This Uprising

October 29, 2016

DAPL, North Dakota, Standing Rock


You wouldn’t know it to look at me but my great grandmother on my dad’s side was full-blooded Ojibwe. My DNA test confirms I am 0.5% Native American. Minuscule as that may be, it’s what my dad taught me about the meaning of our proud heritage which is the source of my deep connection to nature and my passion for the environment, gifts from my tribal ancestors that have sustained and guided me throughout my life. For me, the uprising at Standing Rock is a convergence of my own Native American ancestry and my fierce defense of our Mother Earth. Though I’m here in Colorado, my spirit is drawn to North Dakota. I stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.

For months the news junkie in me has followed this fluid and ongoing saga. I prefer to call it an uprising. This is so much more than a protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). When Native Americans rise up in unison to defend their land and water rights as recognized by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, that’s not a protest or a standoff. It is an uprising.

As the Standing Rock Sioux battled it out in court last summer, like everyone else I hoped against hope that justice would prevail and their treaty rights would be upheld. But that’s not what happened.

Then this week everything changed.

As you know by now the months-long peaceful uprising came to a head on Thursday when hundreds of armed police officers, deputies, private militia, and National Guard troops deployed rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, percussion grenades, tasers, sirens, sound cannons, and armored vehicles to force hundreds of unarmed, peaceful Water Protectors (Native American activists and supporters) from land owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the oil pipeline company. Officials reported 141 arrests.

In the wake of Thursday’s escalation, Dave Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe released a statement decrying the violence and asking for prayers and for President Obama to call a halt to the pipeline construction.

Watch Amy Goodman’s interview with Archambault on Friday: Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair: DOJ Must Investigate Use of Force Against #DAPL Resistance

Another militarized assault occurred at a second encampment on Friday. Tragically, one of the Water Protector’s horses died from injuries after being shot by rubber bullets :  Police from 5 states escalate violence, shoot horses to clear 1851 Treaty Camp

Historic union of tribes

This uprising is historic on so many levels, one of the most significant being that over 500 tribes from across the U.S. have joined together to defend tribal sovereignty and the need to recognize indigenous tribes’ right to self-determination, and to expose blatant racism.

These two articles explain the issues:

The battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline, explained

For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been waging a pitched battle against a proposed oil pipeline that would run near their reservation — arguing that it could endanger both their water supplies and sacred sites.

It’s become a major story. The fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline encompasses everything from the federal government’s historically appalling treatment of Native Americans to broader debates about fracking and climate change. The cause has attracted a vast array of tribes, activists, and environmentalists from around the country, and authorities have been clashing with protestors all summer.

The biggest confrontation yet came on Thursday, after hundreds of activists occupied private land along the pipeline’s proposed route — arguing that it actually belongs to the tribes under an 1851 treaty with the US government that hasn’t been properly honored …

… For months, members of the Standing Rock Sioux have raised two major concerns about the project:

  • First, the pipeline would cross right under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the reservation’s main source of drinking water. A leak or oil spill could prove disastrous. The tribe points out that the pipeline was originally supposed to go farther north, near Bismarck, but officials had blocked that path out of concern that a leak might harm the state capital.
  • Second, the tribe argues that the pipeline would run through a stretch of land north of the reservation that contains recently discovered sacred sites and burial places. True, this land isn’t part of the current reservation. But the Standing Rock Sioux pointed out that the land had been taken away from them unjustly over the past 150 years. And any bulldozing and construction work could damage these sites …

To understand the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, you need to understand tribal sovereignty
Policy has to be paired with indigenous people’s experiences

… Too many people tend to think of tribal sovereignty as something that’s allocated, which can be given or taken away depending on the circumstance. But it’s not. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s tribal sovereignty, which essentially precedes colonization, is permanent, and it’s recognized (as opposed to granted) by the federal government.

The nation is concerned that its waters would be contaminated and that its sacred sites will be desecrated by this pipeline project. On the surface, that claim can easily look like a specific racial group got together to lodge an environmental complaint, but there’s a lot more than that: It’s actually a tribal sovereign nation that’s making an important claim about self-determination and its ability to survive and exist in the future …

But there’s something else going on here. Something more sinister.

