• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Locals stand with Standing Rock Sioux

Johnson County residents, Iowa groups participate in DAPL protests
Dr. Gary Weinman on his property between Coralville and North Liberty, pointing toward the restored prairie land he planted 36 years ago. Weinman is concerned that the habitats of the ornate box turtle and Indiana bat observed on his property were disturbed when trees were downed and a sewer line dug up to serve Liberty High and private development. (photo by Janet Nolte)

North Liberty Leader
CANNONBALL, N.D.– While much of the nation was transfixed by the high stakes and consequences of the 2016 election and its aftermath, a struggle of historic proportions played out along the 1,172-mile route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which stretches from the Bakken shale oil patch in North Dakota, traversing across South Dakota, trekking 347 miles through 18 counties in Iowa, and completing the route at a distribution hub in Patoka, Ill.
From the pipeline’s inception in 2014, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes opposed the plan, proposed by the Houston-based corporation Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), to build a $3.8 billion pipeline across culturally important tribal lands and vital water sources. The struggle gained widespread public attention over the summer and fall of 2016.
Shortly after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued approval for ETP to begin pipeline construction in March 2016, a small gathering of self-described “water protectors” encamped near the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in North Dakota. One camp became three as a peaceful group of Standing Rock Sioux swelled into a grassroots movement drawing thousands of tribal people and allies across the country (and beyond) to stand against the threat the DAPL posed to the water, land and sacred sites of the Lakota people.
Dr. Gary Weinman, a retired gastroenterologist who lives in rural North Liberty, joined many who traveled to Standing Rock to support the cause.
“I was there the first week in November,” Weinman recalled. “It was just after President Obama asked the Army Corps of Engineers to look at alternative routes and do an environmental impact statement on the oil pipeline going under Lake Oahe, the reservoir on the Missouri River where the Standing Rock Sioux get their water supply.”
Incidentally, Oahe is the Lakota word meaning “a place to stand.”
At the Sacred Stone camp where he stayed, Weinman said an estimated two to three thousand people were there all together. “Pretty amazing,” in his words. He said it reminded him of the civil rights protests in the ‘60s and the Vietnam War protests.
“The people there were kind of like the people you see at the immigration protests and the women’s marches,” he said. “They had signs: ‘stop hurting people,’ ‘love trumps hate,’ ‘water is life.’ The vibe was we need to respect the earth and protect the water and the environment, and justice for the people that get run over by corporations.
“And there were Indians from all over the country, and from Canada, and even some that were traditionally enemies of the Lakota, like the Crow– they were there. They were all in unison. It was beautiful because… there were just hundreds of flags of different tribes.”
Weinman said he wanted to go to Standing Rock because so many aspects of what was happening smacked of injustice.
“I read about what was going on, that pipeline was supposed to go under the Missouri River north of the city of Bismarck,” he said. “When the City of Bismarck protested, the governor asked them to reroute it. When the Indians protested the effect on their water supply, he sent in the National Guard.”
The use of eminent domain laws by ETP to force construction of the DAPL on tribal land in violation of treaty rights is at the heart of the Standing Rock Sioux’s fight to preserve their water and sacred burial sites.
On a smaller scale, Weinman understands how eminent domain can be used to forward private interests in the name of a questionable public good. His own battle entailed facing off with the City of North Liberty over construction of a sewer line across his property of restored prairie land–to serve Liberty High School via a route that would facilitate future residential development.
In solidarity with the Sioux, Weinman also went to Standing Rock to help in very practical ways.
“I cut and chopped wood from my woods,” he said. “There’s no forest there; it’s all grassland, so I took a supply of firewood, some winter clothes and went out to see if there was some way I could help.”
The elders at the camp welcomed Weinman, even inviting him to a sweat lodge, although he declined, citing he felt it would be intruding.
They also gave him a job, announcing, “This is the elder in charge of the donation tent!”
“There had been a lot of arrests and confrontations,” said Weinman, “but when I went there, the elders were keeping a lid on confrontations. So this was sort of a peaceful time with the protests.”
