((U.S. President Donald Trump signs a presidential memorandum order Tuesday in Washington D.C. allowing the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline))
APTN National News
U.S. President Donald Trump’s directive issued Tuesday on the Dakota Access Pipeline carries echoes of former U.S. president Andrew Jackson’s defiance of the Supreme Court in the 1830s that led to the “Trail of Tears,” says Gary Dorr, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe’s General Council.
Dorr, who supported the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s resistance of the Dakota Access Pipeline and was involved in organizing opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, said he doesn’t believe Trump quite grasps the magnitude of his actions sealed by the flourish of a pen Tuesday.
“I am not sure he fully recognizes the impacts of what he has done,” said Dorr, in a telephone interview from the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho. “I don’t know if he or his administration realizes this has far reaching impacts beyond him. These pipelines are much bigger and broader in scope than any individual. It is the future.”
Dorr said Trump’s actions reminded him of former president Jackson’s defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled in recognition of Cherokee sovereignty in an 1832 case revolving around Georgia’s imprisonment of a missionary named Austin Worcester. Despite the ruling, Jackson proceeded with the forcible removal of the Cherokee from Georgia to Oklahoma, an event known as the Trail of Tears.
“We are right back with Andrew Jackson if you look at the history of Jackson,” said Dorr.
Trump issued a presidential memorandum directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reverse course and allow the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in its current form.
Trump also signed a memorandum to revive the Keystone XL pipeline which had been stopped by the previous administration of Barack Obama. Both pipelines faced stiff opposition from Native American tribes and that resistance coalesced against DAPL once Keystone XL was shelved.
This past December, the Army Corps of Engineers denied Energy Transfer Partners, the entity behind DAPL, the easement to construct beneath Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River from where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe draws its drinking water.
The Army Crops then launched an environmental review process to explore alternate routes for the pipeline, which is about 90 per cent complete. The environmental review process is currently in its public input phase to determine its scope.
How the presidential memorandum impacts this already initiated process is unknown, said Dorr.
“This is outside the sphere of American law,” he said. “Can (the environmental process) be rescinded by an executive memorandum? We have never been here before. Everybody is shaking their heads.”
The Standing Rock Tribe won’t give in to Trump, said tribal council Coun. Robert Taken Alive in a telephone interview. He said if DAPL is allowed to cross beneath Lake Oahe, it would spell doom for the reservation.
“If they build that pipeline, our reservation will be a dead zone,” said Taken Alive. “That is the bottom line….Donald Trump needs water too, just like everyone else.”
Taken Alive said Standing Rock filed its environmental impact statement to the Army Corps this week and he doesn’t believe Trump has the absolute power to force the pipeline through.
“We did what we needed to do on our end,” he said. “We choose not to change our minds. Without water, people can’t live.”
Taken Alive said the tribe and the traditional leadership is no longer supporting the anti-DAPL Oceti Sakowin camp, which sits on treaty territory and on the edge of Standing Rock’s reservation territory.
He said the elders put out the sacred fires at the camp and they won’t be relit.
The tribal council has asked the camp to vacate.
“Our prayers are complete there. We brought the people together. The fires were put out. When they go out, the ceremony is over with. We ended it because we did what we needed to do with the Army Corps and the U.S. government and the tribes in the North American continent,” said Taken Alive. “They all came together in prayer and in peace. Any movement on anybody, it is not the Standing Rock tribe. The tribe stands on peace and prayer. We haven’t change our stand on the water.”
The Oceti Sakowin camp became the nerve centre of anti-DAPL resistance and had nearly 10,000 resident at its peak. It was also the scene of the largest gathering of Native American tribes in modern history. The camp now has a core group of between 400 to 500 people, according to Chase Iron Eyes, who posted a message on the Lakota People’s Project Facebook page on Tuesday.
“We are not in a state of fear, but a state of courageous uncertainty,” said Iron Eyes, who is one of the lead spokespersons for the camp now. “We don’t know what is going to happen…. Hundreds of us are vowing to stay…. We won’t stop until the pipeline is out of the ground. It is going to be very, very hard. A lot of us are willing to take the next step in an unarmed and non-violent fashion.”
Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said Trump would face an unprecedented level of civil disobedience.
“This is a slap in the face to the tribes. We understand there has been no consultation between him and his administration with this decision today on these two executive orders,” said Goldtooth. “We are going to see the resistance of Indian Country, of Native nations holding the line. Our resistance is stronger now than it was with Keystone coming out of Dakota Access. Now it’s become a national issue between tribes and the U.S. and its policies.”
Dorr said it is too early to gauge the potential fierceness of the resistance because of the legal uncertainty around Trump’s directives which will trigger another round of lawsuits that carry the potential to stop the pipeline developments before shovels can hit the dirt.
Dorr said the tribes have the moral authority based on the protection of water; the legal authority based on the treaties; and the political authority based on its nation to nation relationship with the U.S. to stop Trump’s directives.
“We have three areas where we bring our concerns to the federal government. Before we have people standing on the line, we have to look at all of these,” he said.
Dorr was involved in organizing opposition to the Keystone XL which included the creation of camps along the pipeline’s route, a tactic that was replicated in the fight against DAPL.
“I know people are ready,” he said. “People are willing to stand on that line by any means necessary. Whether it happens yet or not depends on the tribal guidance.”