Standing Rock redux

Two weeks ago I wrote about a gathering in North Dakota where Native American water protectors took a stand against a pipeline that would cross bodies of water 200 times on its way to Illinois. Since then the camp has grown and the media has been reporting the industry’s point of view. There is another side to the story, and it isn’t very pretty.

Last Friday the tribe submitted to the court an updated inventory of sacred sites in the path of the construction. On Saturday the developers of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Inc., Enbridge Corporation, and Marathon Oil, used their bulldozers to create a path 150 feet wide and two miles long through the sacred sites. This is not coincidental. It is psychological warfare. If the sacred sites don’t exist, they can’t be preserved. Fait accompli.

In reaction to the desecration of ancestral graves, protestors went through a barbed wire fence delineating land held in trust for the tribe and land in private ownership. According to the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, right before the sites were deliberately destroyed, all of the law enforcement mysteriously disappeared. What appeared was private security with attack dogs.

All of the stories appearing in national media reported that the protest had turned violent. They reported that some of the security team needed medical treatment, as did their dogs. They didn’t report that unarmed women and children, who had been praying, were attacked by security dogs and pepper sprayed. If media reports were the only source of information, one would believe that it was a repeat of Custer’s Last Stand. Only it wasn’t.

The security forces deliberately provoked the water protectors. No arrests were made. The sheriff showed up as soon as the crowd dispersed. Fortunately, Democracy Now! was there with their cameras and recorded the incident.

Coincidentally, the security firm hired to provoke this incident, has a pretty spotty reputation. They were in the news after the Orlando attack on a Gay nightclub. The Orlando shooter was once an employee of G4S — even after he was investigated by the FBI. G4S lost contracts to guard nuclear power plants when employees were caught sleeping on the job. They failed to provide enough security personnel at the London Olympics in 2012. They sicced dogs on women and children in North Dakota.

This reaction to a Native American protest is just another example of rampant racism in America. The original plan was to cross the Missouri river just upstream from a city. The city didn’t want it so close to their water supply, so it was rerouted to just upstream from a reservation. White people didn’t want it, and Native Americans have been pushed around since the West was won.

Lest one thinks this is hyperbole, the Zuni and Navajo have been fighting development along the Grand Canyon. They don’t want uranium or copper mining to pollute the Colorado River as it winds through one of the wonders of the natural world — and their ancestral homeland. An Arizona congressman, Rep. Paul Gosar, has done everything possible to legislatively promote development of copper mining in the canyon. Remember the Gold King Mine?

We have one political party in denial about climate change, in denial about the ravages of racism, and in the pocket of the dirtiest and most subsidized industry on the planet. In a video expressing his support for the water protectors at Standing Rock, Robert Kennedy, Jr. pointed out that the costs of continued energy created from fossil fuels is too high.

According to Kennedy, it costs $3 billion to build a natural gas power plant, $3 billion to build a coal powered plant, $15 billion to build a nuclear powered plant and $2.2 billion to build a renewable energy plant. But once the fossil fuel or nuclear plant is built, there are ongoing costs to buy the fuel to power the plants. Wind and sun power does not have ongoing fuel costs. He sarcastically notes that we could use prime rib as a fuel. But why would we want to use expensive meat as fuel, when we could drive down the cost of energy by building better transmission lines and investing in clean energy?

Supporters of fossil fuels argue that we need to continue to extract them because of the byproducts that we need in everyday life. There are plastics and medicines and fertilizers. But those products could be made with biodegradable hemp. Even GJEP recognizes the value of hemp.

America has the skill and talent to create a revolution in energy, but we are being held hostage by an industry that knows it is a dinosaur. Let’s invest in hemp research, solar and wind power, batteries to store energy, transmission lines to move wind power from the open spaces to cities. Let’s stop investing in dinosaurs.

Alternative reporting, including the Democracy Now! video can be found at, where comments are welcome.


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