Obama did right by Standing Rock, but needs to finish the job
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As we prepare to say goodbye to President Obama, I ask: What will his legacy be?

Will history remember him as the president who promised to have the backs of the Native American people, and who kept his word?

Who made a final stand to put our citizens before corporate profit?

Or as the man who could have acted when it was not only morally imperative, but his responsibility — and who chose not to?


While I would like to thank the president for putting a "temporary stop" on the building of the Dakota Access pipeline under the Missouri river, I must ask: Why did he wait until the 11th hour and 59th minute to do so, and allow so many people to suffer hardship and brutality?

I appreciate the gesture, and it certainly eases the humanitarian strain for the holidays, but I very much doubt that he would have done this without the protests escalating to the point where thousands of our veterans self-deployed to protect our water — which shows his status of a man of principle to be in doubt.

This should have happened months ago.

Before I start popping champagne and everyone rolls up their sleeping bags, I have a few more questions.

A cynic might ask: Is Obama just washing his hands and letting someone else take the blame? Is this a temporary act to pacify people, run out the clock, and dump this on the "bad guy's" desk in 48 days?

We don't need forty-eight days. We need change that will last 48 years, and beyond that.

So, I'm wondering, where will the pipeline routing be and will environmental factors be considered?

Can you assure the Native American people that we will stop tearing up their land, by possibly making Standing Rock a national park or monument? That might be one way to prevent this from happening again.

I ask if the president could please finalize this before he leaves office to prevent that from happening. (We know about President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE's investments in fossil fuels, so he cannot be trusted.)

The president must make a stand for the people of Standing Rock, immediately. In a permanent way, one that is substantial and provides permanent protection and legislation.

He must speak up. He must show up. He must for the people who are out there in subzero temperatures fighting to keep our water clean and protect sacred earth; for all Americans who value clean drinking water, not only for themselves, but for their children.

And he must make a stand against the human rights violations and violent atrocities that are happening right under his nose, to his American people, by our own police — on his watch.

His silence has been deafening. On Thanksgiving Day, while our brave citizens, most of whom are Native Americans, were being shot in the face with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, beaten and arrested for peaceful prayer and protest, the president smiled for cameras and pardoned two turkeys.

And he hosted the White House Christmas party earlier this month, with his beautiful family, which would be really heartwarming if we didn't know what was happening on the other side of the country.

Now he has finally spoken up, but he needs to finish the job.

Remember Flint, Michigan? I do. So do the parents whose children drank poisoned water. I think it's a pretty good idea to try to have stuff like that not keep happening. In the last five years, our country has experienced over 3,300 pipeline "incidents" of leakage into our waters and soil.

I believed once that perhaps moving some oil around in the United States might be better than the sinister relationship we have with the Middle East.

Imagine my dismay, then, upon learning that Energy Transfer Partners — the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, which said that the oil will "support 100% domestic consumption" — lobbied Congress last year to have a 40-year-ban on crude oil exports lifted.

Corporations will always put profits before people, and so we look to the president to stand for us, because our policymakers simply have not.

This pipeline will not serve the public interest, yet we will suffer the consequences and pay the price for generations to come as our water is compromised.

In 2008, I stood up for Obama. I stood out in the freezing rain in New York, seven months pregnant, for eight hours at a time, asking people on the streets to vote for him. I drove to Pennsylvania while I was nursing a newborn, to knock on doors asking people to vote for him. I was a maxed-out donor. I made videos asking people to vote for him while my little brother served in Iraq.

I did all that because when he used the word "hope," I thought that he meant it, and I believed him when he said he would fight for us.

Right now, the president has, at last, offered us some hope. But this needs to be a permanent solution.

If the president does not finish the job, I can assure you that people will remember.

I hope that our president-elect has been paying attention to all of this, and hope that he does not underestimate the people's will to resist.

I hope that he does not assume that corporate priorities are in the national interest — but most of all, I hope that the new president-elect has no doubt that we are watching and ready to mobilize.

We simply will not stand idly by and let these injustices occur.

I would also like to thank, with my entire being, the people who have been showing up and continue to stand at Standing Rock. Thank you for protecting me, and my daughter and every American who cares about clean water.

You put your lives on the line for all of us. It will not be forgotten.

Obama can show the world, during his last days, that the United States of America protects its people, protects sacred land and protects its resources. To show the world that the United States finds the abuse of power and violence against peaceful protest not only unacceptable, but morally reprehensible.

We are ready for some of that "hope" the president promised eight years ago. I'd like to cash mine in now, please.

Protect Standing Rock permanently. Finish the job.

Michelle Manning Barish has been a political activist for over a decade, having started when her younger brother was deployed to Iraq during the troop surge. She has appeared in a large number of videos for Moveon.org and Art Not War, as well as numerous self-produced videos. She also publishes regularly on the Huffington Post Political Blog.

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