The Dakota Access Pipeline
Northeastern University (NU)
As Vice-Chair of the Latinx Caucus for the College Democrats of Massachusetts, our caucus understands the detrimental factors of environmental racism and the negative repercussions these issues have on modern day forms of oppression. Marginalized communities are the most vulnerable and often the most targeted in our society. As an Indigenous Kichwa woman I am standing in solidarity with other Indigenous Nations opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline. #noDAPL #DivestNU
What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?
“The Dakota Access Pipeline will transport crude oil from hydrofracked sites in the Bakken Formation in northwestern North Dakota, which holds about 7.4 billion barrels of oil. This oil-rich rock formation gives the pipeline its other nickname, the Bakken pipeline.” The cost of this pipeline is estimated to around $3.7 billion and will run from Stanley, North Dakota; through South Dakota and Iowa; and end in Patoka, Illinois.
From Prairie to the White House: Inside a Tribe's Quest to Stop a Pipeline by Reuters is an article that explains the crucial impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Many leaders are working to bring public awareness to the forefront of our collective consciousness. In this article, Brian Cladoosby spoke on behalf of the tribal nations in front of Obama's Cabinet-level advisers warning of the detrimental factors of the pipeline and the impact that is has on Native communities and the world at large. Is the Dakota Access Pipeline a reaction due to social policy inaction? YES! The Sioux Tribe is reacting to the policies in place that are not being taken into account and in turn there is a deafening uproar coming from the Native American community.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is bringing contemporary Native American issues to the forefront of our society. I use DAPL as one of many examples of the United States government marginalizing the culture and beliefs of Native Americans. As a Nation we should be doing everything that we can to stop this pipeline from contaminating sacred Native American land. Native Americans have faced colonialism, genocide, and oppression in this country and through the Dakota Access Pipeline we are seeing modern day forms of Indigenous neo-colonization. This pipeline could contaminate water on reservation and repeat the disaster faced by people in Flint, Michigan. Similar to the water crisis in Flint we should be doing everything that we can to ensure that the citizens of our country have access to safe drinking water. Our earth is sacred, our air is sacred, our water is sacred and we must be held accountable.
Students must come together to educate one another on pivotal social issues. Lucia Solórzano is a University of Massachusetts Amherst student studying Environmental Science. I made the decision to interview Lucia because she is a student environmental activist and I strongly believe that voices like hers are imperative in educating others on pressing social issues.
How did you get invested in your work with bringing awareness to the DAPL?
“I’m a strong advocate for renewable energy, so in general I’m not a fan of new pipelines. Along with the building of a new pipeline, it is planned be built on a sacred Native American burial site and run over the Missouri River, which is the water supply for many people including Native American tribes. The bottom line is to protect the environment, which is what I support the most. I’m also invested in this because new pipelines aren’t necessary for our energy sources when there are better and less expensive options. The injustices against Native American people also has a very long history to it, and I think it’s wrong to continue to abuse their rights for economical advancement. I first saw this issue shared by the Earthjustice page on facebook. I continued to see this issue being talked about by more people, including Bernie Sanders. After doing research on the subject, I knew that this was an important issue.”
From your perspective, what is going on with the DAPL and what makes this such a pressing social issue?
“Native American tribes in the Standing Rock reservation area are protesting the DAPL to protect their water supply and sacred burial site. Not only are they fighting for their own rights, they are fighting for all the people who get their drinking water from the Missouri River and for the environment. It seems as though the army corps has no regard or respect the historical sites or sacred lands of the native american people. This is a such a pressing social issue because of all the injustices against Native Americans. They have had peaceful protests since August, and the fact that they have been responded to with pepper spray and attack dogs is wrong. Even before construction begun, and the Tribal Historic Preservation office requested multiple times for full archaeological investigation, they continued to be ignored. Once again, the voices of the Native American people have been repressed and ignore. This is also a significant moment because this is one of the largest protests put on by Native American tribes and people are actually listening.”
What are the environmental factors that play a role into the DAPL and what communities do you believe will be negatively affected by this?
“The big environmental factors that play a role into the DAPL is the risk of an oil spill and the amount of emissions it will release. The DAPL would release the equivalent carbon emissions as 30 coal plants each year. As we transition into renewable energy, it doesn’t make sense to make a new pipeline now because in several decades we will hopefully be cutting our emissions quite a bit -- making more pipelines won’t help us to achieve that goal. The USA already has 2.5 million miles of pipeline and there’s no possible way that all those miles of pipeline and can regulated at all times. Communities that will be effected is anyone who lives near a pipeline. The DAPL would run through lower-income communities, many of which have little to no voice in whether or not they live near a pipeline. Leakage of toxic chemicals from pipelines can cause severe effects, including cancer, to people who live near. Oil spills lead to a destruction of wildlife and health, and have heavy economic costs. The list of negative consequences of a pipeline go on and on.”
Native American Voice
Mahtowin Munro is Lakota and the Co-Leader of United American Indians of New England. Native Americans and the voices of marginalized communities in the United States are often silenced. It was important for me to speak with Mahtowin because her voice within the Native community is powerful and one that needs to be heard.
What does the current state of the #NoDAPL movement mean to you?
“The struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota is magnificent and unparalleled in our history. Thousands of Indigenous people and allies have been flooding in for months, and many people are planning to stay during the winter to defend the water and stop the pipeline. At Standing Rock, the Water Protectors have been met by intense police repression and the refusal of the federal government to respect Indigenous sovereignty and stop a project that endangers the drinking water of millions. And yet our people stand strong and fearless in the face of corporate greed and militarized cops. The unity of Indigenous peoples from throughout the Americas, from Hawaii, from Australia and New Zealand, from other countries, is unprecedented and shows what we can do when we are of one mind. This is not the only place that is a frontline struggle against environmental disaster - this is happening on Indigenous lands everywhere. Nothing will be the same after this.”
What treaties could potentially be broken? What would happen to sacred land if in fact the treaties were broken?
“The U.S. has not fully honored any treaties signed with Native Nations. The land where the pipeline is going through is in fact Standing Rock Sioux territory. Large portions of that territory were grabbed by the federal government for a project. Other portions are now considered to be privately owned or owned by the federal government. That is part of the problem.”
What we need to do as a community is stand in solidarity with Standing Rock. Donate and support. Call President Obama (202-456-111) and demand that the federal government cancel the Dakota Access Pipeline project! Spend time educating others. Defend the land, protect the water and STOP the Dakota Access Pipeline #noDAPL.