The oil CEO’s comments ignored some of the fundamental reasons behind ongoing Native American opposition.
The CEO of North Dakota’s biggest oil company said that simply paying off native communities with oil related work would defuse the ongoing standoff against the US$3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Native American communities say that economics are not a factor faced with the irreparable damage.
James J. Volker, CEO of Whiting Petroleum Corp, said that giving Native American communities more economic opportunities such as oil service contracts and jobs related to the oil industry like water hauling could be given Native American owned companies.
“We as an industry like to see them provide those services … It does provide a better standard of living for them, it does provide a direct tie to the energy business and makes them and their tribal leaders more inclined to have more energy development,” said Volker speaking to the Independent Petroleum Association of America on Tuesday.
Thousands have protested in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who say that the 1,168 mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois will run through sacred sites and damage the environment including local water supplies, in particular, the Missouri River. The tribe says that their rights have been violated and were not adequately consulted on the project.
Over 300 native tribes along with environmentalists have come together in opposition to the pipeline, in what has been described as the largest Native American mobilizations in decades.
Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said that while he appreciated Volker’s suggestions, money did not come into the equation and the pipeline would have terrible direct effects on his people that would trump any kind of short term financial gains.
“It’s going to be very difficult for us to allow this line to come through just because some indigenous-owned company may benefit,” Archambault said. “If this pipeline goes through, we will be the first to pay the cost.”
Volker said that he was sensitive to Native American concerns over the pipeline and that he “wouldn’t want necessarily a pipeline to go through the cemetery where all my relatives are buried.”
Construction of small sections of the pipeline located on federal lands have been halted, making up 3 percent of the overall project, but the construction continues at other sites. Protesters, however, have vowed to continue their opposition until the project is suspended permanently.