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for people who care about the West

Standing Rock and beyond


Earlier this month, a group of protesters calling themselves “water protectors” set up a camp to stop the imminent construction of a controversial pipeline. This was not in North Dakota, however; it was in Texas. The Two Rivers camp, established by activists who were also part of the opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, aims to stop a similar, 148-mile-long project, the Trans-Pecos.

Without the NoDAPL movement, which was inspired by the Standing Rock Sioux’s desire to protect the tribe’s water and cultural sites, the Two Rivers encampment might never have happened. At the very least, it would have looked much different.

“We’re going to follow the same model as Standing Rock,” Frankie Orona, an organizer at Two Rivers, told the Guardian newspaper. “This is a huge historical moment for environmental issues, for protecting our water, protecting our land, protecting sacred sites and protecting treaties.”

The standoff at Standing Rock may well be the start of something historic. In North Dakota, the world watched as an Indigenous land-and-water movement found common cause with climate activism to confront a fossil-fuel corporation protected by a militarized police force. The administration of President Donald Trump may yet overturn the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to halt the pipeline, pending review of its impact on environmental and cultural resources. But Standing Rock, as Associate Editor Tay Wiles reports in this issue, has nevertheless empowered people in new ways. It likely will prove to be just one of many coming battles, as the stakes of climate change continue to rise, and as Indigenous populations build on the Standing Rock model.

Managing editor Brian Calvert

Even as our country slides further away from democracy and closer to corporate oligarchy, Standing Rock provides heartening evidence that people who stand together still have power. In this issue, we have tried to provide you with a view of not only how a complex array of actors from across the world came together on the High Plains of North Dakota, but how they are taking newfound confidence and commitment back home to address a wide range of environmental and justice issues.

It’s too early to know where all the protests, prayers, divestment campaigns and new alliances will lead us. But we know these things are adding up. Energy Transfer Partners, for example, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (and the Trans-Pecos, it turns out) is now having a cash-flow problem. In early January, the company sought a $568 million infusion from its parent company, Energy Transfer Equity, which in turn sought outside investment to make the deal. These peaceful protests, in other words, have at last found a language the oligarchs can understand: profit and loss, cost and benefit. Let more discussions now commence.