Blood and Water: Pipeline Through Native Lands
On September 3, 1863, the United States Army massacred more than 300 Sioux American Indians, and as typical, Americans have since chosen to obliterate from their memories the events of that day. One would think that we have progressed as a society and as a country, but this year, in North Dakota, the voices, opinions and rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are once again being trampled upon.
The “Black Snake,” is what the tribe calls the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). According to Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company behind the DAPL, the DAPL would span more than 1,172 miles, connecting production areas in Bakken and Three Forks, N.D., to Patoka, Ill. A project valued at $3.7 billion, this “Black Snake” would transport approximately 470,000 barrels per day, the largest crude oil transporter in the region.
This pipeline was originally meant to cross the Missouri river; however, North Dakota citizens voiced their concern about the pipeline contaminating their water. That’s when Energy Transfer Partners LP decided to move it just upstream of where the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is located. Without the consent of the tribe, the project began. However, it was halted when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe decided to sue and take a stand to fight against the action. If this pipeline were to rupture, their water source would be contaminated and their lives compromised as well. It would affect their children, their community, the surrounding ecosystems and nature overall.
Thousands of protesters have united to stand against this proposed pipeline. Many tribes have, in an astonishing act, traveled to join their once professed enemies to silently battle a common enemy: the Dakota Access pipeline. The Sioux people speak for all tribes when they protest against the fact that this pipeline will eventually burst. It always happens. Even Ecuadorian tribes have traveled from Ecuador to stand against the threat. Although they are ensured that it is safe, it does not excuse the fact that Energy Transfer Partners LP did not consult or ask the Sioux tribe for permission. As protesters, including archeologists, teachers, other tribes old and young, stand in the way of this construction, the problem escalates as pepper spray and attack dogs are now starting to be used on protesters. Six people have been attacked by dogs, including a pregnant woman and child.
For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other American Indian peoples, this conflict is about more than just the contamination of water. This is an act of disrespect. The pipeline is due to travel through burial and ancestral sites, sites rooted with historical and spiritual significance to the Sioux tribe. Not only have American Indians been oppressed, being “gifted” small pieces of land in comparison to what they once used to have, but now the United States is allowing what will ultimately be the contamination of what is left of their terrain.
For the Sioux and other tribes, water is a sacred source of nature. It is life. Water runs like blood through the veins of the earth. It keeps the earth alive. How long will the American Indian people have to fight to peacefully live in their own land without feeling like intruders? Even children are voicing their concerns of foreigners taking over their land and destroying it along with their future. As this movement continues to raise awareness, it is unfortunate and unsettling that it is not receiving the attention it should be. I applaud the Sioux and the people standing beside them, for the brave action of raising awareness and fighting for the sustainable future of this planet because, as they say, “Water is life.”