How historical treatment of native people is reflected in North Dakota today
The North Dakota oil pipeline itself is an approximately 1,170-miles long, a $3.8 billion project. The pipeline would have the ability to carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. This could be an opportunity for more jobs, as well as a boost for the local economy where the North Dakota pipeline runs, and joins with other pipelines.
That sounds like a pretty good deal. More jobs, more money, more benefits for the local economy. These all sound like great things — and they are. The pipeline is just being made in the wrong place.
Although North Dakota is currently rich in oil, the risk of this sort of pipeline is high. A minor leak or spill of the pipeline could ruin the land and contaminate the water that is nearby. Native Americans are not the only people with concerns for the pipeline.
Hundreds of people have gone to North Dakota to protest the pipeline, as the effects would reach anyone nearby. Jessi Bean is a student at the Missouri University, not far from the pipeline. “It affects all of us being so close to the Missouri River. It would affect us all, especially at school,” she said.
If the new pipeline was put in place, there would be a low chance of any damage occurring but as time goes on the chance of damage gets higher and higher. According to a 2012 examination of pipeline safety, ProPublica reported that more than half of America’s pipelines were more than half a century old. The age of the pipelines does puts the public’s health and their environment at risk. The same will go for the North Dakota Pipeline if it is put in place.
However, protesting the pipeline has the highest significance for North Dakota’s Native American population. For centuries, people have been exploiting Native People and their land. Pre-Plymouth Rock, millions of Native Americans used to live in the United States of America. That number has dropped to 300,000. Between 1831 and 1839 alone, federal officials working for white cotton growers forced about 100,000 Native Americans out of their land. This became the start of the Trail of Tears.
Although there has not been a recent literal Trail of Tears, America’s corporations are still developing atrocities against Native Americans. The possibility of the Dakota access pipeline is an example of this. The pipeline would go through the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s ancestral lands. These are the lands that their ancestors hunted and made a life. That land was their home and they remain buried there to this day. Although the land is not part of the tribe’s reservation, it is sacred to them. Already, a motion has denied to have the pipeline stop where it would desecrate the land.
Despite this motion, Native Americans and people around the country are still fighting against the pipeline, they are not giving up. Although people individually express fear that the pipe will be built, as a whole they are a strong force that won’t be stopped despite the obstacles.
Ingrid Cho, a University of Maryland student, was one of thousands who protested at the pipeline. She describes standing with those rallying against the pipeline “as a spiritual experience all around. The atmosphere was something you can’t really describe. It’s one big community, one big family united for one big cause.” She was one of many who had attended protest against the pipeline, and this testifies to the cause. These people are strangers, who have become a family, because of a commonality to keep the land safe and to keep the rights the native people were given in the past, in place.
As of October 2016, about 141 protesters had been arrested, despite their peaceful protests. Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock, states that the law enforcement push the protesters to these actions as the enforcers are partaking in “escalating violence and unlawful arrests against peaceful protesters at Standing Rock” and believes “the majority of peaceful protesters are reacting to strong-arm tactics and abuses by law enforcement.” Despite the peaceful protest, many people have kept on rallying and more people have been arriving to protest every day.
Giving up is not even a possibility for those rallying. Those rallying keep their spirits up as they hand out blankets to strangers to stay warm, as they share stories of their ancestors to one another, and together they have hope. Hope that their land will remain pure and will not be ravaged. The odds are stacked against them, but they aren’t out of the game yet. They still have a few rounds left to go.
Maria Bushby is a first year English major who thinks the North Dakota pipeline protest is Shailene Woodley’s most emotional performance since The Secret Life of the American Teenager. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.