Senator Heidi Heitkamp: Fight Against Dakota Access Pipeline “Is Not Winnable”

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp – the only Democrat to win a statewide election here in nearly a decade – was on CNBC today talking about the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Heitkamp leaned heavily on the Native American vote to earn her very, very narrow 2012 election to the Senate over Republican Rick Berg. As such she’s been largely quiet about the pipeline, focusing her messaging not so much on asking fellow Democrat Barack Obama to approve the pipeline but rather on telling the feds to make a decision one way or another.

But Heitkamp is nothing if not a shrewd politician. She knows which way the political winds are blowing in her state. So now in addition to flirting with a cabinet position in the Trump administration  – a maneuver intended more to scare national Democrats into supporting her 2018 re-election to the Senate, something she’ll need given the shambles her state party is in – she’s now breathing fire about the pipeline.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]“I want you to understand that a lot of my career has been spent working with my friends in Indian Country, and trying to improve conditions for Native American children, for Indian people, and so I understand the frustration of the protesters,” Heitkamp told CNBC today. “I just think that this fight is not winnable, and that we need to get down to doing the things that will make a difference in the next generation for Indian people.”[/mks_pullquote]

“I want you to understand that a lot of my career has been spent working with my friends in Indian Country, and trying to improve conditions for Native American children, for Indian people, and so I understand the frustration of the protesters,” Heitkamp told CNBC today (video here). “I just think that this fight is not winnable, and that we need to get down to doing the things that will make a difference in the next generation for Indian people.”

“I believe that the pipeline is going to be built,” Heitkamp also said.

I agree with Heitkamp’s comments about our neighbors in Indian Country are spot-on. Theirs is a tragic history, no question, but unfortunately I think they’ve been misled by political extremists into thinking a fight against an oil pipeline is the right venue to air those grievances.

It is not. Not just because regulatory and legal justifications for the pipeline are sound, and that the protests against the pipeline are doomed to failure, but because Native Americans are going to have a hard time getting traction for their righteous cause if it is shackled to extreme environmental politics.

Native Americans are right to fight for something better for themselves. But they are not going to fix the sorry legacy of past injustices perpetrated by our federal government by joining with political extremists in urging the federal government to perpetrate modern injustices.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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