We can’t trade land for oil

Gaby Cedeno

People don’t like to think about it, but our country was built on the genocide of Native Americans. 

After slaying the majority of the Native Americans, the European settlers who stole their land pressed treaties upon the Natives, forcing them to give up their rights and confining them to reservations. Even today, Native Americans are treated unfairly and are among the poorest communities thanks to complex laws the government has passed that limit what they can and cannot do on their reservations.  

Recently, a major legal battle has been taking place in North Dakota as Native Americans of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are trying to put a halt to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is threatening to dig up their sacred land. For months the tribe has not only been in court battling the DAPL, but they have also camped at the construction site, peacefully protesting. 

Protestors taking a stand against an oil company seeking to destroy their land. 

Protestors taking a stand against an oil company seeking to destroy their land. 

The protests did not make headlines until Sept. 3, when Amy Goodman, a reporter of Democracy Now!, released a video of security guards pepper spraying and unleashing attack dogs on the protestors. Though the private security firm told news outlets that they were reacting to violence started by the protesters, that assertion has been debunked and the protests have optimized, peaceful resistance. 

According to The Nation, shortly after Goodman released the video a warrant was sent out for her arrest for alleged criminal trespassing. Considering that not everyone at the protest was placed under arrest or forced to move it seems that this story was brushed under the rug and Goodman’s arrest pulled it back out. As a result she is being harassed for exercising her first amendment right. 

I get that the pipeline has the potential to produce 374.3 million gallons of gasoline per dayaccording to Energy Transfer Partners but that does not justify arresting a reporter for bringing this issue to the public’s attention. It is also unacceptable to allow protesters to be attacked without any repercussions to those who carried out those attacks. 

The people protesting the DAPL are aware of the fact that this pipeline can help give America a bit of an economic boost; however, just because this project might give a short term economic boost doesn’t mean that it is okay to step all over people, especially Native Americans given our history that is rife with mistreatment.  

“We’re not opposed to energy independence. We’re not opposed to economic development,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II said in an interview with CNN. “The problem we have — and this is a long history of problems that evolved over time — is where the federal government or corporations take advantage of indigenous lands and indigenous rights.”

The DAPL will destroy burial grounds, and even though it may not be a part of the Standing Rock’s reserve, it was land given to them as part of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and taken back bythe United States nine years later after miners discovered gold there. 

The preservation of historic grounds and the cleanliness of our water source isn’t just something that Native Americans should have been fighting for. They may have gained more support thanks to the coverage of the dog attacks, but we all should have been a part of this from the beginning. It shouldn’t take people being viciously attacked by dogs for us to become aware of what is happening in our country. 

Stopping the DAPL won’t only prevent the destruction of the tribe’s sacred land, but it will also spare our planet from losing more resources. Since the pipeline will be under the Missouri River, should it burst, that would mean that the water would be contaminated and according to Ecowatch, the Missouri River is one of the largest sources of water in the United States that provides drinking water for millions. A pipeline breach could be disastrous.

A pipeline burst could potentially ruin the drinking water of millions of people. 

A pipeline burst could potentially ruin the drinking water of millions of people. 

Energy Transfer Partners states that the pipeline is completely safe. However, considering the Kalamazoo River pipeline burst in Michigan in 2010 and the oil spill in Yellowstone river last year, it is hard to trust that this pipeline won’t also pollute our water and end up costing more than it makes.  

It is good thing that celebrities and political figures, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jill Stein, joined the efforts of the Standing Rock when they did. District Judge James E. Boasberg’s ruling on Sept. 9 to deny the tribe’s plea to stop the project, the public outcry that followed caught the attention of the Obama Administration who then slapped a temporary injunction. 

The battle isn’t over yet though. The Obama Administration has only pushed the pause button on the project, so there is a chance that they will decide to go through with it. If you truly care about this country, you will join Standing Rock and fight to stop the DAPL. Visit thefreethoughtproject.com to find out how you can join the movement. 

We may not be able to undo the damage of the genocides and broken treaties, but we have the power to take their side and protectthe land. 

“Listen to our cries,” Naelyn Pike, member of the Chiricahua Apache, says. “Our indigenous people are suffering to protect the land that you are living on.”