Today, on the Standing Rock reservation of North Dakota, thousands of people are asleep.
But they are not asleep in their beds, like me and any number of fortunate citizens. They are laying quite literally on top of the land. Thousands of people have rushed to North Dakota in the past few months to support the Sioux Tribe, who are protesting the implementation of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline in question, which is aimed to pull oil from the ground, would run 1,134 miles across four states and over sacred land.
While I confess myself to be somewhat of a cynic when it comes to the cultural understanding — or lack thereof — the government displays, I am still shocked by the amount this one body has taken over multiple centuries. Land. Lives. Culture. Natural resources. Repeat.
To be frank, the government’s disregard for Native American lives and tradition is no shock. The U.S. has built itself from a foundation set up by colonists who attempted to squander native culture in addition to the lives they took upon their arrival. The United States as it stands has never existed for us, even though it was taken from us. This makes seeing modern day immigrants looked down upon for their differences unbelievable when it most often comes from the descendants of this country’s first immigrants.
But even if you do not respect sacred native traditions, there are still more drawbacks to the pipeline. Close to 100 scientists have pledged their alliance with Standing Rock. They conclude the pipeline displays many potential environmental hazards, least of which is America’s growing dependence on fossil fuels at a time when global climate change is staring us all in the face.
The final state on the pipeline’s hit list is Illinois. Illinois sits close to Michigan, a state in which thousands of residents have been unable to access drinkable water for years. A state in which children are reported as having hair loss and rashes. I go online and I see lead infested pipes that have led to the deaths of children in this nation. I see pipes that will hurt sacred land. And I see only minimal action by the government to combat either.
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The jury is still out on whether the pipeline will be halted indefinitely, and judges are expected to debate it for months. In the meantime, thousands of people are pouring into North Dakota from all over the world in solidarity with Standing Rock. Protesters have reported that the police have taken physical measures with them, bringing pepper spray and guard-dogs.
So not only is our government mulling over whether the proven environmental risk and blatant cultural disrespect of the Dakota Access Pipeline are enough to give up the economic gain, but they are tear gassing, pepper spraying, and sicking dogs on peaceful protestors.
Think about that, and then think twice before you call us the savages.
Aria Bryan ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in sociology.