North Dakota Pipeline Protests
Antranig Balian, December 2016
The North Dakota pipeline is a massive oil line proposed to run from North Dakota, through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. This new pipeline will make it much easier for crude oil to be transported to both the East and Gulf coast lines. The pipeline will travel a total 1,172 miles passing by two major Indian reservations, Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. This has caused a massive uprising between people who are in favor of this project and the protesters alongside the Native American Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are against it. This is not the first time where Native Americans were forced to fight for the rights against US expansionism throughout American history in the western frontier.
On one hand, the people in favor of the pipeline, see this as a huge economic boom for the nation, drastically decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil. The 30-inch diameter pipeline will pump around 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil across four states every day. The pipeline is a 3.7 billion dollar investment allowing for the creation of 8,000 to 12,000 temporary jobs ranging from welders, mechanics, electricians, pipe fitters, etc. The North Dakota Access Pipeline or NDAP will rake in a total 55 million dollars annually. On September 15th, 2015 despite concerns of damaging historic sites, the US Army Corp concluded that historic sites will be unaffected by the project. On September 3rd, 2016 the construction demolishes a sacred burial ground belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation causing further outrage.
On the other hand, the activists along with Native American Indian tribes have been protesting against the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have taken charge against NDAP in a major lawsuit against the US Army Corp. Supporters against the pipeline come from all over to support the Indian reservations rights. According to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe the NDAP along with the US Army Corp is trespassing on private lands as well as sacred burial and worship sites that would be and are being destroyed. There is also a huge concern that an oil spill could very easily contaminate the water supply on the reservation which could lead to economic disaster. The Natives call the pipeline a money line for corporate greed for billionaires who are destroying the land. Recent protests have gone extremely violent between the police and activists. Police have been using any means necessary against protesters, examples include tear gas, rubber bullets, sound cannons, concussion grenades, and even social media. With the case of social media, police have been using it as tool to attempt to disrupt the protests. Recent efforts to support the protesters and Native Americans, show that people from all around the United States are checking in to North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Facebook to confuse the police. Many of the activists plan to stay for the long haul in support of the Standing Rock Sioux, even as winter approaches and the militarized law enforcement stress their cause to halt the pipeline.
The construction of the pipeline goes against the rights of Native Americans living on Indian reservations. The Indian New Deal of 1934 helped enforce and gave tribal lands sovereignty from the United States. This is very controversial because of the different diversities amongst the reservations, especially in size. For example, you could have a more vast autonomous reservation such as in the West of the country, that can govern under Indian law, or a smaller, less autonomous reservations in the East of the Country who comply more with the Federal Governments laws. But regardless of the size or location of the reservation, disturbing sacred burial sites, contaminating water supplies and encroaching on the Native Americans land goes against their rights.
Occurrence of United States presence constantly encroaching on Indian territory persistently took advantage on Indians who were already here. One of the biggest examples that can be compared to the construction of the North Dakota pipeline is the battle of Little Big Horn of 1876. The battle took place near the Little Big Horn river in Eastern Montana. This was a brutal battle where the US were greatly outnumbered by Native American warriors who quickly took advantage of the US calvary forces. The United States seventh Calvary which constituted of 647 men were up against the northern plains tribes of the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho which consisted of roughly 900 to 2500 warriors led by Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and others. Outnumbered, the US calvary was humiliated under General George Custer who perished along with 268 of his men. This lead to Custer and his men becoming American heroes until the 1960’s. The immediate loss sparked the Great Sioux War of 1876 and 1877 mainly between the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne against the US government over the Black Hills.
With recent protests continuously escalating, it seems that violence is increasing in large numbers as protesters continue to gather along side the Standing Rock Sioux Indians. Recently, protesters blocking the highway which caused the capital of North Dakota, Bismarck, to lock down after demonstrators were arrested on the governors capital grounds. For example, “ Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company leading the construction of the pipeline, said the man with the gun “is not associated with the pipeline project in any way… It is my understanding he lives in the area and was just trying to get where he needed to go and felt threatened,” Granado said in an email… Last month, a demonstrator was charged with the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. Authorities said she fired at a police officer three times during a struggle without hitting him. ” This helps contextualize how strong both sides are in favor and against the Dakota access pipeline.
In contrast to this, there is a lot of uncertainty with the newly elected President-elect Donald Trump. According to NBC news, Trump’s administration will be in favor of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In retrospect this will bring new questions regarding the pipeline fight between the protesters and police. What will this mean, will everything that the objectors fought be for nothing? The President-elect Trump wants to tear apart President Obama’s clean power plan as well as promote global warming as a hoax. To illustrate this point President-elect Trump states, “energy plan promises to unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves… his government will invest in extensive infrastructure projects in his quest to “make America great again.” While Trump’s campaign press secretary. ” Donald Trump’s policy to increase infrastructure will constantly stress relations between US government and the Standing Rock Sioux along with the protesters who managed to halt the construction despite police brutality and mistreatment in prison. For example, further tension could be put on this topic if Trump favors the proposal of the Keystone XL pipeline which runs from Canadian oil sands through Montana, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska which would connect it to the rest of the Keystone pipeline. By way of illustration, “So what are the chances that, if given the green light from Donald Trump, the Keystone XL pipeline will be completed… But, in the long-term, investing in the pipeline might economic make sense for TransCanada, the company that owns the pipeline. It depends on deals they can cut with oil producers and refiner. ” This will most likely raise future concerns especially with the politics of the Dakota Access Pipeline as well as continued protests against this.
In conclusion, the North Dakota Access Pipeline has raised major concerns for future developments and relations in America, which had resulted in mis-cooperation with Native American reservations. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have taken the bulk of the pressure as protesters continue to collide with police in brutal tactics. The Pipeline threatens the integrity of Native lands that would destroy sacred burial grounds and have the potential to contaminate the drinking water supply. The North Dakota Access Pipeline has been a very long drawn out protest that has been very interesting to follow up on. I will be continuing to closely watch these events unfold especially as Presidential-Elect Donald Trump takes office in a couple of months.
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