News Politics

Native Americans condemn Trump’s executive action on pipeline

Acitivists who oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline protest outside the White House on Jan. 24, 2017, after President Trump’s executive orders earlier in the day to continue construction. RNS photo by Jerome Socolovsky

(RNS) President Trump’s executive orders advancing the construction of pipelines are drawing condemnation from the Native American and religious groups that have opposed them.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a statement on Facebook saying the president’s order Tuesday (Jan. 24) regarding the Dakota Access pipeline, to extend from the oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, violated both U.S. law and tribal treaties.

“Nothing will deter us from our fight for clean water,” said Tribal Chairman David Archambault II.


RELATED: The Splainer: The ‘spiritual battle’ over the Dakota Access pipeline


In a similar order on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to Texas, Trump said it would create “a lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs.”

The president also ordered the secretary of commerce to develop a plan for pipes used in pipeline construction in the United States to be manufactured domestically “to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law,” saying it would “put a lot of workers, a lot of steelworkers back to work.”

“We’ll see if we can’t get that pipeline built,” he said.

To many Native Americans and others who have opposed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, the movement was not primarily about jobs, money or energy. It was about protecting holy sites and water.

Shantha Ready Alonso, executive director of Creation Justice Ministries, a Christian organization whose members have joined the camps at Standing Rock, said they were “shocked” by the Trump administration’s lack of regard for tribal sovereignty.

“As Christians we are committed to responsible stewardship of the gifts of God’s creation and to justice for our indigenous brothers and sisters,” Alonso said. “We call on the administration to respect indigenous rights and the safety of drinking water for millions.”

Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, national organizer and spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, issued a statement saying its members were “deeply disappointed” by the president’s action, which they believe will damage recent climate gains.

Tepees and tents line the North Dakota plains on Sept. 13, 2016, at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. An estimated 7,000 people gathered there in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline project, reportedly the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than a century. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

Tepees and tents line the North Dakota plains on Sept. 13, 2016, at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. An estimated 7,000 people gathered there in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline project, reportedly the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than a century. RNS photo by Emily McFarlan Miller

“As evangelical Christians, we are committed to a vision of the gospel that understands that all things are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that the entire creation is being reconciled back to God through Jesus. This commitment will always lead us to advocate for the well-being of all people and for the protection of God’s good creation,” Meyaard-Schaap said.

“We will continue to stand with those around the world who are made most vulnerable by a changing climate. We will continue to stand with Native peoples asserting their right to clean air, water, and a stable climate.”


RELATED: Sioux anti-pipeline action sustained by Native American spirituality


The American Humanist Association, which also had sent members to visit Standing Rock and raised funds for the camps there, issued a statement condemning the executive action:

“It’s clear that the Trump administration’s idea of putting ‘America first’ doesn’t apply to First Americans indigenous to this land. As humanists, we stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their ongoing resistance against dehumanizing environmental and racial injustice.”

As many as 8,000 people gathered in the camps in the hills along the Cannonball River in North Dakota in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux against the pipeline. Last Friday (Jan. 20), the tribal council had passed a resolution asking people to leave the camps in the reservation’s Cannonball District, noting the strain on the citizens and resources of the Sioux Nation and the work that will be required to clean up before the land thaws and floods.

And just last month, many had expressed cautious optimism after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline under President Barack Obama.

Trump said the construction of both pipelines still is “subject to a renegotiation of terms by us.”

The president had owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access pipeline, through at least mid-2016, according to Reuters. His nominee for U.S. energy secretary, Rick Perry, was – until recently – a member of its board, it said.

Its chief executive, Kelcy Warren, also had donated $100,000 to the Trump campaign.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

9 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • “The president had owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access pipeline, through at least mid-2016, according to Reuters. His nominee for U.S. energy secretary, Rick Perry, was – until recently – a member of its board, it said.
    Its chief executive, Kelcy Warren, also had donated $100,000 to the Trump campaign.”
    How’s that drain-the-swamp thingy goin’ for ya?

  • If Trump and co were actually interested in creating real jobs and improving America, here is a far better and less litigious way to start
    http://boingboing.net/2017/01/25/a-nation-of-flints-america-ha.html

    “Lead pipes have a lifespan of about 75 years — and America’s lead pipe are about 75 years old. 3,000 American municipalities have 1.2m miles of lead pipe, and it’s all overdue for replacement, but there’s no plan in hand to do so, and any workable plan will cost about $1 trillion to execute”

  • Well here we go again! The Indians sided with Hilliary Clinton and the bleeding heart liberals, and guess what? She lost. Like most other depressed Democrats they’re attempting to keep their name out there and poke their fingers (arrows?) in the eye of the new administration.

    Let’s review:

    1. The pipeline has nothing to do with Native American Spirituality.

    2. The pipeline is well removed from reservation land and those sacred sites they are claiming.

    3. The river involved is crossed by several pipelines with nary a leak or spill.

    4. The Indians and their communities would derive many economic benefits from the building of the pipeline. The Indians could participate to their advantage if they have the necessary skills and are willing to work alongside the white man.

    CONCLUSION: This is simply another example of politics masquerading as spirituality. (Liberal mainstream churches do it all the time!) These Indians should be off quietly practicing their spirituality, honoring their ancestors and their deeply-rooted traditions, steering clear of the spotlight and otherwise minding their own business!

  • I guess a religious group gets looked upon more favorably when they aren’t trying to attack the civil liberties if everyone else. Go figure.

  • 1. It has to do with building on lands without the permission of the owners using heavy handed strong arming tactics. Lands where the government has a history of stealing from its owners when they prove to be useful.

    2. False. The pipeline also is going through the water table and supplied of those reservations and produces an environmental hazard to those reservations.

    3. That we know of, nor is that an assurance of the future effects.

    4. The pipeline does not require large numbers of people to maintain it. Short of buying out the reservations, or gasp!, properly compensating the reservations for the use, it’s an imposition and hazard to them of little economic value.

    Conclusion, you are engaging in production of alternative facts here.

  • Alternative facts? Try these on for size:

    1. The pipeline is being built on private land.

    2-3. Well, don’t we all take water from the water table? The Ogalala Aquifer supplies water to several states including the reservations and in-place pipelines. (See the latest issue of National Geographic.)

    4a. What other employment opportunities exist for the Indians? Isn’t several months’ worth of good-paying work better than just relying on the government?

    4b. See #1 above! There’s no need to compensate the reservation when the pipeline is being built on private land.

  • 1.The pipeline requires easements on Indian land. Especially given it’s potential impact upon it.
    2-3. So the pipeline has the potential to cause massive damage to communities besides the reservation. Cold comfort there
    4. Wouldn’t long term leasing and the buildup of a fund along with tangible assurances and infrastructure for handling cleanup of potential environmental hazards be more of a long term help than a few temporary jobs now.
    4a,b. You compensate for easements.

ADVERTISEMENTs