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Water Protectors Are Everywhere

Photos: Sarah LittleRedfeather,

“Water Protectors 
They came from the four directions. They came from the stars. They came from the mountain they stood and protected. They came from the depths of the beautiful ocean. They came from the corn pollen and sage they had gathered in their hands. They came wounded from generations of pain. They came bearing gifts of strength, tears, and song. This is where they stood in the four directions.”

Inyan Wakankagapi Wakpa. Sara Juanita Jumping Eagle

As the Trump Administration forces the removal of many remaining water protectors on the banks of the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, there are many tears shed; tears of betrayal, tears of sorrow, and tears as people face the unknown. We have had many lessons thus far from our Standing Rock, for indeed, it is a movement’s Standing Rock, our Selma moment. And, as the bulldozers and emboldened Morton County march forward, water protectors are forced to remove, as thousands of our ancestors before. We have been here before, it is the American way from Sandy Lake to Big Mountain.

This past week, I was disturbed in my peaceful writing by three grandsons, as they tumbled through my kitchen on Round Lake. One had on my helmet, intended to defray rubber bullets from Morton County, another donned on a gas mask, the third a bandana. All carried shields. That is when I knew that the Water Protectors are everywhere.

Reports of Enbridge leak problems and “integrity digs” came in from Water Protectors across Leech Lake; to the east, the Bad River tribal council prepared with their lawyers to face Enbridge and the company’s expired rights of ways and anger. An early February gathering in Duluth brought together 80 Indigenous leaders from both sides of the Medicine Line—Canada and the US. Derek Nepinak, the Grand Chief of the Manitoba Assembly of Chiefs, sat with LaDonna Bravebull Allard, from the Sacred Stone Camp, to talk of pipelines and water . Water protectors from Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Rice Lake and HoChunk territory- elected leaders, and wild rice harvesters. All shared their stories of the Black Snake, and the legal battles ahead to protect the water and generations. Water protectors are everywhere.

As the Trump Administration pushes forward with its agenda of hate, cronyism, and pipelines, immigrants, business people, cities, women and water protectors are readying to face a President who has run roughshod over the law. North Dakota’s media spins a story of the glories of law enforcement, sings praises of the oil industry, and acts as if there has been no crime committed. Trans Canada attempts to resuscitate the already defeated Keystone Pipeline, and the Lakota nation readies. As the Enbridge/Spectre Sable pipeline moves forward in Florida, on the ground the Seminole youth move forward to face them . To the south, water protectors face the pipelines of Texas, Chaco Canyon and those to the sest.


While the proposals are dizzying, it turns out even the pipeline and oil industry itself spinning somewhat like a top out of control.

The Globe and Mail notes Canada is, “…on the verge of moving from a pipeline shortage to a pipeline surplus…The capacity of the projects approved by the federal government (Trans Mountain, Enbridge Line 3 and Keystone XL) and under review (Energy East) is 2.9 million barrel per day (bpd). These projects would expand Canadian export pipeline capacity to 7.1 million bpd. If current rail capacity is included, total capacity would be almost 7.9 million bpd.”

Data suggests that there will be a surplus pipeline capacity of 2.4 million bpd by 2025, less than eight years from now. Some would refer to this as greed economics.

Build It and They Will Come

This worked in Wayne’s World. I am not sure it will work in the oil industry. Companies are proposing to spend about $30 billion-plus on new pipelines. How is that possible? The problem is not just a Canadian tar sands problem—it’s an American oil fields problem. Reuters reports, “…a doubling of pipeline capacity in one of the most prolific U.S. shale plays may have gone overboard in its rush to move oil to market…” That was before that Dakota Excess Pipeline. Translation: overbuild/glut. No wonder the oil industry is losing money. Greed is not always a healthy practice.

Then there’s the world beyond North Dakota and Minnesota: The International Energy Agency (IEA) November forecast shows little oil sands production growth after 2020 due to climate change policies and the high costs of Canadian oil.

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The Wakinyan came last night to let us know they stand with us. This is February we had rain, hail, thunder and lightening, that should tell us the west is with us…” LaDonna Bravebuffalo Allard. That is climate change and that is also power.


The Bust Cometh

With an 85 % drop in drilling rigs, North Dakota has lost an estimated 13,500 roughnecks and oil engineers, not to mention drivers, restaurant cooks, barbers, and grocery store cashiers, Man Camps, and all else of the oil empire. The Canadian petrol-state Alberta lost some 20,000 jobs, the most in any industry downturn since the early 1980s. No one predicted 90,000 oil workers being fired this past year in the US, or the worldwide 250,000 oil industry workers sent home. Nor did they foresee that many of the companies themselves would be at risk of bankruptcy (42 already filed as of last year). Of 155 US oil and gas companies studied by Standard & Poor’s, one third are rated B- or less, meaning not good.

Industry magazine SRS Rocco Report notes, “The top three U.S. oil companies, whose profits were once the envy of the energy sector, are now forced to borrow money to pay dividends or capital expenditures. …Exxon, Chevron and Conoco, had $80.9 billion in net income profits in 2011, and dropped that to $3.7 billion in 2016….”

Rex Tillerson, our new Secretary of State, former CEO of Exxon could not get a job in the real world, having such an abysmal record. As SRS Rocco notes, “While the Federal Government could step in and bail out BIG OIL with printed money, they cannot print barrels of oil.”


Emboldened movements stand and face what have come to be called Black Snakes in a withering economy. President Trump will face a growing solar and efficiency economy; and even his Presidential powers cannot change what we know happened and what we feel.

Standing Rock is a state of mind. It rekindled a memory of a people, not only a free people, but a people who faced their fears, knowing that the economy of the Wasicu is a powerful force, but it is not as powerful as the world we know.


As LaDonna Bravebull Allard reminds us, “They want to destroy this movement because it is too powerful because we stand in prayer. They don't know that this is just the beginning. Tomorrow we will be stronger in prayer. Remember how history will record you as the people who stood up to save the water and the world or the people who betrayed the world. You all have a name in history. Where are you in this time and place? The world is watching…”

The Water Protectors are everywhere.

 Winona LaDuke

Photo of Winona LaDuke by Keri Pickett.