A representative of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is set to meet with President-elect Donald Trump today in New York City, and the tone tribal chairman David Archambault is striking ahead of the meeting is a departure from the virulently anti-oil, anti-pipeline theme of the #NoDAPL protests he helped spark:
Archambault said he wants to make the case for boosting energy development while addressing his tribe’s concerns with Energy Transfer Partners LP’s 1,172-mile oil pipeline currently under Army Corps of Engineers review. Archambault said he couldn’t attend the meeting in person.
“I want to help him make this nation great again, and I want to help give him assistance, advice on how we can do that together and not leave the first occupants of this land behind,” Archambault said. “We can do the pipelines, we can do oil development, energy development, but not off our backs again. That’s basically all I would share with him.”
Could Trump and the tribe find some common ground to let the pipeline go forward without any more of the violent, riotous protesting we’ve seen over the last weeks or months?
Maybe. There are some complications.
For one, the position Archambault is articulating here is not the position the #NoDAPL movement has taken. Archambault himself has described the pipeline as some evil “black snake.” The protesters chanted, over and over again, about leaving the “oil in the soil.” Will the protest movement be satisfied by a mere change in the pipeline’s route?
I don’t think they will be. Archambault and his tribe allowed their protest against the pipeline to be co-opted by environmental extremists who want to block all pipelines and all oil development. They will likely continue seeking to block even a new pipeline route with legal machinations and violent protests no matter what sort of a deal Arcahambault and the tribe strikes with Trump.
So what benefit is it to Trump, then, to strike a deal?
Also problematic is the fact that Energy Transfer Partners has already installed pipeline right up to the edge of Lake Oahe. They’re just waiting for the feds to give the green light to drill the pipe under the reservoir.
Does Archambault really want the company to go back and dig up all that pipe again? In areas the tribe has claimed is sacred ground (even though the tribe didn’t object to an existing pipeline through that area)?
I expect the Dakota Access Pipeline and its current route will be approved under the Trump administration, and that the Standing Rock Tribe will have accomplished very little other than inspiring a great deal of enmity and resentment from their neighbors here in North Dakota.