Throughout much of 2016 and into the winter of 2017, water protectors stood fast against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), even in the face of severe injury. The egregiousness of the actions taken against unarmed water protectors caught the attention of the Wallace Global Fund, founded by Henry A. Wallace, who was Vice President of the United States under Franklin D. Roosevelt. The progressive fund awarded $250,000 to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and pledged to invest an additional $1 million in renewable energy initiatives, to be led by the tribe.
The Wallace fund also bestowed its first-ever Henry A. Wallace Award to the Standing Rock Sioux for their “unwavering courage” in the face of the assault by a public-private partnership of counterterrorism forces using military methods. Wallace spent his life championing democracy and warning against the dangerous impulses that could undermine it, personified by “those who care only about money and privilege—who obtain political power by pretending to care about ordinary people and democracy—who blame all bad things on disfavored minorities, racial, religious or otherwise. Who use lies, media propaganda and snide conspiracy theories to mislead the people into giving them power,” said Scott Wallace, Co-Chair of the Wallace Global Fund and grandson of the founder.
“He framed an eternal struggle between these self-serving, lying elites and what he called the common man,” Wallace said of his grandfather. “It’s that struggle, and standing up for the common man, ordinary people, that inspires this foundation and which animates this award.”
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Such convictions resonate strongly with the Standing Rock Sioux, said Chairman David Archambault II as he accepted the award on behalf of the tribe at a ceremony in New York City on June 8.
“It’s an honor. I’m grateful, I’m thankful for this award—for the work that Henry Wallace himself has done,” Archambault said. “Whatever your status is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a leader or an individual, we’re all common. There is no one greater than another.”
He said knowing that “helps us to think about what is important to all common people, not just to myself.”
“I’m proud of my grandfather’s courage in service of the highest principles. I’m proud of his commitment to the ordinary people of the world in the struggle against vast corporate and state powers,” said Scott Wallace in bestowing the award. “I’m proud of the Standing Rock Sioux for their courage and for proving that my grandfather was right: That ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.”
Also on hand at the ceremony in midtown Manhattan were Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation; Nick Tilsen, executive director of the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, and, via video, the actress Shailene Woodley, a staunch Standing Rock supporter and one of the more than 700 people who were arrested over the course of the months-long standoff against DAPL. Among the reporters present were Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, one of the first reporters to expose the tactics being taken by Energy Transfer Partners against the water protectors.
“We watched one tribe show the rest of the world what can happen when you lead with prayer, when you lead with love, when you lead with compassion. And we saw a lot of healing take place,” said Woodley in her recorded message. “The effect that you’ve had on not only the Americas but the rest of the world has been dynamic, has been life-altering, and has been something that will affect our world for generations to come. So thank you.”
The fight is far from over, as all participants noted. Indeed, the event occurred the day after President Donald Trump joked in Washington, D.C. that there had been no pushback after he directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move the pipeline forward.
“Yesterday there was a press conference where president President Trump was talking about the Dakota Access Pipeline. And he says, ‘I signed the presidential memorandum with my eyes closed. I signed it blind. And today the sun is still shining, and the water is still clean.’ And he said, ‘And nobody really cared,’ ” Archambault recounted. “For him to say that nobody cared goes to show how out of tune and how out of touch he is with this nation. The people—the common people of this country—aren’t being heard, especially by this President.”
For all these reasons, Archambault said, what happened at Standing Rock marks a new chapter in the fight against fossil fuels.
“I’m honored, our tribe is honored,” Archambault said. “We’re going to continue the movement. We’re going to continue to build awareness, we’re going to take all the steps necessary so that one day our people are not living just under the thumb of this country, but free.”