Five years have passed since the world watched the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe stand against the construction of the Dakota Acess Pipeline just north of their tribal land. And, the pipeline continues to be a source of division to this day.

So, what’s at stake? The research shows that if the pipeline were to shutter during the environmental review, it would initially cause the loss of 3,000 direct upstream jobs in an initial shutdown period. When adding indirect jobs in other related sectors, as well as indirect workers in the economy, such as restaurant and grocery stores, the total loss would be 7,400 jobs.

It would also cause the loss of $912 million in state production taxes to North Dakota and Montana, during the analysis.

In our first part of this series Monday night, we explored how NoDAPL was a pivotal time for solidarity among Indigenous peoples.

Tuesday, we are having a different discussion.

For Standing Rock tribal member Joseph McNiel Jr., NoDAPL was an impactful time for Indigenous sovereignty.

“It shook, you know, it was like a big stone falling in the lake and those ripples went all around the world,” said McNeil Jr., SAGE Development Authority General Manager.

The message resonated far beyond North Dakota.

“Protecting our land, protecting our sacred sites, protecting our water, protecting our children, and we didn’t expect anybody to show up,” said McNeil.

Thousand of water protectors arrived, including representatives from more than 300 tribal nations.
It was an expression of Indigenous sovereignty seen by the world.

A key moment was on Sept. 6, 2016.

Protestors broke through a fence to access pipeline construction. They stopped bulldozers from turning soil. They were met by private security and charged with trespassing.

“What really got the people going that day was we were told, I mean the pipeline was going in, they uncovered resources and they demolished them – they destroyed them – and there’s a reason why we have cultural resources. Those cannot be touched at all. You have to find a way around them, a boundary to protect them,” said Fawn Wasin Zi, who was working for Standing Rock Sioux Tribes Office of Land Management.

In the aftermath, the tribe renewed and deepened their commitment to self-determination.
Now, with that same spirit, Standing Rock is embracing a new opportunity to fight for what they believe.

We followed Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Land Management Director Joseph Smith to the primary site where SAGE Development Authority is building a 235 megawatt 60 turbine wind farm, Anpetu Wi (“morning light”) in Lakota.

“You can just see five minutes ago it was fairly calm. Now, it’s blowing pretty good, based on elevation and the wind,” said Smith.

Here on Porcupine Hills, SAGE Development Authority is building several wind turbines along this ridgeline. Now, Standing Rock owns Anpetu Wi Wind Farm, so they’re doing a lot of pre-development work including cultural resource surveys and the idea is to not build on anything that’s sacred to the tribe and its members.

“We’ve done that in some of these turbine sites where initially the recommendation was to put a turbine, once it was surveyed we said, ‘Oh well we need to move it.’ And they were able to adjust it so not too far away. Still in the area for the best wind,” said Smith.

On every level, Anpetu Wi Wind Farm represents who they are. NoDAPL helped get the project financially off the ground.

“So at the time of NoDAPL, Chairman Archamboldt got an award of $200,000 from Wallace Global Fund for the work we did with NoDAPL, the work we did with the environment, and he talked to me and he said I want this earmarked for the Wind Farm,” said Fawn Wasin Zi, the SAGE Development Authority Board Chair.

The tribe is utilizing their global renown gained from NoDAPL to drive an online crowdsourcing campaign that has raised $225,000 toward their goal of $420,000.

“We have ownership stake in this process, through the development phase, through the ownership phase, where we increase our level of ownership over time. It’s community-directed, it comes from the council, it benefits back to the community for infrastructure. And, it’s helping us. That spirit that we led here years ago continues to carry forward in people’s hearts. And, they want to see a win,” McNeil said.

SAGE Development Authority hopes the project can be a model for other communities. McNiel will be speaking with Jane Fonda about the project on her podcast this Friday.