force once again raided the camp, tearing down tipis, disrupting
and arresting 76 people. e Standing Rock Tribal Council sided
law enforcement and North Dakota’s corporate media in dismissing
arrested as “rogue protestors” acting outside the “original intent of the
Protectors.” 59 A week later, the Army Corps issued the nal permit.
free to drill under the river.
North Dakota governor Doug Burgum issued an evacuation
cra ing a tall tale about trash in the camps and saying, with painful
that evacuation was necessary “to avoid an ecological disaster to the
River” in the spring. 60 e Standing Rock Tribal Council issued its
trespass notice to Ladonna Allard, evicting the entire Sacred Stone
from her land on the reservation. Ladonna was shocked. Not only
the tribe supported the founding of the camp with a formal resolution,
also, she was unaware that some of her siblings had sold their portions
the family land back to the tribe many years ago, giving the tribe a
ownership of the parcel. On February 21 and 22, the Oceti Sakowin
Camp was raided by
teams, riot cops, helicopters and tanks, arresting
50 people. Several structures were burned to the ground before they
be seized, and one Water Protector was trapped inside a burning
su ering third degree burns across her head and face. A few days
the entire Sacred Stone Camp was bulldozed to the ground. Along with
straw bale school, the kitchen, greenhouses, composting toilets, tipis and
went countless memories and visions for a permanent cultural
where young people could come to live close to the land and learn
language and history. is was not the ending that anyone had
Water Protectors were forced to remove, as thousands of our
before. In less than a month, had nished construction on
the entire pipeline and lled it with oil.
Searching for Justice
all was said and done, how did the dust settle from this historic event?
battle continues to this day in courtrooms across the country. Of the
of legal cases that came out of it, did anyone get justice?
July 11, 2017, Water Protector Red Fawn Fallis was sentenced to 57
in federal prison, followed by three years of probation. 61 Originally
with the attempted murder of a police o cer, she ended up
guilty to “civil disorder” and “possession of a rearm by a convicted
e feds dropped the main charge, “discharge of a rearm in a felony
the day before, President Trump had pardoned two Oregon cattlemen,
and Steven Hammond, both convicted in 2012 of arson for the
of destroying federal property. A good friend of Vice President
Mike Pence even gave them a ride home in his private jet. 62
had been the inspiration for Aamon and Ryan Bundy and their rightwing
militia’s armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in
in 2016, for which the Bundys were later tried and acquitted of all
e system works di erently for Native people.
that “civil disorder” charge, for example. It’s a vague statute that is
rarely used; in fact it is used almost exclusively to repress social
It was created in the late 1960s at the height of the Black Power,
Power and anti-war movements. It was used against members
involved in the occupation of Wounded Knee.
is is not a coincidence. As
Baldwin said, “History is not past. It is the present.” Indigenous
movements in this country have a clear lineage, as does the
of those movements by the US government. In Red Fawn’s case,
attorneys alleged that she red a gun while being arrested on October 27,
during the raid of the 1851 Treaty Camp. e gun was later revealed to
belonged to her boyfriend, Heath Harmon, from the Fort Berthold
who she met in the camps but turned out to be a paid
informant. He never revealed this fact to her, continuing his
even during visits to see her in jail — the truth came out only through
investigative journalism of e Intercept. 63 Harmon’s uncle had been a
cer that fought alongside the , against , during the occupation
Wounded Knee, and then with the ’s Special Operations unit was
to every major Native con ict that happened in the US.” 64 Not
that one of Harmon’s roles in the o camps was to con rm
the the presence of speci c members. Red Fawn, who he clearly
grew up in the American Indian Movement; her mother had
start the Colorado chapter in the early 1970s. Red Fawn and her
maintained her innocence, stating that she was forced to accept
plea deal because she could not receive a fair trial due to bias in the
Dakota jury pool and the prosecution’s withholding of evidence.
addition to Red Fawn, six other Water Protectors were charged at the
level, all of them Indigenous. Five were charged with “civil disorder”
“use of re to commit a felony,” for their alleged role in the burning of
during the raid of the Treaty Camp: Michael Markus (Rattler),
White (Angry Bird), Michael Giron (Little Feather), Dion Ortiz and
Miller-Castillo. All of them accepted plea deals except Miller-
who still has not been arraigned. Red Fawn and Rattler remain in
Little Feather, Dion Ortiz and Angry Bird are still under mandatory
Nastacio was one of the Water Protectors who stopped Kyle
the private security worker who was chased into the river while
an assault ri e at people during the raid of the Treaty Camp.
Nastacio likely saved lives, he was charged with federal-level
terrorism charges. 65 ompson himself was never charged with a
(neither was the man who pulled a gun on Water Protectors during a
at the Mandan rail yard). Nastacio’s charges were eventually
dropped a er
ompson himself did an interview expressing regret for his
and saying “It was just a miscommunication on both sides.” Two
Water Protectors, Mike Fasig and Israel Hernandez, were charged with
level felonies for their role in de-escalating ompson. ey agreed to
diversions and, a er paying nes and doing community service,
had their charges dismissed. 66
Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, two young women from the
Stand” o camp in Iowa, were indicted in late 2019 on
federal felony charges, a er publicly claiming responsibility for
the pipeline with acetylene torches and re, causing millions of
of damage. eir trial is scheduled for June 2020, and they each face
to 110 years in prison. 67
the state level, over 750 people were arrested, producing more than 800
criminal cases, with charges ranging from misdemeanor trespassing to
rioting. 68 Nearly 400 of those cases were thrown out, mostly for lack
evidence. Only about 170 resulted in convictions, most of those through
agreements. Nearly 200 cases were resolved through pretrial diversion,
the case is postponed and the charges eventually dismissed if the
meets certain conditions. Forty-two were acquitted at trial,
the judges’ refusal to move trials to a di erent part of the state that
not been as saturated with biased media. A survey by the National Jury
Project found that about 80% of the potential jury pool in Mandan and
had already prejudged the Water Protector defendants as guilty,
it impossible to get a fair trial.
