…plus Bear Butte, Trump, and Dakota Access…
Aljazeera visits Donald Morrison on Pine Ridge and finds it’s hard to be an engaged voter when you don’t have electricity or running water:
Donald, 60, has lived on his family’s land his whole life. Time passes slowly in his corner of the Pine Ridge Reservation, and at no point in his six decades have local authorities connected his family’s miniature community of shacks and trailers to the reservation’s electricity grid or provided them with running water.
They use car batteries and generators for a few hours of electricity a day, and Donald heats up a five-gallon bucket of water on a wood stove to bathe and wash his clothes a few times a week.
…Although Channels Five, Nine and Twelve broadcasted the highly publicised presidential debates between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican counterpart Donald Trump, Donald explains that he was only able to watch the highlights on the news.
“It doesn’t really make a difference to us here,” he says of the forthcoming elections.
With neither Trump nor Clinton speaking to their specific needs, many Pine Ridge residents say they have been forgotten by mainstream society, abandoned by politicians and neglected by state institutions.
After years of pleading with the local tribal government – which administers the reservation on a semi-autonomous basis – and county authorities for running water and electricity, Donald resigned himself to spending his remaining years without either. “I eventually gave up,” he recalls. “They just say they can’t help me. It’s a waste of time” [Patrick Strickland, “Life on the Pine Ridge Native American Reservation,” Aljazeera, 2016.11.02].
President Bill Clinton did visit Pine Ridge in 1999. In a 2008 campaign stop on the reservation, he said his wife would, as President, set up a fund to build transmission lines and connect Pine Ridge residents to the grid. Hillary Clinton’s current campaign fact sheet on Native American issues mentions education, health care, economic opportunity, drug and alcohol addiction, and other issues but not basic infrastructure.
Donald Trump hates Indians when they compete with his casinos. He finally got around, hardly a week before the election, to cobbling together a “Native American Coalition” of anti-regulatory Indians who don’t inspire confidence in the Native press. Trump still has offered no concrete policy on Native American issues like getting electricity to Donald Morrison’s house.
Morrison’s neighbors, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, just joined the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho of Oklahoma and the Northern Cheyenne of Montana in spending $1,135,936 to buy 270 acres near Bear Butte to protect the sacred landmark from more biker bars and campgrounds.
Other of Morrison’s neighbors are standing against militarized police and private security firms to prevent Energy Transfer Partners from laying the last few miles of its Dakota Access pipeline across the Missouri River near Cannonball, North Dakota. Dakota Access protestors have gotten President Barack Obama to say that he will let the pipeline dispute “play out for several more weeks” to allow the Army Corps of engineers to look into rerouting (not canceling) the pipeline to be “properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.” Donald Trump owns stock in Energy Transfer Partners and Dakota Access partner Phillips 66; ETP CEO Kelcy Warren has donated $169,800 to Trump, a Trump PAC, and the RNC. Trump’s oil baron energy advisor Harold Hamm will ship his company’s Bakken oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Let’s hope the Cannonball protestors all voted absentee before heading up to North Dakota. Their votes for the second President Clinton may not get Donald Morrison electricity and running water right away, but she’s the only shot Donald has at making progress on Native issues.