By Julie Booth
In recent weeks, the protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been intensifying, as the protesters opposed to the construction continue to stand up for the protection of the land and the rights of the Sioux. The Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 million construction by Energy Transfer Partners, would have the potential capability to transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil every day over 1,200 miles if completed. However, in the process the Pipeline would rip through ground that is held sacred by the Sioux people and is supposed to be protected by the federal government, and it has the potential to destroy local water supplies. Now, what started as a small group of local protesters in April, has grown into a demonstration of over 1,000 protesters that is receiving national media attention and the support of numerous environmental and human rights activist celebrities, like Shailene Woodley, Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, and Chris Hemsworth.
The Sioux people oppose the construction of the pipeline on the grounds that it would threaten their health and well-being, as well as their natural and cultural resources; and claiming that the federal government did not consult their tribe before allowing Energy Transfer Partners to route the pipeline to their reservation, the Sioux people have therefore filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, demanding the construction be halted, and stating on the Sioux’s website that “the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River (at Lake Oahe) just a half a mile upstream of the Tribe’s reservation boundary, where a spill would be culturally and economically catastrophic. Second, the pipeline would pass through areas of great cultural significance, such as sacred sites and burials that federal law seeks to protect.” While the injunction was not granted to the Sioux, the federal government did agree to halt construction in September until they can investigate further the validity of the tribe’s statements. Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners contends that the pipeline poses no threat to the local water supply, while remaining silent about the attack on sacred Native American land.
The statement by Energy Transfer Partners that the concerns about local water supplies being tainted by the pipeline are “unfounded” is simply ridiculous when one considers the effect other oil projects have had on local water supplies in America. A simple oil spill, like the BP Oil Spill of 2010, would not only destroy the Sioux water supply and taint their cultural landmarks, but also wreak havoc on local wildlife, altering forever the landscape that the Sioux call home. In addition, the presence of oil drills for fracking throughout the country, especially in the Midwest, have unquestionably destroyed local habitats. The oil and gases released into the water supply by fracking have not only tainted the water supply, but have also caused local plant life and wildlife to perish, destroying farms across the country and bankrupting their inhabitants. Every time we allow a new pipeline to go into the ground, we are fostering the fossil fuel industry and thus exacerbating the climate change our world is facing. In addition, these pipelines and fracking sites more often than not disturb this nation’s Native American land reservations, forcing indigenous people to the forefront of the fight to protect their land. However, these controversies often go overlooked by the American media, allowing corporations to unfairly take advantage of marginalized populations. So, to say that an oil pipeline running under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River is not a threat is to ignore common sense and any kind of social responsibility, forsaking what is good for the people, the animals, and the environment for the promise of wealth.
As previously stated, the protests in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline still continue and the number of demonstrators grows every day; and as the protest progresses, police presence on the site remains constant, as does the arrests of protesters. More than 400 protesters have been arrested at the reservation site since mid-August, and on the 27 and 28 of Oct. alone, over 140 protesters were arrested. The Sioux people have vowed to continue the protest to save their land through the winter months, and as the tension over this controversial issue continues to rise, it is even more important every day that we all—not as Americans, but as human beings and residents of this planet—protect our world and stand up for the rights of the ones with whom we share it.