Letter writer: Language is important in coverage of Standing Rock action

Graphic by Lori Deaton

It has taken the better part of seven months and the arrest (or threat of arrest) of a few highly visible activists, but we are finally starting to see mainstream coverage of the Dakota Access Pipeline. And the media attention is a good start. It is generating questions and (tentatively) calling for accountability from huge commercial oil companies like Energy Transfer Partners and from governing entities like the Environmental Protection Agency.

The conversation has begun, and it’s going to be a long one. And the language we use to have the conversation will do a lot to shape it. The vast majority of articles that you read about this subject will describe those who have come to Standing Rock as “protesters” [See “Taking a Stand: WNC Local Support Protesters at Standing Rock,” Oct. 12, Xpress]. Close your eyes and imagine a “protest.” Heavily armed police, tear gas, anger, fear and discord might come to mind. Especially in light of the fact that the majority of images that the mainstream media has attached to Standing Rock has depicted just those things. It is irresponsible reporting and does not remotely address the scope and significance of what is unfolding there.

Standing Rock Reservation and the privately owned land directly adjacent is hosting the largest gathering of indigenous people in the history of our nation. More than 300 tribes from around the world have sent emissaries of peace and solidarity with one purpose in mind — protection. Protection of their sacred and ancestral burial grounds, some of which have already been destroyed by pipeline-digging equipment.

But more specifically, they are there to protect our water. Not their water, our water. The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest in the world, spanning eight states. It directly supplies 2.3 million people (82 percent of the High Plains population) and supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle that is produced in the United States. The Missouri River is the fourth longest in the world. It is bordered by 10 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. Its watershed encompasses an area one-sixth the size of the U.S. and supplies 18 million people with water. The Dakota Access Pipeline proposes to cross the Ogallala Aquifer once and the Missouri River twice.

In the last five years alone, we can trace millions of gallons of spilled crude and tar sands back to ruptured pipelines. We have seen three major incidents in the last three months. Water tables have been poisoned, animals and their habitats destroyed and entire neighborhoods evacuated. The argument that piping oil and its byproducts through the ground is safer than other modes of transport (which is what oil companies would have us believe) is utterly indefensible. And piping it across two of the largest and most heavily relied upon water sources in North America to export out of the U.S. is negligent beyond comprehension. Our water protectors in Standing Rock know that. They see the rivers and lakes as the circulatory system for mother earth. Her lifeblood. And they are willing to lay down their weapons, their tribal differences and their lives to protect it, now and for generations to come.

No, they are not protesters. To protest presupposes that there is an argument to be won. There is no argument. They are not there to fight. They are there to join hands in song and prayer. To work alongside one another in achieving a goal that should be common to every American man, woman and child.

There is an old Lakota prophecy that tells of a black snake that emerges from the ground and brings with it great sickness and devastation. For generations, they wondered at its meaning. They see it now, and they need our help to fulfill a second prophecy — The Seventh Generation Prophecy — that has identified the youth of today from all the nations across the globe as the bringers of an uprising that ushers in sustainable ways of living in balance and harmony with the world around us. Support our water protectors. Name them for what they are. And then become one. Now is the time, and we are the people. Water is life.

— Erin Hardy


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27 thoughts on “Letter writer: Language is important in coverage of Standing Rock action

  1. John Penley

    In our area of the country there was recently an incident where the Colonial Pipeline leaked a very large amount of gasoline but not much attention has been paid to it even by activists who are supporting the Standing Rock protests. Also, activists and others need to consider their personal use of cars and trucks which use gasoline and cut down or stop buying gas. Asheville has a very good and cheap public transportation system but too few use it including local activists. As long as people continue to use large amounts of gasoline for personal transportation these pipelines will continue to be used and built and protests alone will not stop that.

  2. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    It would be helpful when people make claims of massive crude oil pipeline spills if they would provide evidence for such. There are something like 55,000 miles of crude oil pipelines crossing the country (which necessarily includes rivers). IF the situation is as dire as they claim, there should be a lot of evidence.

    The pipeline under discussion will cross underneath the river at the same point an existing crude oil pipeline crosses under it. Why was there no protest for that one? In fact, this new pipeline follows in that area basically the same route as that existing pipeline. From what I’ve read, the Three Affiliated Tribes (TAT) owns its own crude pipeline crossing under the river not far away at New Town.

    Local towns want the pipeline because it will reduce truck and rail traffic, which in reality are more hazardous ways to transport crude.

    Most of the protesters are outsiders, whose real agenda is anti-oil. Yet ironically, approx. 1/3 of the oil produced in the Bakken is “owned” by TAT.

