People Over Pipelines

Beloved president, Teddy Roosevelt once said, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

Since the white man first discovered the new world, Native Americans have been stepped over, betrayed, and slaughtered. Their lands have been taken and destroyed, their culture has been disrespected, and their people have been forced onto unclean land, or killed simply for being Native American. Even today, many still suffer due to the horrors of the past.

A current issue Native American people are facing is the Dakota Access Pipeline, which plans to transport crude oil from North Dakota, all the way to Illinois over a stretch of 1,172 miles. At first this might not seem like such a wrongful thing, but the construction of this pipeline means absolute chaos for the Standing Rock tribe that live on this land.

The Construction Plan

Dakota Access, LLC, the company that is constructing the pipeline says that this pipeline will be clean and reliable, but data says differently. According to Natural News, “a 34-inch pipeline owned by Enbridge energy operating in Will County, Illinois leaked more than 6, 400 barrels of Saskatchewan heavy crude oil.”   That’s more than 250,000 gallons of crude oil being dumped right into the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s drinking water. Time and time again, oil pipelines spill. They just aren’t safe. Since 2010 there has an estimated 200 spills a year. A couple spills here and there mean nothing to big businesses, they especially mean nothing to the government, but that does not take away the dramatic impacts on small communities.

The land they are trying build on, does not even legally belong to them. It belongs to the Great Sioux Reservation, not the US Native American tribes are sovereign nations.

“In the year 2016, we should not continue to trample on Native American sovereignty. We should not endanger the water supply of millions of people. ” — Sen. Bernie Sanders

Water Pollution 

Native Americans hold water near and dear. They use it as their first source of medicine. This article by MEHR News Agency says, “The tribe’s subsistence and their physical and cultural health will be threatened due to potential contamination by oil spills directly impacting their drinking water.” This is why they have rights to their reservation lands and water. They have treaties with the US government that are in place to protect them from anything that would harm their resources.

Native Americans are protected under the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples, including the “right to health, right to water and subsistence, threats against sacred sites including burial grounds, treaty rights, cultural and ceremonial practices, free prior and informed consent, traditional lands and resources including water, productive capacity of the environment, and self-determination.”

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out against the contamination of the tribe’s water: “We cannot allow our drinking water to be poisoned so that a handful of fossil fuel companies can make even more in profits… This pipeline must be stopped! … Stop the pipeline, respect Native American rights and let us move forward to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuels.” Still, as more people are speaking out against the pipeline, nothing is being done.

NoDAPL demonstration in front of EPA, December 10th, 2016 / Victoria Pickerling / CC

Water is a Basic Human Right

According to article 5 of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” I don’t know about you, but denying thousands of people the most important and basic necessity of life is pretty degrading and inhuman. Even the UN agrees this is atrocious. They believe that the US government should give the tribe, “a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to resolve this serious issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses.”

Violence Against Protesters

The First Amendment. The one that everybody knows, freedom of speech. Under the United States Constitution, people have a right to gather and speak out against injustices. Yet the lives of the protesters are in danger. Protesters are being shot at with water cannons in below freezing weather, and police have become increasingly more violent while protesters have remained peaceful.

DESMOG states in their article, “Several protesters — including a child and a pregnant woman — were bitten by security dogs and 30 suffered from the affects of pepper spray.” These people have rights, rights that the government are refusing to protect.

“The brutality we’ve seen in recent days involving rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons, has increasingly put the health and lives of the demonstrators at real risk” – Sen. Martin Heinrich


NoDAPL demonstration in front of EPA, December 10th, 2016 / Victoria Pickerling / CC

Sacred Grounds Are Being Destroyed

Many sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux have been, and will continue to be bulldozed over if construction resumes. These are important places that need to be preserved, and the government has absolutely no regard for the importance of them. The Dakota Access, LLC claim they want to, “protect and restore the environment to at least similar conditions before [they] started.” Does that sound like a company that truly respects a group of people’s culture and beliefs? It sounds more like they want to hurry up and make a profit despite the suffering of innocent people.

Even if they do decide to lift a helping finger, the damage has already been done. Sacred sites will have been completely torn up and out of the ground. ICTMN says, “Nearly 1,300 archaeologists and museum representatives had called for the federal government to do more to protect the tribe’s sacred sites.” Clearly, they have options to protect this land, they just will not.

This is real, the US has abused these people, they are violently trying to take land that is not theirs. This is destroying peoples lives, culture and the planet.

Featured image credits:

Women’s Solidarity with Standing Rock / Peg Hunter /  CC

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26 thoughts on “People Over Pipelines

  1. First thing: The Dakota access pipeline is not being built on the Standing Rock Tribe’s Reservation, it is on private land. (
    Second: “Protester violence” They are not on public land, it is private so they all are trespassing, the police are using non-lethal tactics, and the protests are not all “peaceful”. (Nice video for the topic, 2:50 for protesters) (
    And Third: When you said “The Dakota Access, LLC claim they want to, “protect and restore the environment to at least similar conditions before [they] started”Does that sound like a company that truly respects a group of people’s culture and beliefs?” Are you forgetting the cleanup that are needed because the protestors left cars, campers, tents, and garbage? Leaving the land worse than when they got there? (

    1. I am sorry that you are too close minded to see the importance of this article. Seriously, who argues with giving people clean water and respect?

      1. The point of this pipeline is to move the crude oil faster, cheaper, and with lower carbon emissions to the environment, with the low rate of leaks, and less fuel used to transport it. So why is the pipe so controversial?

