AP

The lawmaker now heading the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs described the Dakota Access Pipeline protests as a threat to public safety and characterized them as often "violent." In November, Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) called on the Obama administration to shut down the protests at Standing Rock and give final approval for the pipeline.

Hoeven's new role was announced in a recent statement, where he emphasized economic growth and job creation, saying these priorities "will help Indian families, communities and businesses succeed." While these are undoubtedly pressing issues, it's troubling that the head of a committee that's supposed to be advocating for Native American communities stands in opposition to the highest profile effort for Native American rights.

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In contrast the new vice chairman of the committee, Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), has publicly supported the water protectors during the protests. His statement supporting the Obama administration's decision to not give final approval for the pipeline stands in direct opposition to Hoeven's, as he correctly criticizes the violence against the activists:

Over the last seven months, thousands of people, including Indian nations from New Mexico and across North America, have demonstrated their deep concern about the lack of consultation by the federal government and the potential environmental hazard this pipeline poses for the water. They have stood up for their rights despite harsh weather and the use of inexcusable violence against them.