Missoula joins national cities in solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux over pipeline issue

By Martin Kidston

Over the objections of a few, the city of Missoula has officially joined in solidarity with the indigenous people’s resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline by citing its own need to secure and protect a clean water supply.

While the oil pipeline would run 580 miles east of here, members of the City Council on a 9-1 vote placed their support behind the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its allies, hoping to raise awareness over the struggle for native people’s sovereignty and environmental justice.

“I want to commend you as a political body – this is exactly what you should be doing,” supporter Andrea Davis told the City Council. “Now is the time in our country, if it ever has been, to stand up for what’s right for the people of this country, and particularly for a sovereign nation that’s had its rights tested and compromised.”

The pipeline represents a $3.7 billion project that would transport light, sweet crude oil across more than 1,100 miles. The route would connect the oil-rich Bakken Formation south into Iowa and Illinois, where the oil could go to refineries across the region.

While the pipeline has been promoted as an economic boon and one that would decrease U.S. reliance on foreign oil, members of the Standing Rock Sioux argue that construction would destroy ancestral burial sites, as well as culturally significant artifacts. The environmental concerns range from water contamination to additional greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the past few months, the issue has morphed into a larger controversy, one that now pits corporate dominance against the voice of the disenfranchised. The recent presidential election also has crept into the debate, with president-elect Donald Trump calling climate change a hoax.

Andrew Holman recently traveled to the protest camps as part of a student liaison from the University of Montana. There, he said, he saw the “best and worst” of humanity, one where playing children and constant prayer contrast with a corporate-backed police force.

“I got to see a police force that’s now backed by a corporation, no longer funded by basic needs,” said Holman. “At a time when the corporate rights are being forced upon people, it’s important for our community to stand with them, especially considering that we just got our own water rights back.”

By joining the Standing Rock Sioux in solidarity, Missoula joins a growing list of cities that have taken similar action, including Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Lawrence, Kansas. Nearly 200 Indian nations have also signed on to support the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The resolution was introduced by Ward 1 council member Heidi West.

But not everyone supports the city’s actions, including Kandi Matthew Jenkins, who believes the city has no right to interfere with actions taking place in another state. Ward 2 council member Harlan Wells cast the only vote against the move.

“My objection to this isn’t for my concern with the folks of the Standing Rock tribe,” Wells said. “When I read through (this resolution) and I look at the comments of the chairman of the Standing Rock tribe, they’re against this pipeline regardless of where it is.”

“We have massive amounts of oil trains going through Missoula,” he added. “There’s 570,000 barrels of crude that will bypass all kinds of communities by going through the pipeline.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com