Obama's inaction on pipeline shows Native Americans still second-class
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Our future president, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE, must speak to the Standing Rock issue. And if he’s smart, he’ll do it forthrightly. President-Elect Trump should unequivocally side with the Native Americans. Because it’s the true first step in making America great again.

Symbolically, it could be the hallmark of his presidency, beginning a whole new era in American history. It would change the image of United States citizens from a predator of Native Americans to benefactor, both domestically and worldwide. It would send a message. It would simply be the correct thing to do.


To change the construction tunneling route of the oil pipeline either back to the original planned route, or review and select another alternative route, would have been such a simple thing. It would mean so much to the North Dakota Sioux, and judging by the global demographic of the protesters, it would mean just as much to the rest of Americans and to the rest of the world.
There are always two sides to every story, and this story has many additional sides, and many additional implications. Arrogance and greed seem to be at the heart of this issue and, as the facts are uncovered and sorted, the lines of delineation will become more clear.    

However, this is a newsworthy international incident of substance, of historical significance.

The American broadcast news media, widely known for its own form of arrogance and greed, is virtually ignoring it. They will cover a dinner with Donald Trump, Reince Priebus and Mitt Romney down to every last detail of the frogs legs and Romney’s lamb chops with bolognese sauce, but totally miss the significance of the Native American and the story behind the Standing Rock incident now in active progress.   

I mean, why can’t the Native Americans ever catch a break? Their plight from the day the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock has been one of oppression and virtual genocide.

These once and still proud, innocent Native American people deserve so much better, and we are forever in a position to credit their existence with respect. But we don’t.  

It is our obligation. Do I have to actually say, “They were here first?”      

President Obama has spoken to the Standing Rock issue, saying construction route is being reviewed. He has appropriately immersed himself into the situation with a measured amount of political correctness, and has taken advantage of every photo opportunity including wearing Native American clothing and surrounding himself with Native American children in colorful, traditional regalia and feathers.

He assuredly told protesters, “You’re making your voice heard.”

Fine, great. Now, he needs to make his voice heard and not just stall them for another month or so with promise, hope and change, and then he’s out of here. Then, he won’t have to actually do anything other than say a sorry farewell and wish them luck.

Optimistically, let’s hope our current president steps up to the plate on the Standing Rock issue with the very same enthusiasm he did with ObamaCare. Now, this would be a real historic feather in his cap regarding his presidential legacy.

All President Obama has to do is use his power as president and issue an executive order to adjust the pipeline construction route accordingly so the Sioux land remains intact spiritually, geologically, and environmentally. That’s not too much to ask. Can he do that? Sure he could. If he wanted to.

But politically correct is what politically correct does. And big oil money talks.

The collective disappointment that many of us feel about President Obama not being able to deliver what we expected during his administration could be minimized if he would stand up and do the right thing here, and not fold like a cheap lawn chair.

The hope and change that he promised could be realized at Standing Rock.

The situation as it stands is starting to get out of control.

Thousands of protesters have gathered in North Dakota, some from all over the world. Many violent factions are creating law enforcement problems and a dangerous environment, hundreds have been arrested since the summer.

Living and sanitary conditions are stretched beyond safe. And, to make the situation even worse, winter is bearing down on North Dakota. Snow is already on the ground, and subzero temperatures and wind chill are on the way.

The North Dakota governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the protesters seeking to block construction of the pipeline. So far, no forcible removal is being considered. But tensions are rising daily as weather, human, and construction deadline conditions come to bear.

The protesters say they are staying. They are determined to hold their ground, block the construction of the oil pipeline, and fight for their cause.

The Sioux claim the land is theirs by a 1868 treaty called the Fort Laramie Treaty. Construction will disturb this land on which there are sacred burial grounds.

The proposed pipeline route, which was changed from the original plan running the pipe north of Bismarck but considered a potential hazard to Bismarck’s water, a mostly white community, now runs through North Dakota Sioux land, purportedly owned by the Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers.

This new plan now places North Dakota Sioux land and water in a potential hazardous condition, especially, if there is a pipeline breach which many feel is imminent.

And then, there is the “payoff?” The oil company is suggesting millions of dollars going to the North Dakota Sioux for their trouble. If so, how, and to whom, and under what circumstance is this money being allocated? There is a lot of misinformation (or lack of it) out there.   

It would seem the North Dakota Sioux have the upper hand with the sacred burial ground land argument which should be sacrosanct, and also with their demotion to second-class citizens regarding the potential water contamination issue.

Basically, what’s happening here is that the Native Americans are getting screwed again. Let’s not patronize them. Let’s create a smarter collective dialogue toward actionable results based on the smarter emotions of the guilt, shame, and remorse we should be feeling, and help them, work with them. Respect them.   

These Native Americans are the true Americans, and they were here first. 

John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.