Paul Cienfuegos’ August 23rd, 2016 Commentary on KBOO Evening News
(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at PaulCienfuegos.com, CommunityRightsPDX.org/podcast, or subscribe via ITunes.)
Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.
Today I’m going to read an excerpt from an August 21st article titled, “A Tale of Two Standoffs: The federal response to Lakota protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline couldn’t be more different than their reaction to this year’s Bundy occupation”. Here’s the story:
On a cold January afternoon in eastern Oregon, Ammon Bundy smiled from beneath his brown cowboy hat at a young, bespectacled reporter before explaining why he and his men had seized a federal building while armed with rifles. “The people need to be in control of their own land and not… have a people… three thousand miles away dictating how their own land works,” Bundy said. He was of course referring to the federal government, which controls and manages up to 80 percent of the land and natural resources in some Western states.
Bundy’s occupation stands in stark contrast to the one unfolding in North Dakota at this very moment. There, hundreds of Lakota activists and their allies have blocked the path of the [Bakken oil] pipeline which, if built, would cross the Missouri River just miles above the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The pipeline jeopardizes not only the residents’ drinking water, but the water upon which millions of Midwesterners rely. Organizers insist that new protesters enter the site unarmed.
These two occupations participate in long-standing traditions of citizen engagement with and resistance to the American government. Bundy claimed that he was standing up for farmers and ranchers who were tired of federal intervention. But the region’s history tells a different story: white settlers have almost always welcomed the state, relying on it to clear the land of the indigenous peoples who lived there. …
[The Lakota peoples’] protest began in January, when North Dakota approved the [Bakken oil] pipeline. Residents of the Standing Rock Reservation immediately petitioned the US Army Corps of Engineers to deny the pipeline’s final permit, citing both broken treaty promises and the potential risks to their water supply. Close to 200,000 people signed the petition… In April, Lakota activists established a camp near the construction site to monitor pipeline workers, who began preparations before receiving formal approval.
Despite the protesters’ quick action, the pipeline moved forward. In July, while a group of Lakota youth were running from Standing Rock to Washington, DC to deliver the petition, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the permit. In mid-August, when the construction process began in earnest, activists blocked the route. At first, a sizable police and security presence allowed construction to proceed. The activists on the frontlines requested support, and in contrast to the Bundy occupation, their allies answered the call. What started as a small camp of a few dozen protesters has expanded to hold hundreds. Counting the surrounding area and satellite camps, that number could reach the thousands. …
In the resource wars of the American West, the government has rarely taken Native Americans’ side. Yet myths can be stronger than reality. The people who most benefited from state intervention now claim that the West was won by rugged individualists freed from governmental control. Many of them deny that Native Americans faced violence and displacement, but were rather the ungrateful recipients of civilization. The Lakota, for their part, cannot afford this kind of historical amnesia.
The occupation in Oregon crumbled after just forty days when law enforcement agents shot and killed a man who pulled a gun on them. The remaining protesters surrendered to authorities, sacrificing their freedom in a struggle against imagined tyranny. The Lakota, on [the] other hand, are resisting a real and all too familiar danger. Their numbers grow every day. And, unlike the standoff in Oregon, almost no major national news outlets are covering the story. This too participates in a great American tradition: the true fight against oppression is the one nobody notices.
I have been reading from an August 21st article titled, “A Tale of Two Standoffs: The federal response to Lakota protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline couldn’t be more different than their reaction to this year’s Bundy occupation”. You can read the entire much longer article online at JacobinMag.com.
You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.
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