The Bakken Oil Pipeline & ‘the Law of Christendom’

Paul Cienfuegos’ September 6th, 2016 Commentary on KBOO Evening News


(His weekly commentaries are broadcast every Tuesday evening. You can view or listen to them all at,, or subscribe via ITunes. Listen to this one HERE.)


Greetings! You are listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos.


I had not intended to talk about the rapidly growing Native American resistance against the building of the Bakken oil pipeline in North Dakota for a third week in a row, but this story is becoming so big so quickly that I felt I just had to. This past Saturday, the company building the pipeline, Dakota Access Corporation, attempted to bulldoze land that is sacred to Native peoples, and when people arrived to resist the destruction, the company was ready and waiting, with attack dogs and pepper spray, both of which were used on numerous Native people, as well as surveillance helicopters circling overhead. Amy Goodman was there, and captured the conflict up close for today’s episode of Democracy Now. As I watched, I couldn’t help but think about the similarities with the police dogs that were let loose to attack black people in the deep south who were demonstrating nonviolently for their rights many decades ago. Would the corporate elite dare to allow dogs to attack white protesters? I think not.


There are now more than 200 Native tribes represented on the ground in North Dakota, from all over the US and Canada. This is becoming a very big deal. And I am convinced that this sort of Native mobilization could never have taken place so quickly if Native people across Canada had not mobilized last year to form the decentralized action network Idle No More, in response to then prime minister Stephen Harper’s outrageous removal of environmental laws that protected rivers across Canada. Idle No More then expanded across the US, and is now capable of rapidly mobilizing Native peoples whenever necessary.


There has been plenty of online reporting about the standoff. But very little of it has delved very deeply into the structures of law themselves that make government and corporate destruction of our land and waters inevitable and thus, so difficult to stop. One of my favorite deep thinkers on this topic is Steven Newcomb, co-founder of the Indigenous Law Institute. I’m going to share some very brief excerpts from an essay he wrote on August 28, titled “The Dakota Access Pipeline and ‘the Law of Christendom’”. Here it is….


Approval of the colonizing Dakota Access Pipeline project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the resulting conflict with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation has a historical context. … The most foundational ideas and arguments that the United States is using against our nations are traced back to the days of Western Christendom, and to the language of domination found in the papal bulls and royal charters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The United States is treating the Standing Rock Dakota and the Oceti Sakowin in a disrespectful and coercive manner based on religiously premised concepts and arguments derived from what used to be called the international law of Christendom, or “the law of Christian nations.” Those ideas from the past continue to control the present for all of our original nations.


An example of that past thinking that continues in the present is found in Jedediah Morse’s “Report On Indian Affairs,” published in 1822. A Congregational clergyman, Morse delivered his report to U.S. Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, to Congress, and to President James Monroe. In the conclusion to his Report … Morse characterized the Indian people as “a valuable part of that large body of heathen in our world, who are shortly to become the inheritance of our Redeemer,” at which point he cited to Psalms 2:8 in the Bible, which reads: “Ask of me, and I shall give to you the heathen for thine inheritance (property), and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” …


In my view, Dave Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was arrested by North Dakota State Troopers as an exercise of what Tennessee Judge and later U.S. Supreme Court Justice Catron called “the right to coerce obedience.” As Judge Catron further stated of this right of coercion in State v. Foreman [Supreme Court of Tennessee, 1835]: “The claim may be denounced by the moralist. We answer it is the law of the land. Without its assertion and vigorous execution, this continent never could have been inhabited by our ancestors. To abandon the principle now is to assert that they [our ancestors] were unjust usurpers…”


That supposed right to coerce obedience to the paradigm of domination is conceptually rooted in the ancient political system and thinking of Western Christendom. Dakota resistance, allied with many other nations, provides the opportunity to bring the world’s attention to the fact that that bigoted religious form of reasoning and argumentation is still being used against our Original Nations by the United States, in this case in an effort to run the Dakota Access Pipeline through the territory of the Dakota Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the Oceti Sakowin or “the Great Sioux Nation” without consent.


I have been reading a very brief excerpt from an essay titled “The Dakota Access Pipeline and ‘the Law of Christendom’”, written by Steven Newcomb, co-founder of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery, and a producer of the documentary movie, ‘The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code’. You can read all of his recent writings at


You’ve been listening to the weekly commentary by yours truly, Paul Cienfuegos. You can hear future commentaries every Tuesday on the KBOO Evening News in Portland, Oregon, and on a growing number of other radio stations. I welcome your feedback.


You can subscribe to my weekly podcast via I-Tunes or at You can sign up for my ‘Community Rights Updates’ at You can follow me on twitter at CienfuegosPaul. THANKS FOR LISTENING! And remember: WE are the people we’ve been WAITING for.

For a one-time donation click here:

To support Paul with monthly donation, select and click here:
Monthly Donation Options