My Facebook feed is rolling from new feeds from those headed to North Dakota to join those protecting drinking water for the people of Standing Rock and Cheyenne River. Other folks are fundraising using a variety of social media tools. And, still more people are shipping food and supplies to the hundreds camped near the site.
That is the essence of political organizing.
This is Trahant Reports.
There is a problem, seemingly intractable, because the Dakota Access Project has opted for a route that crosses the Missouri River in a location that threatens the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (and eventually the Cheyenne River Tribe).
So the tribes and supporters are organizing on multiple fronts. Litigation, set to begin August 24th, will challenge the role of federal regulators. And in the court of public opinion, hundreds of people are bringing the dispute into the new living room of America (that’s Facebook) where the story is often trending for all to see.
The magnitude of the organization is impressive. All it takes is a phone call, a Facebook post, or a picture on Instagram, and there is somebody ready to act. It’s the exact sort of passion that wins elections.
What’s interesting about this moment in time is that so many Native American candidates are on the ballot in North Dakota and South Dakota. The same organizational tools that bring food must also be configured to win an election.
Imagine Chase Iron Eyes in Congress who is selling t-shirts to fund his campaign.
Or specifically on this issue: Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, Standing Rock Sioux, is running for North Dakota’s Public Service Commission and Henry Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota, is a candidate for South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission. These are the state regulatory bodies that determine approval process for pipeline companies. One vote in each state might not be enough to change the outcome, but even a single voice on those commissions could raise tribal concerns every time the issue comes up.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission says the decision has already been made. Perhaps. The strategy for the Dakota Access Pipeline has been all about getting a quick approval. But if the protests and litigation slow that down, that might cause the company to rethink its route. Especially if they are looking at delays measured in years not months.
Back to politics: How many votes are needed to elect Hunte-Beaubrun? She would need to find 70,000 more votes than the last Democrat who ran for that office. And Red Cloud would need about 100,000 more votes.
Tall orders? Sure. But it’s no different than organizing food, transportation, and lodging for hundreds of last-minute guests.
I am Mark Trahant reporting.
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