Trump launches “blitzkrieg” against Native America on DAPL issue

The proxy announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers(ACE) that it will grant an easement for the final portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) followed on the heels of executive memoranda signed by Trump, promoting DAPL and Keystone XL, on January 24. This is all part of a political “blitzkrieg” meant to throw Native America, and Standing Rock in particular, into tactical disarray.

This follows the precedent set by the government most closely used against Native protests in the 20thCentury. Whenever it seems that the number of protesters is decreasing, the government makes its move. The DAPL struggle has, of course, many other historical parallels and a number of new features.

In this case it seems that Trump is taking a page out of Andrew Jackson’s playbook. In the matter of Jackson when it came to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Cherokee Nation shortly before the Trail of Tears he is reported to have said “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Like Jackson, Trump is attempting to use the power of the “bully pulpit” to override the law.

In the DAPL matter Trump seeks to circumvent the law by approving the pipeline in his memoranda and sidestepping the required Environmental Impact Statement by having the Army Corps make a proxy announcement of a grant of easement.

There is again some confusion. The Army Corps of Engineers has not actually made a statement that it will be granting an easement. The announcement was issued by North Dakota Sen. Hoeven, saying that the Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer directs the Army Corps to proceed with the easement.  This seems to be a murky area of the law in which rules are made up as this issue proceeds.

There is the litigation in front of Judge Boasberg and the so-called rule of law. But, If the ACE or Trump is allowed to get away with this then there is no rule of law, only the rule of rich white men; the rule of the white oligarchy. To cite an old maxim “If there is no law  for some, then there is no law for any.”

Where does this leave the litigation before Judge Boasberg? He has ordered that briefs in the DAPL litigation will be due from all parties on February 20. This judge appears to want to please whoever sits in the White House more than he wants to reach a decision based on justice. The judge should reach a decision based on the merits of the case and not on the self-serving racist actions of Trump. To whom is Boasberg going to turn for guidance for the effects of the blindsiding memoranda?

At the recent January 30 hearing, Boasberg was reportedly only concerned with DAPL’s timeline for finishing the pipeline under the Missouri River. This is an outrageous favoring of corporate interests.

This column is being written after having just talked to Water Protectors on Wednesday morning who said they are now being followed onto the reservation by a North Dakota state trooper after leaving the Protector camps. In fact, the trooper pulled behind them at the Tribal casino gas station and just sat there. When asked what he was doing the trooper replied that he had been authorized by the state to enter the reservation.  This is harassment. This is flagrantly illegal and in violation of federal Indian law and tribal sovereignty unless there has been an agreement reached with the tribe allowing state officers on the reservation.

Water Protectors also said this morning that they are going to stand their ground and that they are willing to die to stop DAPL. Native people are again ready to sing their death songs in fighting this life-threatening pipeline.

If DAPL tries to move forward Trump could have blood on his hands.


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.