The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

79° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline is still an ongoing battle

Bob Englehart

The construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline started in late July and the local Sioux tribe and hundreds of Indigenous people have been protesting the site.

Native Americans have been treated as unequals since Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas. They’ve had their land colonized and claimed by Europeans and they have fought hard for the little land they already have. History seems to have been repeating itself. The construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline started in late July and the local Sioux tribe and hundreds of Indigenous people have been protesting the site.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which is owned by Energy Transfer Partners LP, was scheduled to run through the Bakken region of North Dakota to South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.

The pipeline route caused a lot of controversy among the Native American community because it is being placed in the Lakota Treaty Territory at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The route of the pipeline has potential to contaminate the Missouri River and it would also mean destroying sacred land.

RELATED: Stand in solidarity with Dakota pipeline protesters

Throughout the protest against the pipelines, law enforcement has been on site to keep protesters from interfering with the construction. It seems that law enforcement has been using more excessive force than needed to try and push protesters away. In past incidents, law enforcement have maced protesters, shot them with rubber bullets, shot them with water cannons and threatened to shut down their campsites.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department continues to defend their actions by stating that they are going to protect people and enforce the law. Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier in an interview that the protesters were warned to back up and get out of the way. Kirchmeier also said all they had to do was follow orders and they wouldn’t have been sprayed with water during the late November protests. Could the actions of Morton County Sheriff Department have been out of fear? In a way, it seems so.

Throughout the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, protesters have been peaceful. They’ve tried persuading, without force or threats, to law enforcement to join their side, they’ve gathered to pray in their Native language, they’ve sang their Native songs, and they’ve done all of this while unarmed. 

All they want to do is protect the land, the water and the environment for future generations. The protest also brought many tribes together to stand in unity to protect Mother Earth. It was a beautiful site that could’ve caused law enforcement to feel existentially threatened.

While the law enforcement feel their action is right, the protesters have remained to stay strong. They’ve faced the harm done to them and continued to stand for what they believe in. The action of the protesters is courageous and shows just how strong the Native Americans are.

The controversy on the Dakota Access Pipeline has grown international. Supporters around the world have been showing support by holding protests in their hometowns. Celebrities such as Shailene Woodley, Mark Ruffalo, and Senator Bernie Sanders have been vocal with support for Standing Rock. They’ve brought attention to the protest whereas mainstream media lacked broadcasting the issue.

Protesters of the pipelines have been encouraging their supporters to reach out to their state representatives and to President Obama to address the issues of the protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Back in September, the Obama administration halted the construction of the pipelines. It didn’t last long though. The construction continued a few weeks later.

The Native Americans of the land have the right to protect their land. They were given the land through the Fort Laramie Treaty, a treaty which was later broken. The government disrespected not only the treaty, but opened up the land to construction. Native Americans are still a minority, which might be another reason why the government feels they can disregard their concerns.

RELATED: Stand in solidarity with Standing Rock

After months of determination to stop the Dakota Access Pipelines, things are starting to looking up for protesters. This Sunday, Dec. 4, the United States Army Corps of Engineers denied the Dakota Access Pipeline’s easement to drill under the Missouri River, which means it will have to reroute the pipeline.

This is a huge win to the Indigenous community and to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. It just goes to show that the First Amendment right to assembly is powerful when you stand together and fight for what you believe in.

Follow Aurora Begay on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search