Nov. 15 was the nationwide “Day of Solidarity with Standing Rock,” and activism supporting Standing Rock surged in the midst of many big developments in the story of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Last week, Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind the pipeline, announced that it would start tunneling under Lake Oahe, part of the Standing Rock Reservation and the center of protests, two weeks from then. Then, on Monday, the Army Corps of Engineers stated that it would delay its final approval, inviting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to discuss the situation with them. Yet, on Tuesday, Energy Transfer Partners announced that they filed with courts in Washington D.C., pursuing a judgment confirming their right to build and operate the pipeline. This national movement to protest the pipeline fell in the midst of important updates in its construction. At this time, it is important to educate oneself and others about the events at Standing Rock and join in the protests against this injustice.
The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline would be an underground crude oil pipeline that extends through four states and across 1,172 miles. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed a complaint in federal court that the pipeline not only would threaten their environmental and economic well-being, but it would also damage the tribe’s historic, religious and cultural sites. The tribe is also worried that the pipeline’s crossing under the Missouri River will jeopardize their drinking water. Over three hundred tribal nations stand in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and over 1.3 million people have “checked into” their reservation online to show their support. Police have been a controversial presence at the protests with many reports of inappropriate behavior. Over four hundred protesters have been arrested as of Oct. 30.
The pipeline presents many problems, but the basis of the protests and the most specific victim of the construction is its impact on the people of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who were not consulted in its planning. The pipeline will cross half a mile away from their reservation on land that was taken from the tribe in 1958. The path of the pipeline crosses historic sites, including multiple burial grounds. The nation’s history of racism and unjust acts against Native Americans should not become the standard of behavior, nor should it serve as justification for horrific acts today.
Since 2000, North Dakota alone has had ten pipeline accidents, and there have been many others around the country. In Jan. 2015, a pipeline in North Dakota leaked 70,000 barrels of brine and oil. This brine was at least ten times saltier than ocean water and affected a nearby creek that runs into a lake as well as land around it. The high salinity of this water can render land sterile. Another pipeline accident occurred in Sept.: the Colonial Pipeline, running through ten states, ruptured and leaked 250,000 gallons of gasoline in Alabama. Workers risked their health from the vapors to clean up the mess. A recent history of pipelines displays that protesters are completely valid in their concerns over the environmental impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Native Americans tribes and those standing with them are not the only groups protesting the pipeline. Some farmers have accepted payments of thousands of dollars for allowing the pipeline to cross their lands, but others in Iowa have taken the matter to court. There, farmers have lost land through the claim that the pipeline would provide a public service when in fact the opposite is true. While Energy Transfer Partners benefit from the use of their land, the farmers’ land and water are at a higher risk of pollution.
The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline has become multifaceted in the matter of respecting Native American cultural and religious grounds as well as their drinking water, fighting to protect the environment and fighting against unjust use of eminent domain. With recent actions from the Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners, it is time that everyone joins in protesting and educating those who are unaware so that together we may put a stop to the construction of this pipeline.
Alyssa Luis is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.