It’s rare that I agree with liberals on anything. I’m a conservative Christian with libertarian leanings. On environmental issues, I rarely agree with the left-wing environmental whackos who believe humans are an invasive species and are causing global warming. I believe our natural resources should be used in a responsible manner. Take care of the environment, but develop our natural resources for the benefit of all. However, there is an environmental issue that’s been under the radar of the mainstream media where I’m finding myself on the opposite side of the fence from where I usually stand.
Near the small town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, activists have been protesting the construction of a crude oil pipeline which they say threatens the water supply of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and others downstream. The protests, which began with a few members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe back in April, has grown to an estimated 2000+ people from dozens of tribes across the nation as well as non-Native supporters. The occupation and protests have been extremely peaceful, with only a handful of arrests for minor incidents. The rhetoric on social media from non-Native people has been extremely vulgar and racist, and the mainstream media has either demonized the protestors or ignored the protests completely. The state of North Dakota has blocked off access to the protestor’s camp and removed water tanks.
What’s the Dakota Access Pipeline?
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a new approximately 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline currently under construction which would carry crude oil from production areas in northwestern North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry the oil to the Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline is being built by Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., a Texas-based company.
Why Are People Protesting?
There are a number of reasons why protestors are fighting construction of the DAPL:
- The proposed pipeline crosses under the Missouri River just a few hundred yards upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation, and a leak would potentially destroy the main water source for the Reservation.
- A leak would also affect the water supply of millions of people further downstream.
- The pipeline would disturb ancestral sites that the Sioux hold sacred.
- The pipeline would violate provisions of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.
- They believe the Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act when it approved the project.
In 1868, the Treaty of Fort Laramie established the Great Sioux Reservation, which covered the western half of South Dakota and parts of North Dakota and Nebraska. This treaty was almost immediately broken by the United States Government. The United States has subsequently used legislation and force to steal the majority of the land, leaving the various Sioux tribes with ever shrinking reservations. The Sioux were stripped of their culture, their lands, and their language. Their children were forced to attend government and church run boarding schools, often hundreds of miles from their families, where they were further stripped of their customs, language, and religion.
Conditions today on the Sioux Reservations are deplorable. Reservations in North and South Dakota are among the poorest places in the United States. The Standing Rock Reservation has an unemployment rate of over 80%. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide are rampant. Most housing is extremely substandard and would be condemned anywhere else. Only about a third of students graduate from high school. The tribe lacks basic medical care, infrastructure, and economic development. There are very few resources to change any of these conditions.
In this context, for the United States government to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline along a route that threatens the primary water source for the Standing Rock Reservation is reprehensible. The government has already stripped them of almost everything they had, and now threatens to destroy what little they have left. This is morally unacceptable!
The Solution? Move the Pipeline!
While many of the protestors want to do away with the pipeline altogether, the best solution I see is to move the pipeline further east to avoid having to cross the Missouri River. The pipeline could be routed along the boundary between the Missouri River and James River watersheds, minimizing dangers to water supplies and avoiding culturally sensitive areas. Another option would be to route the pipeline east to the existing Keystone Pipeline, either connecting with the existing pipeline, or building a new pipeline parallel with it. Both of these two options would cost the developers more than the current proposed route, but would reduce the potential environmental impact and avoid the ancestral sites the Sioux hold sacred. The oil companies would get their pipeline, and the Sioux would have their clean water source.
The Standing Rock Tribe has sued developers over the DAPL, and developers have counter-sued the tribe. A federal judge is expected to rule by September 9.
How Can I Support the Protestors?
Contact your representatives in Congress.
The protestor’s camp has a gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/sacredstonecamp
Legal defense fund: https://fundrazr.com/d19fAf