A Purple Heart for Sophia
then there is the case of Sophia Wilansky. Long a er the camps at
Rock were cleared and oil was already owing through the
I found myself on the Fourth of July at the Sisseton Dakota Pow
where everything that is important to me was popping … dancing,
moccasin games and thousands of beautiful Native people. As is
at the opening, veterans and patriotism are honored. at is
I found Sophia Wilansky, being honored at the Sisseton Powwow, for
sacri ces she made protecting Mni Sose, the Missouri River. I would like
give her a purple heart.
Sophia Wilansky is someone that North Dakota would like to
A er all, when 21-year-old New Yorker Wilansky’s arm was blown
by a concussion grenade during the Battle of Backwater Bridge,
County Sheri Kirchmeier suggested that the Water Protectors were
perpetrators. Her father, attorney Wayne Wilansky, di ered, “ e police
not do this by accident — it was an intentional act of throwing it directly
her.” As Wilansky’s father’s statement went viral, subsequent police reports
Wilansky’s arm was injured when a propane canister she was
to throw exploded.
the hospital, police took her clothing and the shred of shrapnel removed
her arm. ey then convened a secretive grand jury and attempted to
the Water Protector that had driven her to the hospital. He
that subpoena and refused to testify. Wilansky and her attorneys
for almost two years to get the evidence back, but the federal
has refused, saying it is “needed for the ongoing investigation.”
November 2018, Wilansky sued Morton County for millions of dollars for
force, assault, negligence, emotional distress and defamation. 69 To
day, the government refuses to give up the evidence, and no one has
arrested or indicted in relation to her injury. 70
I saw Sophia at the pow wow, she had a big support system for her
and looked frail, but resolved. I gave her a small hug, introduced myself
gave her a kiss on the forehead. I thanked her for her courage, and I
in awe and wonder at the Sisseton Dakota Powwow, full of
joy and honor. I am always in awe of the Dakota people, perhaps
of the most persecuted Native people in this country. ey received
wrath of General Sibley, were massacred by the Army, forced into prison
hung in the largest mass hanging in US history and expelled from
homelands with bounties on their heads. But there they were, honoring
Wilansky, fellow patriot to the land.
long list of other civil lawsuits were led a er the camps at Standing
nally cleared. Two more were led against law enforcement for their
that same night during the Battle of Backwater Bridge, one by a
of nine Water Protectors who su ered injuries at the hands of police, 71
the other by Marcus Mitchell, a young Dine (Navajo) Water Protector
was shot in the eye by a beanbag round. Mitchell permanently lost
in his le eye and all other senses in parts of his face. His cervical
was injured during a brutal arrest, and police later concealed his
from family for days while they shackled him to a hospital
and interrogated him incessantly. 72 Both those cases are still pending.
members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a reservation priest
law enforcement and state o cials over the prolonged shutdown of the
claiming it violated tribal members’ constitutional rights to travel,
pray and express themselves. ey also claim the highway closure
a form of extortion against the tribe and an attempt to manipulate
coverage of the Water Protector camps. 73 at case is still pending.
Transfer Partners sued Greenpeace and other environmental
for racketeering and defamation, seeking $300 million in damages
claiming that the entire o movement was concocted by “a
of putative not-for-pro ts and rogue eco-terrorist groups who
patterns of criminal activity and campaigns of misinformation to
legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental
at case, which was clearly nothing more than an intimidation
was thrown out in February 2019. 75
mentioned previously, a North Dakota rancher named David Meyer
guilty to federal charges for killing six bald eagles through improper
of a poison called Rozol. 76 Meyer was the owner of the Cannonball
the private land adjacent to the Oceti Sakowin camp, on which the
Treaty Camp was established and raided. In early 2016, just as the
Sacred Stone Camp was rst being founded, Meyer spread over 40,000
of Rozol across 5400 acres of his ranch. Dead bu alo, bald eagles,
other wildlife were found on his ranch and on the reservation nearby. In
2016, Meyer sold the entire 7000 acre ranch to Energy Transfer
It turns out that Meyer did not have the required license to use the
poison, and he failed to follow
guidelines for applying it — instead of
it underground in the prairie dog burrows, he just spread it all over
surface. He also failed to dispose of the dead prairie dogs correctly. 77
his federal conviction, Meyer was let o with probation and some
nes. Many Water Protectors feel the Rozol might be responsible for
“ cough,” the horrible respiratory infections and ailments that
of people su ered from in the camps.
Symptoms of the
cough include coughing accompanied by severe
deep lung congestion and discomfort. Not cured by antibiotics,
o en lasts from two to 16 weeks. Some report bloody noses and brain
Others report coughing up blood. Some say the cough is a simple
to the weather and the rough winter living conditions at camp
a possible reaction to repeated exposure to chemicals sprayed by the
at the front line. Others blame low- ying crop-dusting planes
that might be dropping chemicals on the camps late at night. 78
investigation into the chemical spraying of Water Protectors is
In March of 2020, Indigenous Life Movement posted the following
WHO WERE IN STANDING ROCK OCTOBER
you were in Standing Rock the months of Oct to Nov 2016, you
intentionally poisoned by the Governor of North Dakota Jack
Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County Sheri s Department
the pilot who knowingly sprayed poisonous chemicals over the
Rock Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone Camps.
this time, the Morton County Sheri s Department directed a
operation where they sprayed an aerosol called Chlorophacinone,
known as (a poison used to kill prairie dogs). e poisoning
human life took place during the overnight hours nearly 7 weeks by
agricultural aircra .
who were at the camps were poisoned by the State of
Dakota and may have developed severe memory loss (short and
term), behavioral changes (anxiety, paranoia, delusions),
and various forms of cancers (brain, breast and lungs)
their time at the Standing Rock camps.
to be released show the agricultural aircra spraying chemicals
the “Oceti Sakowin” camps.
individuals who were at the camps during these months contact us
you noticed a change in your health following the Standing Rock
Please help us make the connections between changes in your
health following November 2016 and the
through the message section on our page.