Weinman met with some lawyer friends who came to Standing Rock to help people still in jail waiting to be processed. One of the lawyers told a story about a young man he represented in court.
“When the judge asked the young man how he pleaded to the charge of inciting a riot and trespassing, he said, ‘walking in prayer is not inciting a riot,’” Weinman recounted of his friend’s story. “And how do you plead to trespassing? He said he wasn’t trespassing, he was on Indian land.”
As reported by Vice News, over 700 people were arrested at Standing Rock between August 2016 and February 2017, often by heavily militarized forces, including armed, private security guards from TigerSwan, a firm hired by ETP to coordinate with state law enforcement personnel. Police worked with the privately contracted agents and used force to suppress protesters with attack dogs, tear gas and rubber bullets. In one of the most brutal incidents, which occurred on Nov. 20, 2016, high-pressure water cannons were sprayed at people in frigid temperatures, exposing some to hypothermia.
Since July 2016, the Standing Rock tribe used every legal means available to assert its rights as a sovereign nation to challenge the construction of the pipeline. In civil disobedience and legal actions, the tribe was joined and supported by the Nebraska-based Bold Alliance, self-described on its website as a network of small and mighty groups in rural states organized to fight Big Oil, protect landowners against the abuse of eminent domain, and work for clean energy solutions while building an engaged base of citizens who care about land, water and climate change.
Bold Iowa, an affiliate of the Alliance directed by former Iowa state representative Ed Fallon, has been especially active in protest against the DAPL. Over 2,611 signers of its “Bakken Pipeline Pledge of Resistance” risked arrest to physically stop pipeline construction through direct actions in support of landowners, tribes and others. In cooperation with groups such as Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and 100 Grannies for a Liveable Future, Bold Iowa’s numerous protests on properties of Iowa farmers and landowners located in the path of the DAPL resulted in arrests at various Iowa locations along the pipeline route: from Aug. 31 through Oct. 25, 2016, at least 16 Iowans were arrested while participating in direct actions at pipeline construction sites in Boone, Calhoun and Lee counties.
While trespassing charges for some, such as the “100 Grannies Five” of Johnson County, were dropped, others, such as Heather Pearson, arrested for trespassing on Shirley Gerjet’s Calhoun County farm on Oct. 25, still await a day in court.
Though oil began to flow through the DAPL June 1, legal battles continue for Iowa landowners and a coalition against the DAPL, as well as for the Standing Rock Sioux.
On June 15, U.S. District Court of D.C. Judge James Boasberg ruled largely in favor of the tribe, finding that in granting a permit to DAPL, the USACE did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights or environmental rights of the Sioux tribes. To remedy such violations of treaty rights, the court ordered the USACE to conduct a full environmental impact study that must involve the tribe and public, as well as experts. A schedule of hearings to decide if the DAPL might be shut down while the EIS is under further review has been set for August.
Following release of the federal opinion, the Sierra Club and the Science and Environmental Health Network filed a motion with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) to void its Iowa permit because DAPL did not meet all necessary conditions. By law, the IUB can only grant the DAPL a permit to cross the state of Iowa and seize private land through eminent domain on the condition the DAPL obtain a federal permit from the USACE. Citing the recent voiding of the federal permit, the Iowa coalition resisting the DAPL argued the UIB must also revoke the Iowa permit and shut down the pipeline.
On June 8, the Wallace Global Fund presented the Standing Rock Sioux with the inaugural Henry A. Wallace award– named for the famous Iowan who served as former Vice President and U.S. Agriculture and Commerce Secretary under President Franklin Roosevelt. As reported on its website, the Wallace Fund commended the tribe “for its brave resistance in defending sacred land and water against the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
The prize carries an award of $250,000 and an additional pledge of up to $1 million to support investment in renewable energy projects on the Standing Rock Reservation.
On Saturday, July 1, the United Church of Christ presented its inaugural Movement Makers Award to 10 youth representatives of the Sioux tribe. Those youth, in the very early days of the Standing Rock protests, ran from Cannonball, N.D., to Washington, D.C. to present a petition to the USACE urging them to reroute the path of the pipeline away from the tribe’s water supply and sacred grounds.