The Dakota Access pipeline: What we know so far

Pipelines are not rare occurrences in this country, but perhaps the most famous one in today’s world is the Dakota Access pipeline. Having read about numerous protests concerning this project, I decided to pursue a deeper understanding of the pipeline itself and the conflict surrounding it.

A pipeline is an underground pipe used to transfer oil and gas over long distances. The Dakota pipeline started as a plan to construct a means of transporting crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, and it has almost achieved that goal.

Most of the pipeline has already been built, except for the section that borders the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Extending the pipeline through this region would harm the tribe’s sacred burial grounds and potentially contaminate its drinking water. Due to these possible consequences, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe protested for several months, which prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily suspend construction last year.

However, President Trump has recently signed a permit approving the construction of the Dakota pipeline as long as American steel is used. This executive decision has triggered protests from not only the Native American community, but many others, including activists, actors like Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo, many U.S. Army veterans, and politicians such as Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders.

The demonstrations and protests have not always been peaceful. While protesters have been criticized for throwing petrol bombs and starting fires, police officers have been accused of using excessive force. The police have used pepper spray, sound cannons and rubber bullets in an attempt to control the protesters.

Recently, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has said that they do not wish the activists to be removed by law enforcement, although the tribe is working to amend the situation with federal authorities. Although tribal officials and local residents have asked the protesters to leave, about a few hundred activists remain in the area. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe maintains that they will continue to fight the construction of the pipeline in court, but wish for opponents to be sensitive to those living in surrounding areas.

The conflict surrounding the building of the Dakota Access pipeline is one of culture versus modernization, a clash which continues to define our world today. Only when we accept both of these ideas, and their consequences, can we advance as a society and as human beings.

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