Opinion Piece By Samuel Strait – December 5, 2016 – Recently published by the Triplicate was a Coastal Voices piece “Solidarity with Standing Rock” (Triplicate, December 1,2016) by Jessica Cejnar, a reporter for said Triplicate, who spent wasted column space narrating the trials and tribulations of three Del Norters, Manuel Saavedra, Jacob Patterson, and Grecia Rojas, who were funded by True North, a community organizing mill, to drive to North Dakota in support of the protests against the completion of a pipe line projected to carry oil from oil fields in Northern North Dakota to Illinois. The purported “bone of contention” is that the pipeline will contaminate the Standing Rock reservation’s water supply and that it will disturb the cultural heritage and burial grounds of the Native Americans in the area. I would give much more credibility to the narrative if the three sojourners had paid their own way instead of relying on the funding of their trip by True North. Makes it kind of seem like they are nothing but paid activists with an already established agenda without knowing the facts of the dispute. I am sure we are all meant to shed a tear for the arduous travails that the three endured in their “noble” quest for justice as outlined in the story, but hey, being a protester isn’t supposed to be easy! Your “struggles against the man” are supposed to give you credibility in the eyes of the public and garner a wider level of support. After all, when you are throwing down a gauntlet for real or rather often times of late imagined social injustices, you just have to appear at the struggle, you don’t necessarily have to have all the facts.
Unfortunately, for our intrepid three from Del Norte, there is an entirely different sort of story about the pipeline which includes a different set of possibilities, which make the protests seem kind of idiotic and foolish. Prior to the commencement of construction, all permitted by the Army Corps of Engineers, The pipeline company engaged in a number of negotiations with various property owners for the right of way rights that the pipeline was to occupy. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Yet not much discussion of what took place in those meetings by anyone in the national media.
One of the parties that was engaged by the energy transfer company, was the tribal council of the Standing Rock Reservation. This company was willing to pay the tribe $10,000,000.00, yes a lot of zeros, plus a fee to be paid to the tribe for each gallon carried by the pipeline for the right to cross Tribal Land. This would have guaranteed the Tribe a lifelong annual income of millions of dollars for years to come. At the time of the negotiations there was no apparent concern for water contamination or Native American culture and sacred burial grounds, the tribe simply wanted more money. As a result the pipeline company left the negotiating table and purchased adjacent land to the reservation for the passage of the pipeline. It was only at that point as the tribe lost their chance at a huge payday that the protests began and “water contamination, burial sites and cultural awareness” suddenly appear center stage. Because our national media has become so derelict in their duty to the public to be reporting factually about such things, it has become the modern version of “David verses Goliath”. The only reason that law enforcement is involved is that the Tribe has NO STANDING to protest what the pipeline company does on it’s own land. It was also unreasonable for the Federal Government to suspend the completion of the pipeline at this late date for no established reason.
There are literally thousands of miles of pipeline in the United States, many of them pass under water sources multiple times. When they are constructed properly, they are for the most part leak free. Because of modern technology and double piping, any leaks are contained within the secondary pipe and monitored. Once a leak is detected, the main oil carrying pipe can then be repaired without any fear of ground water contamination. As far as the sacred burial grounds and cultural injustice, the pipeline was already constructed except for a short section under a reservoir which is all that remains to complete the project. There was no protest by the tribe while the bulk of the pipeline was being constructed. That only began after they realized that the money train had left the station. Everything in Standing Rock was going forward in anticipation that they would be able to force the pipeline through the Reservation and get an even larger pay day when the pipeline company had to return to the negotiating table. Unfortunately for the tribe and the short sighted Tribal Council that didn’t happen
Since then, there has been little coverage of this aspect of the Standing Rock dispute. As a result, we have a mass demonstration that often trespasses on land that does not belong to the tribe and is responded to when demonstrators lose control of their own agitators. Very often in this kind of volatile situation things happen in which BOTH side must take responsibility for their actions. If the situation was reported on in all of its merits by national media, I wonder just how much support would be forth coming for the tribe elders who got just a little bit too greedy? Greed is not the exclusive domain of large corporations.
In any event support from our trio and the Triplicate for Standing Rock certainly doesn’t stack up as quite so glorious when you have the whole story. Like I said at the beginning of this story, had our three local activists had the courage of their convictions, done their homework, and paid their own way, I am not quite as certain that the trio should be feeling “empowered” by the course of their actions.
Bottom line is that the protest is about a pipeline being constructed on property that they, Energy Transfer Partners, have purchased near, not on Tribal lands, and the water source is not exclusively the Tribe’s. The tribal council had a “golden” opportunity to benefit the entire tribe, but couldn’t overcome their need to push the limit. What is occurring now is simple extortion and should the current administration continue to obstruct a legitimate project which will benefit the entire country, perhaps the new administration will correct the situation.
This is yet one more example of feigned outrage over what should be a non event. Many people as demonstrated by the results of the last election are sick and tired of this kind of behavior by people in this Country, who don’t seem to be employed doing anything CONSTRUCTIVE!