We have heard a lot about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP) or Bakken Pipeline in the last month or so, and we can thank the efforts of the North Dakotan tribe of Standing Rock Sioux for bringing it to the world’s attention.
So what exactly is the DAP? This massive, $3.7 billion oil line investment is projected to run 1,134 miles across four states (from North Dakota to Illinois) and will allegedly provide a significant boost to U.S. economic growth and activity. According to Dakota Access LLC, a division of Energy Transfer Partners operating out of, you guessed it, Dallas, Texas, the pipeline will help reduce the need for rail and truck transportation. The pipeline will have the capacity to transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude sweet oil per day to various refineries and achieve greater energy independence for the United States.
In other words, the Standing Rock Sioux are standing in the way of big, big money.
On a DAP promotional site, it is boasted that this line will be in service by the end of this year, and that they are working with landowners and stakeholders to solidify the route:
“As an operating principle, Dakota Access Pipeline is committed to working with individual landowners to make accommodations, minimize disruptions, and achieve full restoration of impacted land […] It is our intent to live up to our promises of openness, honesty and responsiveness before, during and after construction and throughout operations.”
Upon scrutiny, it can be safely said that the language of “individual landowners” was chosen very carefully by the company in light of the messy, ongoing debate surrounding Native American land rights. The Standing Rock reservation has been robbed of treaty land once again, and what’s worse is that there was no attempt at negotiation. The oil companies in charge have simply rolled through this territory and showed no signs of stopping. The people of Standing Rock had no choice but to once again come together and fight for their land and way of life. Unfortunately, the protesters, although peaceful and fully within their rights, have been treated like animals.
They have been met with a heavy-handed military task force whose only responsibility is moving the protesters out of the way of construction. Reports paint a picture of containment methods that sound positively dehumanizing. Floris White Bull, a protester in a YouTube video from a local newscast in the area, gives us a glimpse:
“We were caged in dog kennels, sat on the floor, and we were marked with numbers.”
It should also be noted that these protesters were unarmed, and without any weapons besides their passion for their homeland and chants such as “Water is life” and “Oil belongs in soil”.
Although the Morton County Sheriff’s Office claims that protesters were throwing rocks, logs, and other debris at them, with one alleged firearm shot, protesters roundly deny this. Before detaining the protesters, police shot pepper spray bombs and a sound cannon into the crowd, then moved in. Thankfully, due to the generosity of an anonymous source, all protesters that were charged and imprisoned were set free on bail after a mysterious $2.5 million bail-out of all 141 detained protesters was submitted to the sheriff’s office only two days after charges were laid.
It is hard to consider these unwarranted arrests as anything short of an attempt at a quick fix to displace the residents and get on with construction. Many of the Standing Rock protesters aptly pointed out that earlier in the year, a number of armed protesters at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon were acquitted without charges while they were not.
One of the main issues of this controversy is that the DAP is scheduled to stomp right through Lake Oahe, a water source and sacred site that is integral to the survival and lifestyle of a number of local reservations. This site is also the resting place of sacred remains that have already been desecrated. A report from CNN last week stated that the disruption of this land would most certainly threaten tribe members’ economic and environmental well-being.
The cause is beginning to garnish national attention, with support coming from all throughout the United States and celebrities weighing in on the issue such as Divergent star Shailene Woodley. Concern over the matter has transcended borders, with a support rally held this past Saturday in downtown Toronto that included more than 4,000 Standing Rock sympathizers from across Canada and the world. First Nations in Canada have also shown their overwhelming support and can sympathize with the Standing Rock tribe after their own Treaty 3 rights have been dismissed several times by the Canadian government.
In the wake of all this chaos, dozens of Native Americans from Oklahoman tribes have gathered at their state capitol to voice their anger on the treatment of the Standing Rock protesters. The perpetual fight struggle continues.