Remember the bomb trains?

That’s actually how this whole thing started.

In the past two years, crude oil trains have exploded 10 times, killing 47 people, and causing untold environmental devastation. All ten bomb trains carried oil from the Bakken. The DAPL will transport crude oil from the Bakken Three Forks gasfield in North Dakota to an oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. Energy Transfer owns a natural gas pipeline from Patoka south to storage terminals it owns through a partnership in Nederland, Texas, which was retrofitted to transport crude oil.

In January 2014, the Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued a safety alert to the general public, emergency responders, and shippers and carriers of oil:

…recent derailments and resulting fires indicate that the type of crude oil being transported from the Bakken region may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil. Based on preliminary inspections conducted after recent derailments in North Dakota, Alabama, and Lac-Megantic, Quebec involving Bakken crude oil, PHMSA is reinforcing the requirement to properly test, characterize, classify, and where appropriate sufficiently degasify hazardous materials prior to and during transportation.

But the announcement wasn’t news to the O&G industry. They had known for years that Bakken crude oil was highly volatile.

FrackTracker Alliance explains the problem this way:

Why do oil trains explode so easily?

Like a carbonated beverage with dissolved CO2, oil extracted from Bakken wells naturally has lighter hydrocarbons in it, such as methane, ethane, propane, and butane. Methane — natural gas — is the lightest of the gases and boils out quickly at surface pressure. But ethane, propane, and butanes, known as light ends or natural gas liquids in the oil industry, take time and/or heat to boil out.

In the most prolific oilfield in the U.S. today, North Dakota’s Bakken formation, most of light ends are left in the oil before loading on the train, to maximize value of what is sent to the refinery. But much like a soda bottle, the pressure increases with temperature and motion, with pressurized ethane, propane, and butane at the top. With those highly volatile gases under pressure, all it takes to create an explosion is a leak and a spark, and both commonly happen in a derailment or collision.

Which begs the question: What happens to the highly volatile Bakken crude oil under pressure in a pipeline? You can bet the industry knows.

In April 2015, North Dakota adopted regulations that require every barrel of Bakken crude oil be filtered to reduce volatility. However the regulations were based on a crude oil quality report that was funded by the state’s oil producers, and downplayed the volatility of Bakken crude. A month later, six rail cars carrying a combined 180,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil caught fire in a derailment 2 miles from Heimdal, a small town in central North Dakota. The town was evacuated but no one was hurt. The crude oil had been filtered to reduce its volatility.

Whenever corporations are faced with a problem they consider too costly to their bottom line to solve, they employ “risk management.”

In early 2014, right around the same time the Wall Street Journal published a damning report on the high volatility of Bakken crude, plans for the DAPL — aka Bakken Pipeline — were hatched, not as a solution to the volatility of Bakken crude oil but to manage the risk of bomb trains.

Energy Transfer’s initial DAPL proposal called for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, but one reason that route was rejected was its potential threat to the city’s water supply. Undoubtedly another reason was, should a pipeline explosion or leak occur, it would potentially impact thousands of citizens, homes, and businesses in the high density population area of more than 61,000.

Instead the company chose the less populated area to the east, with the pipeline crossing the Missouri River a half-mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, on lands under treaty covenants. The company decided it was good risk management to threaten the health, safety, welfare, and WATER SUPPLY for the tribes and other smaller communities downstream, populated by Native Americans.


The 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is proposed to transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day (which is fracked and highly volatile) from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. [Source: Camp of the Sacred Stones]

And, let’s face it, should the pipeline explode or leak in a rural area, or even under the river, the industry has learned lessons from the Parachute Creek spill in our own Garfield County how to control and contain a massive plume that results when thousands of barrels of hydrocarbons leak above ground and underground. Risk management rule number 1: Locate the pipeline in a rural area where the residents (or in the case of Standing Rock indigenous people) lack the wealth, power, and influence to defend themselves against the public health threat and environmental devastation when a massive explosion or leak occurs.