  3. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    “They are not there to fight. They are there to join hands in song and prayer”

    Hogwash. They are there to physically interfere and shutdown construction. These environmentalists at one point burned piles of tires (for whatever purpose that served) which is toxic and illegal. Damage in the millions of dollars has been done to construction equipment.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      I also read a report of a moltov cocktail being thrown at police and several gunshots fired by a woman with a pistol.

  4. Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

    I’d bet that 90-95% of the DAP protesters are either government entitlement junkies (welfare, food stamps, etc) or professional agitators. Here’s a poignant article on the Standing Rock reservation – http://citizensalliance.org/standing-rock-americas-indians-still-losing-reasons-changed/

    Less than 8% of the population works. 75% are on welfare. Alcoholism is rampant. It’s a wasteland. The protests must be a nice diversion from the epically boring life on the reservation.

    • Erin Hardy

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you’re a crusty old over-privileged white dude, the likes of which we can thank for the debacle this country has become. In any case, you sound like a racist and a bigot. I can’t participate in this “dialogue” with you, Social Justice Worrier indeed. You worry the hell out of me.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        Of course you can’t participate in a dialog with me because the solutions you champion (government dependence) are essentially what completely destroyed Indian culture on Standing Rock reservation. And now you want to take the independence of oil income away from them. 1/3 of the oil coming from the Bakken reserve is Indian, yet you’re trying to prevent them from transporting it to market. Effing genius.

        • Erin Hardy

          You should do your homework. ETP has been quoted in their DAPL promotional literature as saying that the pipeline will position them as a leader in oil exports. So we are risking environmental annihilation (I’m not hyperventilating) in the interest of making capitalist morons like Kelsey Warren bajillionaires. NO benefit to the people living in the states through which it runs. Which makes their use of eminent domain completely illegal. As well, has it ever occurred to you that the natives you so dispariginly describe ended up marginalized and government dependent because of our treatment of them. Forcible relocatations to barren lands prevented them from keeping their relationship with agriculture, the rendering of their family units through racist practices employed by social services, and the alcoholism….well, let’s just say that if you were forced to endure the systemic oppression and abuse that our natives have for the last few hundred years, I’m willing to bet that you’d have issues, too. Suicide rates are highest in our nation among young Native American men. That is an effing tragedy, and we should be ashamed. Our government did that to them. Is still doing that to them.

  5. facts on oil pipelines

    A recent Wall Street Journal review found that there were 1,400 pipeline spills and accidents in the U.S. between 2010-2013.
    Here is a partial list of U.S. crude oil pipeline failures, in 2016, so far . . .
    On February 14, a 6-inch crude oil pipeline broke near Rozet, Wyoming, spilling about 1,500 gallons of crude oil into a creek bed.
    On April 2, the TransCanada Corporation Keystone Pipeline was observed by a local resident to be leaking, near Freeman, South Dakota. The cause was a crack in a girth weld, and amount of tar sands dilbit spill was about 16,800 gallons.
    On May 20, a Shell Oil Company pipeline leaked near Tracy, California, spilling about 21,000 gallons of crude oil.
    On June 23, a Crimson Pipeline crude oil line leaked in Ventura County, California. Initial reports said the spill size was from 25,200 gallons to 29,000 gallons, but, later reports estimate 45,000 gallons of crude were spilled.[577][578]
    On August 12, contractors were working on one of the main lines in Sunoco Pipeline LP’s Nederland, Texas terminal when crude oil burst through a plug that was supposed to hold the oil back in the pipeline and ignited. The contractors were knocked off the platform to the ground, suffering injuries from the fall and severe burns. seven contractors were injured.
    On September 10, a Sunoco pipeline ruptured near Sweetwater, Texas. About 33,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled. The pipeline was just over a year old.

    • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

      Thanks for the links. This just goes to show that massive pipeline spills that cause “environmental annihilation” are rare to non-existent. Oil leaks that do occur get cleaned up and we move on.

      FWIW, for some perspective when perusing the above links, a tanker truck holds about 9000 gallons of crude oil.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        Correction. I made a math mistake. The Santa Barbara oil seep discharges about 8000-9000 gallons per day. That’s about one tanker truck per day directly into the ocean.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        The Santa Barbara oil seep discharges approx. 2-2.5 million gallons of crude each year directly into the Pacific Ocean. According to archaeological evidence, this has been occurring for at least 7000 years. That amounts to 14-17.5 trillion gallons of oil. Yet there has been no “environmental annihilation”, that extremist chicken-little environmentalists try to make us believe will happen from man-made oil spills that occur on a lesser scale and get cleaned up much faster than nature cleans up her “spills”.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        There is another pollution discharging directly into the Pacific Ocean that definitely is causing “environmental annihilation”. That is the discharge of approx. 72,000 gallons per day of highly radioactive groundwater at the destroyed nuclear facility at Fukushima Japan. Unlike ocean oil pollution that nature cleans up, this pollution is accumulative and will never go away. And the leak will never stop. Yet nuclear power is the kind of energy source that by default extremist environmentalists push us towards by trying to get rid of oil.

