by David Bedford
In our city, Philly with Standing Rock has been at the forefront of the NODAPL movement since August 2016, The NODAPL movement arose to challenge the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. When Energy Transfer Partners tried to build it through the Sioux peoples’ land, underneath the Missouri river, there was international outcry. Thousands traveled to the site at Standing Rock, and people all over the world fought back against it to save our water and defend indigenous land.
Why is it so important for people to fight for the NODAPL movement here in Philadelphia?
Mabel: There are several things to think about as Philadelphians. One of them is that our Oil infrastructure impacts everyone across the country. We have a refinery here in Philadelphia at the South port. Most of the transportation system and manufacturers of this economy are deeply dependant on the way we process oil here. Also, as the pipelines are being used to transport crude oil, they’re often running through neighborhoods and communities that are impacting people of color and Native Americans the most.
In a larger scope, it is a movement to bring awareness to how pipelines have an effect not just on indigenous people, like the Sioux in Standing Rock, but to how this is a systemic issue that has been going on as part of the industrialization of our landscape. Now, why we need to do it from Philadelphia is in part about awareness, but also to divest from this infrastructure. We need to set an example of how Philadelphians can reinvest in different kinds of infrastructure. It won’t happen overnight, but it’s something we need to think about. If we’re going to be stopping pipelines, we need to think about it beyond just the immediate changes.
What are some of the main priorities of the organization Philly with Standing Rock?
Mabel: From the beginning our main priority was to bring awareness about the NODAPL campaign, but to also bring visibility to how Native Americans have been under attack now and throughout history. We want to educate people about the environmental impact, but also indigenous rights, the impact on Native American and indigenous communities, and how these issues are interconnected. The other priority has been also of building local alliances and finding ways in which we can collaborate with various people of indigenous descent, other people of color, and white allies to see how we can reimagine this movement moving forward.
Now that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the next permits for the pipeline, a lot of people seem to think this is a victory and the movement is over. What do you say to that and what direction do you see the NODAPL movement taking?
Mabel: While the permits have been denied for the North Dakota Access pipeline’s construction, it is clear that they are just waiting for this new administration to move forward. A lot of people from Donald Trump to the CEO’s of the Dakota Access Pipelines and Energy Partners have been vocal that their mission is to continue construction. For us right now, I think, at least for the people here in Philadelphia and from what is happening at Standing Rock, the campaign is to move as quickly as possible to defund these corporations, here and on a global level.
We need to move forward because this is going to be a longer battle. It is yet to be determined if the Dakota Access pipeline will be stopped altogether, or if they will try rerouting.
In the meantime, this is an opportunity for us to work in alliance and start learning about how other pipelines are affecting indigenous communities. For us on the East Coast, we can see how the Ramapo community has been affected from other forms of environmental racism up to now with plans to construct the Pilgrim pipeline. This is a time where we can continue the campaign against NODAPL, but also figure out ways in which we can regroup our efforts.
It is a moment for cities like us to sit back and learn what is going in Central America, what is going on in New Mexico, what is going on in Utah and California and Alaska, all over. And then how this oil infrastructure not only impacts Native Americans, but also people of color and even every citizen. The waste and pollution from Big Oil, whether it is a manufacturer or a refinery, is dangerous. It is known that regardless of the new technology, pipelines do leak. It is also important to recognize that a lot of our water resources are under threat. We need to reconsider how we are going to support this kind of infrastructure. We need to regroup and rethink how we are going to build campaigns that are sustained not only for immediate crisis, but are geared towards transforming the way we live. And also we must bring reconciliation with Native Americans and open new channels in order to deal with the settler-colonialist framework in which we are operating as a nation and globally.