In 2013, the residents of western Garfield County suffered the devastating consequences to our health and environment, which endure nearly 4 years later, as the result of a massive hydrocarbon leak from a pipeline valve. When it comes to the risks, we share solidarity with the Water Protectors.

Years ago, had we known the hell the benzene rains would pour down on us, would we have been like the Water Protectors in North Dakota? I believe we would have. But we had no warning back then. We do now.

A powerful sign

On Thursday, the same day law enforcement rained their hatred and violence on the peaceful Water Protectors, a herd of buffalo arrived. The buffalo symbolizes the strength of the Native American culture and reminds us of the cost of greed.

Spirit riders on horseback opened a fence just east of Treaty camp and once again hundreds of buffalo were allowed to freely run the North Dakota plains as police and military forces were trying to overrun the camp with violence and intimidation. The cheers and emotion from the water protectors were a force upon itself when the crowd watched the buffalo run full speed through what is now being nicknamed "Buffalo Hill." -- Redhawk 10/27/16 [Source: Standing Rock Uprising on Facebook]

“Spirit riders on horseback opened a fence just east of Treaty camp and once again hundreds of buffalo were allowed to freely run the North Dakota plains as police and military forces were trying to overrun the camp with violence and intimidation. The cheers and emotion from the water protectors were a force upon itself when the crowd watched the buffalo run full speed through what is now being nicknamed ‘Buffalo Hill’.” — Redhawk 10/27/16 [Source: Standing Rock Uprising on Facebook]

Where do things stand today?

On Tuesday, October 25, the U.S. Department of Justice reiterated that the Army will not issue a permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross Lake Oahe while they examine the issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe:

While the Army continues to review issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members, it will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe. In the interim, the departments of the Army, Interior, and Justice have reiterated our request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe,” said Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle in an email Tuesday.

The Justice Department is taking the situation in North Dakota seriously, and has been in communications with state and local law enforcement officials, as well as tribal representatives and protesters, to facilitate communication, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests, and maintain public safety,” Hornbuckle said.

That statement came as a response to a letter sent by Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that morning:

“I am seeking a Justice Department investigation because I am concerned about the safety of the people,” Archambault said in a statement accompanying his letter. “Too often these kinds of investigations take place only after some use of excessive force by the police creates a tragedy. I hope and pray that the Department will see the wisdom of acting now to prevent such an outcome.”

On Friday, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) sent a delegation of human rights observers to monitor the response of law enforcement to protests by Indigenous communities.

Amnesty International USA to Monitor to North Dakota Pipeline Protests

…AIUSA also has sent a letter to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department expressing concern about the degree of force used against the protests. The organization will also call on the Department of Justice to investigate police practices …

… “Our observers are here to ensure that everyone’s human rights are protected,” said Eric Ferrero, director of communications for AIUSA. “We’re deeply concerned about what we heard during our previous visit to Standing Rock and what has been reported to us since” …

Water is life.

The whole world is watching …


For more information:

Go to Facebook and Twitter (#NoDAPL) for updates, photos, videos, and live feeds. I will continue to share information on my own Facebook page.

30 Powerful Photos Show Standoff Between Militarized Police and Dakota Access Pipeline Protestors

How to Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective

Alexander Sammon of Mother Jones has an excellent timeline of the protests around the pipeline:  A History of Native Americans Protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline

Amy Goodman on Why the North Dakota Pipeline Standoff Is Only Getting Worse

Who Is Funding the Dakota Access Pipeline? Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo

Reckoning at Standing Rock: Want to understand the pipeline protests? Start with the Founding Fathers

Standing Rock Sioux

Indian Country Media Network

Censored News

Rising Tide North America

Camp of the Sacred Stones

Red Warrior Camp

#NoDAPL Solidarity

Civil Liberties Defense Center: Update from the Frontlines in North Dakota

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2 Comments on “This Uprising”

  1. amyhaddenmarsh Says:

    Good piece, Peggy. May I suggest that you add Censored News to your list of resources? Brenda Norrell has the best posts coming out of camp. You can google her blog. I can’t remember the URL. I think it’s something like or something. Also, I produced 3 pieces from my time there. Check them out at Thanks again. AHM

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Thanks Amy, I will check those out

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