  6. facts on oil pipelines

    But, what can we the people (as the fourth branch of government) do about DAPL?

    Asheville Mayor, and City Council unanimously “. . . call on all residents of Asheville to raise awareness about this important struggle for Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice and to support the Sacred Stones Camp efforts in any way they can . . .”

    This following resolution can be found at: http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Portals/0/city-documents/cityclerk/mayor_and_citycouncil/resolutions/sixteen/September%2027,%202016.pdf
    (Pages 8 and 9)

    RESOLUTION NO. 16-224
    WHEREAS, the City of Asheville understands the importance of recognizing the specific challenges facing the original inhabitants of this land and honoring their contributions symbolized through the declaration of Indigenous Peoples Day each October passed in January, 2015; and

    WHEREAS, Asheville resides within the ancestral homelands of the Cherokee Nation and within an hour’s drive to the Qualla Boundary, the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; and the City of Asheville fully supports the right of every Federally Recognized Indian Tribe to exercise the full scope of their Tribal Sovereignty and to enjoy the benefits that accompany self-determination; and

    WHEREAS, it is proper and fitting that whenever there are issues that are of national importance in Indian Country, or issues arise that impact Native Americans across the country, that we the City of Asheville demonstrate our willingness to stand in solidarity with those affected; and

    WHEREAS, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a Federally Recognized tribe located in North and South Dakota, has determined that the proposed route of the Dakota Access oil Pipeline creates a potential threat to the only source of drinking water for their people; and
    WHEREAS, the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline would carry as many as 570,000 barrels of fracked crude oil per day for more than 1,172 miles from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, passing over sensitive landscapes including treaty protected land containing recognized cultural resources and across or under 209 rivers, creeks, and tributaries including the pristine Missouri River, which provides drinking water and irrigates agricultural land in communities across the Midwest; and

    WHEREAS, any spill of oil into the Missouri River would irreparably harm the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Treaty reserved lands, territories, waters and other resources; burial grounds, gravesites and other sacred sites of cultural, religious, and historical significance; and spiritual relationships and indigenous ways of life; and

    WHEREAS, to date the Standing rock Sioux Tribe has received Letters of Support and Council Resolutions from over 250 different Native nations including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; and

    WHEREAS, despite deep opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as farmers, scientists, more than 30 environmental advocacy groups, and other Tribal nations along the proposed route, and without Tribal consultation or meaningful environmental review as required by federal law, in July, 2016 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit allowing construction of the fracked oil pipeline to move forward; and

    WHEREAS, the Dakota Access Pipeline violates Article 2 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty which guarantees that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shall enjoy the “undisturbed use and occupation” of their permanent homeland, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation; and

    WHEREAS, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 affirms the need to “protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions,” particularly in American Indian sacred places; and Tyler Emsky LEG Dakota Access Pipeline RES D1c Template last revised April 13, 2016; and

    WHEREAS, Articles, 11, 12, and 25 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), as endorsed by the United States in 2010, affirms that indigenous peoples like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe possess the right to maintain and protect their culture, religion, practices, and relationship with their “traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories [and] waters”; and

    WHEREAS, the UNDRIP Article 32 further provides that governments shall consult with indigenous peoples “in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources”; and

    WHEREAS, the Society for American Archeology, with over 7800 professional archeologists in all 50 states, found that Section 106 of The National Historic Preservation Act particularly those mandates regarding consultation with tribes were not followed

    WHEREAS, In a show of monumental cooperation not seen in the 140 years since the Battle of the Greasy Grass or Little Big Horn, members of the Lakota Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have united with the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Fires Council – which include the confederation of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations – and established a peaceful encampment in Cannon Ball, North Dakota known as the Sacred Stones Camp to resist the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline with a cultural and spiritual presence; and

    WHEREAS, On August 15, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council led by Tribal Chairman David Archambault II called on Tribal nations and Indigenous people around the world to issue resolutions in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and the Sacred Stones Camp;


    We stand in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as they exercise their sovereignty in protest of the encroachment upon their ancestral land, water and sacred sites by the Dakota Access Pipeline, and we call on all residents of Asheville to raise awareness about this important struggle for Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice and to support the Sacred Stones Camp efforts in any way they can; and

    The City of Asheville calls upon the United States and the Army Corps of Engineers to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, prior to taking any federal action regarding the DAPL that would harm or destroy the Tribe’s ancestral lands, waters and sacred sites.

    Read, approved and adopted this 27th day of September, 2016.

    • Lulz

      Council couldn’t resolve a clogged toilet without hiring a consultant because they are inept and ignorant.

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