Prove your humanity

It’s been something of a climactic week at Standing Rock. Under an order from North Dakota’s governor, most of the remaining demonstrators evacuated the encampment that had been ground zero for the months-long protest of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline. Before they left, some protesters set their tents on fire — an act they say prevented the camp from being desecrated by law enforcement. Authorities made 10 final arrests, removing demonstrators who refused to leave the site. Then, Thursday morning, cleanup crews arrived. And just like that, the temporary community that sprang up to protest the pipeline was gone.

Without a doubt, it’s too early to say the battle over the Dakota Access pipeline is over. Though Donald Trump’s executive order expediting construction means that work has now resumed just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, the tribe is continuing its legal fight. Amy Sisk and Leigh Paterson, who recently produced a documentary called Beyond Standing Rock for Inside Energy, told us that some questions remain about the legality of Trump’s executive order.

“That’s the big question on everyone’s minds right now,” Sisk says. “And that’s also the heart of the legal challenge that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has filed against the pipeline. Their latest legal challenge is asking a federal judge to essentially revoke the pipeline’s permit that was granted under the Trump administration. The reasoning is that the federal government can’t just say it’s going to do one thing and then reverse course without providing some reasonable explanation. And really we haven’t gotten much of an explanation from the Trump administration.”

Of course, the legal details of the case hardly capture many of the larger historical, cultural and environmental issues that the protest has brought into focus. Things like the complexity and limits of Native American sovereignty; a growing national conversation about fallout from the domestic energy boom; and where such issues fit in with the larger global threat of climate change. We dig into all of that — as well as dissect EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt’s first week on the job — on this week’s episode of Trump on Earth. Subscribe on iTunes or listen at trumponearth.org.


The Inside Energy documentary “Beyond Standing Rock” premieres this week on PBS stations. Get more info here