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Obama Dodges Dakota Access Question in Laos

President Barack Obama goes all the way to Laos to field a question about the Dakota Access pipeline. A woman in the audience asked the President yesterday what he’s doing to address concerns about sacred tribal sites allegedly disturbed by the pipeline project. The President appeared not to have been briefed on recent developments with Dakota Access:

…The way that Native Americans were treated was tragic, and one of the priorities I’ve had as President is restoring an honest and generous and respectful relationship with Native American tribes. So we have made an unprecedented investment in meeting regularly with the tribes, helping them design ideas and plans for economic development, for education, for help that is culturally appropriate for them. This issue of ancestral lands and helping them preserve their way of life is something that we have worked very hard on. Now some of these issues are caught up with laws and treaties. I can’t give you details on this particular case; I’d have to go back to my staff and find out how are we doing on this one. But what I can tell you is that we have actually restored more rights among Native Americans to their ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, hunting grounds—we have done a lot more work on that over the last eight years than we had in the previous 20–30 years, and this is something that I hope will continue as we go forward [President Barack Obama, response to public question, town hall in Laos, 2016.09.07].

I know the President has a lot more to pay attention to than any blogger, and with the Dakota Access pipeline cutting across my state and members of my Internet circle participating in the protests at the Missouri-Cannonball confluence in North Dakota, it’s easy for me to think the Dakota Access pipeline and protests should be near the top of everyone’s news awareness. But with thousands of protestors raising a ruckus near a reservation the President visited just two years ago, and with various tribal and environmental advocates calling on the President to take some action, it seems odd that the President did not have a specific response to an issue that has provoked the largest gathering of American Indian tribal members in over a century.

Either the President wasn’t ready for this question, or he is avoiding comment on an issue currently in the federal courts (although wouldn’t he have said that to demonstrate he was at least aware of the issue?), or he does not want to throw his weight behind either side in this pipeline debate.

Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have directly addressed the Dakota Access pipeline or the tribal protest. However, Trump endorser and energy advisor Harold Hamm is CEO of Continental Resources, which tells investors this month that Dakota Access will carry its oil from the Bakken fields.


  1. mike from iowa 2016-09-08 08:54

    Wingnut sites were abuzz about Obama not wearing his wedding ring again. Usual gay/muslim theories abound.

  2. jerry 2016-09-08 10:10

    What can you expect from those that work for someone other than the voters. Obama is no different than Clinton or Trump in the regard of knowing who actually pays the bills for them. When they come to Indian Country it is just to get their pictures taken and then get that star quilt. After that, business as usual. Thankfully there was at least someone to bring the question up for the irony of it all in Laos. We bombed them back into the stone age, so it is fitting that the question was asked there.

  3. Troy 2016-09-08 10:19

    He knows virtually nothing about the particulars of the question. And, a President that did know anything would be one not paying attention to the issues about which a Preident should be getting information. I presume and hope he has spent his time on preparing for this trip and issues of broader import.

  4. jerry 2016-09-08 10:25

    Yep, except that his administration already made comments about the TRO Troy. It is his job to know the particulars about dogs being let go to attack fellow human beings as well as to the progress of his bosses wet dream.

    The only guy that spoke to Native issues during the primary was Bernie Sanders, only one that actually went to the reservation by himself to speak. I know that this is not his place to do so when he was beaten, but knowing the kind of man he is, I would bet he would have been painting the bulldozer with Jill while giving the boss the finger.

  5. jerry 2016-09-08 10:39

    America has mistreated Laos during the war in Vietnam by bombing them more than we bombed Japan and Germany combined. We abandoned the tribal Hmong after we recruited them to fight the fights we were to spooked to do. It was the tribes in Laos that did the heavy lifting for the United States in covert fighting along the borders and into the jungles of the frontier. I had the honor to work with them on a couple of cross border incidents. Good fighters that believed the United States would honor their treaty obligations to the recruitment practice. We did not, we abandoned the Hmong until finally we allowed some of them to come here, and not look back. The Hmong had to leave their homeland as surely as we did the great Sioux Nation’s Powder River Country, The Black Hills and other significant locations or die by the government guns. Now, here, the Missouri River and its drainage system life bloods. Sure does sound familiar. Hillary needs to come to North Dakota, she needs to assure the people that the United States honors treaties and values the water which brings us life. She needs to kick her focus groups up a notch or rid herself of them to do the right thing. Don’t send a staffer, bring herself.

