It only felt like yesterday when I logged onto Facebook to see reports of Shailene Woodley getting arrested at Standing Rock along with 26 other protesters, fighting for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s right to clean drinking water at the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her passion for the environment was awe-inspiring and I only felt even more empowered when she took the stage at the 2016 Environmental Media Awards to call even more attention to the #noDAPL movement (no Dakota Access Pipeline). But, all of that happened in October of last year. Now, halfway into 2017, I find my newsfeed, usually inundated with news about protests at Standing Rock, eerily void of all news about the pipeline. What has happened in the last eight months?
Let’s first go over what the Dakota Pipeline is and why it’s newsworthy. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a project that has been well into the making for several years. According to the Smithsonian, the Dakota Access Pipeline will span over 1200 miles, connecting oil production fields in North Dakota to a river port in Patoka, Illinois. Developers state that the pipeline would transport well over “470,000 barrels of crude oil every single day.” The Standing Rock Sioux, a Native American tribe, opposes the construction of the pipeline because the tribe believes that it endangers the health and safety of its people with the threat of possible water contamination. The Pipeline would also be built on Sioux burial grounds, desecrating the tribe’s sacred history.
According to the Washington Post, in February of 2017, the Trump administration approved the final permit of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In act of brazen indifference to the Sioux culture, tradition, and basic right to unpolluted drinking water, the administration went again environmentalist concerns and gave the green light for the pipeline’s construction. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised halfway into writing this article to notice a new headline in my inbox, a headline that was positive for the Sioux concerns and a major blow to the administration. The article, released by NPR, stated that the administration failed to “follow proper environmental procedures when it granted approval to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project.” Though the judge’s ruling does not halt construction of the Pipeline, it does open up a door to this possibility.
In our history classes, we often read about the several injustices done to the first Americans. Yet, it’s tragic how we only talk about the Natives at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The reality is that not all interactions between the first Americans and the Europeans were like that between Squanto and the early settlers. The story continued on, and the ending was happier for the European colonizers than it was for the Native Americans. Hopefully, with increased attention to this cause, we can give the Natives the respect they deserve by protesting the development of this disastrous pipeline. Yes, it may be beneficial to our economy to have this pipeline built, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the environmental havoc this Pipeline can cause if the proper environmental risks are not as heavily weighed. As in the words of a Cree Indian prophecy, “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”