And I call this place my homeland / and I claim this land I own. / But it belongs to another people. / They possess it in their bones. “Homeland,” John Hiatt
We could hold an academic debate over which Trump-targeted minority will ultimately suffer most. But if the events of the Dakota Pipeline protests have shown us anything, it’s that Native Americans will assuredly rank high on the list.
Begun early last year as a loosely organized reaction to a government plan to bury part of a 1,200-mile long oil conduit abutting Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, “Standing Rock” resistance efforts have morphed from a single Occupy-style encampment to thousands-strong protest marches across several American locales.
In the wake of the president’s Jan. 24 executive order green-lighting the massive project, an estimated million additional persons and counting have in some way registered their opposition; galvanized by their objections on environmental, territorial and religious grounds.
But as is the modus operandi for his business-obsessed administration, neither Trump nor his heads of Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs have signaled interest in anything other than taking the plan to the next phase.
Which they are.
As the Pipeline scheme unfolds, the obvious losers will be the Standing Rock Sioux: their water source will be at risk from potential leaks as up to 570 million barrels of crude per day course less than a mile from tribal boundaries and sacred sites.
And the not-so-obvious winners? The corporate speculators, bankers, materials suppliers and construction firms lining up at the federal trough now that the Obama administration’s legal challenges no longer block the path.
Obviously, Big Oil stands to make the lion’s share over the long run. Trump has repeated ad nauseam his desire to gain “energy independence” (this, with only token mention of alternative sources or carbon emissions) generating speculative 2017 gains of up to 41% for the largest oil producers and refiners.
But finishing a respectable second will be the domestic and foreign banks floating the actual construction costs – seventeen of which have combined to loan a single contractor (Dakota Access LLC) $2.5 billion before the Upper Midwest prairies even have a chance to thaw.
Despite the protests, bad press and divestment by a few municipalities, far too much money is in play for the likes of Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank or Goldman Sachs to do anything other than absorb the hits. Better a few thousand angry depositors than missing out on a once-in-a-century windfall.
As is painfully clear by now, obfuscation is the ploy of choice when Trump wants to do what people of conscience don’t. In the case of the latest US government sin against indigenous nations, he would have us believe that energy security and jobs for working folks are the motivation behind the building of the Dakota Pipeline. That it’s a greater good.
In reality, this is a callous CEO president once again inflicting misery, injustice and disgrace upon the vulnerable – and as usual, all in the service of the deal.
Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister and substance abuse counselor living in Blacksburg, Va. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2017
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