On a special Friday edition of The Last Word, Chairman Dave of The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation responds to the news that the Obama administration has halted development of the Dakota pipeline... Transcript follows:
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: The protesters at Standing Rock call themselves protectors: the protectors of the sacred sites. The tribes, of course, were this country's first protectors of the environment. our first environmentalists long before anyone else thought there was something sacred, something worry of protection in our land and in our waters. Today, one of the protectors, Rebecca Grey Bull told me at first the judge's decision to allow the construction was "like a knife in the gut." She then said, “I am ecstatic and grateful that Obama saved the day for us here. This is just the beginning,” she said. ,We are bunkering down for winter.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is a special place. When they visited there in 2014. the chairman of the tribe, Dave, had the honor of escorting the President and Mrs. Obama on their visit, and we are honored the Chairman is joining us once again tonight from North Dakota. Chairman, tell us the reaction there when you got the word that the Obama administration was intervening?
CHAIRMAN DAVE: It was -- it was a disappointment when I heard the ruling of the judge and then after I got notice of what the administration was doing, I wasn't sure if it was accurate or not, but it was a good feeling to start to think that the courage that these people in that administration and these agencies stepped up and they answered a call... and they know that public policy is something that needs to be reformed... so that we can better ensure the protection of indigenous people and indigenous rights.
O’DONNELL: You know, we asked the White House just what the President's involvement was in this and they wouldn't give us any response to that. But you have to wonder because you got the word out and you got the word out worldwide, someone stood up in Laos at a university on the other side of the world and asked the President a question about this just yesterday before he got on the plane flying back here. And he said then and to that student in response, that he was going to look into this with his staff and this was the day they had to really look into it.
CHAIRMAN DAVE: You know, we've been working at informing everybody, including the White House, all the agencies of the injustices that were taking place and they -- when I heard the President's remarks in Laos, I immediately called the White House and said, you have the information, you can share it with him now.
O”DONNELL: And, Dave, tell us about the President's time when he visited you there, you told me about it last weekend when I was there. please share with us whatever you feel free to make public about your conversations with him and what he experienced there when he was at your reservation.
CHAIRMAN DAVE: Well, I -- when I had the President here, there was a couple of things that I wanted to make sure happened, I wanted him to experience the reality of what takes place and I wanted him to see a little bit of our culture. The reality that we have a high rate of poverty and all the symptoms that come with poverty. and the kids who were able to share the story relayed that message for us, but we also have a beautiful way of life and through our dances and songs. I felt that we left an impression on the First Lady and the President.
O’DONNELL: That's the feeling I had at the protest camp tonight. just a week ago tonight you and I were there at this very hour and I'm just imagining things were tense then, that was the day before they let the dogs go after the protectors who went up the road a little bit there. tonight must be a very special feeling in the camp.
CHAIRMAN DAVE: You know, I stopped in there just before I came back here and people are happy. People are proud of what the agencies are doing and that they're stepping up -- it's a good feeling all the way around. there are a lot of tribes still coming in, I will say, there's -- it grew since you have been there, there's probably about 5,000 people there now and there's a lot of rain today, but it doesn't stop them. they're still coming and
O’DONNELL: Dave, what do you think is next in this process? One of the things that -- the statement promised today, is a conference upcoming this fall in which they will review all of these laws and all of these regulations and what the protections are and what they should be in these situations for the tribes.
CHAIRMAN DAVE: We still have a lot of work to do. I know this is not over. What we want to do is make sure that whatever -- whatever time we have here on this earth is spent ...is worthwhile. We have a better future.
O’DONNELL: Chairman Dave, thank you once again for joining us here...