|Michelle Cook in Jamaica
Photo by Brenda Norrell
By Brenda Norrell
French translation by Christine Prat
KINGSTON, Jamaica -- The United States engaged in the criminalization of Indigenous Peoples at Standing Rock, and continues this abrogation of human rights with new legislation engineered by the oil companies, Michelle Cook, Dine', told the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Jamaica.
The United States will tell you that the U.S. protects Indigenous Peoples, and supports the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Michelle testified.
"They will talk to you about a consultation policy, in compliance with human rights."
"What they won't tell you is how those rights are abrogated, extinguished and divested for private profit for oil companies like ETP (Energy Transfer Partners) and TransCanada."
"I'm here to tell the Indian side of what we learned during and after the phenomenon of Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline."
"In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, during the seven months, from September 2016 to February 2017, at least 76 law enforcement agencies and 35 federal agencies and private security firms, hired by the oil company were present at some time."
"Over the seven months, law enforcement's prosecutors aggressively charged 841 water protectors exercising their Constitutional right in peaceful assembly."
Many of these arrested were detained and subjected to abusive conditions. They were subjected to unnecessary strip searches and jailed hours away from camp in humiliating conditions, Michelle told the Commission.
Local authorities aggressively prosecuted 841 water protectors, despite the lack of probable cause and the fact that there was no evidence in the vast majority of the cases.
"The Water Protector Legal Collective is pursuing a class action lawsuit for the injuries that occurred on November 20."
Now, following Standing Rock, Michelle testified that "oil and gas interests are pushing to criminalize protests against their fossil fuel projects, by engineering bills purportedly to protect against critical infrastructure sabotage."
Currently there are 95 anti-protest bills being proposed in 35 states including North Dakota. Of these, 14 have passed, 24 are pending, and 55 have been expired and defeated. There are 28 currently pending in state legislatures.
In Texas, House Bill 3557 would make some forms of protest a second degree felony on par with second degree murder.
In South Dakota, the riot boosting act has created a fund specifically dedicated to going after groups who are not in the state, in a direct response to Standing Rock
"We encourage the Commission to look at these bills and follow the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur."
Michelle testified with Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham testifying on militarization of border; Casey Camp Horinek, Ponca Tribal Councilwoman testifying on abusive arrest at Standing Rock; and Leoyla Cowboy, Dine' wife of imprisoned Standing Rock Water Protector Michael Little Feather Giron, Chumash.
Michelle Cook, Dine' (Navajo), is a Dine' lawyer, and organizer of the women's delegation to the Commission in Jamaica.
She is founder of Divest, Invest, Protect. Michelle is a commissioner of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, and co-founder of the Water Protector Legal Collective at Standing Rock. As a Fulbright Scholar, she lived in New Zealand and learned of the Maori culture. She has traveled to Iran on cultural exchange, and was present at the Conference on Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2010. She is currently pursuing an advanced law degree in the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Read more in our series from Jamaica:
Tohono O'odham Ofelia Rivas' testimony: US seeks to annihilate Indigenous Peoples.
Live from Jamaica -- Native Women Testify:
Water Protector Leoyla Cowboy, Dine', honors NO DAPL Political Prisoners
Tohono O'odham Ofelia Rivas delayed two days by airline, with repeated searches, after U.S. slaps SSSS status on her boarding passes following testimony in Jamaica. Ofelia testified about the militarization of the border, and abuse by the U.S. Border Patrol
Brutalized at Standing Rock, Poisoned by Extractive Industries, Ponca Casey Camp Horinek Testifies
United States places blame on TigerSwan, private security, not police, for excessive force at Standing Rock
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