Human Rights

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Receives Award Named After Progressive Leader Henry Wallace

The tribe was awarded $250,000 to support its movement toward sustainable energy.

Photo Credit: Diego G Diaz/Shutterstock

For the past year, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have relentlessly resisted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across their native lands. In recognition of their courage against corporate interests, the tribe was awarded the first Henry A. Wallace Award.

The Wallace Global Fund, an organization committed to the “common man’s” fight against corporatism and control of Earth’s natural resources, presented the award to Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, on Thursday. The award includes $250,000 as well as an investment of up to $1 million from the Wallace Global Fund to support the tribe’s transition toward fossil fuel independence.

Established just this year, the Henry A. Wallace Award is dedicated to recognizing those who courageously stand up to corporate interests. The award is named after Henry Wallace, who served as vice president under President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1941 -'45. Wallace advocated for progressive policies, opposed the Cold War, and was a supporter of labor unions, women’s equality and national health insurance.

Scott Wallace, co-chair of the Wallace Global Fund, said the award is inspired by his grandfather’s dedication to the interests of the common man.

“This award in his honor is intended to recognize the type of extraordinary courage that ordinary people can summon to fight such abuses of power,” Wallace said. “No one represents such courage better than the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”

Upon receiving the award, Archambault said the fight against the pipeline and the degradation of native lands will continue, particularly since construction of the pipeline was approved and greenlit by President Trump via executive order in late January.

“Movements don’t end,” he said. “Movements continue.”

Nick Tilsen, the executive director of the grassroots community development corporation Thunder Valley CDC, also spoke at the ceremony. Tilsen said the organization is currently working on producing 100 percent of all the energy needed to power the community and promote sustainable living. He also stressed the importance of media coverage, noting that Native Americans rarely receive philanthropic support.

The Dakota Access Pipeline has been pumping oil since the beginning of June despite already leaking. And while the Standing Rock Sioux was the most visible tribe fighting against the pipeline, other poor Native American communities are also impacted by the pipeline. In fact, Tilsen said seven of the 11 poorest communities in the U.S. that live close to the pipeline in North Dakota are Native American.

“It’s no accident that indigenous people are at the center of this issue,” he said.

Archambault, Tilsen and actress/activist Shailene Woodley—who spoke at the event via video and has been a vocal opponent of the Dakota Access Pipeline—emphasized that the fight against the pipeline and against further destruction committed by the oil and gas companies is far from over.

Archambault said he and other Native American activists have attempted to communicate their concerns to the Trump administration, with little success. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is also continuing its legal battle in the courts, as the tribe recently filed a summary judgment.

Tilsen added that protesters are still facing charges for their participation in demonstrations, many of which escalated into standoffs with militarized police forces. According to a report from ThinkProgress in February, 600 protesters were still awaiting trial in Morton County. Recent reports from The Intercept also uncovered tactics by the security firm TigerSwan, in collaboration with Energy Transfer Partners and local law enforcement across five states, to conduct surveillance of the water protectors and undermine their efforts.

Despite the Trump administration’s support for the oil and gas lobby and the pipeline’s presence throughout South Dakota, Tilsen said it was not only important to fight the pipeline, but to stop the problem at its source.

“If they’re going to do this to Standing Rock, they’re going to do this to other tribes.”

Celisa Calacal is a freelance writer for AlterNet. She is a senior journalism major and legal studies minor at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. Previously she worked at ThinkProgress and served as an editor for Ithaca College's student newspaper. Follow her at @celisa_mia.