City Council member Roxanne Murphy, a member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe, will ask her fellow council members on Monday, Sept. 12, to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in its fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
She will be joined by hundreds of others at a rally before Monday’s 7 p.m. council meeting that is expected to include speeches from local tribal members and others who have traveled to North Dakota to show support to the tribe.
Murphy will bring a resolution for consideration that would have Bellingham join other communities supporting Standing Rock.
“To start, it’s something that I had been uniquely aware of as a member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe,” Murphy said. “I just really wish I could be there to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux.”
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Since April, Standing Rock Sioux members have camped in North Dakota protesting the planned $3.8 billion pipeline, which would go from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois.
The pipeline would transport about 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day, or about six to eight 100-car oil trains’ worth, according to owner Energy Transfer Partners.
The Standing Rock Sioux have called for an injunction to stop the work on the pipeline while the courts can hear their suit, which claims the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not consult the tribe before issuing the needed permits for the project, and that the pipeline, which would run under the river, could threaten their downstream water supply.
Friday afternoon, Sept. 9, a judge denied the tribe’s request that work on the pipeline be stopped.
Local support, sovereignty
In late August, members from several Washington state tribes, including Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe, traveled to the camp where the Cannonball and Missouri rivers meet, to show their support.
“Lummi is honored to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux,” Timothy Ballew, Lummi chairman, said in an Aug. 30 statement. “Like the Standing Rock Sioux, Lummi’s waters, sacred burial sites, and treaty rights have been at risk. We stand with our fellow tribal nations to protect our sacred resources.”
This May, the Corps denied a permit for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would ship coal from Cherry Point, after finding that it would affect Lummi Nation’s treaty-protected fishing rights.
When there’s no proper consultation, that is a threat to tribal sovereignty and treaty rights. In my opinion, any threat to sovereignty anywhere is a threat to those rights everywhere.
Roxanne Murphy, Bellingham City Council member, and member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe
Murphy said she became concerned when she heard reports that dogs had been unleashed on protesters at the construction site.
On Saturday, Sept. 3, bulldozers started clearing land along part of the pipeline route, the day after the tribe had filed paperwork showing that area was a historical tribal burial site.
Protesters stormed the site to demand that the work stop, and the company called in several people with guard dogs, some of which were unleashed and attacked Native Americans and horses, as reported and captured on camera by Democracy Now! Some protesters in the footage appear to have been pepper-sprayed.
“I would ask anyone to see how they would feel if the gravesites of their family members were disturbed in any way,” Murphy said. “It’s a very sensitive topic for many people.”
Part of why Murphy said she hopes to support the Standing Rock Sioux is to ensure treaty rights and tribal sovereignty are protected.
“When there’s no proper consultation, that is a threat to tribal sovereignty and treaty rights,” Murphy said. “In my opinion, any threat to sovereignty anywhere is a threat to those rights everywhere. I hope not only the Corps of Engineers, but all organizations involved will listen.”
The full text of Murphy’s resolution can be found in the agenda materials at cob.org/meetings.
Several people from the Lummi Totem Pole Journey and others who stopped at Standing Rock’s camp are expected to speak, and the microphone will be opened up to others who want to share their stories of visiting the camp, MacIntyre Witt said.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 400 people said on Facebook they would attend the event, and more than 1,000 people were interested.
“I think it’s important for leaders, communities, cities and other native nations to stand together in solidarity against the corporations on such matters,” MacIntyre Witt said. “We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
MacIntyre Witt said this is a “critical moment in the climate justice movement,” as groups from around the nation are showing solidarity to address “the climate crisis in the bigger picture.”
“This is not just environmental; this is about climate justice,” MacIntyre Witt said. “Climate justice equals racial, social, economic and environmental justice.”