Photo of Eddie Carmona courtesy of the  PICO Network

Photo of Eddie Carmona courtesy of the PICO Network

By Kevito, Okayplayer

In this country, there has been furor and anger over the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was going to cut through a wide swath of northern and middle America. Much like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, people were not only concerned for the environment, but also for the sacred burial ground that — through government treaties — established the Standing Rock Sioux as its rightful owners. Better known as #NoDAPL, the grassroots movement rose to fight Energy Transfer Partners and Kelcy Warren‘s attempt to run a pipeline from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to southern Illinois. If successful, the DAPL would have crossed beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as underneath Lake Oahe, which is near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Thankfully, because of the efforts of those such as Standing Rock Sioux elder LaDonna “Brave Bull” Allard, celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and PICO Networks‘ own Eddie Carmona (and countless others) — the pipeline was temporarily denied an easement for construction due to President Barack Obama + the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers making an executive call. Now, all that has come under threat as the president-elect has gone on the record as not only supporting the DAPL, but is also one of the company’s prime investors. As frightening as that sounds, the Water Protectors, protesters and those concerned for the health of their environment continue to camp at the Standing Rock Sioux site, fighting to keep awareness on the issue until it is rightfully closed.

During the mainstream media blackout of the #NoDAPL issue, private security forces hired by Energy Transfer Partners attacked protesters and Water Protectors. With the weather worsening around the region, as snowfall and temperatures fell well below freezing, the police and security forces used items like pepper spray and water cannons, which resulted in hundreds of people injured, as well as a woman protester (Sophia Wilansky) almost loses her arm! You would think that there would be honor in fighting for the sanctity of clean drinking water, yet for people such as Eddie Carmona, we’ve only witnessed how low the federal and local governments will go to ensure corporations like Energy Transfer Partners has rule of the roost. With soon-to-be President Trump’s inauguration only days away, we flashed back to an earlier conversation we had with Mr. Carmona where he talks about why keeping up the fight is important, how Standing Rock is teaching us all to stand in solidarity against evil and what you can do to build upon the momentum already gained.

Okayplayer: “Hands up, don’t shoot!” is a common refrain we are hearing around the country with organizations such as #BlackLivesMatter. Can you talk about how the phrase applies to #NoDAPL? Also, for the uninitiated, can you share why the fight against the DAPL is important?

Eddie Carmona: We’re not really using that phrase at Standing Rock. We are saying that we are peaceful water protectors in prayer, as we stand up for our ancestors and protect water for indigenous communities. The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline is important because DAPL is ignoring and trampling on sacred burial sites and picked the Standing Rock Sioux reservation as the place to build their “black snake” (oil pipeline) after residents of Bismark voiced opposition to having it built near them.

This is more than an environmental fight. It is a fight for native sovereignty. We know that our indigenous brothers and sisters respect the environment and always maintain a balance. If DAPL and the federal government respected the treaties, this would not be an issue for the Standing Rock Sioux.

OKP: [At press time] we are a few days away from voting for our next president, yet this has been an issue barely glossed over by both candidates. What does this level of behavior say about politics in this new age? Also, can share with us your thoughts on Trump and Clinton in relation to the #NoDAPL issue?

EC: Now that the election is over and President Barack Obama and the Army Corp of Engineers have denied DAPL their easement to proceed under Lake Oahe, there is much concern about president-elect Donald Trump and him being supportive of the pipeline. This is going to be an ongoing fight once he comes into office and it means that this fight will continue if Trump decides to grant the easement after he takes office. All signs point to him doing so.

OKP: Can it be said that racism in America is creating a fissure amongst its citizens? If so, please speak to how the Water Protects can overcome such behavior + feelings to defeat the DAPL.

EC: What is happening at Standing Rock is unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime both with native communities and allies. Tribes who traditionally have been at odds with one another have set aside their differences and have come together from across the country to stand with the Standing Rock Sioux. In terms of allies, we are seeing a national and international outpouring of support coming from white, API, European, black and other communities of color who have come to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity. Standing Rock is teaching us how to be in a community and solidarity with one another. This is how water protectors are overcoming the racism that exists in the country.

