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What is the Dakota Access Pipeline Protest?

Updated on June 28, 2021

Corporate Invasion into Native American Land

I'm going to do everything I possibly can for this group, and one of the best gifts I have is my writing. So, I'm going to try my best to raise awareness on an injustice to one of our natural resources and shed light on the community that has been set aside.

Right now, you can be making a difference for a Native American community that is having its land disrupted by the Dakota Access pipeline. To my great dismay, we have never in the history of the United States been in balance with the Native people who lived here first. It is a part of history that is glossed over, and there is great shame in our poor efforts to connect with the people who know the land and have lived here for thousands of years.

This country was setup in a way that takes from the Native Americans, taking back their land and often destroying it, marginalizing their customs, and wiping out years of human history. Native Americans are our brothers and sisters; if their customs, if their language, and if their resources fade -- a part of us fades too. This should be an outrage to you. With culture comes information, and the loss of information as a resource is condemning. Try to step into their shoes for a moment to know what it's like to be limited because of another superstructure, a nation residing with it and not communicating with it properly.

Right now in North Dakota an oil pipeline is being built, and it invades the Missouri River. There is a great chance this project will contaminate the water supply that the Lakota Sioux tribe depends upon. Contaminating water is a big deal for everyone on the planet -- water is precious and essential. Not too long ago there was a cry of inequality when the water supply of Flint, Michigan was contaminated with lead. The consequences of this contamination have led to many of the youth having grave maladies. Now a Native American community is doing what it can to raise awareness to stop the construction of a pipeline underneath the Missouri River.

Thirty Native youth from the Oceti Sakowin ran to the White House to protest against the construction of this pipeline. They ran 2,000 miles to prevent their homeland from being soiled. That pipeline will send approximately 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day through North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa. It's less than one mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

That water is used for bathing, cooking, drinking, rituals, everything. By harming their water supply, this could threaten the livelihood of those living near it. Opposition to this pipeline construction has been going on for months. The community has come together to bring awareness to this issue. You can sign up on Facebook to learn more and also help fight against corporate invasion of the water supply -- click here: “Rezpect Our Water.” The site was launched to allow youth to tell their stories and explain why this is a crisis for now and future generations. The cross-country relay to our nation's capital was part of this campaign.

Three federal agencies have called on the Army Corps of Engineers for a statement. But the Army Corps declined. The groups calling for action are: the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Who are apart of the Standing Rock Reservation? What role has the States had with Native Americans?

The Standing Rock Reservation is a Lakota, Yanktonai, and Dakota Indian reservation in both Dakotas. It is it the sixth largest reservation in the United States. It comprises all of Sioux County, North Dakota and Corson County, South Dakota. It also incorporates northern Dewey and Ziebah counties in South Dakota. The reservation is roughly 3,571 square miles and a population of 8,250.

In the late 19th century, Sitting Bull was a Lakota war chief and medicine man who led the tribe in years of resistance against the United States. Not long after the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, many of the Lakota and their allies moved to Canada. A group returned in 1881 after splitting with Sitting Bull, resettling on this reservation. Sitting Bull also returned years later, but was shot dead at Fort Yates by a tribal policeman in a confrontation possibly involving the Ghost Dance movement. His remains were exhumed and reinterred near his birthplace... right next to the Missouri River.

Originally having a territory of 4 million acres in 1864, the reservation was reduced following the Indian Wars of the 19th century. Making land available to settlers.

The Sioux have three major languages: Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota. Today, the Sioux have scattered across several reservations. In the late 19th century, railroads were built through their lands. Railroad companies hired hunters to exterminate bison. This was the Plains Indians' primary food supply. Now history is repeating, and the tribes' water is being exterminated.

Back in the 19th century, the Dakota and Lakota were forced to accept US-defined reservations in exchange for the rest of their lands and farming and ranching of domestic cattle, as opposed to a nomadic, hunting economy. Are we now making them exchange water for oil? During the first years of the Reservation Era, the Sioux people depended upon annual federal payments guaranteed by treaty for survival. The tribe was forced to depend and survive on the United States, how much more must we corrupt the natural flow of a community of people's living circumstances?

In the late 1960s, Native Americans sought to improve their conditions. The country as a whole was seeking for various civil rights, and the Native Americans were one of the groups' in the spotlight. They wanted better programs in education and economic development. One of the biggest hotspots for protest was carried out at Alcatraz Island in California. Also, the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota was seized by followers of the American Indian Movement. For 71 days the Federal Investigation and the United States Marshals Service laid siege. The protest followed the failure of the Oglala Sioux Civil Rights Organization (OSCRO) to impeach tribal president Richard Wilson. He was accused of abusing his opponents. Protesters also attacked the United States for failing to uphold treaties with Native American people. Natives demanded the reopening of treaty negotiations. This is only a snapshot of the past between the United States and the tribes it interacts with.

The Battle for Clean Water

In the present, protesters have come to Morton County to obstruct the construction zone. The $3.8 billion project is currently in a state of flux. A projected 500,000+ barrels of crude oil is expected to go from North Dakota to Illinois a day. The pipeline will likely pollute drinking water for the reservation and millions downstream from the Missouri River. That river is one of the safest and cleanest sources of water in the nation. Polluting this water could be permanent. Water is essential to life, the ecosystem, our wellbeing. Polluting it will have grave consequences. So far 18 protesters have been arrested for charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing. A lawsuit has been filed that the protesters pose a threat to workers and law enforcement officers at the construction site. Armed security guards are now watching over the demonstrators.

Now, a preliminary injunction has been setup to halt construction... while the lawsuit brought on behalf of four tribes litigation is scheduled for August 24.

