Guest column: Dakota Access threatening water, lives

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Farm Forum

This guest column was written by Tasiyagnunpa Beth Livermont, a writer and journalist born in Pine Ridge to a Lakota rancher and East River farm girl. She and her children now live in Brookings, the county of her mother’s pioneering family, of which her own children are seventh-generation pioneer descendants.

Watching videos of recent arrests near the confluence of the Cannonball River and Missouri River in North Dakota brings me hope for the future of America.

Back in 2008, as members of Dakota Rural Action began to organize regarding the Keystone XL pipeline, member consensus at first began by trying to find ways of making the pipeline project safer: American-made steel, union labor to ensure quality of welds, citizen lobbying of the state Legislature and leadership to insist the company provide a ready sum of money for emergency cleanup and end of use deconstruction and other simple measures.

Rancher, farmers, environmentalists and others found common ground and common ideals and rallied around protecting the things important to all of them: soil and water.

Only when the company and our state’s leaders refused common sense protective measures did the organization’s members decide to do what they could to out-and-out stop it.

When ranchers, community and tribal members, tribal leaders and even a Hollywood actor, people of different backgrounds, races, religions, come together to protect a common concern, like they did last week, we see America’s better angel.

Some people are dismissive of tribal concerns saying that the dark days are all history. This is not conducive to today’s governing of shared concerns.

Watching tribal members, pioneer descendants, and those of us who descend from both, stand together against corporate-owned violations against Unci Maka and her soil and the waters gives me hope that we can solve other common concerns.

Sadly, money always trumps rights, whether it is treaty rights or property rights. Remember, the government only pushed settlers out into the plains so that corporations could go after minerals and natural resources. Yesterday’s settlers were pawns in a game of chess, their own personal resolve for a better life for themselves and their families based not on blood or class, but by the sweat of their brow in all reality mattered little to the masters of propaganda that led them here.

Little has changed.

Except now, we stand together.

We demand e pluribus unum be realized, by earnest and best service, not just dangled in front of us by elitists, like a carrot on a string and stick in front of the collective donkey.

The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the waters of millions of people in South Dakota and downstream who depend on water from the Missouri River. Just south on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, a multimillion dollar project to put in a new water intake on the river was championed and visited by Sen. Tim Johnson a couple years ago. Yet a water (and residential building) moratorium exists.

Our local abilities to live, work and serve is threatened when corporate interests run roughshod over the people. This issue is personal to every protester trying to bodily put themselves between the wheels of supposed progress in an effort to conserve water and life.

My hope is that out of these partnerships, we will also see the workings of a new democracy that lives out e pluribus unum — “out of many, one.”