Despite national media coverage, which portrays the protesters at Standing Rock as a unified front, divisions between elements of the tribe and more radical activists are becoming readily apparent.
In a video posted to the SayAnything Blog, a tribal elder named Robert spoke with law enforcement officers as they advanced toward a barricade blocking Highway 1806 this week. According to the video, Robert tells the officers “I’m with you on this… we’ve been trying to tell them not to block the roadway, but they do not listen to us the elders,” he continues. “We’re with you on this. We do not want the roadway blocked. There’s a way to do this and a way not to do this.”
The federal government’s protracted reconsideration of the Dakota Access permits has created a vacuum that has been filled with a faction of violent protestors that show little or no regard for the safety of police officers and those of the protest itself. Their actions have put the local community, law enforcement, and members of the tribe at risk.
More and more, divisions between the groups protesting the pipeline are becoming apparent, as evidenced in this video an in last weeks’ CNN article. Native American tribes have often been supportive of energy development in the past – with Tribes earning some $1 billion in royalties from oil and gas exploration and production from the Department of Interior in 2012 alone – as Fact Checker has reported before. Even Standing Rock Chairman Archambault owns a gas station near Cannonball.
Though this protest was originally focused on the location of the approved Dakota Access Pipeline, it has now devolved into a dangerous, unguided protest increasingly lead by “Keep in the Ground” activists. EarthJustice in particular appears to be leading the messaging from the protest, perpetuating outright lies about cultural, safety, and environmental protections taken by the pipeline project. EarthJustice and its allies benefit more from confusion and worsening security in the protest.
By now, two federal courts have concluded that the pipeline was vetted comprehensively. Yet EarthJustice has worked to manipulate public opinion from outside of the rule of law, printing false claims in outlets such as the Washington Post and New York Times to extend the debate and fan the flames of an increasingly violent protest movement.
For two years, there was a highly publicized public process for both federal and state permits that incorporated thousands of public comments and countless opportunities for public input. The participation of EarthJustice and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe during that two year process could certainly have benefitted the tribe, law enforcement community, and all Americans who were willing to listen.