“You can live without money. You can live without oil. But you can’t live without water.”
– Standing Rock Youth1
Although news broadcasters have stopped reporting about DAPL, it’s still happening. You should still care. Here’s why.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is not just another story of injustices committed against Native Americans, but it is also the further deliberate annihilation of the environment. DAPL is the direct result of the continuous oppression of vulnerable communities, damaging greed of the privileged, and further denial of human-caused climate change. Without respect and protection of minorities, we have nothing. Without the environment, we have nothing.
A brief history:
The removal, exploitation, and genocide of the first true Americans dates back to as early as the late 15th century when Columbus supposedly reached the New World. Indian removal was later implemented as an official policy of the US government in the 19th century. Native Americans were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands and relocated2. DAPL crosses disputed land that was promised to the Sioux tribe in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie but was later taken away3. The Sioux Tribe did not lose their land all at once, but rather the government continued to violate the treaty and reduce the land of the Great Sioux Reservation over a period of nearly 60 years.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe operates under a constitution approved on April 24, 1959 by its own elected council members. The tribe stands by its right to self-government as a sovereign nation, which involves taking a government-to-government stance with the states and federal government entities5.
Despite long standing opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Energy Transfer Partners, a multi-billion dollar corporation began construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline project in May of 2016. The 1,172 mile3 long pipeline extends across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois crossing through communities, farms, tribal lands, sensitive natural areas, and wildlife habitat7. The pipeline will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois where it will link with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico8, creating more risks of environmental degradation to sacred bodies of water such as the Missouri river, Lake Oahe, and the Gulf of Mexico. According to Earth Justice, “…[a]n oil spill at this site would constitute an existential threat to the Tribe’s culture and way of life.”
On January 24, President Trump issued an executive order intended to speed up construction of DAPL. In early February the Department of the Army approved the construction of the pipeline, allowing it to cross under Lake Oahe, a large reservoir on the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which has been the center of protests for months3. The pipeline had been blocked since the summer of 2016 by protest camps established by the Standing Rock Sioux and accompanied by activists who traveled from all over the world9. The frigid month of December witnessed the peak amount of protestors at approximately 15,000 including 4,000 veterans10. Bone-chilling temperatures were not the only torments endured by the water protectors. Activists were blasted with water cannons and rubber bullets, sprayed with mace and tear gas, attacked by dogs, arrested, held in dog kennels for hours prior to being transferred to jail11, strip searched, and hit with flash-bang grenades10. Many were severely injured including 21 year old Sophia Wilansky whose muscle, bone, and arteries of her left hand and arm were blown away from a grenade explosion at a pipeline protest in North Dakota in November12.
Following December, the remaining protesters dwindled down to a few hundred activists who were ordered by the Army Corps to leave by February 22. A couple hours prior to the 2 PM evacuation deadline protesters set fire to the camp remains, burning it to the ground as one last act of defiance and goodbye. Fewer than 100 campers remained after the evacuation deadline13. Remaining campers were arrested and charged with a misdemeanor that carries up to $5,000 in fines or six months in prison9.
Despite what the history textbooks say, the struggles and oppression of Indigenous peoples has and will always be relevant. The story of Standing Rock is one to be added to US history books just as those of slavery. We must educate future generations of this story, so that we may avoid such atrocities in the future.
What’s this all have to do with you?
Bank of America, HSBC, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and other financial institutions have extended a combined $3.75 billion credit line to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access4. Whether you like it or not, by using these companies for your banking needs you are investing in DAPL.
So what can YOU do about it moving forward? Stay educated, inform others, donate to Standing Rock, and give business to banks that do not invest in fossil fuels. Most importantly, tell these banks why they are losing your business when you move your bank accounts elsewhere. This will put pressure on the banks to change their practices now and in the future6.
Lastly, keep this beautiful ancient Native American proverb in mind, “we do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
- Rezpect Our Water
- New York Times
- Democracy Now
- Standing Rock
- Yes Magazine
- Green Med Info
- Earth Justice
- Mother Jones
- New York Times