The DAPL Fantasy


December 6, 2016

By Jay Taber



Above: “There are about 150,000 miles of oil pipelines and more than 1.5 million miles of natural gas pipelines in the United States.” [Source]


“I have been working with indigenous leaders for decades and arguing that indigenous nations must take the initiative to take back that which is and always has been theirs: land, resources and freedom to move… Asking for rights from those who have no interest in recognizing those rights is a defeated policy. Taking back your land and resources they stole, as Chief George Manuel urged, is the only alternative to self-destruction.”– Center for World Indigenous Studies chair Rudolph C. Ryser


When reality is too much to bear, we turn to fantasies to keep from losing our mind. When fantasies become our reality, we are liable to believe just about anything.

One fantasy currently circulating online is that Obama halted DAPL because he has strong emotional ties to American Indians. While he has helped tribes with issues like domestic violence and education, his strong financial ties to oil industry investors like Goldman Sachs have created a nightmare for many tribes across the country.


Above: US President Barack Obama (C) talks with Chairman of the Standing Rock Soiux Tribal Nation David Archambault II (L) during the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, June 13, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON

Standing Rock could have been avoided, had Obama not approved fracking millions of acres of Bakken Shale in North Dakota. The pipelines and bomb trains emanating from that disastrous decision alone will haunt us for generations. In the Gulf of Mexico, Obama’s executive order waiving environmental restrictions on risky deep-sea oil drilling resulted in the largest oil spill in history.


Above: “US President Barack Obama talks with youth from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Oval Office of the White House, 2014”

While it is a relief that the stand-off at Standing Rock avoided a showdown, by delaying the pipeline over Christmas, the fact that it progressed to this point without interference from the White House suggests Obama’s interest is in his perceived legacy, since Trump is almost certain to forge ahead with its completion in January.

Meanwhile, oil industry members of the Native American Affairs Coalition advising President Trump propose making Indian Reservations private property. As noted at Reuter’s, “The plan dovetails with Trump’s larger aim of slashing regulation to boost energy production.”


[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Further reading:

Moment of Truth

Pentecostals Not Welcome


  • ivo on Dec 09, 2016

    Left out of the discussion is the role of tribal councils in exploiting oil/gas. Many of them are for drilling and fracking –

    DAPL setting the stage and on cue – in come trump and his NA council with plans to ‘privatize’ – read corporatize – treaty lands.

    What is driving this is:

    “The main issues facing Indian Tribes and BIA agency staff are how to keep up with the demand for leasing, permitting and drilling. A taste of things to come has already occurred in development of the prolific Bakken shale oil play at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. There was a severe backlog of leases and permits being issued which forestalled the generation of income to the Indian mineral owners.”

  • ivo on Dec 09, 2016

    Interesting read. StandRock and Fort Berthold Reservation are apparently sitting on hundreds of billions of oil and gas resources. Combined with the list of other tribes, they are collectively sitting on over a trillion in oil/gas assets.

    Does anyone believe that pro-business tribal councils are going to turn their nose up at this wealth? According to the documents, many tribes have been complaining that the regulatory process that governs oil/gas leasing/drilling on Indian lands, as well as BIA oversight, is inhibiting their ability to access royalties by signing new leases. On cue, in comes Trump and his native american council….who now is going to protest tribe’s desire to gain ‘private’ – read corporate – ownership over their treaty lanes now that the narrative has been been cleverly cast as one of ‘water defenders’ and indigenous sovereignty. Will all these environmentalist and NGOs now protest accelerated oil/gas extraction in Indian Country – of course not. Give it to the oil and gas industry – clever shits that they are.

    So what is DAPL spectacle? Collusion between Indian tribal councils and the oil/gas industry to regain more control over their treaty lands for the purpose of increasing extraction and feeding more fuel to the fire burning the planet.

Comments are closed.