Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Receives Inaugural Award Named for Iowan Henry A. Wallace

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Portrait of Henry A. Wallace as US commerce secretary. Image: US Department of Commerce/Wikimedia Commons

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota, which rose to international prominence last year for its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline that now transports Bakken crude oil under Lake Oahe near its reservation, on Thursday was announced as the winner of the inaugural Henry A. Wallace Award, named for the Iowa native and famed progressive politician.

The award was created by the Wallace Global Fund, a Washington DC-based nonprofit focused on tackling global problems that include ecological destruction and undue corporate influence on governments. The organization will gift the the Standing Rock Sioux a $250,000 prize and a separate investment of as much as $1 million to support its efforts toward fossil fuel independence.

“This is not over. We continue to fight the pipeline in court and await a decision that adequately reflects the rule of law established in this country — one so often flouted by this administration,” said Tribal Chairman David Archambault II in a press release announcing the award, referring to the Trump administration. “However, we will never stop fighting for our planet and future generations; this resiliency is part of who we are as a tribe. We are grateful and honored to accept the inaugural Henry A. Wallace Award and a grant from the Wallace Global Fund that will help us continue our resistance against the pipeline and transition to clean energy technologies like wind and solar.”

David "Flow" Rodriguez, a water protector fighting the Dakota Access pipeline, at a camp on the frontlines of the resistance outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota last September. Photo: Gavin Aronsen/Iowa Informer
David “Flow” Rodriguez, a water protector fighting the Dakota Access pipeline in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, at a camp on the front line of the resistance near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, last September. Photo: Gavin Aronsen/Iowa Informer

Archambault accepted the award on behalf of the tribe at a ceremony Thursday in New York.

“We hold the Standing Rock community in high regard for their care for human and ecological well-being,” said Scott Fitzmorris, the fund’s co-chair and Wallace’s great-grandson, in a statement. “By resisting the dysfunctional narrative imposed by the fossil-fuel industry, Standing Rock has demonstrated what it looks like to prioritize well-being over profit for the few.”

Wallace was born in 1888 in Orient, a town in southwest Iowa. As a child, he was introduced to plant breeding by George Washington Carver, who was a graduate student of Wallace’s father at what was then known as Iowa State College — as the college’s only black student, he lived with the Wallace family because campus housing was segregated. In 1910, Wallace graduated from the college with a degree in animal husbandry. He founded the Hi-Bred Corn Co., which is now part of DuPont Pioneer, in 1926, and later went on to serve under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his 11th secretary of agriculture, 33rd vice president, and finally 10th secretary of commerce. Wallace eventually left the Democratic Party, launching an unsuccessful bid for president in 1948 on the Progressive Party ticket.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.