The campaign to get Mount Allison University to pull its investments from big fossil fuel companies got a boost this week from a Lakota historian who helped lead the fight against an oil pipeline in North Dakota.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, told about 100 people on the Mt. A. campus Wednesday night that one aim of the growing divestment movement is to take money from the big banks that finance oil and gas developments and return it to local communities.
“Right now, we are putting our money into these large banks who are investing across the world,” she said, “and I don’t know about you but I’ve been going through many communities and they are in dire straits.”
Allard urged audience members to put their money in local institutions such as credit unions.
“You know, a strong economic system is when your communities are strong,” she said. “Invest in your own communities.”
She drew applause when she mentioned New York City’s recent decision to withdraw pension fund investments from coal, oil and gas companies following similar moves in other U.S. cities including Seattle and San Francisco.
“The world is changing,” Allard said. “Everybody understands what’s happening around us. Have you looked?”
Killing the black snake
During her talk sponsored by the Mount Allison University library, Allard described the unsuccessful battle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline from destroying graves near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and threatening water supplies. The $3.7 billion, 1,886 kilometre pipeline was being built under the nearby Missouri River.
Allard set up the Sacred Stone Camp on her property, a camp that attracted almost 100,000 visitors in 2016 including indigenous people from all over the world.
She mentioned an ancient Lakota prophecy about a black snake that would slither across the earth poisoning the water and destroying the world, a snake that many saw as the pipeline that would be carrying 470,000 barrels of crude oil each day to an oil terminal in southern Illinois.
“When the black snake comes to devour the world, we must stand up and stop it or the world will end,” Allard said.
The fight to stop the pipeline turned into a epic battle as those calling themselves water protectors eventually faced riot police armed with automatic rifles, water cannon, mace, concussion grenades, tasers and batons. Private security firms used dogs to attack people and as the struggle wore on, hundreds were arrested and some are facing lengthy jail sentences.
Allard said she grew up as a police officer’s daughter believing in law and order.
“I no longer believe the law is just,” she said. “I don’t know what’s happening in America.”
Water is life
Allard painted a grim picture of what she called “Mother Earth’s revenge” for the profligate burning of fossil fuels.
“Tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, floods, storms,” she said, “animals going extinct everyday…why are we trying to kill ourselves?”
She added that since “water is life,” it’s impossible to live without it, yet we’re not protecting it.
She also referred to the struggle at Standing Rock.
“This is far from over,” she said, “they say LaDonna when are you done? When I dig up every pipeline from my homeland, that’s when I’m done,” she said.
“We are all in this together, there is only one Earth.”
To see the film Black Snake Killaz documenting the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, click here.
I am neither a pipeline nor a black snake expert. However, it seems to me that a well-designed pipeline (by a decent company, of course) would be MUCH safer than train transportation of fossil fuel… We definitely do not need another Lac Mégantic in Canada. In addition to death toll and trauma, the water and soil have sadly been contaminated there :(.
This being said, I totally agree with LaDonna Brave Bull Allard about her comments: “You know, a strong economic system is when your communities are strong”… “Invest in your own communities.”
For me, I translate this as follows: So many people in the Maritimes (Sackville, Amherst, etc.) earn a living by working miles away from their loved ones in this sector of our environment. They do not depend on the Government to assist them. I have the utmost respect for them and for their hard labour.