of you are familiar with the severe cough that followed the
in Standing Rock and many who were attending have developed
brain tumors, various forms of cancers and other severe health
North Dakota attorney general is suing the federal government to
money the state spent policing the protests. 80 State law enforcement
emergency management agencies spent $43 million policing the
funded by loans from the state-owned Bank of North
ey were reimbursed $15 million from pipeline owner Energy
Partners and $10 million from the federal government 81 and are
suing the feds for the remainder. 82,83
North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board led a civil
against TigerSwan, the private security company that led the multi-
agency intelligence operation.
e lawsuit stated that the security company
its founder worked illegally in North Dakota. 84 e had noti ed
in September 2016 that it was illegally providing security services
North Dakota. TigerSwan then applied for licensure twice and was
both times. But according to the lawsuit, TigerSwan’s mercenaries,
with semiautomatic ri es and sidearms, continued security services
during and a er its license application was rejected. TigerSwan
that within North Dakota’s borders it provided only consulting
e case against them was dismissed in May 2018, 85 and the ND
Court upheld the decision in August 2019. 86
Transfer Partners themselves faced 83 counts of permit violations
during construction of the pipeline.
e North Dakota Public Service
let them o with zero nes, just promises to plant some trees. 87
how about the pipeline itself? Standing Rock and three other tribes
suing Energy Transfer Partners and the federal government over the
of the Dakota Access Ppipeline itself, hoping to get it shut down.
As that case proceeds,
has proposed to double the capacity of the line. In
March 2020, just as this book went into publication, a US District Court
ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to go back and conduct a
environmental impact statement, ruling that they had not met the
of the National Environmental Policy Act. e judge has asked for
legal brie ngs from both sides about whether to shut the pipeline
in the interim.
Spreading the Sacred Fire
the future, our descendants will be sitting around a re in their lodges
this story of when the two legged tried to destroy the earth. We are
doubt in a sacred legend that will be told for thousands of years. For
reasons, we have been speci cally placed here on earth to
in this incredibly sacred time. We need to believe in what our
tells us and to nd the strength to follow it. is sacred story needs
and we are the chosen ones. Rise strong and never stop believing in
great power of this earth. We are completely surrounded by our
—Isaac Murdoch, Anishinaabe artist
the sacred res of the o camps at Standing Rock were nally
they spread across the continent. Water Protectors had given
everything to be there, formed new connections and gained new skills,
gotten the world’s attention. We had tasted the power that comes from
land, our ancestors, our prophecies and our coming together to face our
and stand for Mother Earth. e ght against zuzeca sapa, the black
Protectors headed east to resist the Mountain Valley pipeline in
and the network of Enbridge pipelines in the Great Lakes,
a proposed new tar sands pipeline called Line 3 right here in our
Anishinaabe communities of Northern Minnesota.
ey headed south to
the other portions of Dakota Access in Iowa, Illinois and the swamps
Louisiana, where Cherri Foylin and the folks at L’eau Et La Vie Camp
months of delay in the line’s completion. In Florida, the Seminole
led massive opposition to Enbridge’s Sable pipeline. In Texas, the Two
Camp and Society of Native Nations led direct action campaigns
the Trans-Pecos pipeline, another project. In Tennessee, Osage
Muskogee youth leaders blockaded the entrance to the Valero re nery,
of the proposed Diamond Pipeline. In New Mexico, the Diné
(Navajo) and their allies successfully stopped the Piñon Pipeline proposed
Chaco Canyon, a World Heritage Site. And, in Oregon the battle against
Pembina Pipeline Company, another Calgary-based black snake,
continues to rage.
e state has opposed the pipeline, landowners and tribal
have stood in its way, and, in the time of the Trump regime, new
attempt to tear jurisdiction from state hands. In February 2020,
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission postponed a critical decision,
more insecurity for investors and some reprieve for Water
the north, Indigenous-led resistance continues to this day against the
Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion and the Coastal Gas Link
which threatens the unceded territories of the Wet’suwet’en Nation,
encampments supported by the hereditary Chiefs of all ve clans have
blocking construction for years. e Lakota and Dakota are now
the proposed expansion of Dakota Access, which would double its
and have also turned their attention to new proposals for uranium
in the Black Hills, as well as the Keystone XL pipeline, resurrected by
a er a successful seven-year campaign had killed it during the
era. And of course, our relatives in Hawaii continue the ght to
their sacred mountain, Mauna Kea.
about these battles is new — Indigenous Peoples have been
their water, sacred sites and territories for thousands of years,
against the threats of extractive industry. But Standing Rock
two things. First, it breathed new life into these struggles. More
once in the months following the siege on the Missouri River I was
in my writing by a string of young grandchildren tumbling
my kitchen on Round Lake, all carrying shields and wearing
and gas masks and bandanas.
I write this, Enbridge is trying to gure out how to reroute its old Line 5
around the Bad River Reservation in Northern Wisconsin, a er the
refused many millions to renew their easement and has sued the
demanding removal of the line. e mid-term elections of 2018
a record number of Native American candidates, and Deb Haaland
Pueblo) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk) became the rst two
American women elected to Congress. 88 In North Dakota, Ruth Anna
alo, from the Fort Berthold Reservation, won a state house seat by
ousting the author of the racist Voter ID bill that would disenfranchise
voters, which passed just before the mid-terms. 89,90 Water Protectors
the struggle at Standing Rock shed new light on Native people and
struggles. It has done more for Native visibility than any other event in
memory. Many had forgotten, but in fact we are still here.
has in turn changed the conversation around fossil fuels in this
by humanizing the abstract debates around carbon emissions and
front-line communities slowly towards the center of the discussion
the climate crisis and the urgent need to transform our energy system.
