I Stand With Standing Rock: What You Need To Know

(Disclaimer: This article represents the personal views of the author, not the collective views of Her Campus UConn) 

If you’ve been on Facebook in the past few weeks, it’s likely that you’ve seen videos of the protests currently taking place in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Unfortunately, a few Facebook videos are about all I, and many others, have seen in terms of information on these protests. Hardly any mainstream media coverage of these protests is taking place, and many journalists and filmmakers who have attempted to cover the protests have been arrested by police; with over 120 journalists arrested just in the past week. Since information on this pressing issue is unfortunately being repressed, here is a list of exactly what you need to know about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Protest:

What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,200 mile project by Energy Transfer Partners that will carry hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil per day across the Midwest. This billion dollar pipeline began in 2014, and is set to be finished this year. Proponents of the pipeline say that it will improve the economies of nearby states and decrease the United States' dependence on foreign oil. However, the many, many opponents of the pipeline, mainly the Standing Rock Sioux Native American Tribe, argue that it will have disastrous environmental effects, including possibly poisoning their drinking water. 

Why the Protests are Happening & Who is Protesting:

As of now, the protests, which have been happening since April, have attracted hundreds of different environmental groups, journalists, and activists. However, from the very beginning, Native Americans have been at the center of this protest. A total of 180 different tribal nations are standing in solidarity against the pipeline through peaceful protests and by taking legal action due to the fact that the pipeline could very well make the main source of drinking water for over 10,000 Native Americans un-drinkable. 

CNN reported that according to a complaint filed in federal court by the Standing Rock Sioux, the pipeline would also destroy “sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe." The Standing Rock Sioux also state that an area of the land on which the pipeline would be built, is a sacred burial ground, which would be desecrated by the pipeline if constructed. Additionally, tribal leaders from the Standing Rock Sioux have claimed that they have been largely ignored by the Federal Government throughout the permitting process of the pipeline, arguing that they were not adequately engaged, as required by law.

Another important piece of information about this pipeline is that it was originally supposed to traverse an area that would have put the drinking water for the residents of Bismarck, a town whose population is over 90% white, at risk of contamination. The "solution" to this problem was to re-route the pipeline through the land it is currently set to be built on, half a mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where the drinking water of the Native Americans would be contaimated if an issue were to occur with the pipeline. The idea of an issue actually happening is unfortunately not too far off, as TIME reported that "The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines since 2010. And even the smallest spill could damage the tribe’s water supply." 

Photo by: Dallas Goldtooth


What's Happening at the Protests:


The main protest is being held at the construction site of the pipeline in North Dakota, near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Though the protests began peacefully, private security officers from Energy Transfer Partners are reportedly enacting violence, and militarized police from many different states who have converged on the protest under the orders of North Dakota Governor, Jack Dalrymple, have begun to arrest protesters by the hundreds. The private security officers are going as far as to threaten and to injure protesters with trained dogs, pepper spray and physical violence, while the police have injured and threatened protesters with rubber bullets, bean bags, pepper spray, tasers and sound cannons.

A Huffington Post writer recently reported that she was present at the protests as “hundreds of militarized police bore down on the unarmed, self-proclaimed 'water protectors' who were singing, praying, and walking along the pipeline construction site”. Additionally, protestors at the site have been posting videos and photographs to Facebook of the protests, many of them choosing to go “live” on Facebook in hopes of showing people exactly what is happening at the protests. A disturbing video by the show Democracy Now! was posted on YouTube on September 3rd, and depicts security guards macing protesters, allowing their trained dogs to attack and injure them, and pipeline workers tackling and becoming aggressive towards people who are protesting at the construction site (*be advised: this video contains profanities*).

Many other similar and equally disturbing videos have been posted since, and continue to be posted every day. Additionally, some journalists and members of the media who have attempted to film and chronicle much of what has been happening at these protests have been arrested by police. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Amy Goodman, the host of the Democracy Now! video, displayed above. In a similar incident, filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was arrested for filming an activist at a TransCanada oil sands pipeline in North Dakota. Schlosberg’s footage was taken by police and she was charged with three counts of felony conspiracy and faces a sentence of up to 45 years in prison, simply for filming the activist.

Along with journalists and filmmakers, celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley have been in attendance at the protest, attempting to give aid and raise awareness. Woodley was even arrested at the protest while she was going “live” on Facebook, streaming her arrest to over 40,000 people. Police later told her that she was targeted for arrest, due to her celebrity status.

Photo By: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images 


What This All Means: For You and For the World

You can choose to ignore this article, to not watch the many Facebook videos streaming from the protest, and close your laptop and never think about the Dakota Access Pipeline ever again. However, you can do all of these things because you are privileged enough not to have your lands being desecrated, your drinking water being threatened, your First Amendment rights being violated by police, and your very way of life being brushed under the rug by oil companies who only care about the bottom line: money.

Though this issue is definitely an issue of climate change, at it's core, it is truly an issue of Native American rights and lives being disrespected and essentially erased from the equation. The pipeline being moved from an area that would place a largely white population in danger, to an area that places Native Americans in danger, with no regard for the safety or the opinons of the Native Americans, is the very definition of oppression. No, the residents of Bismarck should not have to drink poluted water, but the "solution" to this problem should not be to force Native Americans to do so instead. That is a violation of their right to clean water and it makes a statement that Native American lives are less valuable than the lives of others. So yes, this is an issue of climate change, and also an issue that is likely to affect each and every one of us as more pipelines are built and the environment continues to be desecrated.  However, the root of this problem is that Native American lives are being undervalued and violated by big business and the government.

A fantastic piece written by a Native American woman named Kelly Hayes, makes this very point, stating "Yes, everyone should be talking about climate change, but you should also be talking about the fact that Native communities deserve to survive, because our lives are worth defending in their own right -- not simply because 'this affects us all.'" If this project is allowed to continue, and if the health, rights, and lives of thousands of Native Americans are allowed to be treated as commodities and less important than the profits of big oil, their loss will be immeasurable. 

I encourage you to not simply share this article and move forward with your life, as social media makes it so easy to do. I challenge you to educate yourself further on this issue, to read other articles, websites, books, and to watch documentaries and films surrounding issues about Native American rights, First Amendment repression, big oil, and climate change. Even if educating yourself and others on these issues is all that you are able to contribute to solving this problem, that is much better than allowing yourself to forget that the problem exists. Sign petitions, talk to your friends, talk to your professors and talk to your government.

Photo By: The Sacred Stone Camp Facebook Page 


Below is a list of actions you can take, articles to read, and films to watch to educate yourself on this issue and similar issues, as well as links to websites where you can sign petitions and contact government officials in regards to the Dakota Access Pipeline, in support of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Talk to your government:

Donations & Monetary Support:

Petitions To Stop The Dakota Access Pipeline:  

People & Organizations Supporting the Cause:

Articles About The Pipeline & The Protests:

Articles & Information About The Arrests of Journalists, Filmmakers & Celebrities:

Videos of the Standing Rock protests:

Information on The Fort Laramie Treaty:

The Standing Rock Sioux:

Documentaries/Films About Climate Change & Big Oil:

I hope that this article provided you with some useful information about the Standing Rock Protests and the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I hope that it spurs you to action in regards to this important issue, and other issues that you feel passionate about.

I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I stand with Standing Rock.



Cover Image Source