Why Winona should divest from DAPL banking partner


From: Chuck Ripley

On Monday, May 1, the Winona Human Rights Commission will recommend to the Winona City Council that the city divest itself from Wells Fargo Bank.  We make this recommendation in line with our statutory role to advise the City Council on “human relations and civil rights problems,” (22.22(d)(4)).  

We believe that Wells Fargo’s funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline project (DAPL) violates the letter and spirit of the Covenant of Friendship the city and, more importantly, the people of Winona share with the Dakota Nations, Tribes, and Communities of the Oceti Sakowin. This Covenant is a “solemn commitment to the perpetual peace, friendship and compassion between the Dakota people and the people of the city of Winona, and to the mutual recognition of equal rights and respect for the Dakota language, culture and natural law.” This solemn commitment was reconfirmed last year in the City Council’s affirmation of support for the Standing Rock Water Protectors.

One of the most powerful and humbling aspects of our annual Great Dakota Gathering is the Truth Circle. It is in this circle of truth and reconciliation that Winonans of all backgrounds have the opportunity to come with an open heart and hear what the Dakota have experienced and continue to experience because of American campaigns of genocide, of forced removals, and of the knowing and intentional destruction of native families, culture, language, and religion.  

All this happened here while non-native people of good will sat passively by, accepting the justifying platitudes and moral equivocations offered by the institutions of government, religion, and commerce.  

Now, even as the DAPL project is moving forward over the brave and unambiguous objections of our Dakota friends, the opportunity to affirm our support for the Dakota and other native communities is still alive. As a community, we can still speak out.  

While banking is a business, our collective relationship with a bank does say something about our own character as a community. Quite apart from their involvement in the pipeline project, recent headlines tell us that the corporate leaders of Wells Fargo are not particularly moral people, even by the standards of the banking industry. As we have seen, these leaders have committed repeated illegal acts, including the opening of two million fraudulent accounts and actively discriminating against people of color in a host of ways documented by regulators for decades. In these actions, Wells Fargo has shown little concern for its customers, its employees, and our faith in the lawfulness and stability of the banking system.  

We can surely find a better banking partner than this.

The commission recognizes the difficult task it is recommending. The city and Wells Fargo have multiple ties that will be hard to cut.  

But our position remains that, to be true to our values as a city, a city that prides itself on its relationship with the Dakota people, a city that takes its very name from the Dakota word for eldest born daughter — who in Dakota family structure PROTECTS her people’s culture and ways, we need to divest from Wells Fargo.  

If you feel as we do, that this is a necessary moral action, please contact your City Council members and express your views. I hope our local and regional banks view this moment as an opportunity to show the city of Winona what services they could offer and how they could be more responsible and responsive partners.  


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