OKP: As a community organizer with 10 years experience — what does it mean to you when celebrities get involved or offer support behind an issue such as #NoDAPL?

EC: Celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley coming out in support of Standing Rock and against the DAPL is always important. Any time someone uses their celebrity status to support a righteous cause, it matters. This only adds to the great efforts of non-violent direct action, boycotts and grassroots organizing that’s happening on the ground at Standing Rock and across the country.

OKP: There have been some conflicting reports about the buffalo stampede at Standing Rock. Can you offer any insight as to what honestly happened between those in protest and those in favor?

EC: The facts of what happened when the buffalo arrived are as follows: Water protectors had set up a new camp known as “treaty camp” that was closer to the river on the opposite side of the bridge. This was also closer to the construction site. Local law enforcement and DAPL security came and violently removed water protectors, roughing up elders in prayer and those in sacred ceremony. As the situation got more tense and heated, it seemed as if there were going to be some serious injuries, possibly even lethal force used, the buffalo came over the ridge and started charging towards law enforcement. Not only was this a sign, but it helped diffuse the tension and forced law enforcement to back off of the violence they were conducting. They still cleared out the camp, but the arrival of the buffalo was a sign to native folks on the ground and assisted in diverting attention of law enforcement from the violence they were leading.

OKP: In addition to protesting, signing petitions and sharing through social media — what are some other ways to support the fight against the DAPL?

EC: Divesting from the back and companies that invest in Energy Transfer Partners is a start. Banks like Wells Fargo and Citibank, who are stakeholders in the company, are a part of our multi-pronged approach to stop the “black snake” and DAPL from moving forward. Everything from protesting, direct actions, the aforementioned divestments, petitions, calling upon the federal government and utilizing social media are all useful tools. In addition, those interested in joining the fight should find out how and where Energy Transfer Partners are working within your own community. They are a large corporation and have many investments across the country.

OKP: The four-state Dakota Access Pipeline Project is a possible environmental risk and could severely damage water and land. What effects could this project have on Americans and how does President Obama signing two more into order make the fight harder?

EC: It is safe to say that the Missouri River provides water for a good portion of middle America. If there was a leak in the pipeline like there was just recently about 150 miles from the current DAPL site, the river will forever be changed and contaminated. This has been true of any spill that has occurred in the United States with similar pipelines. This is an important issue for the rest of the country, not only from an environmental perspective, but from a simple standpoint of not respecting indigenous sovereignty. We, who live in this country, should be honored and pressure our elected officials to respect this right of native communities after the history of genocide of indigenous populations in this country.

OKP: The intersectionality between #NoDAPL and its protesters place in American history is deep-rooted and constantly being picked apart by others. Will this moment be considered a turning point in the history books? Can you talk about how the voice of the people is growing through change and discourse?

EC: As I mentioned earlier, this is a historic moment and Standing Rock is ground zero for what is to come in our country. We are being shown how to tackle corporate interests and what the government / corporate response will be in the form of human rights violations, racism, and psychological, emotional and physical warfare. This is what we are learning from Standing Rock. The state will side with corporate interests before it sides with its own citizenry and indigenous tribes. The history lesson here is that this will be the first time tribes from all over the country and allies from many movements stood up to a corporate giants and its easement. What’s left is dealing DAPL and the human rights violators, also known as Morton County Sheriff’s Department and its surrounding agencies, their final defeat which is to permanently end the pipeline.

OKP: For those unaware, can you talk about how Energy Transfer’s own Kelcy Warren fits into this situation? How has he responded to these protests?

EC: Kelcy Warren has been confident that the pipeline will move forward. Under his leadership, DAPL has unearthed sacred burial sites, participated in breaking federal law and has sanctioned human rights violations against water protectors. Interviews with Kelcy Warren fail to acknowledge what has been happening and has reinforced that the sole goal of DAPL is to make a profit at any and all costs.

OKP: With water quality already a big ticket issue during election season why haven’t more people come out to fight against the DAPL?

EC: Celebrities, other tribes, veterans, law enforcement, movement allies, local governments, the international community and many others have joined the fight against DAPL. Octet Sakowin‘s camp alone has swelled from 4,000 to 10,000 during different times.