President Obama says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering rerouting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, amid months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of more than 200 other Native American nations and tribes from across the Americas. “My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans,” Obama said. “And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline in a way.” Meanwhile, on Wednesday, police deployed pepper spray and tear gas against dozens of Native American water protectors during a standoff at Cantapeta Creek, north of the main resistance camp. At least two people were shot with nonlethal projectiles. Video and photos show police firing the pepper spray and tear gas at the water protectors, who were peacefully standing in the creek. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had ordered police to arrest the Native Americans and destroy a bridge that members of the camp had constructed over the creek in order to protect a sacred burial ground they say is being destroyed by construction and law enforcement activity.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Obama says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering rerouting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, amid months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of more than 200 other Native American nations and tribes from across the Americas. Obama made the comment during an interview with NowThis News.
VERSHA SHARMA: One thing the candidates aren’t really talking about is the Dakota Access pipeline.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.
VERSHA SHARMA: Is that something that you would consider intervening in? People have called for your administration to make a call.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re monitoring this closely. And, you know, I think, as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline in a way.
VERSHA SHARMA: So that’s a possibility, right?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So—so, we’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.
VERSHA SHARMA: Is there something to be done about the way protesters are being treated right now, though? They’re getting sprayed with rubber bullets. We’re seeing some kind of shocking footage.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, I mean, it’s a challenging situation. I think that my general rule when I talk to governors and state and local officials, whenever they’re dealing with protests, including, for example, during the Black Lives Matters protests, is there is an obligation for protesters to be peaceful, and there’s an obligation for authorities to show restraint. And, you know, I want to make sure that as everybody is exercising their constitutional rights to be heard, that both sides are refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: President Obama’s comments came on Tuesday, the same day that North Dakota officials approved an additional $4 million for policing, bringing the total costs of the police crackdown on the pipeline protests to $10 million.
On Wednesday, police deployed pepper spray and tear gas against dozens of Native American water protectors during a standoff at Cantapeta Creek, north of the main resistance camp. At least two people were shot with nonlethal projectiles. Video and photos show police firing the pepper spray and tear gas at the water protectors, who were peacefully standing in the creek. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had ordered police to arrest the Native Americans and destroy a bridge that members of the camp had constructed over the creek in order to protect a sacred burial ground they say is being destroyed by construction and law enforcement activity.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had ordered police to arrest Native American protesters and destroy a bridge that members of the camp had constructed over the creek. The protesters, or water protectors, as they call themselves, had gathered to pray and protect sacred sites they believe were being disturbed by construction and law enforcement activity.
Well, for more, we’re going to North Dakota to speak with Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Chairman, welcome to Democracy Now! First, please respond to this statement, that I think surprised many, President Obama talking about considering rerouting the pipeline. Can you explain what is being considered right now?
DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: You know, Amy, what the president is doing is he’s starting a process that is needed, and that is to respect indigenous peoples’ rights. A reroute is something that can require new state permits, new federal permits to cross waterways, new land owner agreements, and it also can restart the process, where proper consultation can take place and environmental studies can happen. And so, that’s a—that’s a huge step. I think this whole process was flawed from the beginning.
But it also has to reflect what we’ve been saying all along, is that indigenous peoples’ rights continue to get violated, and it’s about time that it stop. You know, we’ve been all about protecting water and our treaty territory. If you look at a map—in 2010, there was a study on the number of pipeline breaks. There’s a hole in that map, and that’s our treaty lands. That’s pretty much all we have, and we need to protect it. But that’s one step.
The next step is, is starting to take a look at what is it that we have to do around the world as people. We have to start changing our dependency on fossil fuels, and we have to start investing in renewable energies. Until we stop driving cars that use fossil fuels, this is going to be a force that continues to exist. So we have to start to look at ways we can be self-sustaining without fossil fuels, and force investments, force corporations to look at how can we save this world. Right now, Standing Rock has our sovereign rights, our sovereign lands, and we’re asking that you stop infringing on them. We have said it repeatedly. And I think, with the president’s statement, it’s starting to be heard.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain exactly what the process is, the consultation that’s going on for the rerouting? And when will they stop building where they are, or will it involve stopping doing what they’re doing, for example, yesterday and the last week and earlier this week?
DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: So, this—I don’t have a timeline, and I haven’t been consulted on this. This is just something that comes from what the president has stated in his comments. The company continues to ignore federal government. Company—this company is something that is—they just destroyed some more sacred sites. And they knew about these sites on October 17th, but they didn’t inform anyone until October 27th. They plowed through it. And, you know, that’s cause for the state to ask the company to cease work. That’s cause for the Corps of Engineers to say, “Shut down now. You’re not going to get this permit because you continue to violate indigenous peoples’ rights.” But the company is not going to do that, because they feel they have every legal right. And this is driven by money and greed. And it only comes from the continued dependency that we all have on fossil fuels.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And do you think that the Obama administration can do something more now, as the Army Corps considers rerouting the pipeline?
DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: Right now they need to say, “No easement. You’re not going to get the easement.” The Obama administration or the Army Corps of Engineers can release that statement today, and then the construction will stop. You know, this company is driven with greed and money, but it’s also driven by investors. People who invest in pipeline companies are asking for timelines to be met. But if they know that they will not get the easement, they can stop construction.
AMY GOODMAN: I was interested that President Obama said, “We’re going to look at this for a few more weeks.” And I was wondering what it was they are waiting on, as people are shot with pepper spray, rubber bullets, the concern of what will happen, finding an infiltrator who had an AR-15 gun, who put a bandana over his face, who actually had Dakota Access pipeline security ID. What would it take for President Obama—why is he waiting a few weeks?
DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: You know, Amy, that’s a really good question, and I’m not the person to answer that for you. I think it would be a question that only the Obama administration can answer. We were told that they were going to review the whole process. And so, whatever that means, we’re hopeful and we’re prayerful that the process stops this pipeline and looks at protecting our indigenous rights and our lands and our water.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the money that the North Dakota sheriff is getting now, I think it’s what? Up to $10 million, just requested another $4 million. When we were there, we saw the MRAP, the armored personnel carrier. You’ve got the sound cannons, the heavily militarized police. What is your response to what’s happening? And what are they requesting? And what about the involvement of the North Dakota Legislature and the governor?
DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: OK, Amy, you know, what’s happening is unfortunate with the state government. There were—there has been an oil boom in North Dakota, and—since 2003. And there’s been the exploitation of fossil fuels with fracking. And in the region, northwest region of North Dakota, there’s been an influx of people. Our unemployment rate was 5.0 in United States, and North Dakota was 2.8. There was people coming from all over. And what was happening was there was routine major crimes being committed—murders, rapes, unsolved murders, sex trafficking, the worst drugs that you can think of being trafficked through there. And we didn’t see militarization of law enforcement. We didn’t see National Guard being deployed. We didn’t see the state call a state of emergency. And this has been going on for almost a decade. But as soon as indigenous people and all the supporters come together to stand up against fossil fuels, the state says, “Let’s throw $10 million at this and make them go away.”
Well, our commitment is not going to go away. The state has to understand that. And a lot of this force is unnecessary. But that’s just how it is. And, you know, there’s the underlying treatment of indigenous peoples. And we’re saying enough is enough. And it’s starting to expose a lot of things to where—how do we get past this once this is over? How are we going to re-establish relationships? And how are we going to move on? And how are we going to handle ourselves? Because this is starting to create a whole lot of anger and frustration, which was already there, from 200 years, by the treatment of the federal government, state governments on indigenous peoples.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I wanted to ask you, Chairman Archambault—in a moment, we’re going to talk more about Kelcy Warren, who is the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, that owns the Dakota Access pipeline. He also is a folk music maven, has a record label, is big in the Austin music scene. And his music idol is Jackson Browne. We understand Jackson Browne is coming to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation Thanksgiving weekend on Sunday night and will be having a concert. It’s interesting that Kelcy Warren—the pipeline is called the Dakota Access pipeline, and that his music festival in Texas, where, for example, our next guests, the Indigo Girls, have performed, is called the Cherokee Creek Music Festival. And I was wondering about your thoughts on using Native names—Cherokee Creek and Dakota—the CEO of the company that is pushing this pipeline forward?
DAVE ARCHAMBAULT II: You know, Amy, we brought this concern up. It’s not only the company Dakota Access or Cherokee Creek, but indigenous people have a right to their intellectual property. And our rights have been violated and taken from us all across the board, including our name. So if you look at the state of North Dakota and the state of South Dakota, those states, as well, took our name, and not really understanding what it means. And then, the Dakota Access pipeline, to use our name, Dakota, which means “friend,” it’s not right. And that’s an intellectual property that should be owned by us. But it doesn’t matter. It seems like no matter what is our ownership, whatever we own or whatever is our right, it’s been infringed on for the past 500 years.
AMY GOODMAN: Dave Archambault, we want to thank you for being with us, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, speaking to us from North Dakota. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we ask, who is Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners? We’ll speak with a reporter and then be joined by the Indigo Girls, a well-known musical group who have played at Standing Rock and also at Warren’s folk festival in Texas, but are now leading a petition of singers and musical groups to stop supporting the Dakota Access pipeline. Stay with us.
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