Have you heard about the Native American protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline? Chances are you’ve seen a thing or two pop up on your Facebook wall. But what exactly is going on?
Since spring 2016, Native American tribes have been gathering in North Dakota to protest a pipeline jeopardizing the main water source of the Standing Rock Reservation. The pipeline, bringing crude oil from the North Dakotan Bakken oil fields down to Illinois, would run under the Missouri river. In the case of an oil spill, this would threaten the health of millions of citizens downstream, with this Sioux reservation along the river among its first casualties.
Even disregarding environmental concerns, there is another reason why indigenous people rally against the project. The area through which the pipeline would run contains sacred sites and burial grounds. Though the pipeline does not cross the actual Standing Rock Reservation, the tribes argue that such reservations have always been historically inaccurate, and a poor excuse for the wide lands once occupied by the Sioux. It’s the latest step in a long history of disrespect towards Native culture.
In August, the Standing Sioux Tribe filed an injunction to stop the pipeline from being built, but this was finally denied in a federal appeals court on October 9. Since then the protest has only grown, with several celebrities joining in, and the gathering regularly making national headlines because of violent crackdowns. On October 27, police moved in on the protest camp, even though it is situated on private land, owned by a member of the tribe.
Here is the latest update, via The Guardian (5:39am, 28 Oct.). The story is of course ongoing.
Cover image of Sacred Stone protest camp ©cc by-sa Tony Webster