Standing Rock Overview

By Lily Dubuc

Posted November 4, 2016 at 11:38am PDT

          The saying goes that history repeats itself. The Dakota Access Pipeline and the events surrounding it justify such a statement. 185 years ago Native Americans endured the notorious Trail ofTears. Today, instead of Andrew Jackson forcing tribes off of their land, oil companies are attempting to traverse a pipeline through an indigenous nation, including sacred burial grounds, that straddles North and South Dakota.          

          The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.8 billion project. The project involves transferring 470,000 barrels of domestic crude oil through four states. While the construction of the pipeline is a financial gold mine for Energy Transfer Partners, the Standing Rock Sioux, the native tribe who call this land home, feel it threatens their land, their water, and their sacred sites.            

      Standing Rock Sioux are part of the original Great Sioux Nation. Sadly, the Great Sioux are no strangers to white Americans devastating their lands. They have had their reservations greatly reduced by the United States Government not once, or twice, but three times. Now, instead of taking away their land, Energy Transfer Partners plan to go straight through it, with no apparent regard for the environmental or cultural impacts on the people who live there.            

     Originally, the construction of the pipeline was of little concern to the Standing Rock Sioux as it was not planned on being built through their land. The pipeline was initially planned to cross the Mississippi River near Bismarck, however, it was moved due to concerns that an oil spill at that location would wreck the state capital’s drinking water. This concern resulted in shifting the pipeline to a crossing just half a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.           

      The Standing Rock Sioux are currently protesting such a shift in plans. If constructed, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, just upstream from the Reservation. If a spill occurred it would be culturally and economically catastrophic. In addition water contamination, the pipeline would pass through land with great cultural significance to the tribe.

     Historically speaking this is not the first time that White Americans (those living in Bismarck and those whom would benefit from the pipeline) have imposed their agendas upon Native Americans. In the past White Americans, especially those who lived in the west on frontiers, feared and resented any Natives they encountered. In their minds, American Indians were an unfamiliar people who controlled land that they themselves wanted. The same action is happening today.

      One of the major issues the Standing Rock Sioux face in their protest is the amount of government interference they face. There is constant confrontation between tribe members and the hundreds of police officers who are arresting and utilizing brutal methods of force upon the protesters. Yet, legally speaking, it is the Sioux tribe that has jurisdiction over the land. When it comes to government interference, they must be treated as a sovereign nation. The tribe stands by this right granted to them and assert that their jurisdiction (over all reservation lands, waterways and streams) is just as applicable today as when they were granted self-government centuries ago.

As the protests continue, they gain more and more attention.  It is clear to see that the Sioux are not standing alone. Their protest is gaining support globally. Several celebrities have asked for a cease in the construction. In addition individuals themselves are making the journey out to the Dakotas to help in any way they can. What began as a small protest on the reservation has transformed to thousands gathered to stand by the Sioux as they fight for what is their right as a nation.

     One individual traveling to lend a hand is Keiko Ehret, the director of operations for Dominican University of California, located just outside San Francisco. In addition, Ehret is a representative for the Charter for Compassion and for several nonprofit and community organizations promoting education and equality.

       With individuals like Ehret traveling across the country to join the Standing Rock Sioux, it is inevitable that the protests will continue to grow in size and visibility. Now it becomes a question of what will decide the continuation or abandonment of the Dakota Pip