People Over Pipelines?


A young girl joins in the protests against construction of the Dakota Pipeline, which spanned nearly six months prior to the government's decision to move it elsewhere.

Despite the recent media uproar over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, protests over this crude oil transporting pipeline have been occurring since the late summer.

The goal of the Dakota Access Pipeline is to allow “domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a cost-effective and direct manner.” Members of the Sioux tribe in North Dakota have been protesting because they believe that this pipeline would negatively impact their communities by decreasing their access to clean drinking water and increasing their susceptibility to oil spills.

Protestors have joined the Sioux Tribe in their fight against the construction of the pipeline on Standing Rock (Sioux Reservation). However, protestors have been recently ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers to leave the area near Cannonball River by December 5th or “face arrest.”

Within the past month, more than 500 Dakota Access Pipeline protestors have been arrested by Morton County. Things took a violent turn recently when police officers used tear gas, freezing water cannons, and rubber bullets against the peaceful protestors, which resulted in over 150 activists becoming injured.

This debate hits close to home for both sides of the spectrum. People the Sioux Tribe see the construction of this pipeline as a “clear threat to both the tribe’s cultural heritage and the basic human right to clean water.”

The fear of their water being restricted is rooted from the fact that the pipeline, when finished, would stretch over four states, passing through many waterways. However, in the creation of the pipeline, the pipes would need to be implanted in the bodies of water, leaving the water susceptible to mass contamination if a pipe were to leak or break.

Also, the pipeline is being built on sacred Sioux land that was promised to them in the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851, and considering that we still celebrate Columbus Day (the mass genocide of Native Americans under Christopher Columbus), this must be fuel for the fire.

Simply put, I am no pipeline expert.

My initial reaction to the construction of the pipeline was that although it is unfortunate that the Natives are having a structure built on their land, the probability of the pipes leaking must be very minimal.

But I was very, very wrong.

When a compromise was proposed for the pipeline to be built north of Bismarck, North Dakota; officials immediately rejected this proposal due to “its proximity to areas that supply water.”

Just to let that sink in, the government prohibited a pipeline from going through a certain route because it presented a health risk to the water supply. But despite this risk to the water supply, they changed the route to go through sacred Native lands. I feel that this acts as a statement about the value that our government puts on Native American lives: none.

The government would not want to risk contaminating the water supply of those populating cities, but Native Americans? No, that’s fine apparently.

And it’s not even like the construction of pipelines has been perfected to have no chance of leakage. Just in April 2016, the Keystone 1 pipeline leaked 16,800 gallons of oil in South Dakota, which feels ironic considering that the protests against this movement are from South Dakota’s neighbors, North Dakota.

The barrage of the sentimental value of these Native lands is one thing to debate about. But there is no debate about a human’s right to survive, the right to clean water, which the government is evidently not allowing for these Native tribes.

Although protesters claim that they are not planning on surrendering, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is almost finished.