Rock put legs on recent proposals for a Green New Deal and
people to infuse those proposals with a consideration of “climate
Indeed, the plan’s architect, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, was also at
Rock. She talks about feeling like a magnet, driving to Standing
and the watershed moment it was for her individually and our
movement. Lakota People’s Law Project lead counsel Chase Iron Eyes said,
so encouraging to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say that the
for her historic run for Congress was what happened at
Rock: the Grand Awakening, the spiritual awakening of all of
people who nd themselves in our hemisphere, who nd a home in
Green New Deal movement, we’ve always had a home for you….
we nd ourselves in this struggle together. Every aspect of the
New Deal must be implemented now. We have to take this
… hit the streets with it, hit every dusty road with it, and go
right into the halls of Congress. 91
the Indigenous Just Transition movement is growing nationally and
recognizing that 80% of the world’s biodiversity is in
territories and that First Nations have a long history of
ese proposals include work to move away from fossil fuels,
agriculture, create the next economy with hemp and ensure justice
Mother Earth as well as people.
communities continue to lead the transition to renewable
In fact, the rst solar farm in North Dakota went up this year, the
Community Solar Farm on the Standing Rock Reservation.
from the ashes of the Dakota Access Pipeline battle, the project shows
us all what the future looks like. It has added 300 kilowatts into the grid,
the Cannonball Youth Center and the Veterans Memorial
some of the largest coal mines and coal power plants are being closed
on the Navajo Nation, the largest tribe in the country is
renewable energy to market on the same power lines that carried
generation for 50 years. In 2017, the Kayenta Solar Facility came online
27 megawatts of power, a wholly owned Navajo project and the rst
solar project within the Navajo Nation. Dozens of solar and
projects are popping up all over Indian Country. Native people are
fact, Indigenous Peoples carry the answers to many of the political,
ecological and social crises of our time. We have lived in balance
Mother Earth, honoring our covenants with the Creator, for many
of years. It is a question of relationships. Standing Rock forced all
us to question our relationships with the water and the land and with all
beings, with one another as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
the Lakota are not free, we are not free. If the river is not free, we are not
Rock is an unpredicted history lesson for all of us. More than any
I recall since Wounded Knee, the Vietnam War or the time of
Luther King, it stands as a crossroads in the battle for social justice. It
about economic system transformation and profoundly a question of
future of this land. Standing Rock rekindled a memory of a people, not
a free people, but a people who faced their fears, knowing that the
of the Wasicu is a powerful force, but it is not as powerful as the
Rock is not only a place, it is a state of mind, and it is action. In a
when the rights of corporations override the rights of humans, stay
and remember that the law must be changed. For civil society is
as democracy is made, by the hands of people, courageous people,
is not a spectator sport. While at one time slavery was legal, it is no
and soon we must free our Mother Earth from her slavery to an
economy and ensure her rights. Absent any legal protections and
a regulatory system hijacked by oil interests and a federal government
crisis, the people and the river remain the only clear and sentient beings.
is the time of the seventh generation, rising up to save Mother Earth.
your responsibility for this moment. I understand mine. As I
my brothers and sisters in every direction continue to ght for the
and water, I am awed, inspired, and I remember that I am one of them.
this moment, be present. Your descendants would appreciate your voice,
LaDonna Bravebull Allard reminds us,
want to destroy this movement because it is too powerful because
stand in prayer. ey don’t know that this is just the beginning.
we will be stronger in prayer. Remember how history will
you as the people who stood up to save the water and the world
the people who betrayed the world. You all have a name in history.
are you in this time and place? e world is watching. 92
corporations are some of the most powerful in the world. And the
systems are set up to protect them, not the water and de nitely
us. In other words, our ght continues. So we must continue to devote
full selves, and all our power, towards protecting our water and our
Earth, from all that which would destroy us.
at the same time, we must create the future we want. In our
prophecies we are told of a time when we would have a choice
two paths… one path is well-worn but scorched, and the other path
is is known as the prophecy of the seventh re. And that is where
are today. Now is the time to choose the green path over the scorched
e stakes are raised daily: Fires burn to the north, west, south and
and we all feel the grief of our Mother Earth, for we are her children. It
time to be a Water Protector. It is time to be a Black Snake Killa. It is time
be a Wiindigoo Slayer — that is, it is time to stop the monsters and
that plague our villages. It’s time for this generation to summon up
our courage, vision and prayers.
ey have the money, but we have the
We also have a vision for life in the future.
are not just ghting against something, but clearly and decidedly
walking with open eyes and hearts down the path that is green.
is is the
we belong to, and we will continue to protect it, as our ancestors did
us. is is our covenant with the Creator and with Mother Earth. Let
take time to be grateful for all we have accomplished. Let us celebrate the
and commitment it took. And let us keep moving forward.
The Last Tar Sands Pipeline
A Pipeline Runs Through It
It’s a moment in time. Standing with one-
h of the world’s water are the
the people of the manoomin and sturgeon. And they are
three million barrels a day of tar sands oil. Regulatory systems
to serve “the public” have been compromised for the sake of
corporations, many of them Canadian-born. An epidemic of
uenza has caused confusion.
is late stage Wiindigoo Capitalism. Wiindigoos are cannibals in
knowledge, and that’s what this is. at’s when the economics
extraction are brutal, or as the United Nations has explained, “because
are for the rst time in human history shi ing to energy sources
that are less energy e
cient, production of usable energy (exergy) will
more, not less, e ort on the part of societies to power both basic and
human activities.” 1 at’s extreme extraction, the bottom of the
so to speak, from tar sands to copper mining.
fact is that the United Nations itself, and many leading scientists, have
out that the economic models of extreme extraction and late stage
must go: “It can be safely said that no widely applicable economic
have been developed speci cally for the upcoming era. Here we
underutilized tenets of existing economic-theoretical thinking that
assist governments in channeling economies toward activity that causes
radically lighter burden on natural ecosystems and simultaneously ensures
equal opportunities for good human life. Our focus is on the transition
the next few decades.” 2
is is a story about the infrastructure we build in North America.
story about what the Anishinaabeg refer to as the time of the Seventh Fire,
time when it is said that we will have a choice between two paths — one
well worn and one scorched.
is is, from Calgary-based Enbridge’s
a story about their biggest proposed project — Line 3
a $7.5 billion proposal to build an entirely new pipeline in a
new route through the heart of pristine lakes and wild rice territories in
invisible colonial line crosses through the heartland of Anishinaabe
or Anishinaabe Territory, and this is a story about the people
oppose that line and why they oppose it.
the land to which the people belong. Today, Anishinaabe People are
three Canadian provinces and ve American states. We remain. Seven
remain in the north of Minnesota: Leech Lake, Fond du Lac,
Earth, Red Lake, Grand Portage, Mille Lacs and Bois Forte
ere are around 50,000 Anishinaabeg in Minnesota, and
territory spans about three million acres, with additional tribal
in the 1837, 1854 and 1855 Treaty Territories. Manoomin, or
rice, is a centerpiece of both the ecosystem and economy of the
— providing food for not only the belly, but the soul, as well as
for the family. Manoomin is the most sacred food of the
and is explicitly protected under treaty.
