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Standing in Solidarity: CEO Matt Patsky Visits Standing Rock

December 2, 2016 // Boston MA: For 34 years, Trillium has advocated for the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. We have worked with Native American leaders to bring their concerns to corporate decision-makers, pressing major corporations to take action on policies and practices that demonstrate a pattern of exploitative behavior towards Indigenous communities. During late November, I traveled to Bismarck, North Dakota alongside several leaders from the investment community to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Set to span 1,200 miles between North Dakota and Illinois, the crude oil pipeline threatens sacred land, the tribe’s drinking water, and a diverse and fragile ecosystem that is key to a sustainable future. In the midst of freezing temperatures, I confirmed three matters of great concern: The lack of proper environmental assessment, community review and prior consent of the pipeline’s construction, and the inhumane treatment of peaceful Indigenous protesters by highly militarized law enforcement.

Pictured: Matt Patsky, Mark Ruffalo (Actor & Activist) & friend
Image: Matt Patsky, Mark Ruffalo (Actor and Activist) and Donna Morton

First, ‘Free, Prior, and Informed Consent’ (FPIC) allows a local community to withhold approval of a project that may have consequential effects on inhabited land, as adopted in 2007 under the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.[1]  Though Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company responsible for building the pipeline, insisted that construction began with formal consent, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe indicated that dialogue never emerged. In response, the federal government asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full review of the pipeline’s construction bordering Lake Oahe to fully evaluate the environmental impacts and ramifications of transporting over 470,000 barrels of crude oil on a daily basis, halting construction of the pipeline.[2] On November 14, 2016, the Army issued a statement calling for additional dialogue regarding an easement for the pipeline “in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s Dispossessions of lands [and] the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe.” [3]
Secondly, I was particularly disturbed by the militarization of law enforcement and the tactics used against peaceful Indigenous protestors at Standing Rock. We witnessed and heard many stories of the excessive force used particularly against Indigenous Peoples’ and other demonstrators of color. They have been confronted by rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and a handful of other unjustified forms of treatment in response to protesting peacefully. Using weapons designed to combat terrorist groups against unarmed civilians is unacceptable.
Image: Nick Bernabe
Image of police barricade on interstate highway by Nick Bernabe and

We must ask ourselves, “What can we do as investors?” Trillium continues to advocate for the rights of Indigenous People worldwide. We are actively engaging with a number of companies that have been implicated in this human rights controversy. In early November, we co-filed a shareholder proposal at the energy company, Marathon Petroleum Corporation (Marathon), alongside As You Sow, United Church Funds, and The Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, with the New York State Common Retirement Fund as lead filer. The proposal asked Marathon to provide disclosure regarding its due diligence processes regarding Indigenous rights and to identify whether it has a way to exit the DAPL project. Furthermore, we recently filed a shareholder proposal at Bank of America Corporation (BAC) asking the company to provide broader disclosure about its fossil fuel activities, particularly noting recent criticism the company received for its involvement in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. When a company decides to invest in controversial oil and gas pipeline projects such as DAPL, there is considerable reputational and human rights risk. We plan to continue our engagement with Marathon, BAC, and other companies and press them to adopt and improve policies and practices that can prevent negative impacts against Indigenous communities. And we urge all the parties involved to pursue dialogue over confrontation.
While the continuing assaults on the world’s Indigenous People and their ancestral lands could have disastrous impacts, the militarization of police and inhumane treatment of peaceful protesters at Standing Rock is of immediate concern. It is the right of protesters to peaceful assembly. We urge others to explore additional steps to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous communities worldwide to address the core issue of consent and the right to protest.
Image of Standing Rock campsite by Matt Patsky
Image of Standing Rock campsite by Matt Patsky

Read more about our history of advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights here:
Update: We were pleased to learn that on December 4th, The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers announced that they were exploring an alternative route for the pipeline. This represents a victory for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and a path forward for the healing of the community.
[1] General Assembly Adopts Declaration Adopts Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples; ‘Major Step Forward’ Towards Human Rights for All’, Says President. (2007, September 13). Retrieved from
[2] Healy, Jack. (2016, August 26). North Dakota Oil Pipeline Battle: Who’s Fighting and Why. Retrieved from
[3] Statement Regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. (2016, November 14). Retrieved from
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