The Dakota Access Pipeline, aka DAPL, is the latest in the nation’s string of assaults on Native communities and if you’re tired of hearing about it, you probably should go ahead and skip this blog entry. The pipeline crosses three state borders and four states from the Bakken Shale oil fields in North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois. And it, like any other pipeline, is not impervious to failures, leaks, spills, and ruptures.
And that’s a problem.
This massive engineering project puts the water supply of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in direct jeopardy of contamination, not to mention its redundancy and the other environmental impacts that such a project presents. The pipeline route also crosses obscenely close to, and in some cases disrupts directly, several sites and lands that many First Nations hold sacred.
Unfortunately, this sort of project is not uncommon and its controversies are not unusual. The reason that you’ve actually heard about this one is that there are massive, truly massive protests ongoing at and around the construction sites of the Dakota Access Pipeline and across the country. #NoDAPL!
Democracy NOW! has done the lions share of the reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Water Protectors protests in the media, but what is genuinely unique about this situation is the plethora of reporting from members of the Native community themselves. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Periscope, and others, Water Protectors have been able to get their message out on their own. And a huge part of that is presenting what’s happening in real-time on the ground, including the unconscionable use of pepper spray and attack dogs on protestors.
You may have seen some of these images in the news and online. Democracy NOW! did the early reporting on these issues especially and brought the attention of “mainstream media” to the protests. What you’re seeing in these photographs is the use of attack dogs to assault peaceful protestors while police do nothing. This is illegal, unethical, and a wild and uncontrolled overreaction to protests.
On September 3, 2016, during Labor Day weekend, the Dakota Access Pipeline brought in a private security firm when the company used bulldozers to dig up part of the pipeline route that contained possible Native graves and burial artifacts; it was subject to a pending injunction motion. The bulldozers arrived within a day after the tribe filed legal action. Energy Transfer bulldozers cut a two-mile (3200 m) long, 150-foot (45 m) wide path through the contested area.
When protestors crossed the perimeter to stop the bulldozers, the security firm attacked. Six protestors were later treated for dog bites and over 30 protestors for pepper spray exposure. Amy Goodman and her film crew captured it all on film as police officers watched from atop a nearby ridge.
Be not deceived, the police are not doing their jobs here. This is one of the very clear and prolific instances where police officers abuse, misuse, or neglect their duty to Serve and Protect the people, especially non-white people.
So why am I writing about this? There are plenty of other more involved and more informed voices out on the net speaking far more eloquently than I have in my spotty and broken summary above, right? Yes. There are. And I’m adding my voice to theirs, because this is important and this is just.
I’m also writing about it because on 20 January 2017, just 18 days from today, we are going to step off the ledge an into the unknown with President Trump—which I can’t believe I’m writing without irony—where Governor Rick Perry will be the Energy Secretary. We’re about to descend into a political hellscape just shy of the dystopia imagined in Idiocracy. The nation is flirting with disaster and issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline, #NoDAPL, have the potential to become more frequent. We need to be vigilant and stand up for our rights and the rights of our brothers and sisters.
This is especially scary because Perry and Trump both have ties to the companies who own and will operate the pipeline. Trump himself holds stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, LLC which is building the pipeline. And Perry is on the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Partners! Both of these conflicts of interest loom large and heavy over the future of the project. Once the Obama Administration leaves office, we’re in uncharted territory.
Thankfully, the pipeline has been temporarily halted thanks to an action by the Army Corps of Engineers, but we have to keep our attention on the protests and the developments in the cases of protestors who’re being charged.
Please, support the #NoDAPL protests. Speak out. Write to your representatives in Congress and express your strong disapproval of the pipeline and the violation of treaty rights with Indigenous Communities. And pay attention to this story, it is ongoing.