This isn’t over: take up the torch and defund DAPL! by Jacqueline FielderTweet
Today, for the umpteenth time in the history of Plains Indians-U.S. relations, the United States government is using its military might to evict indigenous people from their land so that settlers can extract a profitable resource from the earth. To some non-indigenous people looking into this moment from the outside, this may seem an abstract exaggeration. No one has died, they might say. There are legal dimensions to the issue. But this is no exaggeration. Today, on February 22, 2017, the United States is repeating history, and unless we get ourselves, our cities, our states, our pension funds, and our universities to divest from banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL), we all have oil on our hands.
In 1851, the U.S. government subjected Lakota and Dakota bands to the Fort Laramie Treaty. This treaty outlined the boundaries of “The Great Sioux Nation.” When settlers discovered gold within the bounds of the Great Sioux Nation, the United States government used its military might to break its own treaty. Over time, the U.S. Army forced people out of that treaty land and onto increasingly smaller reservations. Today, on February 22, 2017, North Dakota Law Enforcement, the National Guard, DAPL mercenaries, and even our own relatives in the BIA Indian Police are evicting from this same land, indigenous people who dare to stand up to corporate interests for the next Seven Generations and Mother Earth.
For months, U.S. government officials have tried to tell Water Protectors, “It’s over! You can go home now!” by rejecting, and then illegally granting Dakota Access LLC the easement they need to drill under Lake Oahe, despite an incomplete Environmental Impact Study. Trump’s Executive Order has also signaled that his administration will grant an easement to Transcanada for their Keystone XL Pipeline. Yet, Water Protectors have refused to listen, and have refused to “go home.” They have asserted this whole time that they are home by reminding everyone that the camps are completely within the boundaries of the Great Sioux Nation. Against all of the odds, and by the perseverance of the Water Protectors, the movement against DAPL has made it to February 2017—almost a year after Bobbi Jean Three Legs and Joseph White Eyes led indigenous youth on a 2,000 mile relay from Standing Rock to the Army Corps in Washington D.C.
So what’s next? Water Protectors did not endure German Shepherds, violations of their dignity, tear gas, rubber bullet wounds, and water cannons in freezing temperatures for the past seven months, just for the rest of us to shrug our shoulders and wait for the courts to bring justice. It would be foolish to put all of our eggs into the courts. Courts have been hostile to the principles of indigenous self – determination and sovereignty for decades. Dakota Access has prepared their equipment for drilling since Trump’s Army Corps granted them the easement, and they are completely willing to pay whatever court – imposed fines they may face to complete the project. This is larger than Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, than Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, than any of the Water Protectors being evicted on the ground.
Law enforcement may be evicting the Oceti Oyate and Oceti Sakowin camps today, but they cannot evict the Spirit of StandingRock. The decision of whether the movement dies now or at a later date, lies with those of us who may be the Seventh Generation—those of us who may not be 100% knowledgeable about our history or culture or language, but know deep in our core, that our ancestors are incensed by the greed that has consumed elected officials and even our relatives. Decades of colonialist policies have estranged us from our land, from our people, and from our ways of living. But because of those policies of displacement, we are everywhere, and we can use that to our advantage in this moment.
Millions of us entrust our money, investments, pensions, and taxpayer money to banks financing DAPL. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and more, all have complete control of our money. The banks don’t just put that money in a vault waiting for cities, institutions, or individuals to take it out—they loan it to companies like Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Transcanada, who then use that money to exploit the Earth and its people, to make a profit. That is why switching banks is essentially taking away ETP and Transcanada’s ammunition. It may be inconvenient and arduous for individuals and administrators to make the switch, but drinking oil is also inconvenient.You don’t have to be a banker, an investor, or a lawyer to start a divestment campaign. If you have access to the internet, a phone, and some time, you can carry the movement from Standing Rock. Take San Francisco as an example. A group of individuals from various Native Nations, labor organizations, and climate justice organizations have been inspired to see indigenous activists pressure Seattle, Davis, and other cities and institutions to divest from banks financing DAPL. So, they came together to create the indigenous-led San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition. The Coalition has conducted hours upon hours of research to learn lessons from the indigenous leaders of the Seattle Defund DAPL Coalition, gather data from Food & Water Watch, find alternative commercial banks, and even draft an ordinance for divesting City funds. The ordinance is ready to go, complete with data on the City’s investments and the reasoning for this legislation. However, the Coalition has faced one significant challenge: a lack of empathy and urgency from people in power. A few of the elected officials who the Coalition thought would be eager to follow Seattle’s footsteps, expressed that they were too busy to take on divestment from DAPL. It is likely that other divestment campaigns will meet the same challenge.
When people in power do not make time in their busy schedules to work with indigenous activists, they are signaling to the President and the world that Indians are, indeed, unworthy of our political energies.
But the apathy and lack of urgency is not exclusive to non-indigenous elected officials.
When we, as administrators or as individuals, postpone switching our banks because it is inconvenient, or because we are too busy, we are signaling to the Powers that Be, that we are okay with them using our hard earned money to build a pipeline through the second largest source of drinking water in this country.
When we shrug and say “we’ve fundraised, we’ve marched, and we’ve sanctioned; we don’t know what else to do,” we are signaling to future generations that they are not worth exhausting all of our options.
Lastly, when we keep investing with financial institutions who lick their chops at the illegal completion of DAPL, we are signaling to indigenous peoples everywhere that we are okay with this country’s history of stealing sacred indigenous land for profit.
To put it simply, we need to divest from banks financing the Dakota Access Pipeline because the value of our money, endowments, pensions, and investments should not rise with increasing repression of indigenous and human rights.We owe it to the youth who started the #NoDAPL movement; we owe it to the Water Protectors (especially the women) who lit the fire at Sacred Stone and remained until eviction; we owe it to our ancestors who endured military campaigns of annihilation and policies of assimilation; and we owe it to the next Seven Generations who deserve to drink clean water and breathe clean air. We owe it to all of them to carry on the torch of this movement to cities across the country.
Find a credit union near you at culookup.com. If you are looking to join or start a defund DAPL campaign in your area, visit divestyourcity.org and read Rachel Heaton’s guide to divestment. If you are starting a campaign, you do not have to start from scratch. By signing up through this website, you will have access to a network of indigenous rights activists, including those in Seattle and San Francisco, who do their homework, organize strategic demonstrations, and have massive social media platforms. They are actively sharing tips, questions, and research to make local campaigns stronger and more unified.
To the banks funding DAPL, Keystone XL, and other pipelines: When you profit from the repression of our relatives and the exploitation of our Mother, your bottom line will suffer.
To the elected and appointed officials across the country who ignore or aid and abet in the violation of indigenous rights:
We are still here, and we will continue to be here to remind you:
Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) and we pray for you.
Jackie Fielder is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Hidatsa), a descendant of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and was born and raised in Long Beach, CA. Jackie earned her B.A. in Public Policy and M.A. in Sociology at Stanford University in 2016. She is currently an organizer with San Francisco Defund DAPL Coalition and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.