Montgomery Street echoed with the Lakota cry, “Mni Wiconi!” — “Water is life” — on Saturday as Native Americans and their allies painted a giant thunderbird outside Wells Fargo. The symbol of power and protection was a demand to the San Francisco-based bank to stop financing projects that threaten the environment and indigenous people’s rights. Protesters said the bank agreed to extend $1.5 billion to the developer of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Many there had fought numerous pipeline projects, including the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota. Sioux grandmothers were tearful as they recounted the brutal treatment inflicted by law enforcement officials at Standing Rock. Some resisters were held in dog kennels. Others said they were shot at with rubber bullets and live ammunition. They withstood attack dogs, pepper spray and water cannons in freezing weather as they peacefully fought for their ancestral homeland and clean drinking water.
“It was a struggle because not only did we have to fight DAPL, but we had to survive there,” said Cokaptiwin of the South Dakota Cheyenne River Sioux tribe.
The desire to cut ties with pipeline developers, as well as provide banking services to cannabis businesses and undocumented immigrants, inspired the Board of Supervisors to reconsider a public bank last year. Unlike the big commercial banks The City currently uses, a city-owned bank could better embody San Francisco’s values. It could stop funds to pipelines, while helping public works projects, affordable housing and small businesses.
But a public bank is not a promise San Francisco’s money will stay green. The Bank of North Dakota (BND), the only existing public bank in