A legal defense fund was started to assist protesters willing to risk arrest for the pipeline. Young tribe members ran 2,000 miles to get to Washington, D.C., delivering a petition with over 160,000 signatures to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Leonardo DiCaprio and actors from the upcoming Justice League film have joined the cause. In a tweet Dicaprio stated: "Standing w/ the Great Sioux Nation to protect their water & lands. Take a stand:"

The petition was written by 13-year-old Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer on behalf of Standing Rock. It states:

"A private oil company wants to build a pipeline that would cross the Missouri River less than a mile away from the Standing Rock Reservation and if we don’t stop it, it will poison our river and threaten the health of my community when it leaks."

"My friends and I have played in the river since we were little; my great grandparents raised chickens and horses along it. When the pipeline leaks, it will wipe out plants and animals, ruin our drinking water and poison the center of community life for the Standing Rock Sioux."

Make Your Voice Heard

According to YellowHammer, "there were 300 oil pipeline breaks in the state of North Dakota" from 2012-13.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland is ordering the protesters to stop interfering with the construction. Right now Dakota Access LLC is seeking restraining orders and unspecific monetary damages. The tribes argue this pipeline is an invasion of their tribal land boundaries. Tribe members are asking for your support by signing a petition, spreading the news, and praying.

Please join them in prayer to continue a healthy planet. Pray for balance between different groups. Pray for reasonable actions on the planet to sustain it, not harm it. We need common sense on this issue that affects all of us, especially along the Missouri River. We can make a difference today to protect our water from corporate interests, corporate greed, and corporate waste.

We don't need oil to run our machines! We can out think this! What we do need is a healthy planet, harmony, and peace among our brothers and sisters. Large herds of bison were murdered for the sake of railroads -- but how much are those railroads used today? Technology changes, but our planet and its resources are precious. We can't afford to pollute water for the sake of a dime. We have to rethink our priorities. Let us join together, let us make a roar, send letters to your congressmen today, call them, fill up their voicemails with your voice -- call out this injustice now, before we don't have a tomorrow. Post about this on Facebook and other social media. You can make a difference, just like those who ran 2,000 miles to have their voices heard. Water is our wealth. Water is our life. It is the most valuable resource we have, well over gold and silver and diamonds. We need water to survive. Read more on this subject, get educated, talk to others. We can make a difference. If you know more information about this topic, write so in the comments. Please write in the comments!

The Sioux are doing what they can to protect one of our most precious resources that millions along the Missouri River use daily. We cannot afford to have oil leaks over this body of water. This could ruin the ecosystem, this could make for contaminated rain, this could cause a rise in carcinogens. Our health is on the line; we are humans together and we must stand to prevent this. Your water matters. Pray, speak, and run.

Warning: This video contains some language that may not be appropriate for some viewers

Update November 2016

Now it has been months since the ongoing protests started. A number of people have gone to Morton County to protest the pipeline, and law enforcement has turned violent toward them. During Thanksgiving, volunteers went to the pipeline to help give people food and warm clothing. The problem happening right now is that many people who are going up their to protest are without resources, and the temperatures are quickly dropping into the bitter cold. As a nation, we have been focused on the presidential election and the military fronts in the middle east. This pipeline is falling on the list of priorities.

Make sure that if you hear anything about the pipeline to check with Snopes. Recently there was a check-in on Facebook to stand in solidarity with the protesters and confuse the Morton County Sheriff's Office by overwhelming the area with check ins. Sometimes viral rumors like this will spread, and sure it is great if you are standing in solidarity with the pipeline protesters, but what they really need right now is your help with resources. Donate to charities, send them food, get the word out, write to your congressmen, Heck, right to your electors who are about to go all in on the electoral college.

On September 3, workers bulldozed land the tribe identified as sacred ground. When protesters entered the area, security workers used attacked dogs, which bit at least six protesters and one horse. In late October, armed soldiers and police with riot gear and military equipment cleared an encampment that was directly in the proposed pipeline's path.

The Morton County Sheriff's Department said in a statement: "Protesters' escalated unlawful behavior this weekend by setting up illegal roadblocks, trespassing onto private property and establishing an encampment, has forced law enforcement to respond at this time. I can't stress it enough, this is a public safety issue. We cannot have protesters blocking county roads, blocking state highways, or trespassing on private property."

A Seattle Times journalist present at the confrontation described it as "scary". She said that she had spent the previous night in the camp "with tribal members who were singing their death songs. I mean, they were very worried about the possibility of violence. And who wouldn’t be? You have seen law enforcement marshaled from six states, armored personnel carriers, hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement officers with concussion grenades, mace, Tasers, batons. And they used all of it. I mean, it was frightening to watch [...] the law enforcement officers had advance[d] more than 100 yards with five armored personnel carriers side by side, hundreds of law enforcement officers advancing on them. And it finally took an elder to actually walk by himself in between the two lines, stand there, face his people, and say: 'Go home. We’re here to fight the pipeline, not these people, and we can only win this with prayer.'"

This content was accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge at the time of publication but may be out of date. The information contained in this article may not reflect current policies, laws, technology, or data.


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    • ptosis profile image


      4 years ago from Arizona

      Obama does nothing, hoping the bitter winter will make them go away. Now there really isn't any need for this fracking pipeline since 20 billion barrels of oil and 1.6 billion barrels of natural gas liquids are available for the taking in the Wolfcamp shale, which is in the Midland Basin portion of Texas' Permian Basin, the largest deposit of untapped oil ever discovered in America.

    • SerenityHalo profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrea Lawrence 

      5 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      A very deserving cause, friend.


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