Currently, media outlets are dominated with news about the upcoming American Presidential election. Yet, there is another important battle being fought in the United States: the Dakota Access Pipeline Fight is one focused on Indigenous rights, fair access to land and the ability to drink and use clean water.
Since April 2016, Indian Americans tribes and other supporters have been protesting the Dakota Access pipeline project: “a $3.8 billion, four-state project designed to carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois” (http://bit.ly/2exkdJO). The protests started in April 2016, only to gain more momentum during the summer and exploded in October (http://bit.ly/2exkdJO).
Activists and protestors have continually vocalized their concerns and fears that “the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline could harm cultural sites and drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe” (http://fxn.ws/2e4EANn). The pipeline, built by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), “will transfer up to 570,00 barrels of crude oil a day from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois” (http://fxn.ws/2e4EANn). ETP is a Fortune 500 oil and natural gas company based in Dallas. It is the main owner of the pipeline, along with Sunoco Logistics Partners and Phillips 66 (http://bit.ly/2exkdJO).
The fight against the pipeline is not just a land dispute: protestors claim the pipeline “threatens water sources and will disturb sacred sites and artifacts, and there is broader concern about tribal sovereignty and rights”(http://bit.ly/2exkdJO). The pipeline can potentially harm the drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation and farther downstream on the Missouri River, as well as destruction of cultural artifacts, including burial sites (http://bit.ly/2f7Tp6m).
Initially, police told media and the public that they would place additional security at the site to ensure the safety of all protestors. Yet, during a September rally, protesters and private security clashed after construction crews removed topsoil on the ranch (http://bit.ly/2f7Tp6m). In a classic he said/she said situation, “authorities claim four security guards and two guard dogs were injured while tribe says protesters reported that six people had been bitten by security dogs, and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed” (http://bit.ly/2f7Tp6m). Currently, more than 260 protestors have been arrested since August (http://bit.ly/2f7Tp6m).
To help Millennials to gain a better understanding of the situation: The Fault in Our Stars main actress Shailene Woodley is one celebrity that joined the most recent protest in October.
On October 10, Woodley was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot (http://fxn.ws/2e4EANn). If convicted, she would face two months in jail and $3000 in fines (http://fxn.ws/2e4EANn). She is expected to stand on trial January 2017. Other celebrities to publicize their support against the Dakota Access Pipeline include Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck.
Woodley is not the only prominent figure to be thrown into a legal battle: Dave Archambault II’s, the leader of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, reservation on the North Dakota-South Dakota border sits close to the pipeline’s path (http://bit.ly/2exkdJO). To make matters more complicated, he has been arrested and sued by ETP for interfering with the pipeline (http://bit.ly/2exkdJO). This was in response to Archambault II’s lawsuit against ETP and the federal government (http://bit.ly/2exkdJO).
After October’s protests, there are multiple signs the Dakota Access Pipeline Fight will continue to intensify and grow. It is an important story to follow, since the ability to access clean water is one no one should have to fight for.