Anishinaabeg are numerous. Not as numerous as we once were, but
there are over 50,000 Anishinaabeg in Minnesota, most from the
reservations in the north.
is is important because Enbridge’s history of
is largely with smaller First Nations in Canada.
is di erent. We have large reservation lands, and politically the
exercise more jurisdiction in the state than in Canada, and arguably
more political power. ere’s a history written on the land.
dam projects and big mines came rst — the copper boulders
the big pines. Seventy- ve million acres of forest were clear cut in
Territory, most of the Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota
laid to waste over the course of 50 years of exploitation. at built
empires, like Weyerhauser, one of the largest lumber companies in the
at also brought on an apocalypse of the Wiindigoo. As Elaine
Fleming writes in several essays in Tribal College Journal,
building the dams on the Mississippi River, which runs through our
42,000 acres of land were ooded. We are water people.
villages and burial sites were next to the lakes and rivers. When the
society built its dams to provide energy for the mills in St. Paul
Minneapolis, and also to help oat the logs downriver to support
logging industry, the Ojibwe people were not asked how we would
Come to the North Country
in the 1950s, a er all these dams, railroads, toxic waste dumps and
be a ected.
e e ects were devastating, destroying our wild rice beds,
bogs, villages, and ooding our gravesites.
Wiindigoo killed us in many ways, taking our land and culture.
1880, dams were constructed on Leech Lake and Lake
Our reservation is currently 50% water. In Minnesota,
h, eighth, and twel h largest lakes are on our reservation.
lakes are now reservoirs, no longer natural. We are water people.
harvest wild rice and eat sh. We gather swamp cranberries. Our
homes and villages were next to the lakes and streams.
ey were our
Our gardens and graveyards were also next to the water. Water
on these lakes were raised 9 to 11 feet and ooded 42,000 acres of
e water destroyed our rice beds that grow best in two to
feet of water. According to Anton Treuer, a noted Ojibwe scholar
language professor, the ooding resulted in clear cutting, poverty,
on annuities, destruction of gravesites, malnutrition and
illness, and death. With the completion of Winnibigoshish
Dam, not only were 62 square miles of land
ooded, but we also
a smallpox epidemic. Wiindigoo continued to eat our
up.… Federal Dam was completed on Leech Lake and 78 square
of land was ooded. Today, 75% of the land within the Leech Lake
is this Chippewa National Forest. Because of the huge
of white pines on our reservation, the logging industry
our lands.… Less than 4% of the land within the reservation
is held by the Leech Lake Band. at’s what colonialism looks like. 3
politicians, sociologists and more always talk about the resilience
Native people. A er all, we are still around a er all these Wiindigoos.
because we are a strong people. Nice to be acknowledged, but most of
would rather just have an opportunity to live happily, not just survive and
third world treatment and racism, Interprovincial Pipeline Company
its US subsidiary, Lakehead Pipeline Company, began building crude oil
across Anishinaabe Territory. It built four crude oil pipelines,
unimaginatively Lines 1, 2, 3 and 4, across northern Minnesota to
ese connected to Line 5, which transported oil to
and Detroit via northern Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of
and to Line 6, which brought Canadian crude to Chicago.
pipelines were constructed before the creation of federal
laws like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and
chose the route through the Anishinaabe reservations, all quickly
by the Bureau of Indian A airs, and during a time when federal
policies were underway as well as the relocation era — moving
people to the cities. e pipes ran through many Anishinaabe
including Red Lake, Leech Lake and Fond du Lac
in Minnesota, the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin and the
Odawa Territory in Michigan.
e Anishinaabeg share treaties throughout
territory taken by these pipelines, but the pipelines were built with
for our Treaty Rights. During the 1980s and 90s Canadian crude
production grew slowly, and Lakehead responded by pushing more oil
its existing pipelines. ese pipelines became known as the
System.” In early 1998, Interprovincial Pipeline Company
its name to “Enbridge Inc.,” which is a contraction of “energy” and
as a public relations move that kicked o a new and more
phase of oil extraction: tar sands and then fracked oil. As
Enbridge will tell a history:
work was pivotal in spurring the growth of Western Canadian oil
In our rst full year of pipeline operations, we shipped 30.6
barrels of oil. Today we transport an average of 2.8 million
of oil every day. rough the years, we’ve continued to open new
for Canadian crude, and played a critical role in developing
American energy infrastructure.
Feb. 27, 2017, Enbridge Inc. and Spectra Energy Corp. nalized
terms of a de nitive merger agreement. e transaction created the
energy infrastructure company in North America, and one of
largest in the world — with an enterprise value of approximately
billion (C$166 billion), a US$58 billion (C$75 billion)
of secured and potential capital growth projects, and
anticipated annual dividend growth of 10 percent through 2020. 4
The Forgotten Oil Spills
Black Snake Grows: Tar Sands and Fracked Oil
early pipelines brought oil spills to Anishinaabe Territory for the rst
in history, including many of the largest on-land oil spills recorded in
US. For example, just in the US, Line 3 alone spilled 1.9 million gallons
the 1970s, when it was new, 1.8 million gallons in the 1980s and 2.8
gallons in the 1990s, for a total of 6.5 million gallons of crude oil.
leak, and they contaminate our water. For example, on March 3,
5 the Line 3 pipeline ruptured near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, spilling
1.7 million gallons of oil into the Prairie River, a er a negligently
delayed response by the company. 6
e Prairie is a tributary of the
so were it not for the 18 inches of ice on top of the river, the spill
have poisoned the drinking water of millions downstream, and would
likely be remembered very di erently.
ankfully, this was back in the days
our territories were still frozen and snow-covered in March, before
change had begun to sink its teeth in.
