Another take on the protest at Standing Rock

Thanks to my friend Jeff Craig for sharing this.  A very thorough and detailed look at many of the issues surrounding the DAPL.  However, I have also posted some comments below in response to Scott Gates’s informative post.  Here is the link to his post.

OK, Scott Gate’s extended arguments and presentation of facts, judicial, technical, treaty, and others, along with his presentation of pipeline leak data from the industry, are all very informative. The dude did a lot of due diligence and he gets my respect for that. But, as one reads through this, I start to lose his initial statement about being a supporter of Native American rights and being sensitive and all that, even though he repeats it more than once. His vociferous tone, by the time he is done with his post, starts to sound mean-spirited to me as he more than hints at the dishonesty and greed of  the Tribal Chair and others who oppose the pipeline . Was/is all that really necessary? I think it hurt Gate’s argument and his credibility. 

Here is my take. Two things that Gates missed, or that he pays short shrift to, involve the following points: 1) While Gates goes to exceptional lengths to document various rulings on the treaties that established tribal land boundaries, going back to the mid 1800s and up to the most recent judicial ruling closer to present day, he seems to miss one fundamental aspect of this whole situation. That being, that many members of the tribe, to this day, dispute those rulings and no matter what the US courts have said, those rulings remain in dispute among key tribal members. 2) That the Sioux have not forgotten their experiences with the Feds and others when the Oahe dam (see link below) was constructed in the late 50s to early 60s and the result of that project pretty much decimated some of Tribe’s most important lands, despite assurances to the contrary by our government. These concerns are not easily forgotten by Tribal elders, and reflect strong Tribe sovereignty issues.  Again, these are not mentioned by Gates, and that is too bad because, in my mind, it would have demonstrated a more balanced perspective if he gave bonafide attention to sovereignty  concerns and other historical facts, as much attention as he does to all the details and facts that support his argument for why the pipeline should be built. 

And, that’s the rub here, at least for me.  I turn off when I catch wind of what seems like imbalance or, worse,  smear.  Let me clarify how I feel.  Many of the  tribal concerns are not disingenuous or selfish or something that should simply be ignored or dismissed, especially by denigrating those who oppose the pipeline.  There are real historical events here that have not been forgotten and that have contributed to a genuine mistrust of our government.  Harping on the issue of water rights as if that is absolutely the primary issue here, and criticizing the tribe for ignoring the multitude of opportunities it was offered  – why didn’t they just participate, dammit? – misses a much bigger issue and reinforces a point I made in a previous post.  We just don’t seem to get it.  We only want to see things through our own lenses.  We want things to be the way we see them or the way we expect them to be.  Makes me think of the great line in the movie, “Gladiator”, spoken by the Roman sentry Quintus … “People should know when they are conquered.”

 So, let me finish with this. In my view, the pipeline is eventually going to be built. I don’t know if it will be re-routed or not and the likelihood of spills, after it is built, will probably be quite low, as Gates and others have documented. However, when someone like Gates presents incredible reels of information, parts of important historical events, key legal aspects, and relevant technical specs that are all certainly informative, then at same time, conveys this overriding sense of mistrust of those who oppose the pipeline for what may be their very deeply held beliefs, I get confused and I have to ask myself, “how can someone who claims to be so sensitive to the plights of Native Americans seemingly dismiss  what appear to be very real convictions, very real experiences, and ignore recent history and sovereignty issues? ”  

It seems pretty clear that Gates feels that the pipeline should be built and that all of this protesting and opposition has some deep seated dishonesty behind it. Sorry man, that’s where you lose me. Because, indeed, these have been and continue to be disputed lands and as much as we want to scream and write about what our courts have ruled, the lands remain disputed and the history of the tribe being misled by the Corps of Engineers, that’s all very real. Add to that, that these very real experiences occurred not too long ago, that the Sioux very much remember them, and that these events had some devastating impacts on the tribe, and it does not surprise me that the Sioux and their supporters oppose this, even if they were given multiple opportunities to attend public hearings, provide public input, etc. etc. And that history, whether we choose to frame it as wrong or right, whether one agrees with it or not, whether it frustrates the heck out of us or pisses us off, remains an important fundamental issue for the tribe, and we just can’t seem to grasp that.  Then again, I could be wrong.

For those interested, the next link which some may say bears a much more liberal slant, goes into greater details on the importance of tribal sovereignty issues and the unfortunate history associated with the construction of the Oahe Dam and other disputes.

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