Dakota Access Pipeline: Stripping Native Americans of land and power

Emma Downey, Contributing Writer

In 2014, government plans were set in motion to build a pipeline that would transport oil across North Dakota to Illinois, called the Dakota Access Pipeline. Preliminary phases of the pipeline’s construction began recently as workers set out to survey land and begin digging. However, a portion of the pipeline’s planned route could damage land given directly to the Native American Standing Rock Sioux tribe in the National Historic Preservation Act as well as affect the local water supply. In response to the violations, and in an effort to halt construction, members of the Sioux tribe occupied the entrance to construction sites. The tribe, and others in solidarity, have been peacefully protesting since Aug. 31. Only recently has the tribe’s protest gained media attention, but the fact it has gained any attention at all is impressive.

America is a country literally built on the burial grounds of Native Americans. The history of Native Americans is fraught with tragedy, genocide, and false promises. Our country refuses, even now, to give so much as a thought to the Native American experience. They live on reservations in deplorable conditions, and many tribes have been swindled out of their land through bad business deals and manipulation. Now, another atrocity threatens Native American land and culture in the form of an oil pipeline.

Members of the Sioux tribe, environmental activists, and citizens have been protesting at construction sites of the pipeline. The protests have been peaceful, with few arrests until Sept. 3 when police came armed with attack dogs. Some of the protesters were bitten by the dogs, and one horse belonging to a tribal member was also injured.

It is important for us, as students, to remain engaged and informed on issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline. We are the ones who will be living in the world when the profiteers of big oil companies die and leave their mess behind. It’s our children who will be breathing the polluted air and drinking the infected water resulting from our neglect and apathy. Activism is not the only way to oppose potential environmental threats, but it is a catalyst for change, as shown by the growing numbers of protesters at the site of the pipeline. We have the ability to stop construction. We have the ability to stop big business. The first step is getting active and staying informed.

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