to sheer luck, the cleanup was relatively quick and e ective, so the
received nowhere near as much media attention as the catastrophic
Kalamazoo River spill of 2010.
sands (also known as oil sands) is a low quality form of oil that
of bitumen mixed with sand, clay and water. Vast quantities of
substance are found in Alberta, Canada, and in eastern Venezuela.
deposits are known to exist in Utah, parts of Russia, Congo
Madagascar and elsewhere, but it is currently only
produced in Canada and Venezuela.
sands is extreme oil in every way. Its extraction is particularly
and water-intensive, polluting, and destructive. It is either strip
or produced by injecting high pressure steam into the ground to
the bitumen and get it to ow to the surface. To process it into
fuel requires complex upgrading and re ning that is also highly
intensive and polluting. 7
sands oil needs a lot of special processing because it’s about the
of peanut butter and that won’t work out well. ere are
basically two ways to process the bitumen or tar sands oil. As Inside Climate
explains, “Some tar sands producers use on-site upgrading facilities to
the bitumen into synthetic crude, which is similar to conventional
oil. Other producers dilute the bitumen using either conventional
crude or a cocktail of natural gas liquids. e resulting diluted bitumen,
dilbit, has the consistency of conventional crude and can be pumped
pipelines.” What comprises the diluent is a trade secret, making it
even bigger challenge to clean up. One of the knowns in the cocktail is
a pretty well known carcinogen. 8
sands oil is also more dangerous to transport because it’s corrosive.
to say, it began as sand, so has a good deal of quartz in it, causing
friction. More than that however the dilbit requires dilution.
involves a lot more chemicals, all of which are corrosive.
ere are all sorts
Canadian studies which say that it’s not corrosive, but the fact is that the
are corroding. e US is crossed by about two million miles of
pipelines. Every year there are leaks. As Scienti c American reports,
charge that pipelines carrying diluted bitumen, or ‘dilbit’ — a
oil extracted from tar sands mined in northern Alberta — pose a
risk because, compared with more conventional crude, they
operate at higher temperatures, which have been linked to
corrosion. ese pipelines also have to ow at higher
that may contribute to rupture as well. Environmental group
Natural Resources Defense Council (
) notes that pipelines in the
Midwest that routinely carry oil from tar sands have spilled 3.6
more oil per pipeline mile than the US average.…
chemistry of the tar sands oil could contribute to corrosion as
In processing, the tar sands are boiled to separate the bitumen
the surrounding sand and water, and then mixed with diluent —
hydrocarbons produced along with natural gas — to make the oil
viscous and able to ow. But even so, the resulting dilbit is among
lowest in hydrogen as well as the most viscous, sulfurous and acidic
form of oil produced today. 9
c American goes on to talk about the Pegasus Pipeline spill in
e Pegasus, built in the 1940s, carries 100,000 barrels of oil per
from Illinois to Texas. But given its age, to carry tar sands oil
had to retro t the tube to “compensate for the demands of
get old and pipes get brittle. Enbridge’s main line was built over 50
tar sand oil through in the opposite direction, but the higher
and pressures may nonetheless have contributed to the rupture
sped up preexisting corrosion.”
the while the Alberta government has been saying that tar sands oil, or
is no worse for pipelines than conventional oil. A study found that
is not corrosive at pipeline temperatures, though it is highly corrosive
re nery temperatures, suggesting that the higher temperatures might even
bene cial, killing o bacteria that does corrode pipelines. “‘ ere is no
that dilbit causes more failure than conventional oil,’ geologist John
of the provincial government research rm Alberta Innovates said….
helped prepare the Canadian province’s analysis of dilbit.” In the
Glen Hooks of the Sierra Club in Arkansas points out what
might be obvious to some. “
ere is no reason to trust oil companies when
they say pipelines are safe when there’s been spill a er spill a er spill.” 10
ago and represents the life blood of Canadian tar sands exports. With
press a er the Kalamazoo spill and some signi cant regulatory
proceedings, Enbridge entered what’s called a “consent decree.”
is is part
July 19, 2016, the US Justice Department “announced a consent decree
Calgary based Enbridge agreeing to pay $177 million and improve
safety, resolving claims from oil spills in Illinois and in Michigan in
e consent decree also said Enbridge ‘shall’ replace ‘Line 3,’ a 292
pipeline that carries Canadian crude from Neche ND to Superior
e decree said Enbridge should replace the pipeline ‘as
as practicable a er receiving required regulatory approvals
permits.’ If Line 3 isn’t replaced by December 31, 2017, Enbridge will be
with additional safety and monitoring requirements, according to
settlement agreement.” 11
the Line 3 was easy to approve in Canada. A er all, if Enbridge
been shipping 75% of the tar sands oil, there was no way that a
government was not going to support that. Enbridge is the third
corporation in Canada, and they billed it a replacement project, since
they would be replacing a decaying pipeline.
at reality was not the
e Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe refused Enbridge’s o er
rebuild the line in place, noting that they had already the burden of the
lines and the new Alberta Clipper (2010) line. at forced
to look for a new corridor. Now the company had a new pipeline
doubled in capacity, and a third of the route would have to be a
2013, Enbridge began to work on the route — that is, the company
a pipeline, known as the Sandpiper, which was intended to carry
barrels a day of fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken elds to the
Re nery (now Husky) in Superior Wisconsin, and then on to the
of the east. at project began so ening up the politics of northern
looking for a new route outside the Leech Lake Reservation.
selling pipelines is not the easiest thing, and in northern Minnesota it’s
proven to be more di
cult than in Canada.
project opened awareness about the state of Enbridge’s increasingly
infrastructure, and a new multi-racial alliance was formed between
shore owners who would be impacted by the project, Ojibwe tribes and
rice harvesters, as well as an increasingly vocal and powerful
environmental and climate movement.
e Sandpiper opposition, however,
received the national attention nor the support of major
groups, largely because it was a fracked oil pipeline and the
climate groups did not deem the danger to the environment to be of the
caliber as the very dirty tar sands pipelines, like the Keystone XL.
