By Donald Hutchins, Contributing Writer
Opposition for a North Dakota oil pipeline continues to gain support, and widespread protests have brought a previously invisible issue into the limelight. On the 17th of September, a solidarity march of over 400 people took to the streets of Philadelphia, in response to a call for action from the Sacred Stones and Red Warrior Camp. Marchers stopped at five TD Bank branches to protest funding for the Dakota Access Pipeline in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and aforementioned camps. Seven were arrested, but all have been released unharmed. A roundtable discussion of the issue, sponsored by the Sustainable Campus Coalition, and the departments for International & Global Studies and Culture, Meaning, & Society, will be held in Roberts 101 on the 30th of September from 11:45–1pm for anyone that would like to get involved.
The original peaceful protest began with the Standing Rock Sioux in April, but numerous protests have emerged with growing national support for the Sioux opposition after private security for Energy Transfer Partners(ETP), the company funding the $3.8 billion project, used tear gas, pepper spray, and attack dogs on protesters who moved in peacefully this past Labor Day weekend, when the company bulldozed a sacred burial ground that was due for assessment by the North Dakota Preservation Office.
Both acts from ETP brought the previously unrecognized protest to public and official attention. Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, called the acts “absolutely outrageous”, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has halted construction on it’s turf in order to meet with Native leaders to discuss their concerns– as result of growing opposition. The Obama Administration is now under fire for a similar stance. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II told FoxNews.com that Natives “never had an opportunity to weigh in… [while] expressing concerns for the past two years…”
The Dakota Access Pipeline would tap into an estimated 7.4 billion barrel supply of crude oil in the North Dakota Bakken region, where the U.S. meets Canada; transporting it through South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois where it would connect with an existing pipeline, just north of land owned by the Sioux Tribe. Their main opposition is that the pipeline project would ravage sacred ground and could very easily contaminate underground aquifers and surface water supplies– which many towns and farmers in the region rely on. The line is set to run near eagle nesting habitats, and under the Missouri River– the only water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Within the past week, Governor Robert Bentley in Alabama, and officials in Georgia and four other states, have declared a state of emergency after a gasoline pipeline leaked some 300,000+ gallons of gasoline into mining ponds nearby– where they’re supposedly contained. With the close proximity of the spill to the Cahaba River, and nearby Helena and Alabaster, it’s these instances that legitimate the Sioux’s concerns. Our water supplies are sacred and the growing interest of nation spanning petroleum transport projects should be of great concern.
Since early September, all walks of life have joined the cause. Multiple protests from landowners and farmers have risen in affected states, citing the use of eminent domain to force private property into the market. Many farmlands are family owned and go back generations, similar to the sacred grounds of the Sioux. For the first time since 1876, all seven council fires of the Great Sioux Nation have camped together. With the support of regional law enforcement, the Wounded Knee Memorial Riders, other tribes, Amnesty International, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, and thousands of others nationwide, the Sioux are committed to preventing this project from moving forward.
While Energy Transfer Partners have yet to respond to the government’s halt order, their stock fell 3.6% last week as they faced criticism from many sides. Regardless, their officials are committed to seeing this project through. With growing opposition and media attention, it’ll be interesting to see how the government considers the concerns of our Native brethren.