Dakota Access oil pipeline threatens Native American culture

There is an old Lakota Sioux prophecy regarding a black snake—an enormous one—that will scar the inhabitant’s ancestral lands. When it goes underground it will destroy the native people, and many Sioux today are pointing to the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL), a 1,200 mile oil conduit, as that legendary snake.

Construction of the pipeline began once a contract was signed by Energy Transfer Partners Sept. 22. When completed the DAPL is set to transport nearly 470,000 barrels of oil daily from North Dakota to Illinois. However, the pipeline’s route runs through the Standing Rock reservation and under the Missouri River, the Sioux’s primary water source, polluting sacred Native American land in the process.

Recently, private security forces, the police and the National Guard have attempted to quell the demonstrations of the protestors. In fact, the movement is spreading beyond the reservation’s boundaries as a dozen activists were arrested in San Francisco in early November. Online followers of the protest, including our own Troy High School Warriors, have been checking in on Facebook at the DAPL protest site to show their support for the cause. The United States Army Corps of Engineers even threatened protesters with arrest if they fail to leave their camp area. Fortunately, over the past weekend, the Army Crops did not grant the permit needed to build the DAPL under the Missouri River, a decision that the Standing Rock tribe and protestors celebrated.

However, looking at the government’s longstanding rocky relationship with First Americans, it is clear that America’s lack of respect was at the root of the problem. Not only had 141 pipeline protesters been wrongfully arrested, but they were also restrained using excessive force. Despite the energy benefits that the DAPL will provide, the government’s initial response to the pipeline protests was unacceptable because it disregarded the environment and infringed upon Native American rights.

Instead of prioritizing their economic prospects, American companies should holistically consider the pipeline’s cultural and environmental impacts. Currently, the DAPL is destroying native burial grounds and prayer sites, both of which are intrinsic to the Sioux’s deep historical connection to their land. In addition, the pipeline construction is creating environmental hazards that are equally detrimental to the Sioux.  The Missouri River is vital to the survival of the Sioux people, proven by their age-old saying “mni Wiconi” or “water is life.” If the pipeline were to leak, thousands of natives would be jeopardized by the contamination of their water and resources.

Moreover, pollution of the Missouri River by the DAPL heavily affects the surrounding environment. However, proponents of the pipeline argue that current transport of oil by truck or railroad causes more environmental damage than the DAPL ever will. But in reality, data from ThinkProgress reports that while train and truck accidents happen more often, pipeline breaks spill more oil overall and cause more collateral damage by contaminating groundwater and natural ecosystems. As “water protectors,” protestors of the DAPL are fighting not just for tribal rights but also for the preservation of American resources and wilderness.

All in all, our government had once again prioritized its own interests before environmental dangers and the lives of Native Americans. Historically, the American government exploited tribal lands and otherwise destroyed native culture simply to carry out its own political or economic exploitations. If the U.S. government ever wants to ease its tension with Native Americans, federal officials must begin to value the property and culture of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Though the national disrespect for Native Americans remains a rampant issue, the pipeline protests ultimately highlight the deep injustices our country has inflicted upon Native American culture.

9 thoughts on “Dakota Access oil pipeline threatens Native American culture

  1. I don’t have to read past the first few sentences to realize the author has not done any research, but is parroting online false news. The pipeline does NOT cross any reservation land. If you cannot even get that fundamental fact correct, the rest of the article isn’t worth reading. I am from ND and grew up in the area; my family knows all the local players, Native American and otherwise (but not the outsider anarchists). http://www.bostonherald.com/opinion/editorials/2016/12/editorial_an_oil_pipeline_puzzle Even liberal sites like Time.com have admitted this fact as well; http://time.com/4548566/dakota-access-pipeline-standing-rock-sioux/ Even if you are against the project, propegating #falsenews and spreading a false narrative destroys your credibility.

    1. It may not cross reservation land now, but it is crossing Native land. They occupied that land far before any oil company or American has. They were given that land via Treaty, but the government broke that promise as well.
      Don’t share an opinion article and claim that isn’t false news. It’s an opinion, not fact.
      “Outsider anarchists” are fighting for your right to clean water too.

  2. Dear Julianne,

    Because of courageous young people like you, I have some optimism for a better world. You are our best hope and our brightest star. Thank you so much for fighting the good fight—the righteous fight, the just fight. I bow to your compassion, intelligence and integrity.

    Padma Thornlyre

  3. The media has been portraying Native American Indian’s as though they are noble upstanding human beings who are to be admired. The fact of the matter is that when the white man showed up in North America native American’s had been slaughtering each other as long as they existed. Their societies hadn’t advanced for centuries. They had no knowledge of science and just about anything else for that matter. The Native American’s shortcomings are the reason they ended up being what they were and what they are now.

    1. Are you serious? Are you ,so denser & ethnocentric that you think we did the native Americans a favor by introducing science & “advanced society”? You don’t think the Europeans, or any other cultures on this planet for that matter, have not been slaughtering each other for centuries? Wake uo!

    2. Julianne Catherine Kim – Julianne is the opinion editor of Troy High School's newspaper the Oracle and a member of the LA Times Student Advisory Board. She is passionate about bioethics and runs on black coffee. If she isn't busy editing, she can be found rereading Water for Elephants and obsessing over genomics at your local cafe.
      Julianne Catherine Kim says:

      Thank you for your response. However, this is exactly the negative and ethnocentric mindset I am criticizing in my article. The Native Americans may have been less technologically advanced at the time the Europeans came to North America, but their connections to the American soil could not have been deeper and their culture any richer. The Sioux people are not fighting for something that is not their’s like the Europeans did hundreds of years ago. I am simply urging for a more respectful and mindful position towards Native Americans.

  4. Jarhead8, American Indians could never have dreamed of the genocide that Europeans have engaged in for thousands of years. You show a level of ignorance that proves technological advance is wasted on people like you anyway. After all, you have right in front of you technologies that with a click or two would show how little you know about world history, but facts are inconvenient for hate- and ignorance-fueled dimwits aren’t they? You would rather stay poor and uneducated and blame everyone that doesn’t look like you for your problems, because that’s easier that taking personal responsibility for your failings.

  5. Before taking a stance on this issue, I would like to emphasize that this article revolves around a network of STUDENTS, not a society of members affiliated with political hassles of the business world. Before bombarding this article with personal bias and grudges, I believe the awareness of this article should be prioritized first, allowing students to formulate their own opinions instead of being swayed †o a certain side of the debate. As a current high school student, I would like to thank Julianne for helping me become exposed to an important issue of today’s society, and encourage her to continue inspiring and enlightening students.

Leave a Reply