Briefly (very briefly) the Dakota Sioux are standing (literally) in the way of the Dakota Access pipeline being pushed through their traditional territory and, more to the point, through burial grounds and archaeologically rich sites. Thousands of tribal and First Nations people have joined the stand-off at Standing Rock. ‘Dakota’, by the way, means ‘friend’ or ‘ally’.
Dakota Access had neither the science nor the permits to do what they’ve done so far. There is a Canadian connection. If the Dakota pipeline goes through, it will be a hop, skip and a jump to get the Alberta oil sands oil down to the Gulf of Mexico via Enbridge’s Line 3 (maps).
Now 50 tribes in the US and Canada have signed a Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. It calls on signatories to resist the transportation of oil sands oil across their traditional territories. It says, in part: “As sovereign Indigenous Nations, we enter this treaty pursuant to our inherent legal authority and responsibility to protect our respective territories from threats to our lands, waters, air and climate.”
And this is what most people miss. We and our governments are being confronted (finally) with another way of looking at the world. There is nothing in the treaties or our history that says First Nations have surrendered the rivers, streams and lakes on their ancestral land (in fact the land claim of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation in Grey-Bruce asserts this). There’s nothing to suggest they gave up their laws or their languages in which those laws are encoded.
I know that workers’ jobs are at stake and the affiliates of the AFL-CIO are divided on their support for Standing Rock protesters. But if we are to be true to reconciliation, we are going to have to recognize that Indigenous peoples have a different understanding of things. And that includes trying to understand what they are telling us when they act on that understanding.
Besides, the scientists are now giving us 17 years to get off fossil fuels or we pass a point of no return—a global warming of 2oC. To do that, we have to leavewhat’s still in the ground, in the ground.