opposition was at a local level in Minnesota, largely led by Native
like Honor the Earth and grassroots citizens organizations like
Friends of the Headwaters and Northern Water Alliance, comprised of
owners around the Park Rapids and Brainerd areas, a prime resort
and lake home area.
at pipeline project was defeated in 2016, as the
moved to the Dakota Access Pipeline to insure access to the
fracked oil elds. (Just to be clear the fracked oil is also pretty
and volatile.) In addition to the extreme nature of fracking, the
2013 Lac Megantic Quebec oil train disaster was fracked oil from the
opposition to the proposed project was strong. It’s not surprising
the proposed route ran through the center of wild rice territory. All
of the Ojibwe bands are concerned, and most questioned if the Public
to Minnesota: Enbridge Returns after Standing
and the Line 3 Regulatory Capture
Commission has the sole authority to grant permits over tribal
within the 1855 treaty area. Six Anishinaabe governments came out
opposing the project. In the
rst round on the Sandpiper, cultural
and any consultation were sorely lacking.
is not possible to identify — let alone to avoid — sites of historic,
and cultural signi cance, without consulting with the Tribal
Preservation O ce. Not doing so raises serious concerns about
ability,” Susan Klapel, Commissioner of Natural Resources for the
Lacs band of Ojibwe, wrote in a letter to the Public Utilities
“I ask you to not grant Enbridge (Sandpiper) permits through
proposed southern route,” Klapel wrote.
pipeline would cross lakes, creeks and watersheds, including
where tribes have worked long and hard to restore native sturgeon
and to protect wild rice. Imagine that one day you wake up and
out that a pipeline company wants to run a thirty-inch pipe pumping
barrels of oil per day under high pressure through your burial
sacred sites, medicinal plant harvesting areas, and no more than a
from your biggest wild rice harvesting areas. And, they didn’t even bother
mention it. at is to say that the company almost entirely neglected to
wild rice in the environmental impact assessment.
it is that Enbridge pursued the Sandpiper, and a er a three-year pitched
with tribal governments and local citizens, a lawsuit was led by non-
organization Friends of the Headwaters. e lawsuit resulted in a
Court ruling to require an Environmental Impact Statement, and
lost. at is, the company withdrew its application for the project
a er four years. 13 en, in August of 2016, Enbridge purchased the
Access Pipeline — well, 28% of it. e epic story of the battle at
Rock is well known; what’s not so well known is that Enbridge’s
shored up the project, providing the security of the largest pipeline
company in North America as a backer.
$38 million in military force and winter came to Standing Rock,
returned to northern Minnesota, prepared to create a new
dialogue on their “replacement” project, which was not exactly a
December 13, 2016, Enbridge held an informational meeting in Bemidji
aimed at white landowners and county commissioners. But when
Barrett, aka omas X, learned of the meeting, he shared the
widely, and Enbridge representatives found themselves in a
of 100 plus concerned landowners, many from Leech Lake, Red Lake
was an uncomfortable moment for the corporation. A er all, the
Energy Board of Canada had, on November 29, 2016, denied
to Enbridge’s $3.5 billion Northern Gateway Pipeline project. Nine
earlier, at Backwater Bridge on Standing Rock, a full military assault on
Protectors had resulted in a number of injuries, including that of
Wilensky, whose arm was brutally torn apart by a compression
lobbed by security forces.
e Sandpiper had been cancelled on August 2, 2016.
bought 28% of the Dakota Access Pipeline Project. A lot of those
who opposed the Sandpiper had become politicized by big oil
projects, and when they heard about Standing Rock, a lot of them
out there. ousands of Minnesotans went to Standing Rock, including
leaders, school groups, veterans and state representatives.
meeting did not go as Enbridge had planned. at’s to say the least.
company had planned a meet-and-greet in Bemidji at the Doubletree,
a cold day in December. Everyone was crowded into a small room. e
representatives had set up tables around the perimeter of the
a set of learning stations, like a science fair. ey had some cookies to
out. I walked into the room just to see what was going on. Magistrate
Treuer was leaning up against the wall with her oxygen tank, a couple
Elders were standing there looking at things, and there were no chairs.
seemed rather, well, inhospitable.
were a lot of Natives mulling about, far more than non-Natives.
folks were talking earnestly to a few of the non-Indians, but they
seem very keen to talk to the Native people.
I decided to ask a question. I see that omas X is there, and I say to
someone should say something. He said, ‘You should, you know the
about it.’ So I did, in my biggest Mom voice, I asked: “As one third
owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, is Enbridge responsible for the
to our people? Are you going to shoot us here for your pipeline
pretty much what I asked.
answer from the company’s representatives who had been passing out
And, then, a lot of other people started demanding an answer, and
got loud. And then the police came. at’s how it started: Round Two of
began a confusion of regulatory proceedings.
Minnesota Court of Appeals had ordered an environmental impact
on the proposed Sandpiper pipeline project. Prior to that the
Utilities Commission had thought that it could approve these mega
without an environmental impact statement. e through the
of Commerce did the scoping for Sandpiper and Line 3
but then when Sandpiper was withdrawn, the did not provide
comment process to allow consideration of Line 3 by itself. In good form,
and the Minnesota decided to hold a series of public
In the depth of winter. In hard to reach locations. With very little
notice. at was the Sandpiper style. What Enbridge and the
anticipate was the depth of conviction of our people. So we all went,
across those scary roads at ten below zero to Fosston, Halstad, ief
Falls, Bagley and all sorts of small towns in a depressed agriculture
in the north. Pipelines had been presented, basically as panaceas for all
of the economy. Have a depressed rural economy? What you need is a
a Canadian pipeline. Enbridge started making promises it would
be able to keep.
the and Enbridge switched pipeline projects, many of us had
pretty extensive testimony on the impact of the Sandpiper on our
and wild rice, and now found we were in a di erent regulatory
at was pretty confusing. en add in the police force, which
to show up in numbers at the public hearings. At one point, in the
town of Hackensack, citizens who wanted to testify had to walk
a gauntlet of police just to get into a public meeting, James Reents
the Northern Water Alliance told me, irritated, for sure, that the public
being so heavily policed for a Canadian project.
