Back in 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe faced a fight to try and stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from being built directly under their primary water supply — a construction route that would also cross their traditional and ancestral lands, destroying burial grounds and other culturally significant sites.
They didn’t want the crude oil pipeline running under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir, that serves as their primary water source because of the risk of contamination and poisoning if there was a spillage or leak. The original route of the pipeline that ran just north of Bismark and also across the Missouri River was rejected by the Army Corps. of Engineers (who provide the permits) because of the threat to the drinking water of the (mostly White) local residents.
Thousands of Native Americans and their allies united peacefully at the Oceti Sakowin Camp to protect the water and protect the sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to govern and safeguard their ancestral lands. The message of ‘Mni Wiconi’ (water is life) reverberated around the world thanks to social media posts and independent news coverage from inside the camp. Rallies took place around the United States and the mainstream media started to pay more attention.
Even after a 176,000-gallon oil spill from the pipeline happened just 150 miles away from Oceti Sakowin in December 2016, President Trump signed an executive order in January 2017 that expedited its completion — along with the Keystone XL pipeline — and rushed through environmental impact assessments. The DAPL was finished in April 2017 and has been transporting 500,000 barrels of oil a day. And now, in 2019, the DAPL is looking to more than double the amount of oil transported to 1.1 million barrels a day — and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe want help in stopping this expansion.
Oil pipelines are often touted as being an extremely safe way to transport oil, but leaks and spillages happen regularly, and while some may not be considered a large enough amount to cause serious environmental damage, there is no amount of oil, should it find its way into a water supply, that is tolerable. Why is this an acceptable risk for the people of Standing Rock to live with but not the people of Bismark? My own opinion is that the government and big oil companies don’t care about whether or not they poison Native communities because this is something that’s been going on for a long time.
If you want to help Standing Rock stop the proposed DAPL expansion, then join their calls to send a message to the North Dakota Public Service Commission before the November 13th hearing by filling out this quick form (form now closed) via the Lakota People’s Law Project.
Poisoned Waters: Navajo Communities Still Struggle After Mining Disaster via Indian Country Today
Contaminated Culture: Native People Struggle with Tainted Resources via Scientific American