Part of the Native American culture that is so elemental is the sense of unification. Tribes have always joined together in the face of oppression and times of trouble. From the Iroquois Confederation– five tribes putting aside differences to defend their land — to the recent modern day occurrence of the North Dakota pipeline.
The pipeline construction will possibly contaminate the sole water source of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who have been inhabiting their reservation since 1868. The reservation is composed of the region of South Dakota west of the Missouri River. The 1,170 mile long Dakota Access pipeline runs North of the reservation, and a leak or spill could be detrimental.
The Dakota Access pipeline will not be given up easily– it is a $3.7 billion linking pipeline that is planned to carry 470,000 barrels of oil daily from western North Dakota to Illinois. Energy Transfer claims that the pipeline will boost local economies and create supposedly over 8,000 jobs.
Since April, over 100 Native American tribes from all over the nation have been congregating near the South Dakota border in protest. The tribes claim their campaign to be nonviolent, but 20 people have been arrested due to heated confrontations with police officers and construction workers. The pipeline’s manufacturers, Energy Transfer Partners, has additionally sued several protesters for threats against their workers.
The construction of the pipeline has been halted while the Federal Court reviews the case.
By Sept. 9, a Federal Judge will make the decision on whether the pipeline’s construction will continue or pass an injunction that will halt the construction.
On the other hand, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and conservationists alike look past the economic opportunity and instead see the inimical effects that will plague the area for future generations to come. The problems that will derive from the pipeline, from the tribe’s perspective, would not only have lasting effects on their surrounding environment, but also on their culture as the planned route of the pipeline crosses sacred ancestral land.
Others from states that the pipeline will cross, like Iowa and South Dakota, are also fighting against the continuation of the pipeline as it would impinge upon their farmland. Some farmers, however, have been handed compensation for their land loss and have signed access agreements to their land.
Due to combined efforts by the Sioux tribe and the other tribes of the nation, the importance of preservation of Native American tribes’ culture, land, and values is being recognized by the media. This event is getting so much coverage because it is the first time in hundreds of years where Native American tribes from across the nation are joining together to protect their environment, and to keep outsiders from impinging upon their land.