In a recent editorial, Inforum called for the lawlessness of the ongoing protests near Cannon Ball, North Dakota to be curtailed no matter the underlying issues between Native Americans and Americans of European-descent.
The realities on the ground are that despite the claims of Natives that protests are peaceful they are in fact far from peaceful. According to the editorial, “There is nothing peaceful about illegal weapons and illegal drugs. There is nothing peaceful about cattle theft and slaughter, and the destruction of fences and the torching of construction equipment. There is nothing peaceful about blocking public roads and bridges, and intimidating motorists or children on school buses. There is nothing peaceful about defacing the Capitol with motor oil.” All are actions that have been taken by protesters to this point.
There is no simple solution to the underlying issues of the treatment of Native Americans throughout the history of the United States.
But this protest and this pipeline are not a referendum on those issues, it is a matter of enforcement of existing law to ensure that property rights and workers’ rights are respected. There are three simple facts that must be taken into account.
- This pipeline was approved for construction by both state and federal authorities following an open call for public comment, multiple meetings, and a thorough nearly two year review process.
- The permitting of this project was upheld by two levels of the United States Federal Court system.
- The law of the land, as it is written, should be enforced. Any changes to the consultation process should not affect a project already permitted under federal and state law and currently under construction.
North Dakota is hemorrhaging millions of dollars to keep public order. The federal government has abandoned law enforcement and refused aid while ignoring court rulings favoring the continuance of construction. According to Inforum this is “giving protesters false hope and, among some elements within the encampment, license to commit crimes. Tribal leaders have lost control, with at least one elder telling out-of-state agitators to leave the protest sites, and others negotiating a move of the protest from public lands to tribal lands, also with mixed success.”
This conflict must come to a close before more serious consequences arise. The only way to do so is to signal federal support for the rule of law, and certainly not to “let it play out.”