- By Lt. Tim McMillan
The Most Significant Argument Ever Made Against The Dakota Access Pipeline.
If one was to try to tune out passionate and boorish debates over immigration that have dominated the majority of people’s collective consciousness lately, they might hear the faint cries of another battle that has reignited recently. Considering this fight involves a subject that has been an ignored breach of humanitarian and ethical values for the better part of the last 525 years, it isn’t shocking that there has been little if any mainstream fanfare.
If you consider it, it makes sense that no one is talking about the fact that in the last nine days alone, law enforcement has pepper sprayed, tear gassed and arrested over 80 people in one location alone. The reason immigration bans have ignited massive unrest ultimately comes down to the fact that 98% of all Americans can trace their lineage, at some point to being an immigrant. So truthfully, it isn’t immigrants that we have the hardest time relating too. Rather it is natives that seem to be the Achilles heel of our social conscience.
On January 24, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order for the Secretary of the Army, entitled “Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Section II (i) of this decree is very direct in saying, “review and approve” request for approvals for construction and operation of DAPL. Section II (ii) further clarifies things by outlining that the memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of Army for Civil Works issued December 4, 2016, halting the construction of the pipeline should be considered for resignation and modification. In essence, under no uncertain terms four days after being sworn in as President of the United States, President Trump was ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to permit work to resume on the DAPL pipeline construction.
Ultimately, the utility, necessity, intrusion on cultural heritage or environmental impact of the two pipelines will be fought out on the front lines by protestors and law enforcement. Backstage mêlées will erupt on the battlefields of social media with self-proclaimed pundits on both sides. At the end of the day, the bulk of these arguments will involve a degree of triviality with the issue, as they only are discussed in the context of the particular pipelines themselves. Very little regard will be placed on the more intimate concern that is representative of the entire pipeline debate. Considering that little regard is placed on the innermost issue of the Keystone XL or Dakota Access Pipelines, I feel that it is incumbent on me to pose the question, is there going to be a point that we start to listen to the local indigenous natives of the planet earth?
In 1990, after four hundred years of living in seclusion from the modern world, the Kogi, the last surviving decedents of the Inca and the Aztecs traveled down their isolated coastal mountain habitat in Columbia to initiate contact with the modern world. The last time the Kogi formally reached out to the outside world, Luis De Velasco was the Viceroy of New Spain, the Huguenot Wars were raging in Europe, in which England and the Protestants were battling Spain and the Catholic church in France. The Protestants and the Catholics were trying to kill each other to stake ultimate claim to the real understanding of Christianity.
Now, it is true that Vanilla Ice released his hit “Ice Ice Baby” in 1990. However, the Kogi didn’t climb down 18,000 feet through an area that Columbian drug traders call “Hell” to collaborate and listen. In fact, the Kogi didn’t come down for themselves at all. The Kogi made contact with the outside world out of concern for the rest of us.
The Kogi are a religiously centered society in which they consider themselves the guardians of life on earth. The spiritual leaders of the Kogi are called “Mamas” which means "sun" in Kogi. Mamas are selected at birth from the male Kogi children. From birth until eighteen years of age Mamas live in complete darkness in a cave, only cared for and interacted with by their mothers. The reasoning the Mamas undergo this isolation, and sensory deprivation is so the Mamas can learn to attune to the Kogi’s creator deity, Aluna. The Kogi consider Aluna or “Great Mother” to be the force behind all nature, and they consider the earth to be a living being. To the Kogi, humanity is the earth’s children. The Kogi claim they are the only human beings that have maintained this spiritual umbilical cord with the Great Mother through the Mamas, they consider themselves to be humanity’s “Elder brothers” and outside civilizations to be the “Younger Brothers.”
Truthfully, there has been limited contact between the Kogi and the outside civilizations near their homelands in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. What made contact in 1990 so significant was it was the Mamas that requested and initiated the contact. Even into adulthood, the Mamas remain as virtual recluses within the Kogi tribe. Therefore, twenty-seven years ago contact by the Mamas outside of the Kogi people was an entirely unprecedented event. The reason the Mamas came down from the mountains was to deliver a prophetic message to the rest of the world that had been given to them by the Great Mother.
Through a series of intermediaries, a BBC film crew was allowed to entire the Kogi’s sacred lands to film a documentary that would deliver the Mamas message to the rest of us from the Great Mother. According to the Kogi, the Great Mother wanted the world to know that as a result of industrialization, the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, pollution, and widespread overexploitation of ecosystems by humans have damaged the earth. The Mamas warned humanity that the climate was changing and that the “little brother’s hunger for energy and material possessions was cutting out the eyes and ears of the Great Mother.” The BBC film crew’s invitation resulted in the release of the 1991 documentary, “The Heart of the World: Elder Brother’s Warning.”