process became more cumbersome and confusing. Forced into an
impact assessment project, the Public Utilities Commission
have to stand up against government agencies and corporations.
that the Department of Commerce should complete the
review, not the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which,
700 sta and a large budget for environmental review, seemed to be an
choice. Administrative Law Judge Ann O’Rielly presided over the
e 22 “public information” meetings during the process and
/ process were in June 2017. e public hearings (the ones
over by ALJ O’Reilly) were in September and October 2017 just
the Line 3 evidentiary hearing in early November 2017.
these hearings hundreds of people would stand there to talk. Or sign up.
times, getting to talk was, well, sort of like winning the lottery. We
each given three minutes to ask questions and present our views. We,
people, would cry, explain ecosystems, our culture, our wild rice,
treaties, climate change and scienti c data.
those people are from di erent walks of life, but they all agree on
point, in this case, that no one wanted an oil company to put a new
through our collective watersheds and into our collective future. To
the regulatory process which had been created, a set of citizens,
and corporations became intervenors in the Public Utilities
process — that is, weighing in on either the side of the water or
intervenors included the tribal governments of Leech Lake, Fond du
Mille Lacs, Red Lake and White Earth. It also included grassroots
organizations like the Northern Water Alliance (represented by Jim
and Mary Ackerman), Friends of the Headwaters (Richard Smith,
legal counsel Scott Strand from Minnesota Center for Environmental
and Youth Climate Intervenors, a group of high school and
students who, like others nationally and internationally, had come to
for future generations and against climate change practices
also included Donovan and Anna Drydal, a farming couple
whose land would be crossed by the proposed Line 3 pipeline project.
Club also intervened in the process. On the Enbridge team were
of labor and oil interests. Kevin Pranis appeared on behalf of
Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota (Laborers
e rest of the interests were largely represented by attorneys.
Anna Friedlander, O’Donoghue & O’Donoghue,
and Sam Jackson,
& Cummins, appeared on behalf of the United Association of
and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of
United States and Canada, - (United Association). Michael
Dorsey & Whitney, , appeared on behalf of Shippers for Secure,
and Economical Petroleum Transportation (Shippers).
while the administrative law judge was listening to our comments, all
of them, against the pipeline, Enbridge was busy lobbying the Public
Commission. ey spent a total of $11 million in Minnesota
when all was told. 14 And, that’s how a democracy gets bought by a
corporation. ey focused on the Public Utilities Commission,
there, they only had to move ve people. And those people were not
they were appointed. And, the Public Utilities Commission
appeared to believe they were above the law.
tribes became more frustrated with their exclusion from the process,
that the pipelines not only crossed tribal lands, but also crossed the
Treaty Territory, where the Anishinaabeg harvest signi cant wild rice.
mid-March 2017, Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission rejected a
appeal by White Earth and other tribal nations to consider a survey of
cultural properties in the nal decision to approve or reject the new
3. 15 Fond du Lac, like Leech Lake Reservation, had already been
by the Enbridge Main Line and was not only facing the Enbridge
but also proposals for new mining in their watershed — two giant
which threated their nation. Fond du Lac’s position on Enbridge
with negotiations and money over time, and the tribe began
with Enbridge and the state to complete a review of 65 miles of the
For public relations purposes, it appeared that a division was forming
the tribes in the north, each faced with more threats to their
e ’s message sticks to that old story: yeah, we get it, Native culture is
so we’ll support a survey … but it doesn’t matter enough to
factor into our nal decision to deny Enbridge’s new project or send
new tar sands line through tribal treaty lands and Minnesota’s wetlands,”
Houska, then National Campaigns Director for Honor the Earth, said.
comparison, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights also weighed
saying the completion of the cultural survey prior to the nal decision is
least the can do, and, as Houska notes, “pointedly reminding the
the resistance at Standing Rock and the need to move past historical
of 16 injustices.”
at the Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature, pipeline
began pushing bills which would eliminate entirely a regulatory
on the pipeline. Later bills would appear which would limit civil
and the rights of assembly and freedom of speech to those who
pipelines as well as most protests, from those against gun violence to
brutality. 17 ose bills continue to be introduced in Minnesota and
opposition to these bills continued to grow. Packed hearing
included people from all walks of life. Dawn Goodwin testi ed at the
hearing on behalf of White Earth Elders and talked about Rice Lake
eloquently, on perhaps her hundredth time making the trek to a
“I can have $1000 in my pocket, but if I don’t have wild rice,
tea and maple syrup I’m poor.”
although exhausted from driving all over the state, we prepared for
Hearings in St. Paul. ere we heard from Enbridge, and more
Enbridge, and did not even hear our sacred wild rice mentioned.
law judge then held more hearings, about 60 of them. In total
72,000 people testi ed at hearings involving Enbridge’s Line 3. Of that
68,000 people testi ed against the project.
Ticking Time Bomb?
3 is now over 50 years old, well past its intended lifespan. Enbridge’s
Corridor has six pipelines in it — the old Lakehead Lines 1, 2, 3
4, plus the new Alberta Clipper and its diluent companion, Line 13.
governmental reports refer to Lines 3 and 4 as a single unit, because of
complicated ways they work in tandem. Together, they are responsible
not only the 1991 Grand Rapids spill, but also the catastrophic 2002 spill
Cohasset, MN; the 2007 explosion in Clearbrook, MN, that killed two
a serious spill in Regina, Saskatchewan, in December 2014; and
other ruptures and spills. 18 Enbridge reports that since 1990, Line
has had at least 15 large spills (more than 50 barrels each), but the number
small spills and leaks is anybody’s guess. At one point, the number was
Greenpeace reports that, “over the past decade, hazardous liquid
spills in the US have led to 20 fatalities, 35 injuries, $2.6 billion in
and over 800,000 total barrels spilled (34 million gallons, or more than
gallons every day.” 19 at’s some oil.
3 is crumbling. According to Enbridge’s own data, it has 10 times as
corrosion anomalies per mile than any other pipeline in their
ey estimate over half a million structural anomalies in
3, or about 1 every 10 feet. Enbridge Integrity Supervisor Laura