Northampton— A Cherokee man told a downtown crowd of around 200 that the best way to support Native Americans in their fight against a crude oil pipeline in North Dakota is to “take direction and listen” and get behind the effort being led by the Standing Rock Sioux.
“They are worn down,” said Jon Hill. “And as indigenous people one of the things we do to show love is to not wear people out. We give each other food, rest, nourishment and encouragement.”
Hill said he has friends and relatives on the front lines of the Sacred Stone and Warrior camps resisting the Dakota Access pipeline. He said ancestral behavior from throughout history is being re-enacted, with a “militarized minority” pushing native people out of the way.
Thousands of Native Americans and their allies have formed a “spirit camp” near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball rivers in the Northern Great Plains. Two weeks ago, a group on horses and foot blocked pipeline construction by surrounding heavy equipment, forcing workers to walk away from the job.
Monday’s speakout in Western Massachusetts came two days after a violent incident on private land in North Dakota. Tribal leaders say six people were bitten by guard dogs handled by pipeline security forces, including a young child, and at least 30 pepper sprayed. Hill said it happened after construction workers “bulldozed sacred sites.”
The 1,168-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline would transport crude oil from the Bakken area to a pipeline hub in Illinois. The line would cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock reservation. A major point of contention has to do with water quality.
A federal lawsuit, which pits the Sioux against the Army Corps, maintains that construction would destroy an area of great cultural, religious and spiritual significance to the tribe. It further asserts that pipeline spills and leaks are “routine,” and that a spill into the river, which serves as a tribal drinking water supply, would be disastrous.
The suit claims the Corps violated the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act in approving the pipeline. The case is due to be heard in Washington, D.C.
The Northampton speakout was co-sponsored by First Churches Peace and Justice Committee, Western Mass Code Pink, Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts, North American Indian Center of Boston, and activists Em Jollie, Jon Hill, and Rafael Rodriguez Cruz.
Jollie introduced speakers, passed out flyers and read a poem. “We imagine a shining lake between the heart and the sun; we imagine tables of food for everyone.” She asked those of Native American ancestry to raise their hands, and more than a dozen people did so.
Justin Beatty, lead singer with the powwow drum group Urban Thunder, led several songs. He explained the drumming, saying “it is the heartbeat which ties us all together.”
Hill said the pipeline plan violates the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and executive orders around environmental justice and sacred sites. He asked those present to call the White House to insist the project’s permit be rescinded. He encouraged donations to the tribe’s tech support fund.
Lawyers with the group EarthJustice claim the Corps relied upon a flawed environmental assessment by pipeline developers Dakota Access LLC to grant its approval. The Army Corps has jurisdiction over domestic crude oil pipelines that cross major waterways.
A spokesman for Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline developers, has said it is operating “in accordance with applicable laws, and the local, state and federal permits and approvals we have received.”
Energy Transfer describes Dakota Access as a safe energy project that would benefit the national economy. The pipeline will employ “new advanced technology” and “reduce the current use of rail and truck transportation to move Bakken crude oil to major U.S. markets,” according to the project website. The line will decrease crude oil imports, create thousands of jobs, and pay millions in property taxes, the company says.
The Standing Rock reservation is one of the poorest communities in the nation, according to 2010 census data. In July, tribal members ran a 2,000-mile relay to deliver a petition calling upon federal officials to halt construction.
The Standing Rock tribe on Sunday filed for an emergency injunction to stop construction, pending the outcome of the federal lawsuit. A judge had previously promised to rule on such an injunction by September 9.
By Mary Serreze | Special to The Republican
on September 05, 2016 at 8:40 PM, updated September 05, 2016 at 9:08 PM