Standing Rock and the Trump Transition

Jerome Whitington and Eben Kirksey

In the face of months of protests and legal campaigning, last December the US Army Corps of Engineers rejected the last critical environmental permit needed for completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The Pipeline is meant to service the Bakken oil fields and is the largest single project to expand fossil energy transportation for oil and gas. On January 24th, Donald Trump wrote a memorandum to the Secretary of the Army instructing him to "review and approve in an expedited manner...request for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL." This move comes as no surprise, since Trump has a sizable personal financial stake in the $3.8 billion energy project. Reuters reported that Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcey Warren personally donated more than $100,000 to Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Trump's memo instructs the Army to forgo an Environmental Impact Statement. "Even for a president who mistakes his own whims for the rule of law and corporate profits for the public interest, these orders are irresponsible," said Congressman Raúl Grijalva when he joined activists in front of the White House on Tuesday. "The damage to water quality, public health, and eventually our climate will be on his hands." Rep Grijalva is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is leading an effort to stand with Standing Rock.

The Army may resist Trump's executive order. Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), outlined problems with the Dakota Access Pipeline in a December memo: "The proposed crossing of Lake Oahe is approximately 0.5 miles upstream of the northern boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's reservation. The Tribe relies on Lake Oahe for drinking water and irrigation, portions of Lake Oahe downstream from the proposed crossing remain within the Tribe's reservation boundaries, and the Tribe retains water, hunting and fishing rights in the lake."

Democratic Members of Congress played a key role last year in blocking the pipeline's route under Lake Oahe. On November 28, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the floor and released a statement 'The Violence at Standing Rock Must End,' in which he pointed out:
"The simple truth is that Indian tribes - whether the Moapa Paiute or the Standing Rock Sioux - are exposed to more pollution than their fellow Americans. That is the way it is. We don't talk a lot about the people who are severely impacted by the century of practically limitless pollution - Indians. This is not an urban-rural phenomenon. It's everywhere and it's dangerous. From South Dakota to Nevada, Native Americans are on the front lines of these environmental and public health catastrophes."

A number of key Senators and Representatives in the House also have a track record of supporting the Dakota Sioux. We believe the next few weeks will prove a crucial period when the public can play an important role in supporting these efforts. Communicating with your congressional members is an effective way to provide support for Native sovereignty and environmental protection
Scholars continue to play a small but important role in applying selective pressure on decision makers. To take the discipline of anthropology as an example, the American Anthropological Association has released a statement on Standing Rock, and its members have been engaged in congressional advocacy to provide support for efforts in Washington. In this environment, the Congressional Progressive Caucus is in a unique position to block specific changes that are in store. While many have already demonstrated support, their effort cannot be taken for granted. For others--especially conservative Republican congress people--hearing from a concerned public can be critical in softening their position or making it less of an obvious priority.

Dozens of Congress members and Senators listed below took action in 2016 on the Dakota Access Pipeline--by speaking on the floor, by writing letters to administration officials, by calling local law enforcement agents to account for their violent tactics. Now we need them to form a dedicated position in the face of the pro-development House, Senate and Executive branches.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II recently said: "The nation and the world are watching. The injustices done to Native people in North Dakota and throughout the country must be addressed."

Take a moment to see where your Senators and Congress members stand on Standing Rock. Reach out and thank them for taking action and encourage them to remain vigilant in 2017. If your member has not yet taken action, encourage them to take a stand--especially if they have a record of pro-energy development positions. Personal contact can make an incredible difference.

You can look up your Congressional Representative here, and your Senators here. In our experience, writing directly to them or, better yet, establishing face-to-face contact (showing up at a meeting to make a statement, or scheduling an appointment with a staff member) are the most effective ways to communicate. The New York Times explains why it is more effective to call, rather than e-mail your elected official, and describes what happens when someone answers the phone at a legislator's office.

Senators and Congressional members who publicly supported the Standing Rock Sioux in 2016:
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA)
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-MI)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL)
Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Rep. James McGovern (D-MA)
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)
Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA)
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)

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