        1. Because people’s sacred lands are being destroyed, you obviously don’t understand because white males don’t really experience oppression but it’s kind of a big deal to rip up burial grounds that don’t belong to you.

          1. Your argument cannot go to “because im a white male”. Also that land does not belong to them, it is private land that the Oil Company bought from private sellers, and there are currently 8 pipes buried there.

          2. Except, in this situation the land does belong to you, or rather you have a signed easement from every landowner who ACTUALLY owns the land the pipeline goes through.

            The United States Army Corps of Engineers held over 350 meetings with the tribe before construction to ensure that the path taken was agreeable to them. When a problem came up, the path was changed.

            The fact of the matter is, the Standing Rock Sioux don’t own any of the land the pipeline will go through. It traverses a path entirely made up of private property.


        2. Kinda funny we continue looking for ways to transport oil faster when we could be completely dependent from oil in 7-10 years….

      2. Well, it’s not arguing against clean water and respect. It’s arguing that no water is at threat and no disrespect has happened/will happen.

        Btw, can you provide a source for the claim that “Many sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux have been, and will continue to be bulldozed over if construction resumes. “?

    2. The fact that you can sit here and try to defend this oil company breaks my heart. That we actually think destroying sacred land and burial grounds is “ok” and that they intend to “Protect and restore the environment to at least similar conditions before [they] started” makes it all better. And as to your comment about how they left a lot of cleanup, can you blame them? We’re building an oil pipeline through lands that are sacred to their tribe! If that was my sacred land they were desecrating I’d be pretty pissed off too. Sacred by definition is “connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration”. So it’s essentially if a company said “hey I’m gonna destroy your church and build an oil pipeline where it was! But it’s okay! We’re gonna try to make it at least kinda like it was!”. If I continue I’m gonna start to get mean so I’m gonna stop here .#nodapl

      1. I am not defending the Oil Company, if they were wrong I would say they are. Im saying the pipe is better for the environment than transporting by train, it is far enough underground it will not affect their water. It is not on their reservation, and if it is their sacred land, why is it an issue now? Why not the other 8 pipes were put in?

  2. I’m glad you touch on the fact that the pipeline will disrupt burial grounds and other sacred lands, since that’s really the biggest issue people should have with the pipeline.

    I don’t agree with you on the pollution risk though.

    Pipeline leaks and ruptures are often overblown and exaggerated in media. They’re seen as a bigger pollutant because yes, they do spill more oil per rupture than say, a tanker, but pipelines spill much, much less often than the other most common modes of oil/gas transport (railroads, trucks, and tankers).

    the best analogy for this is comparing airplanes to automobiles. Sure, plane crashes are far deadlier than car crashes, but they’re also much rarer. More people die in car crashes than they do in plane crashes. It’s the exact same for pipelines.

    compared to trains, boats, and trucks, pipelines contribute the least amount of pollution. For the time being, they are the safest mode for transportation of oil and gas.

    sources: (this one is really good)

    1. Thank you for your input Donna, it was very insightful. However, pipelines are still not clean, and this water is precious. Standing Rock should not have to risk their lands for profit of big companies. Even if it the safest way, oil should not be spilling into the environment at all.

      1. Thank you for your input Sarah, it was very insightful. However, at this point in time we don’t really have a choice. Of course we shouldn’t be spilling oil or polluting water, and I’m all for switching to renewable sources of energy, but at this point in time it’s not realistic. Oil production isn’t expected to peak until 2030, so until then, oil transport will continue to be a growing business.

        Until renewable sources of energy are practical enough to use, pipelines will still be the best option for the environment.

        1. I know this entire article isn’t about other sources of energy, but there are SOOOO many ways to get clean renewable energy besides the expensive ways of solar, wind, and water. There are biofuels from algae and ways to get petroleum from garbage, and these two single methods together could be accomplished with minimal funding within 7-10 years if the government stopped letting oil continue its monopoly and gave its funding to scientists. Just saying.

          1. That would be great, but the problem isn’t whether it’s possible, rather, whether it’s realistic. As of now, our economy relies so strongly on oil it would be devastating to try and switch over in less than a decade. The world’s transition to renewable energy will have be slow and gradual.

          2. The only major problem with switching from crude oil to another source is our global and market dependency. Think about the major oil producing middle eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, if you think it is violent and dangerous now, wait until nobody buys their oil. New solutions would be a very great thing, but it might be too early to make the switch.

          3. Except oil doesn’t have a monopoly, and the government does fund scientists.

            First off, oil can’t really have a monopoly because oil is a product, not a person or company.

            But, you probably meant oil has a monopoly meaning that oil controls the energy market as the dominant/only type of energy consumed, right? But that’s not the case either. Petroleum (oil, gasoline, etc) only accounted for 36% of energy consumption in 2015. It has to compete with many other kinds of energy in the market. Unless you think an oil monopoly could arise in two years, and despite government pushback, it must be accepted that there is no oil monopoly. John D. Rockefeller is long dead.


            The government definitely does give funding to scientists. That’s just the reality of it.


      2. The small section under the river where it is being build already has 8 pipes under the lake, 1 pair has been there for 35 years, and there have been no major leaks. Pipes are one of the safest ways to transport crude, and it is over 90 feet underground, that’s low enough that is would not affect the water table if there was a small leak because is would settle under the clay over 100 feet underground. It is the safest pipe ever built, and meets all federal guidelines.

  3. I absolutely love this article! I like the inclusion of quotes from government officials, it really adds to the credibility of the article! Over all it is very well written and stays true to the facts.

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