It was April 1, and Jestin Dupree had driven more than 400 miles from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana to the state’s capital, Helena, to testify against legislation that could be used to jail environmental protesters. For years, his tribe had been protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, which was to cross the Missouri River, their main source of water. Their efforts seemed to be vindicated when the project was cancelled by President Joe Biden during his first day in office.
Montana’s new legislation, however, would allow environmental protesters to be jailed for up to 18 months if they obstruct operations at oil and gas facilities — and up to 30 years if they damage equipment. It seemed to be a direct rebuke to the Indigenous activism that had helped stop Keystone XL.
The state lawmaker championing the bill, Representative Steve Gunderson, hadn’t consulted with the tribe despite the disproportionate impact it could have on tribal members, according to Dupree. Gunderson had also referenced the 2016 protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota while introducing the legislation, which just didn’t sit right with Dupree. Those pr... Read more