AMERICA, AMERICAN INDIANS, AND PIPELINES
Natalie Gallegos, first year writing UNC Asheville student
The Burton Street Gardens promotes thought provoking ideas regarding the political state of the United States. While strolling through the gardens, many sculptures are presented that have been made entirely from garbage that once riddled that very street. The owner decided to embrace the mess and flip it so there could be meaning and representation to topics that are either ignored or touchy that yet need to be discussed. Some of the sculptures may have taken some extra thinking to realize the main message while others were very clear and direct. For example, “People Over Pipelines” was a long “pipeline” made of whatever garbage that stretched for a long way and had a “People Over Pipelines” sign to ensure the message got across. The Dakota Access pipeline has made waves through America and has raised some questions about how the U.S. Government will stretch its power over Native Americans in modern day America.
It can be argued that the U.S. government has worked against minorities that reside in this country and many times they might purposely work against and discriminate them. Discriminatory voter ID laws are just one way this country can work its ways to prevent American Indians from having a voice (Standing Rock, 2018). To certain groups in the U.S., the government is seen to blatantly work against Native Indians and manage to twist and turn their own words in order to further support their said unequitable actions against those who first lived on this land.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a pipeline that is to transport crude oil through four states (Worland, 2016). The set plan allows it to run near the Missouri River which is the main drinking water source of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (O’Rourke, 2003). The pipeline would also intrude over sacred sites and burial grounds that have clear meaning and purpose to the Tribe. Those against the pipeline claim it would disregard the entire culture and their past (O’Rourke, 2003). Pipeline construction workers point out that they are taking numerous safety measures to build a safe oil highway but again those against it say even the ones that are “safe” have overbearing past of excessive spilling (Worland, 2016).
There have been many responses to the pipeline, both for and against. Public information for the public regarding the pipeline can be seen as a result of the landowner assembling two websites that are full of fast facts according to the site to show just how confident they are that it will have only positive contributions to the areas surrounding the pipeline. On the other hand, #NoDAPL, stands for No Dakota Access Pipeline and is a hashtag showing support and solidarity with the Standing Rock Tribe. It came out after many turned it confrontational and showed up in support of the Tribe and decided to protest with signs plastered with the hashtag. These peaceful protests consist of prayer and clear opposition to the pipeline disrupting the treaty protected land (O’Rourke, 2003). Worland, 2016 states that as peaceful as protesters strived for the protests to be, pipeline workers have been seen unleashing violent acts on the protesters which turns the peaceful protest alibi around to show violent oriented protest. The stickiness of the situation could be seen as a way of helping the government’s argument of how people do not go about the appropriate way of protesting. The landowner’s website took some of those events and states that the protesters are “outsiders with a different more extremist agenda” (Dakota, 2017). Worland, 2016 sums it up as, however the event actually happens, anyone may want to take the situation and make it to where it supports their own ideology.
The land is sacred and protected given the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie which is supposed to guard the very land the pipeline is set to run through (O’Rourke, 2003). The land was not just given randomly to give out free land, we can see from eminent domain the government puts together man reasons the land should be granted. These types of treaties have been set into motion since Lewis and Clark rolled in (Fredericks, 2018). The treaty of Fort Laramie set peace between the U.S. and many tribes while the U.S. was to also compensate the Sioux for 50 years (Fredericks, 2018). Interestingly enough shortly after this agreement was made, the government revised the payments from 50 years to ten (Fredericks, 2018). The land has substantial and most importantly spiritual meaning to the Standing Rock Tribe (O’Rourke, 2003).
