I’ve been following the standoff between Standing Rock and the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) for the past few months, and when I realized that I was only an hour from the reservation while driving through North Dakota a few weeks ago, I decided to make a detour off the highway to go stand in Standing Rock and visit the massive camp that I’d heard had sprouted up.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion, 1,170-mile pipeline being built by Energy Transfers Partners to transport crude oil through 4 states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.) The pipeline would transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day, which would be distributed throughout the Midwest, as well as the East Coast and Gulf Coast. The pipeline would cross within 1/2 mile of the Standing Rock Reservation and cross under the Missouri River, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — along with thousands of others from around the world, as well as environmental groups — are protesting the project.
Supporters of the pipeline say it will bring positive economic growth to the area, but opponents are concerned A) that the pipeline’s path will disturb sacred sites and sites of important cultural and historical significance, and B) that the pipeline poses a threat to the safety of the reservation’s drinking water.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the US Army Corps of Engineers in August on the grounds that there was not an adequate discussion with them about the project before it was begun. While construction of the pipeline was temporary halted, a federal court has now denied the tribe’s request that work on the project be permanently stopped.
Protesters from over 300 Native American tribes have gathered in the plains to support the Standing Rock Sioux, along with hundreds of others from various backgrounds and heritages around the world. Reservation land near the pipeline building areas are currently home to a hodgepodge smattering of camps, some huge and sprawling in the barren Dakota wilderness, and others small and transient. In the larger camp that I visited, people are settling in for a long, brutal North Dakota winter, and supplies/donations are being collected and sent to the camp from around the country. There are elderly folks, college students, babies, and entire families that have made the camp their home for the foreseeable future. Construction on the pipeline continues, but the protestor’s remain in good spirits and say that they have no intentions of going anywhere.
So far, around 130 people have been arrested due to the protests, however the majority of the protesters/Standing Rock supporters encourage peaceful demonstration, saying that they are Protectors rather than Protestors, and there is a large, spray painted sign hanging at the entrance to the main camp that reads, “We Are Unarmed.”
Regardless of which side you think you might fall on, if you’re not familiar with what has been happening at Standing Rock I’d encourage you to take some time to explore the issue from both sides. What it comes down to, really, is a struggle over value for human life, which is a fight that is echoed in every culture and every country around the globe, and has been, for centuries.
But that doesn’t make it redundant.
It makes it important.