Oklahoma tries to crush Native American environmental protesters
Led by the Sacred Water Canoe Family singing a warrior song, hundreds of demonstrators march in Tacoma, Wash. in support of the Standing Rock Sioux protest in North Dakota against DAPL, the oil pipeline, Nov. 12, 2016. Alan Berner | The Seattle Times via AP

When Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB 1124 into law in May, 2017 it was yet another strike against Native Americans and the entire nationwide working class of which they are a part – a strike against the 99 percent.

At heart is the Plains All American Pipeline which has been protested several times in Norman, Oklahoma.The law is designed to harshly penalize protesters. The protest movement uses hashtag #NoPlainsPipeline to document their concerns.

Oklahoma’s law is just another part of a trend toward punitive legislation directed towards grassroots protesters. It clearly denies first amendment rights.

This year alone anti-protest legislation was introduced in over 20 states. In Oklahoma reports reflect that the fossil fuel industry has donated over half a million dollars to state legislators.  ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), the notorious right-wing think tank, is reportedly behind these anti-protest legislative initiatives.

Members of several federally­ recognized Oklahoma tribes will be impacted by the project. That list includes the Absentee Shawnee, Citizen Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, and Chickasaw nations. Some tribal members have pointed out that Plains All American failed to consult their tribal councils, which they note is a violation of federal law. A June 3 press release states that sacred tobacco has been planted along the trail of the proposed pipeline.

Ashley McCray, founder of #NoPlainsPipeline and an Oklahoma University graduate student, and Absentee Shawnee member says, “The people who have to live with that land and rely on those water sources will be the most impacted,” McCray said. “We know with each of these pipeline companies and projects that the people who are most directly impacted are Black people, are Indigenous people and are poor white farmers. This is a case of environmental racism.

“Water is life,” she said. “Everyone needs water to drink. Beyond that, resource extraction is rape of the earth. As an indigenous woman, I feel a strong connection to the earth. We’re both givers and sustainers of life. It’s important for me to protect her, because she sustains me.”

The Absentee Shawnee tribe mailed a letter to all tribal members outlining how the tribe would be impacted. In the letter they say, “Increasingly, tribes across this nation are faced with environmental concerns as the oil and gas industry’s processes for extracting and moving oil and natural gas are directly affecting the wellbeing of both the environment and the tribal people who live in those communities.”

“In Oklahoma there has been a major increase in earthquakes and some scientists attribute this to oil and gas hydraulic fracking procedures during the drilling process.  The letter also brings up the potential impact of the fracking wastewater. The underground water tables contain, as a result of the fracking, highly caustic chemicals. used in fracking.

Many of the federally recognized tribes feel the pipeline is illegal due to the tribes never being properly consulted. The Nations recognize that the location of the pipeline falls within economically depressed communities that often lack financial options ito even protest the pipeline.

The law would allow penalizing individual trespassers a minimum $10,000 fine and upward to $100,000 or 10 years of imprisonment. Organizations found to be  “conspirator” could be fined ten times as much up to $1 million in fines.

An American Indian Movement (AIM) chapter in Oklahoma is actively still protesting the  Plains All American Pipeline in Oklahoma. Mike Casteel, director of AIM-Indian Territory said, “We cannot sit idly by — our ancestors died along this trail, and we have many unmarked graves there,” Casteel said in a media release. “We no longer accept poisoning for profit by any government or private corporation.”

University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Data Science, finds that protest violence tends to be provoked by aggressive police tactics — not the other way around. By contrast, when police stand down, protests tend to persist, but with lower rates of arrest and a lower incidence of violence.

The individual worker and local citizens should manage the means of production for their local area. It is when local workers unite then progressive and even socialist values begin to appear in our communities. Clearly the original citizens of this area, the American Indians do not want the Plains All American Pipeline in their native area.

When our right wing legislators begin to take away our first amendment right to protest, something is very wrong with the fabric of democracy we hold so dear. It is important now than before to unite and work together for our socialist beliefs.

Stand up and resist, the time is now. Join with other leftist grassroots organizations to stop fascists.  Defeating the fascist stronghold necessitates uniting together with other leftist groups to show a strong solidarity while still building a strong communist party.


Mark Maxey
Mark Maxey

Oklahoman Mark Maxey is a Yuchi Indian, enrolled in the Muscogee Nation, and has a degree in radio/TV/film. He is a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO. He’s worked as an administrative assistant, petroleum landman, barista, staff writer, paralegal, content producer and graphic designer. He spent six months as a National Data Team volunteer for the Bernie Sanders for President campaign.