  6. Adam 2016-09-09 02:28

    I don’t care that he isn’t running for President anymore, I still wanna hear what The Bern has to say about this!

    This could be Donald Trump’s BIG opportunity to show us all, “The Art of the Deal” – bringing Native peoples and oil companies together for better business. LOL – that phony made-for-TV, Marvel Comic villain, immigrant wife smuggling, madman could only make the pipeline situation worse.

    God save us the day Trump finally speaks about this mess. I bet he’ll make me vomit a little in my mouth when he does.

  7. mike from iowa 2016-09-09 09:20

    Ain’t just oil companies. Michigan recently passed an open-pit mine on Michigan-Wisconsin border on land Menominee Indians claim is sacred ground.

  8. Leo 2016-09-09 16:23

    This is Hillary’s moment to win this election. If she comes out forcefully against the Dakota Access Pipeline, then she may yet win. Although the District Court Judge ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe today, this has now become an intraagency concern:

    Will she, or won’t she? We already heard Trump’s plans when he accepted the 19 delegates from ND to place him as the presumptive Republican nominee. C’mon Hillary, come ask for my vote!

  9. jerry 2016-09-09 16:39

    Agreed Leo, she could bring on a whole lot of young folks as well as those sick of the status quo, that support Bernie into believing in her a whole lot more. That would be the cornerstone for the fight to take it all. Hillary should show that the Keystone and all the rest of the Koch and friends crap is gone. There would then be a new sheriff in town.

  10. jerry 2016-09-09 16:50

    Leo, here is a nugget for the record. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded the Army’s decision.

    “The Justice Department, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of the Interior are right,” Sanders said in a statement. “It’s time to listen to our Native American brothers and sisters. We must stop the Dakota Access pipeline, once and for all.”

    Democrats must make stands for those that cannot make them on their own. I note that Bernie is an Independent that ran as a Democrat. That does not change the fact that those who feel they should run as a Democrat have to stand for the things that make our state and our country a safer and better place for all, not just the well heeled, but for all.

  11. mike from iowa 2016-09-09 16:56

    I read somewhere yesterday that the pipeline id 50% complete already. If that is true, they must have been damn busy without anyone knowing anything about it. Maybe they have a mini-Drumpf doing their PR for them.

  12. Leo 2016-09-09 17:00

    Jerry, was that the actual quote? Hope not, because it is the “Department of the Army” and not the “US Army Corps of Engineers” who was a part of this joint statement of three federal agencies today. The Tribe was actually suing the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the three fed agencies came out against the ruling in favor of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Just to clarify.

  13. mike from iowa 2016-09-09 17:03

    Good find, Leo.

  14. jerry 2016-09-09 17:05

    They jammed it down South Dakota’s throat with the willing help of Chris Nelson the same fellow that outdid himself with the Keystone XL support. Show me something that is bad for the water and this guys mug appears. The guy needs to find a new job and we have the power to send his sorry arse packing. Vote for someone who cares about the public and the impact toxins will have on all of us. There is one guy that fits the bill, a Democrat, Henry Red Cloud. The guy cares. In this day, that means a lot.

  15. jerry 2016-09-09 17:11

    That was his quote Leo.

    The Justice Department, Army Department and Interior Department said in a release Friday that the Army will not authorize the pipeline’s construction until it can determine if it needs “to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.”

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded the Army’s decision.

    “The Justice Department, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of the Interior are right,” Sanders said in a statement. “It’s time to listen to our Native American brothers and sisters. We must stop the Dakota Access pipeline, once and for all.”

    That is why we need Hillary to come to make it clear that the Dakota Access is done. It will not cross the Missouri River no matter where. Much to dangerous for nothing of real value.

  16. Leo 2016-09-09 17:23

    Jerry, please tell me the source where the quote appeared.

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