To recap here, a minute group of spiritual priests who spends eighteen years in seclusion, deprived of virtually all sensory input we use on a daily basis to gain a spiritual connection with the earth, in an already exceptionally isolated culture of indigenous people concluded that human beings were destroying the earth. I feel like I should reiterate that the Kogi people have not been exposed to television, the internet, magazines, newspapers, books or any other common conventional means of sharing information. Naturally, this begs the question, how could the Kogi have known about the specific ecological threats that scientist and ecologist have been warning people about?
How did humanity respond to the Mama’s warnings? Half of all of the world’s wildlife went extinct from 1990 to 2010. Worldwide, net emissions of greenhouse gasses as a result of human activities increased by 35%. In 1990 a total of 7,915,007 gallons of crude oil was spilled in and around U.S. waterways. Twenty years later in 2010, the total number of gallons of crude oil spilled in the U.S. waterways was 207,712,793. To be fair, 206,000,000 gallons of oil all came from the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling well exploded. From 1990 to 2010, 156 million hectares of tropical forest were lost due to deforestation. From 1900 to 1990, scientist estimate that sea levels rose at an average rate of 1.2mm per year. From 1990 to 2010, sea levels were measured to have risen an average of 3mm per year.
Twenty years after initial contact, the Mama’s were informed by the Great Mother that their initial warning had not been heeded by humanity. In turn, the Kogi once again contacted the same BBC filmmaker that had shared their message in 1991. This second desperate warning resulted in another documentary film release in 2012 entitled Aluna. In the film, the Kogi Mamas decided to demonstrate some of their knowledge of the earth and universe in hopes of giving credence to their claims. One of the Kogi Mamas traveled to the observatory at the University of London and met with Astronomy Professor Richard Ellis. The ensuing conversation with Dr. Ellis and the Kogi Mama left the renowned astronomer virtually speechless. The Kogi Mamas described to Dr. Ellis astounding knowledge of the solar system and contemporary astronomical discoveries such as dark energy.
Back in Columbia, the Kogi Mamas also led a group of scientist in a demonstration of the earth’s interconnectivity by showing how the source of rivers or waterways is affected by what occurs at the water’s estuary. At that time, scientist and ecologist did not have this information and what the knowledge of ecosystems the Mamas shared was cutting-edge. Presently, many mainstream river-scientist now agree with the Mamas views of the interconnectivity of waterways. It is important to note that of the world's thirty-two largest cities in the world twenty-two is located on estuaries. In essence, the Mamas told us in 2010, and ecologists are beginning to realize the reality that industrial pollution to the world's estuaries ultimately affects all of the world’s waterways.
Do we need to recap on how the Kogi and their Mamas live isolated from modern technology and communication? Rather, the Mamas have repeatedly shared their warnings of our wanton destruction of the planet because they say their spiritual connection with the earth has provided them with these frightening revelations.
So how have humans fared since their last warning seven years ago? Well in fall of last year, an ever increasing number of scientist began issuing the warning that the earth was in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. Presently, species of life are dying off at rates that haven’t been seen in 65 million years.
So now in 2017, the ensuing arguments over the merits over oil pipelines will be waged among political leaders, activist, oil lobbyist, and any other person with an opinion. However, I have to pose the question again, when will be as people finally start to listen to the warnings by a region’s indigenous people? In the end, the Kogi Mamas parting words in 2010 before they returned to their life of solitude was that this would be their final warning to us. One has to wonder if the virtues behind the DAPL protest themselves shouldn’t be the focus of our discourse. Rather, maybe we should indeed heed the warnings of the people whose culture has always been connected intimately with the land. Because in the end, perhaps the most significant concern for all of us, shouldn’t be whether or not the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe should be protesting the pipeline’s presence near its land. Maybe, in the end, the most significant trepidation humanity could face is the moment there is no one protesting at all.
One last bit of Jeopardy trivia for you. In 1990, when the Kogi Mamas initiated the first contact with the outside world in four centuries, it was the same year that Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. I assume most of you will recognize that the World Wide Web, represents what we know today to be the online world of the internet. Remarkable if you think about it, an isolated group of people reaches out to try to express to the rest of humanity that the entire earth and all life on it are interconnected. Additionally, at the same time information technology would be born that would allow human beings to become interconnected with each other all over the world. Philosophically speaking, it makes you wonder if indeed whatever your belief is or what you consider God to be wasn’t trying to not only warn us about our reckless destruction of the planet. Rather, also provided us with a means to communicate amongst each other, the regular person who isn’t profiting off of pollution, to try to stop our own self-destruction.