Op-Ed: Who Will Answer to Standing Rock?

Last week the Army Corps of Engineers issued the final easement for Energy Transfer Partners to dig the remaining portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This final stretch will be laid horizontally under Lake Oahe half a mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The Army Corps decision came at the behest of President Trump’s executive order pushing this pipeline and the already dead Keystone XL pipeline through without proper review. Construction has already begun and the pipeline could carry oil in as little as 30 days. Meanwhile, a federal judge has denied the tribe’s request to halt construction, arguing that the damage can’t be done until oil begins flowing. But the police violence, private security attacks, and mass arrests have already done great harm to Standing Rock and their allies. And with Federal, State, and County governments intent on continuing the colonial assault on Indigenous land, water, and life by working unabashedly for the oil companies and banks funding this pipeline, who will answer to Standing Rock?

The president won’t. In fact, it is yet unclear if either president will. Congress won’t. The soon-to-be-gutted EPA won’t. So how do we respond to the call by Standing Rock for a last stand, which if anything will be the beginning of merely a different form of resistance?

We stop giving money to the banks that are funding DAPL. If you have accounts with Wells Fargo, Citibank, US Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Compass Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, HSBC Bank, or one of the other 9 banks that have given Dakota Access $3.75 billion in credit, consider closing your account. Go to a local branch or call customer service and tell them you want to close your account specifically because of their support for the pipeline. Remember that bank tellers aren’t the enemy so be nice to them but be firm; they might try to talk you out of it. Take your money to a credit union like Salal or BECU (they also charge less exorbitant fees). Encourage your friends and family to also take their money out of the 17 banks that fund DAPL.

We cut institutional ties with those banks. Look at your SU ID card and flip it over, see the logo on the bottom right? “US Bank.” Why? Because SU has a deal with US Bank for the latter to provide ID cards in exchange for a monopoly on banking services on campus, rights to advertise to students, and access to “significant on-campus activities and events.” In fact, SU receives royalties depending on the “Penetration %” of the student body by US bank account creation. Student Government could present a resolution to urge Connie Kanter, VP of Finance and Business Affairs, to severe this agreement in response to the bank’s support of this pipeline. Divesting from banks is the most direct institutional route of action that takes away money from the projects that harm our communities. The City of Seattle just did this with Wells Fargo to the tune of $3 billion, so why can’t we?

We support those who are on the frontlines. Water protectors have been arrested and charged with egregious crimes such as inciting a riot, which is a felony charge. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has taken on a heavy financial and environmental burden of hosting the protest camps. If you or your families can afford to, donate it to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe itself (standingrock.org), a legal defense fund for water protectors (https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/11B5z8), or the legal team fighting to stop the pipeline in court (lakotalaw.org).

We stop investing in the companies that will profit off the oil flowing through this pipeline. You’ve heard it from me before but now is the time for Seattle University to divest from fossil fuels. Urge the university to commit to divesting and to inform its investment manager to remove our comingled funds that ultimately fund projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sundborg says it is too hard but we must show him that the alternative is not only much harder on those who will face the detriments but is also morally wrong. Sign the petition, come to our next event in March, and join the movement. Check out SSA’s website: divestsu.weebly.com for more information.

We put our bodies on the line through direct action. The partial victories that have come against the pipeline, including the original plan for an Environmental Impact Statement, did not come from either negotiating alone or from the goodwill of those in power. It was the direct action of the water protectors at Standing Rock and activists across the globe that are targeting banks, oil companies, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other guilty parties that have had the biggest impact. Now with the government’s obvious support of the pipeline, direct action takes on an even more crucial role. Stay tuned for how to get involved in direct action!

Nicolás Cruz
Contact Nicolás with questions or to get plugged in at [email protected].