What if You Held a Protest and Everyone Froze?
Have you heard? The protestors won and the pipeline is stopped. No permits were issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to allow the pipeline company to drill the last segment of the pipeline under the Missouri River. Time for the protestors to strike camp and move on to other fights, warmed by their sense of accomplishment. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault is now encouraging the folks who have brought so much publicity to the plight of his tribe to go home. Even Michael Moore has weighed in on the plight saying “Stunning victory at Standing Rock! When's the last time the federal gov't was defeated by the Native peoples? Inspiration for what's ahead...” The picture is rosy for now but can this picture be trusted?
Struggling to leave some sort of legacy beyond being the first African American President, the Obama political machine has temporarily squashed the progress of the pipeline. A purely political move with no legs to withstand the onslaught of the courts and the Trump administration. A mere 1,100 feet of digging remains to complete the project and the pipeline company is in federal court today pleading the case to allow the pipeline to go through. There are no plans to change the route and pipeline employees are fully expecting that this is only a temporary delay. Why then would Chairman Archambault be advocating that the camp disperse?
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe operate two casinos within their tribal footprint. One just west of Mobridge, SD and one located five miles south of the protest camp. Chairman Archambault operates a gas station adjacent to the North Dakota casino. The protest has brought people into proximity with this property and improved business. It has elevated the status of the Chairman and he has felt the euphoria that comes from becoming a public personality. Fame is good, at least until the practical aspects of the situation take over.
The North Dakota casino has become a shelter for protestors adverse to the cold. Food, intended for guests who would otherwise drink and gamble has become scarce. In a visit a week ago, I noticed the whiskey, seemed to be a lesser grade or was being diluted with water. Traffic flow around the casino has been altered, making it difficult for the traditional clientele to access the facility and the environment inside the casino has become akin to a refugee camp. The pool has been drained due to cleanliness issues and non-protestor visits are way down. Business is now suffering and the protestors who want to “save” the tribe are actually choking the life out of it.
The protest has become something never intended. It is a rallying point for the professional protestors who wander the United States looking for the next big thing. The idea that they will actually stop the pipeline is ludicrous but the fact that they get so much international attention is delightful in their eyes. Permanent structures are being constructed in the camp, building materials and supplies for the winter are piling up by the day, a town is rising from the prairie and numerous pictures are being shared showing the protestors struggling against the cold. Frostbite will result and this will be blamed on the law enforcement personnel or the National Guard. Perceived injury will be used to rally the supporters who have no real interest in the facts. A claim of civil rights violations will ring out and the initial reasons for the camp will be forgotten and will be replaced by a community of protestors who can parrot the talking points of any cause that is in vogue in the world. Within the borders of the encampment, polar bears will be supported, black lives will matter, Wall Street will be occupied, snail darters will be saved and Al Gore will be elected Mayor of this new community. The drain on resources from the State of North Dakota, the surrounding communities and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe itself will continue and in the end only those who become famous as leaders of a popular protest will win. If this is the intention of those who lead the protestors, then congratulations. If it is not, then reconsider the game plan. Call this a victory and disband for now. Save some lives and the fingers and toes of the innocent who face frostbite every day. Do the right thing and send the protestors home for the holidays. The mess will still be there in the spring, unfortunately, the construction crews will be gone as the pipeline will have gone through by then. Face the inevitable, take the token win and move on to the next cause. The local communities, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the State of North Dakota will thank you.