As the protests against the Dakota Pipeline continue, the story becomes ever murkier—and as it does, a strange phenomenon has occurred. Depending on who you ask, the protests are either rabble-rousers and thugs acting like fools or proud and honorable Natives standing against tyranny. Just like anything else, however, there are two (or three, or more) sides to every story—and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
There are few in this day and age who would argue that the federal government has always treated the Native Americans well, and that’s not our focus here. Perhaps part of the issue with the pipeline is that there is an expectation based on past history that, if there is a disagreement between the government and the Native Americans, it’s automatically the government’s fault. As attractive as that line of thinking is—and as well as it plays into the perpetual victim mentality that the Left always pushes—this is not entirely accurate.
In the Dakota Pipeline muddle, many of the accusations leveled by the tribe are either misleading or outright false. Images of dog bite injuries on children, troops in riot gear gassing protesters, and other horrific sights have turned out to either be in response to violent acts that the protesters started, or (in the case of the bitten child) are not from the pipeline protests at all. Claims by the Standing Rock Tribe that the Army Corps of Engineers cut the tribe out of planning have repeatedly been proven false, and protest leaders have left out a fair amount of information while recruiting people from across the country to join them in North Dakota.
Tribal officials have offered several reasons for their opposition to the pipeline—archaeological artifacts that even The Atlantic almost has to admit they didn’t know or care about until right then, water supply for the tribe that was already being moved well out of the so-called danger zone, and so on. RedState explained, using the protest’s material, how the tribe dragged their feet and engaged in shady practices from Day One. One tactic included having a landowner with radical environmentalist ties come in a full month after all had signed off on the deal, “wondering if there was [sic] any Indian graves that might be disturbed by the construction of the pipeline.” There weren’t, and they knew it—their documents admit it. The official archaeology report also found the claims to be false, and a judge confirmed it:
It should be noted that federal Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee, has previously rejected these claims by the tribe. In fact, in August the state archaeological team investigated another claim of graves found along the pipeline route, again finding it to be erroneous.
In short, the tribe and the activists pushing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest have been lying—and the proof is available in the court documents and evidence. In reality, the pipeline has become a venting mechanism; it doesn’t seem to matter any longer what the facts are, it’s just another opportunity to stand up, be angry, and cause a ruckus while disrupting everything around them — in other words — what the Left does best.
Standing Rock Tribe officials, who initially wanted support to help block the pipeline, has now learned what happens when the Left gets involved. Five days ago, they begged—again—for the more than 600 protestors outside their reservation, many of them from outside North Dakota, to leave. The protestors, however, aren’t budging.
On the other side of this Indian-Fed tangle, it should be noted that not every tribe is like Standing Rock. Some have other plans and desires, and the federal government hasn’t done their part in handling those requests appropriately. With up to one-fifth of all American oil and gas reserves residing underneath the tribal land, there is a veritable fortune underground—and some tribes want to drill, using the money to better their communities. Bureaucratic red tape, however, makes the process ostensibly eternal and fruitless; while the tribes have rights to both the land and its vast underground resources, they don’t own it—the federal government does. The resulting red tape means that tribes that want to develop their land can’t find a way to forge ahead.
A 2015 Government Accountability Office report found that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has mismanaged the programs, “hindered energy development and resulted in lost revenue for tribes,” in one case losing $95 million in potential revenue from oil and gas efforts.
The real issue, beneath all of the lies and red tape, seems to be the core of what many Americans want to know: Why can’t the government just leave us alone? The tribes want that—or at least, they say they do. Fred Fox, a councilman for the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation, summed it up:
We have ancestors that owned these lands. Let us collect our own taxes. Let us create economic viability for our people. Let us create the regulatory system.
Even with government subsistence, such as the $100 million given to tribal schools and colleges each year, Native American tribes are still some of the poorest communities in the country. Where the blame rests for communities languishing in poverty while sitting on a gold mine is a touchy subject. With no one claiming culpability and everyone pointing fingers, the only true thing about the Dakota Access Pipeline project is that nothing is likely to change anytime soon.