Bellingham City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline immediately after several hundred people gathered outside of City Hall to call for action Monday, Sept. 12.
The sounds of drumming and singing could still be heard in council chambers after the 7 p.m. meeting started. The members opted to move the resolution to the top of their agenda, since so many people had shown up for that issue.
The resolution, brought forward by Council member Roxanne Murphy, who is also a member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe, calls on federal agencies to respect the status and treaty rights of recognized tribes.
In it, the council “recognizes the underlying similarities and shared issues between recent US Army Corps of (Engineers’) permit decisions in Whatcom County and recent permit decisions in North and South Dakota.”
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I come to you today with major strength, major solidarity, to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in our defense against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Bellingham City Council member Roxanne Murphy, speaking to a rally outside City Hall
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.
The Standing Rock Sioux have said they were not properly consulted before the $3.8 billion oil pipeline was approved. 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 company has stated the pipeline would be safer and more efficient than shipping oil by train or truck.
“The Bellingham City Council supports the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes to protect the environment, to preserve Native burial grounds, to maintain cultural heritage, and to preserve Treaty Rights against the harmful transport of fossil fuels across vulnerable and protected lands,” according to the resolution.
Bellingham Stands with Standing Rock
Just before 6 p.m. Monday, hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall to hear from speakers who had been to the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota and on the Lummi Totem Pole Journey.
The action was centered on the steps of City Hall, and people spilled onto the bricks and grassy lawn on either side of the main entrance to hear from environmental advocates and members of local tribes.
The Lummi youth canoe family performed songs and dances, including the “Eagle Song,” during which young dancers jumped to the rhythm, arms spread, then raised their hands to the sky.
Rally organizer Jill MacIntyre Witt of 350 Bellingham introduced speakers, such as Murphy; environmental activist Chiara D’Angelo; Lummi member Freddy Lane; and Lummi master carver Jewell James, who helped lead the Totem Pole Journey on a detour to the camp in North Dakota.
Whatever we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.
Freddy Lane, Lummi Nation member
“I come to you today with major strength, major solidarity, to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in our defense against the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Murphy told the crowd. “I’ve been watching this issue for quite some time because what happens at that tribe can adversely affect every tribe. ... That’s why it’s so wonderful to see so many people joining us and the warriors in North Dakota that are fighting to protect Mother Earth, fighting to protect our water and fighting to do the right thing with tribal consultation.”
When Lane spoke, he echoed many of the thousands who have traveled to the camp in North Dakota: “We are not protesters. We are protectors.”
“Every single one of us standing here right now is indigenous to Mother Earth,” Lane said. “Whatever we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.”
On Tuesday, Sept. 13, Energy Transfer Partners released a statement from CEO Kelcy Warren to “All Partnership Employees,” saying that work on the pipeline would continue, despite a call from federal agencies Friday, Sept. 9, to voluntarily pause all construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, where the tribe has expressed its concerns.
The Department of the Army will not authorize work on the pipeline on Corps land near or under the lake “until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions” according to a Sept. 9 U.S. Department of Justice news release.
The company will meet with officials “to understand their position and reiterate our commitment to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline into operation.”
“Today the 1,172-mile project is nearly 60 percent complete, employs more than 8,000 highly trained skilled labor workers who are safely constructing it, and we have spent just over $1.6 billion on equipment, materials and the workforce to date,” Warren’s letter states.
We – like all Americans – value and respect cultural diversity and the significant role that Native American culture plays in our nation’s history and its future and hope to be able to strengthen our relationship with the Native American communities as we move forward with this project.
Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren, in statement to employees Tuesday, Sept. 13
The letter states that the right-of-way for the pipeline has been obtained, nearly all of the route is on private land, and “neither the land abutting nor Lake Oahe itself is subject to Native American control or ownership.” However, the statement continues, the company met with the Standing Rock Sioux multiple times in the past two years.
Standing Rock Sioux chairman, Dave Archambault II, responded to the statement, saying the tribe will “continue to explore all legal, legislative and administrative options to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
“The pipeline has already led to the destruction of our sacred sites,” Archambault said in a written statement. “Energy Transfer Partners has proven time and time again that the bottom line for them is money. The bottom line for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is and will always be protecting our lands, people, water and sacred sites from the devastation of this pipeline. Our fight isn’t over until there is permanent protection of our people and resources from the pipeline.”