Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dishonorable Dealings In the Dakotas?

The massive Crazy Horse Monument, Black Hills, SD
Even before the Sacred Black Hills territory was stripped away from the Great Sioux Reservation by an Act of Congress passed on February 28, 1877, an act which violated Article 2 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie signed nine years before on April 29, 1868, lawmakers and the federal courts (in conjunction with private interests) have consistently conspired to systematically violate the rights of the Sioux.

In what would become an unfortunate portent of the future, it was the discovery of gold in the Black Hills by European prospectors in 1874 that sparked the decision by the U.S. government to move the Sioux from the same very territory which had been promised to them by said government in perpetuity just over a decade before.

In fact, a 1980 Supreme Court Case decision in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians ruled that the Sioux had been unfairly stripped of their ownership of the Black Hills territory in 1877.

The high court awarded the Sioux the value of that land in 1877 plus interest, $106 million, but in a testament to their resolve, the Sioux refused to take it; preferring to wait to gain back their rightful ownership of the Black Hills.

That award has been held in trust in the U.S. Treasury and is reportedly worth over a $1 billion today.

In their majority opinion the Supreme Court wrote in part, "A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history."

Construction continues near a DAPL protest camp  
Could the justices who handed down that decision 37 years ago have predicted the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in the 21st century?

Probably not - but history often repeats itself.

And construction on that controversial stretch of pipeline slated to carry another valuable natural resource, oil, under yet another stretch of land sacred to the Sioux, began again last Thursday.

Aided by another court decision.

As Nika Knight reported in an article for, on Monday U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied an emergency request by lawyers representing the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux to halt contruction of the pipeline.

With that ruling, contractors hired by Energy Transfer Partners (the company building the DAPL), can continue to prepare to run a stretch of pipeline directly beneath Lake Oahe - a resevoir near Cannon Ball, North Dakota near the Missouri River.

Once completed, hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day will flow through that pipeline underneath a source of fresh water for some 20 million people.

Aside from the obvious environmental danger, lawyers for the Sioux also tried to make the case that the presence of the pipeline is an infringement on their religious rights because the oil will flow next to sacred lands.

But Judge Boasberg played down their concerns, saying in part, "as long as oil isn't flowing through the pipeline, there is no imminent harm to the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes."

But it's not Judge Boasberg's fresh water supply that will be threatened by an oil pipeline spill.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg 
Judge Boasberg was appointed by President Obama.

But as reports, he is, by virtue of his upbringing, a child of privilege and means.

He prepped at St. Albans, one of the most prestigious private schools in the D.C. area, and attended Yale and Oxford.

Clearly he's a learned man with extensive legal experience and a keen intellect.

But it's still fair and reasonable to ask the question: will he follow the law in this case?

Should the disturbing pattern of infringements upon Sioux tribal lands and sovereignty by the U.S. government and private interests motivated by profit in the 19th century be taken into account in the legal challenges to the DAPL?

Or will this scion of the establishment be more swayed by the collective legal muscle of the corporate lawyers working on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners and the group of banks (including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, HSBC and Goldman Sachs) that backed construction of the project with a $3.75 billion line of credit?

In all fairness to Judge Boasberg, he is scheduled to hear arguments at a hearing on February 27th to rule on the Sioux's request for an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps for their having granted the final easement that allowed ETP's contractors to begin drilling under Lake Oahe.

He also ordered ETP to provide updates to the court on a weekly basis so that all concerned will know exactly when oil will actually being to flow through the pipeline.

But those are all big "if's" considering how the federal government stripped the Sioux of the Black Hills 140 years ago.

And in the meantime, the forces of American of corporatocracy are quietly stirring in the vast open stretches around Cannonball, North Dakota near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation - and beyond.

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