The Dakota Access Pipeline is not the only pipeline to have caused national level controversy. The Keystone XL pipeline is a crude oil pipeline that would also stretch over several states and into Canada. The pipeline was rolling into effect and making good time when Former President Obama denied the permit to approve further construction of the pipeline over pop up protests that challenged the ethics of the pipeline (Heitkamp, 2015). A rather clear example of head government officials pushing for projects that have controversial backgrounds is U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp and her efforts toward approving the keystone pipeline. She has repeatedly on record pushed for the pipeline and gathered fellow senators and Prime Ministers in Canada to support the pipeline even though former president Obama denied approval of it (Heitkamp, 2015). Dilldine perceives that even through numerous protests and even the President of the United States denying a bill, some government officials ignore the obvious signs of public opposition. She also feels major issues and community feelings my not get as much light shed on them because of the public officials own selfish agenda.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has not gone without its own efforts against the pipeline. Anyone can take social jabs and work in a dirty manner, but the Tribe decided to go with a seen as more formal and politically acceptable way of protesting the pipeline. The Tribe has releaased several press releases regarding the facts they believe the government seems to ignore or purposely disregard (Standing, 2018). “Impacts of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline” is a press release that addresses the possible impacts of an oil spill form the pipeline. It also heavily touches on the treaty protected land that seems to be violated (Standing, 2018). This piece shares information provided from the Department of Water Resources and the Department of Environmental Regulation which are the resources they heavily depend on (Standing, 2018). They delve into specifics and talk of spill risks and how horrible the damage could be to the surrounding areas. Benzene is a chemical they fear that if a spill were to happen would completely contaminate the surrounding water (Standing, 2018). That specific chemical is classified as a known carcinogen according to the World Health Organization and has a distinct link to people attaining cancer after coming into direct contact with it like when, for example, it is in their drinking water (Standing, 2018). Along with a spill that could possibly go wrong, they speak on actual flaws they see with the pipeline and its path.
Although the Standing Rock Tribe reside many states away from the Western North Carolina Tribes, the impact of a problem of that magnitude can be felt from miles away. Brianna Dilldine, who has lineage connecting to the Pee Dee Tribe, feels from personal experience that “Solidarity is not only key in our fight for equality and respect form the government, but it is also key to allowing the people of Standing Rock to know they’re not alone in their fight”. Her tribe happens to reside in South Carolina which is close to home with North Carolinas Cherokee Tribe. Dilldine claims the impact of disrespecting one tribe would be very dangerous to other tribes and may form the thought that other tribes can be easily manipulated and cheated against. Though the political issues surrounding the Sioux Tribe is far from the Carolinas, the backlash of being discriminated can still branch out to other tribes across America according to Dilldine who has felt first-hand how the government affects the daily living of Native Indians.
From all the submitted data, personal feelings, and back and forth between what is true or false, this pipeline has proved to show how exactly people on opposite sides stand up for what they believe in even when they were legally promised they would have the right of way to work around a certain circumstance like a pipeline. The American Indian Tribes figured their treaty protected land would be just that, protected, while the U.S. Government figured they could take advantage of their own rules one more time and rule over a minority group. One side presents a minority group that has treaty protected land breached by the government because the system is structured to purposefully work against those who are not white. The opposing side is a money hungry and power hungry system full of people that are willing to run over and disrupt significant land to a group of people because they carry irritatingly huge ego. As cliché as it might sound, history has a tendency of repeating itself and no one expects to watch it happen before their eyes, but it does. Being blind to discrimination helps no one and only helps further the hateful agenda of the oppressor.
Dakota Access Pipeline Facts. (2017, August 17). Common Misconceptions. Retrieved October 16, 2018, from https://daplpipelinefacts.com/common-misconceptions/
Dakota Access Pipeline. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from https://landowners.daplpipelinefacts.com/news/local-news.html
Fredericks, C. F., & Heibel, J. D. (2018). Standing Rock, The Sioux Treaties, and the Limits of the Supremacy Clause. 89, 477-530. doi:10.18411/a-2017-023
Heitkamp statement on the president's decision to deny permit for the keystone XL pipeline. (2015). (). Washington: Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.
O'Rourke, D., & Connolly, S. (2003). Just Oil? The Distribution of Environmental and Social Impacts of Oil Production and Consumption. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 28, 587-617.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. (2018, May 10). Impact of an Oil Spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe[Press release]. Retrieved October 15, 2018, from https://www.standingrock.org/content/impacts-oil-spill-dapl-standing-rock
Worland, J. (2016, October 28). Dakota Access Pipeline: What to Know About the Controversy. Retrieved from http://time.com/4548566/dakota-access-pipeline-standing-rock-sioux/
Dildine, Brianna. (2018, November 8). Email.