Three Affiliated Tribes Should Keep in Mind That #NoDAPL Is Not Really a Pipeline Safety Protest

A service truck drives past an oil well on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, November 1, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

The Three Affiliated Tribes of the Forth Berthold Reservation have profited enormously from the oil boom in North Dakota. Roughly a third of the oil produced in North Dakota comes from their tribal lands, and that in turn has plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into tribal coffers.

These numbers are a little out of date, what with the fall in oil prices and drilling activity, but back in December the tribe was pulling in about $10 million a month in revenues from oil activity. At the peak of the oil boom that number was more like $40 million per month.

Keep in mind, that’s for a tribe with just a little over 10,000 enrolled members. Not too shabby.

So it’s a bit perplexing when tribal chairman Mark Fox quietly announced the support of the Three Affiliated Tribes for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline:

You’ll note that Fox is specifically hoping for an alternate route for the pipeline which takes it further from the Standing Rock reservation (it’s worth noting that the pipeline does cross Fox’s reservation, something for which tribe has negotiated an easement with the pipeline company).

But this is a bit naive on Fox’s part, I think. Because what’s happening at Standing Rock isn’t a protest about the safety of the current Dakota Access Pipeline route. It’s a protest aimed at stopping the pipeline project entirely, with the ultimate goal of stymieing oil production in general.

Not that you have to take my word for it. Check out the sign being waved by the organizer of a #NoDAPL protest in Bismarck recently:

Protest organizer Kristen Kelsch hold a sign and chants across the street from the State Capitol in Bismarck on Thursday. A line of police prevented Kelsch and others from hold the protest to the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Capitol grounds

Protest organizer Kristen Kelsch holds a sign and chants across the street from the State Capitol in Bismarck. A line of police prevented Kelsch and others from holding the protest to the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Capitol grounds

Do you think that woman – not some random person who showed up to the protest but, again, its organizer – is going to be satisfied if the pipeline builders chart a new route for their pipeline? Her position is that oil is death.

The position of Earthjustice, the organization representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their legal challenge to the pipeline, is that oil should stay in the ground.

If the protest over the DAPL were truly about concerns over the pipeline’s route, then fine. Let’s have that debate.

But that’s not what the protest is about. If you read the signs, and listen to what the protesters and their organizers are actually saying, this is not a protest over pipeline safety. This is protest aimed at stopping oil production.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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