DAPL: A Native American Perspective

The Dakota Access Pipeline has been given the go-ahead, and the consequences could be disastrous


Courtesy of Irina Groushevaia

A sign leading people to the camp grounds where protesters can stay for the Dakota Access Pipeline

Cody Achin, A&E Editor, Scottsdale Chronicle

The Dakota Access Pipeline has been protested since late July 2016. Protesters have organized what amounts to a small camp there for people to stay and live – at least temporarily.

North Dakota governor Doug Burgum ordered that protesters needed to evacuate the premises by Feb. 22 in order to allow for the construction of the pipeline to continue. Currently, the Sioux tribe plans to take President Donald Trump’s administration to court to halt the pipeline’s construction.

This columnist, who is half Native American and was raised on the Salt River Reservation, understands  the frustration and anger that many Native Americans have felt during this whole ordeal and the constant clashes between the protesters and the armed guards.

It is obscene how the mass majority favor the pipeline’s construction and how Energy Transfer (the company building the pipeline) placed armed security on unarmed protesters. President Trump’s Executive Order was the final action needed to secure the pipeline being built and this columnist has been forced to reflect on the realities of the situation.

The fact that the Sioux tribe was fighting to have their water protected is more than a reasonable reason to protest. Water is everything. Many Native American reservations need water to grow their crops or to provide water to all of the reservation’s residents. Aside from standing up for clean water, there is an environment issue. If the pipeline breaks at any point, potential leaks could have devastating consequences.

A leak from this pipeline would travel far into the Missouri River, which is the Sioux tribe’s sole water supply. This could not only contaminate the drinking water, but will be an environment disaster as the spill would kill aquatic life within the 2,000-mile river.

According to a September Reuters article, once Energy Transfer completes the construction of the pipeline, they will hand over management to Sunoco – the same company responsible for at least 203 leaks in the last six years. This is a dismal prospect and one that the reservation is not able to combat.

What has really irked this columnist throughout this whole issue, though, is just how nothing changes when dealing with Native American concerns. If we actually dove deep into the reality of Native American history with regard to the United States, people would discover the countless times where Native Americans of all different tribes throughout different time periods have been abused. While it is good news that no one was actually killed at Standing Rock, there is the fact that this type of stuff has been happening to Native Americans since the 16th century.

This is really what the protesters were fighting for: the right to be heard and the right to protect what is theirs and what a government promised would be theirs. I could go into the numerous laws that are in place to protect such incidents. I could go into the fact that every Native American reservation and tribe has – and forever has had – the power of sovereignty and that reason alone should have stopped the U.S. government from doing anything without tribal consultation in the first place.

This incident comes at the right time, in all honesty. For one, this columnist is glad that many people have heard of this incident due to the intense press coverage. This has translated into more standing up for Native Americans. What’s more, at least 2,000 U.S. veterans showed up to Standing Rock to help the natives build lodges and support their cause and this really helps bring even more attention to this issue.

This new age of instant social media and awareness is perfect for the Sioux tribe. It means that no action goes without notice, which is why this columnist believes that the Sioux tribe has what it takes to win their case against Trump and his administration.