On November 7th, close to one thousand protesters gathered in Montreal to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in solidarity with the Sioux in Standing Rock, North Dakota. The protest focused on holding TD Bank, RBC and Scotiabank responsible for profiting off of the pipeline.
The DAPL is a project of conglomerate Energy Transfer Partners. If built, the DAPL will carry crude oil from the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota to Southern Illinois, and will pass under Lake Oahe in Lakota territory, directly threatening the main fresh water source for the Standing Rock reservation. In April 2016, a Sioux elder at Standing Rock set up the Sacred Stone Camp to protest the pipeline. It’s been growing ever since. As of September 2016, reporters estimate that over 300 tribes are present at the encampment and between three and four thousand people reside there, making it the largest Indigenous gathering and site of anti-colonial resistance in one hundred years.
Dr. Louellen White, a Mohawk woman from Akwesasne and professor at Concordia University, spoke at the Montreal protest stating, “The sovereign status of the Sioux nation has been ignored for centuries by governments, individuals and states, including with the lack of nation-to-nation consultation regarding the DAPL.” She went on to describe the history of broken promises and government encroachment that led to the current conflict. “The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 delineated the boundaries for the great Sioux nation, and that treaty was repeatedly abrogated. So what people are protecting today is that unceded territory: they never willingly relinquished their rights to that land.”
Protesters marched through downtown Montreal chanting, “We stand, we stand, we stand with Standing Rock,” and “TD, Scotia, RBC, you must go fossil free.” The protest made a stop at the Quebec's Caisse de dépôt et placement, which has $60 million invested in Enbridge Energy Partners, who own 18% of Dakota Access LLC, the subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners responsible for developing the pipeline.
The protest culminated in an action at the corner of René-Lévesque Ouest and Boulevard Robert-Bourassa, where TD Bank, RBC and Scotiabank all have branches. All three are invested in Energy Transfer Partners. TD bank has $360 million invested in Dakota Access LLC, with additional investments in other Energy Transfer Partners subsidiaries. RBC has $350 million invested in the Energy Transfer Partners family. Scotiabank is invested in Sunoco Logistics, the subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners responsible for operating the DAPL should it be built. In addition to these banks, organizers urged all those who oppose this project to boycott PetroCanada, another subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners.
Protesters with accounts at TD Bank, RBC and Scotiabank attempted to enter the branch and close their accounts. RBC let bank members in one at a time, but TD Bank and Scotiabank chose to shut down their branches on a Monday afternoon rather than face angry and critical clients.
According to Mariah, a protester with an account at TD Bank, “We were going to walk in and talk to representatives to tell them we’re upset that our money is being invested in this pipeline. No words were exchanged, we were just shut out. Their security guards pushed out everyone in the turnstiles, even people who weren’t involved in the protest.”
Dr. Louellen White led the action by shutting down her account at RBC. She explained her decision to the assembled crowds by referencing a Lakota prophesy, saying “You may have heard of the black snake prophesy of the Lakota people. A black snake will come to the territory and it will poison the air, it will poison the land and it will poison the people. How do you defeat that black snake? By cutting off its head. And where is its head? It’s at these banks.”
Dr. White concluded her speech by emphasizing the importance of the struggle against the DAPL. “We must stand with the Standing Rock Sioux nation who are doing this for everyone. It’s not just for us standing here today, it’s for the next seven generations. As Haudenosaunee people we look forward to the next seven generations ahead, our children, our grandchildren, our great-great grandchildren. What do we want to leave behind for them? Today you can use your individual power to help defeat this black snake.”
For more information on how you can support the #NoDAPL movement and the Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock, please visit: http://sacredstonecamp.org/faq/