I’m as committed as I have been since day one.

By Monty Herron. Staff Writer, Op-Ed columnist, PQ Monthly

The Army Corps of Engineers will not grant an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline, stating that a full environmental impact study must be undertaken, and alternate pipeline routes that will not endanger Lake Oahe or the Missouri river need to be examined. “Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

There was celebration, and joy around the Sacred Fire in the Oceti Sakowin camp on hearing the announcement. I, however, withheld any joy or thoughts of victory. Those of us who have taken this fight for our Mother Earth to heart, who also know how rampant the powers of greed, corruption and avarice have consumed the opposition; knew this fight was far from over. Am I a bad person for feeling this way? No. I am a pragmatist. I am a proud Two-Spirit Native man who has paid attention to history and knows how these things play out for us. I was right not to celebrate. Not even 12 hrs after the announcement from the Corps, the following two statements were made:

“As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp said“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe. This administration’s delay in taking action — after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps, and other federal agencies for months to make a decision — means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline remains in limbo. The incoming administration already stated its support for the project and the courts have already stated twice that it appeared the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. For the next month and a half, nothing about this project will change. For the immediate future, the safety of residents, protesters, law enforcement, and workers remains my top priority as it should for everyone involved. As some of the protesters have become increasingly violent and unlawful, and as North Dakota’s winter has already arrived – with a blizzard raging last week through the area where protesters are located — I’m hoping now that protesters will act responsibly to avoid endangering their health and safety, and move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River.”
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These people will stop at nothing with their false narratives. Violent protesters? Evidentiary videos, one after another, show there is NO PROOF to these statements. Vital project? To whom? The ONLY people this pipeline benefits are the oil oligarchists, and shareholders like Agent Orange, or He Who Must Not Be Named but rhymes with RUMP. For that matter, Agent Orange has publicly stated he’d like to force this project through, as well as revive the KeystoneXL, “to provide millions of good-paying jobs.” A false narrative. I don’t know what fantasy world he is living in. Once a pipeline is constructed, there are about 40 maintenance tech jobs after the construction is complete. For pipelines that, on the average, have a spill every three days, that seems tantamount to complete and reckless disregard for the environment. Maybe the ‘millions of jobs’ Agent Orange is talking about are the positions that will suddenly materialize when the nightmarish hellscape of oil accidents poisons the lands and drinking water of middle Amerikkka.

As if that wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake that was today came in the form of new email evidence showing that Energy Transfer Partners may be paying the corrupt Morton County law enforcement to act as their security, in fact, Kelcey Warren even stated that they’d like to pay for the millions of dollars spent on policing the area while on a program for CBS. Loretta Lynch of the Justice Dept. stated a few days ago that federal peacekeepers are being sent to mediate in the area.

One email from the Stutsman County Sheriff’s Department, which lends their MRAP armored vehicles for use by SWAT teams, states the following:

I’ll ultimately be paid by the oil people dealing with the protests. I’m guessing when all of that is finally over and the dust settles, the oil company is going to want all the paperwork for reimbursement. I figured I should have some precise form instead of writing hours on a napkin (smiley face). Thanks. – Tyler Falk”

As for the reasoning why there are LEO’s from numerous states policing the area to aid the corrupt Morton County Sheriff, well, it’s one more abuse of law. Almost two decades ago, then President, Bill Clinton signed EMAC into law. The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) authorized states to enter into agreements with other states to share emergency management–related personnel during crisis situations. One of the only other times this compact was deployed outside of a natural disaster was for the Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray

Loretta Lynch’s statement only scratches the surface of this turmoil. “We recognize the strong feelings that exist about the Dakota Access Pipeline – feelings that in many instances arise from the complicated and painful history between the federal government and American Indians. We will remain committed to working with all stakeholders to enforce the law, to maintain the peace and to reach a just solution to this challenging situation,” Lynch said.

I have been fundraising and running around, gathering materials to build and deliver ‘riot’ shields for the peaceful Indigenous Water Protectors of Standing Rock. The first dozen have been completed. I will deliver them to Standing Rock soon. This is just another way I can help the people there. (If you would like to support my effort, #ShieldsForStandingRock, reach out to me on the book of faces, there is a PayPal account you can feel free to donate to.) The last time I visited, in September, we took medicines, wool blankets, needed food and building materials. We carried the thoughts and prayers of many of us, and for that, I am eternally humbled and grateful.

The harsh reality is that it’s really great to be an Indigenous person, but most of the time it’s tough. Environmental racism and 500 years of mistreatment of Natives in this country made the citizens of Bismarck; ND thinks it’s ok to force a toxic pipeline through areas of cultural importance to Native people instead of having it run near THEIR precious town. The infusion of MASSIVE donation dollars never materialized until a white girl got her arm blown to bits by a grenade. Right here, in Portland, OR, an established Native Veterans group, NIVA‘s long a symbol of honor, posting the colors at many pow-wows and gatherings; attempted to raise a moderate sum of money to help in their travel to answer the call for veterans in Standing Rock. They raised about a third of that modest $6000 goal. In contrast, a veterans group led by Michael Wood, a non-Native veteran, with a slick video in just a few days post settler-girl trauma; raised over $835,000 of 1 million. I SINCERELY HOPE that the majority of that money ends up aiding the Oceti Sakowin camp. But I wouldn’t blink an eye if I found out not a damn dime of it is actually spent to aid them. We never ask for ‘Saviors,’ but we always seem to get them. If I learned nothing else from ‘Dances With Wolves’ or ‘The Revenant,’ I at least learned that. (You can’t see the side eye I’m giving right now, but trust me, it’s there.)
Monty Herron is a proud Two-Spirit member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and adjunct instructor of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University.