Day 7: Town Destroyer
Seven ominous days in and President Trump proved his flippant remarks about global warming might actually kill us all when he signed an executive order inviting the people behind the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines to resubmit their applications. Although largely symbolic, because the actual construction of the pipeline must meet Trump’s own demands and be reviewed by the State Department, the move proves that Trump is serious about slowly asphyxiating us all with his climate denial, and in the typical presidential fashion, lacks any respect for our Native communities.
The Mohawk Nation wolf clan has a word for presidents of the United States: hanadaganyas, and it means “town destroyer.” The Dakota access line is set to go through land that was given to the Standing Rocking Tribe in 1848, and which they consider sacred.
“That to me is environmental racism, when you take a group of people and you say, ‘Their water source is less than ours,’ and you put [their water] at risk of contamination,” said Hugh Burnam, adjunct professor here at SU and member of the Mohawk Nation.
The halting of the project was a huge victory for the tribe and climate activists who had been protesting for months amid harsh conditions and appalling treatment by the Army Corps. The order to rev the project back up is a power play demonstrating that Trump will be taking his campaign promise seriously to obliterate Obama’s legacy and put “America first.” America being the oil-rigging corporation run by Trump and his family, probably.
In 2015, Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline right before the Paris Climate Summit in an effort to prove that the United States was serious about, and would lead the way in reducing carbon emissions. The Summit signaled a new era of “going green” that was more than just a hipster trend, but Trump recently threatened to simply withdraw from the agreement because it is “bad for business.” Womp womp.
Even more disconcerting is his decision to place a total freeze on the EPA. On Tuesday, employees received orders banning them from releasing information to the public and were told to suspend “all task orders and work assignments.” He basically yelled, “Abort,” on the whole thing (another term he is unsure about whether he likes or not). His administration will also conduct a full review of all the content on the EPA’s website – including the scientific evidence that man-made carbon emissions are to blame for climate change.
“It’s a really urgent time right now for people who work closely with the earth and work closely with native communities,” said Hugh Burnam. “I think that education is key, I think that scientific research that’s been conducted cannot be ignored.”
According to Reuters, the information page on climate change is already off of the EPA website. The White House site is also eerily void of any mention of climate change. With Scott Pruitt, soon to be confirmed as pick for head of the EPA, the sky is not likely to get bluer anytime soon. Pruitt has sued the agency he is slated to head a staggering 14 times and no less than a few weeks ago went back on his statement that climate change was a hoax. He has yet to fully acknowledge that man-made carbon emissions actually to blame for climate change, and was personally responsible for dismantling Oklahoma’s environmental protection unit when he took office as Attorney General. Somewhat fortunately, if he does the same now for the United States, he’ll be out of a job.
“These are the habits of tyrants, of colonizers, of people who want land, and money, it’s the bottom line,” said Burnam.
Combined, Trump and Mr. Pruitt are about to give the coal industry the best four years of its life, and everyone else should invest in a gas mask.
**Interviews conducted by Ryan Dunn