By: Matt Remle 

Matt Remle is a Lakota activist based in Seattle and a leader of the successful campaign to push the City of Seattle to cut financial ties with Wells Fargo due to its financial support of the Dakota Access pipeline.  

Corporations and banks will not move on from the fossil fuel era because of our compelling moral and ecological arguments about why they should.  So we are learning to speak their language.  Money talks.   

Earlier this month, our coalition of grassroots Indigenous groups from across Turtle Island joined the 121 First Nations and Tribes united by the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, to launch a new, integrated divestment campaign against the banks funding Dakota Access and all four tar sands oil pipelines currently proposed out of Canada.   

Artwork by Jackie Fawn Illustrations


“We call on all banks and financial institutions to withdraw their investments in the corporations proposing to build new pipelines to carry even more tar sands oil out of Canada,” says Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.  “We call on individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments to withdraw their money from these financial institutions until they divest from these pipeline companies who are violating our rights, our treaties and our sovereignty.  We stand in solidarity with the Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation and all communities impacted by the Dakota Access Pipeline, and also call for divestment from any financial institution invested in Energy Transfer Partners.”  

We have already collected over 100,000 signatures on the petition for this campaign, and plan to send and deliver it to the banks in June.  And in Seattle, we have been shutting down banks left and right.  The City of Seattle divested over $3 billion from Wells Fargo earlier this year, and other cities are following.  

Our momentum is building and our new goal is to get the city to cut ties with Wall Street altogether and develop its own public municipal bank.  We are now planning an International Day of Action for late June.  We hope people all over the world will join us in disrupting business as usual for these banks.  

“Much of my community is under water right now due to historic flooding – these are the climate fuelled disasters that banks are funding by pumping money into these pipeline projects” says Grand Chief Serge Simon of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake, on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion. “We cannot allow Big Oil to divide us or weaken our resistance: every one of these four tar sands pipelines needs to be stopped in order to stop the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands. We stand united in the protection of our water, our communities, our climate, and our ways of life as First Peoples.”

The Mazaska Talks website (“mazaska” is Lakota for “money”, an homage to the resistance at Standing Rock) is a centralized resource for this campaign, with detailed financial data as well as tools for taking action.  The campaign targets all 64 banks that currently provide financing to Energy Transfer Partners or the three companies proposing new tar sands pipelines: TransCanada (Keystone XL and Energy East), Kinder Morgan (TransMountain Expansion), and Enbridge (Line 3 Expansion).   A list of primary targets includes the 17 banks that fund all of these companies, as well as the convenors of major multi-bank credit facilities: Bank of America, Bank of Montreal, Barclays, BNP Paribas, CIBC, Citi, Crédit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Mizuho, MUFG, RBC, SMBC, ScotiaBank, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo.     

This new campaign to defund the tar sands pipelines comes at a time of unprecedented economic vulnerability in the tar sands industry, due to consistently low oil prices and the extremely high cost of tar sands extraction.  Major oil companies have been withdrawing investments from the tar sands steadily over the past two years.

So far, the divestment movement launched during the #NoDAPL resistance has successfully withdrawn over $5 billion from DAPL-funding banks, including money from 3 major US cities and over $80 million in individual accounts.  Three European banks have sold their shares of loans to the pipeline company in response to public pressure – DNB of Norway, ING of the Netherlands, and BNP Paribas of France.  

Divestment is the next stage in the fight against the black snake that has come to poison our lands.  The resistance at Standing Rock changed the world – Indigenous Nations are rising up to create a future with clean water and respect for human rights.  

Join us.