Dakota Pipeline harms Native Americans

Camille Frink, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

The protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been taking place outside of Cannon Ball, North Dakota since April. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe organizes the DAPL protests and demands that construction of DAPL be halted because it poses serious environmental and cultural threats.

These protests remind us that Native Peoples still face significant problems protecting their rights, and it is alarming that members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe must face so many physical and legal obstacles to having their voices heard.

The pipeline is a $3.7 billion project that would transport about 470,000 barrels of oil from the oil fields of northern North Dakota to Illinois, where it would connect with other pipelines. Though the pipeline does not cross into Sioux territory, the Standing Rock tribe says the planned route crosses important ancestral lands, some of which contain sacred burial grounds. They also report environmental concerns, stating that if the pipeline were to break near where it crosses under the Missouri River, it would contaminate drinking water for thousands of people.

While the protests were initially peaceful, tensions between the protesters and police have boiled over, with reports of violence surfacing from both sides. Police have allegedly used pepper spray, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds as well as riot gear and armored cars to clear a camp of protesters. More than 200 people have been arrested since the protests began.

On the night before Columbus Day, a day honoring a man whose actions resulted in the deaths of thousands of Native Peoples, a federal appeals court denied the request to halt construction on DAPL. Though many consider the pipeline controversy to be an environmental issue, it is primarily a race issue.

American history is filled with incidences in which the rights of Native Peoples have been violated. While these violations are often thought of as having happened in the distant past, the long and tumultuous battle against DAPL is evidence that the rights of ingenious people are still ignored.

While the significant increase in media attention is providing the tribe with much-needed support, it is not enough. The federal government needs to make a clear commitment to protect and respect the land rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and it must acknowledge the serious environmental risks associated with a pipeline like DAPL.

The United States has a bloody and violent history of threatening, murdering and manipulating indigenous people, and this clearly continues into the present. While DAPL may not directly end Native lives, it threatens their water supply and endangers what sacred land remains. The protests at Standing Rock are a powerful reminder that the rights of Native Peoples still face threats, and it is important that both non-natives and natives unite behind them.

Camille is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached [email protected].

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