Tensions continue to rise as protesters take a stand, supporting the Standing Rock Native American Reservation
The Standing Rock Native American Reservation is home to over 8,000 Native Americans of the Sioux tribe. Covering over 9,000 square miles of big skies and rolling, tall-grass hills of North and South Dakota, this land holds many historical characteristics sacred to the Sioux people. This tribe continued to go on with their everyday, peaceful lives. However, abrupt plans interrupt their own land as the Dakota Access Pipeline urges to begin their project.
Perhaps one of the most vital factors is the plentiful, flowing currents of the Missouri River. As the longest river in North America, it supplies water for beings far beyond the 8,000 Native Americans living in Standing Rock land.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, is attempting to cross under the river, directly north of the Standing Rock Reservation endangering the entire reservation and all other individuals who reside in states near the Gulf of Mexico.
The mission statement of the DAPL project, Energy Transfer, states, “It is our intent to live up to our promises of openness, honesty and responsiveness before, during and after construction and throughout operations.” Although with good intention, the action behind these words has yet to be put into the action.
An article in “The Nation” by Evelyn Nieves shares an image of two protesters standing waste-deep in the river with several police officers, decked out in full padding and helmets, intently observing. This aggressive reaction to a peaceful protest does not necessarily add up to Energy Transfer’s statement.
In addition, the main corporations backing DAPL are Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo. This unique combination of investors and a seemingly harsh response to the protestors seems to point fingers against big corporations. The conflict seems simple: the underdogs fighting to protect their health and the prosperity of their land against the big, money-hungry, corporations. However, is this issue really so red and blue?
The DAPL, under operation by the Energy Transfer website, highlights the necessity behind the pipeline in means of the united imbalance of crude-oil production and consumption. Operating as the number one crude-oil consumer in the world, the U.S. should prioritize approaches to energy independence.
Combining with tensions in the Middle East–the hub of oil production in the world–puts immense pressure on the U.S. to create its own energy. To highlight this argument, Donald Trump, who has connections to one of the investors, believes restrictions against energy resources are “roadblocks to vital industry infrastructure projects.” The cold fact is that in order to operate, even in regression, the U.S. needs oil, and a lot of it. The DAPL would also allow the U.S. to produce 570,000 barrels per day, creating increased employment, economic growth and a big leap toward energy independence.
Despite these benefits, the DAPL would still be crossing over sacred ground of the Sioux Tribe and endangering thousands of people outside of the reservation. Although the pipeline would cross north of Standing Rock borders, its potential for bursting would cause a catastrophe to a huge chunk of the American population.
Throughout history, the government has consistently repressed the Native American people. Taking away sacred pieces and landmarks, inch by inch, pushing them closer together and farther away from the rest of society.
An article in the Washington Post by Joe Heim reaches out to Drucilla Burns, an octogenarian and tribal elder from the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe in Needles, CA, and quotes her saying, “Water is what we’re made of. We’re supposed to be the protectors of land and water. My God, they took everything away from us. And now they want to take our water, too?”
With every protest, the layers of years of oppression reveal clearer and clearer. There is no option to push corporate American people into a tinier box, because they are standing back. Regardless of the outcome of DAPL, this event has allowed many individuals previously unconnected to the Native American population to stand in solidarity and allowed fellow tribes to reach out in connection.
The question is not whether the oil corporations or the Sioux people’s argument is more justified, or whether the government should prioritize financial stability or social justice and environmental protection. Republican or democratic opinions do not even play a role. But instead, the question now lies to the issue that a group of marginalized people, the Native American people, are screaming: who will decide to listen?