Editor’s Note: The Dakota Access Pipeline protests are a grassroots movement that began in the spring of 2016. The protests are in reaction to the approved construction of Energy Transfers Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline. The approved pipeline would run from western North Dakota to southern Illinois. This past April LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux elder, established a camp as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline.
Has America come full circle with the Dakota pipeline issue? Once upon a time white people from across the big waters came to this land and through guile and outright chicanery were able to take it away from the indigenous people. What we now call Native Americans were placed on reservations. Today, white people in corporate America are once again encroaching upon Native American territory.
Most people by now know that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is opposing the 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline that is being built on their land in North Dakota. Not only will this impact a section of a sacred burial ground, but it stands to create a serious environmental problem.
It is being built by the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, and is slated to pass under the Missouri River, the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux. Of course, proponents say that their project is safe and that the water would not be compromised, but that is extremely questionable, since the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines since 2010.
The Standing Rock Sioux and other protesters have at least two giant problems related to trust in this regard. One is that oil pipelines do leak, and the other is that, once again, Native Americans are being asked to trust untrustworthy interlopers. They probably remember the time in the early years when smallpox-laden blankets were given to unsuspecting natives.
A lot of other groups are joining in the protests. President Barack Obama was called to intervene several months ago, and he was able to get a temporary cessation, but today building of the pipeline continues.
A very disturbing aspect of the current situation is the violence that the United States government is meting out to protesters. They have been beaten and jailed, attacked with water cannons in cold weather, and some protesters are saying that the government has resorted to using crop dusters to spray poisons on them. This is a very grave atrocity occurring right under our noses, and is a situation that is making America look like a villain that is attacking its own people.
The pipeline issue highlights the tone of the country in which big moneyed white imperialists believe they have the right to do whatever they choose to do to others because to them, money trumps everything.
On another note, this issue couldn’t have cropped up at a more crucial time in American race relations. Incidents of racial animosity are growing at an alarming rate, possibly because of a “whitelash” against the outgoing Black president as well as others being emboldened by the assumption of power of the new president elect, who they think is a supporter of their cause.
It remains to be seen what will happen, especially since Donald Trump stands to gain if the pipeline is built. He has a distinct financial stake in what’s happening; it is reported that he holds hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock with the company that is heading the pipeline project, and that the CEO donated at least $103,000 to his campaign. This is just another wrinkle in the brand new territory of a presidency that has the great potential for huge conflicts of interest in a tangled financial morass.
The bottom line is that the Standing Rock Dakota Pipeline issue is one that ALL Americans should pay close attention to because it poses a serious environmental challenge connected with fracking, a highly volatile strategy for extracting oil that many feel could cause earthquakes; and it threatens the water utilized by people in the region.
But one of the greatest issues of all, however, is the lack of respect that is being shown to people on land that they own! Because of this, all Black and Brown people, as well as others who have been traditionally disenfranchised by these tactics, should lend support to the protesters, either in person or through encouraging legislators to oppose the pipeline. Today they mistreat others, tomorrow they will come for you. Take heed. A luta continua.