The complete lack of surprise is almost overwhelming.
by Rachel Poe
Features & List Co-Editor
I would like to dedicate this article to the piece of trash in my Italian class who told me that the exploitation of peoples in America ended in 1864. Two things, first the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted on January 1st, 1863 and the 13th amendment ratified in 1865 so I’m not really sure what he was going for there anyways. Second, if the Dakota Access Pipeline can tell us anything, it’s that the exploitation of minority groups for corporate greed is still very much alive and well in the United States.
For months, the Dakota Access Pipeline and its protests had been flying under the media’s radar. Even the paper is guilty of this (I was supposed to write about it a month ago) but we’ve been forced to talk about more Cheeto-flavored fascism related news instead. For those who are still blissfully unaware of the horrors surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), it is a pipeline that is set to transport crude oil from Dakota to Illinois. Proponents of the DAPL believe the $3.7 billion, 1,170 mile long project will be an economic boost, allowing for the USA to become more self-sufficient, create roughly 8,000-12,000 of construction jobs, and pump millions of dollars into local economies. Despite this, there will be serious cultural and environmental consequences if the DAPL continues.
Native Americans, environmentalists, and activists in general have been flocking for months now to the construction sites of the pipeline to protest. One of biggest issues surrounding the DAPL is that it will, and has, cut through sacred land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The problem here is that the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation does not include certain ancestral land- including burials grounds- where the DAPL will cut directly through. They claim that the historical and cultural reviews of the land were inadequate.
On the environmental side, the DAPL is set to go underneath the Missouri River and if it were to rupture, would contaminate the clean water supply for the surrounding residents, including the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, screwing them over in more ways than one. Still, the developer of the DAPL claim that it would provide a safer, more environmentally friendly way to transport oil, compared to trucks and trains. While pipelines might not crash, spill, and cause giant fires, they are still known to leak regularly- whether it’s minor or a catastrophic gusher.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman, David Archambault II, has said that his tribe will settle for nothing less than stopping the DAPL entirely, urging the for America to research and invest in more renewable sources of energy instead. In an interview to CNN, Archambault said that he and his tribe are not opposed to energy independence or economic gains, but that “the problem we have- and this is a long history of problems that evolved over time- is where the federal government or corporations take advantage of indigenous lands and indigenous rights.” He continued on to say “what we’re opposed to is paying for all the benefits that this country receives, [because] tribes pay the cost. And what we see now are tribes from all over sharing the same concern that we have, saying, ‘It’s enough now. Stop doing this to indigenous people. Stop doing this to our indigenous lands.’”
Currently, the construction has stopped before crossing the Missouri River as the Army Corp of Engineers are looking for alternate routes for the pipeline- many cite this small victory to the on-going protests along the construction site. Yet, President Obama and his administration are due to approve the DAPL sometime this week. But even if he doesn’t, Kelcy Warren, CEO of the pipeline’s company, is completely confident that the Trump Administration (I can’t believe I’m writing that) will green-light the DAPL’s completion. Warren, despite not having a direct contact with the president-elect’s campaign, said “I believe we will have a government in place that believes in energy infrastructure.” Slight problem here as Warren has donated to the Trump campaign in multiple instances over the summer and Trump himself has anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million in investments in Energy Transfer Partners, Warren’s company. Whether or not this will be a conflict of interest, as Trump himself has been against “special interests” in government, is still uncertain. (But, probably, yeah.)
The protests- which are still happening- have been gaining more notice as many proponents of the DAPL, like Warren, have started to call them “violent riots” despite multiple reports of police brutality, unlawful arrests, and mistreatment in jail. On October 31st, supporters of the protests around the country showed solidarity by checking-in on Facebook at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation as it was rumored that police were using the Facebook check-in system to track down protestors. What these protests boil down to is once again the mistreatment of Native Americans. For centuries, the United States government and its citizens have been disrupting the indigenous peoples’ way of life. If it was a cemetery there instead of a Native American burial site, would the route of the pipeline still cut through that specific area? Or would developers moved their path to avoid disturbance? Look, there has to be a way to please both sides, but if not, give this one to the numerous tribes protesting right now. We’ve exploited them enough over the centuries, it’s about time we start respecting them and their basic right of access to clean water.