Crude oil pipeline fuels protests

Project near water source drives rage

By Robert Clinton, Opinion Editor

In the summer sun of Sept. 3, attack dogs licked human blood from their teeth following the vicious clashes between protesters and private security near the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). At the same time, the American media were lauding President Barack Obama for signing the Paris agreement, an international deal aimed at curbing carbon emissions.

Over the past seven months, Native Americans calling themselves “water protectors” have been protesting the pipeline which broke ground in May.

According to Energy Transfer, the conglomerate of companies behind the project, the pipeline is a 1,172 mile 30-inch diameter conduit that will connect oil fields in Bakken and Three Forks, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

Costing nearly $3.8 billion, it will transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day directly beneath the Missouri River, which serves as the water source to 2.5 million people according to

“Native Americans have already given up so much and right now in the U.S., with all of the tension around immigrants and people of color, it feels like things are coming full circle back to when it was OK to openly disrespect people,” Contra Costa College HSI STEM Grant Program Manager Mayra Padilla said. “It saddens me. We are no longer the global beacon for human rights.”

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux continue to stand their ground since April as protectors of the Missouri River from what they believe is a project that will irreparably harm their way of life.

Today, hundreds of men, women and children are camped along the banks of the Missouri at Cannon Ball in the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in solidarity with the water protectors.

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was originally established as part of the Great Sioux Reservation in Article 2 of the Treaty of Fort Laramie on April 29, 1868.

The treaty defines the boundaries of the Great Sioux Reservation — and the pipeline falls inside the designated Sioux territory. 

Originally, the treaty guaranteed the Lakota ownership of the Black Hills (South Dakota) and land and hunting rights in Wyoming and Montana.

The treaty, essentially a license to steal native land, was eventually broken when the U.S. government failed to prevent gold prospectors from mining Sioux territory, eventually leading to the Black Hills War of 1876.

The Flood Control Act of 1944, which constructed dams throughout native territories, all but gutted any hope of Native American sovereignty. Dams, constructed to ease the effect of massive flooding in years prior, completely flooded the land of seven indigenous tribes in the process.

Throughout history, Native Americans have been on the receiving end of opportunistic American land grabs and in the case of the DAPL, no tribal leaders were notified of pipeline details.

“I think the people taking a stand are heroes and role models protecting the environment,” CCC sociology major Sergio Corona said. “This is genocide all over again. It’s like a sequel. The people building the pipeline are greedy.”

By July of this year, the federal government had fast-tracked plans to continue construction of the pipeline. Even though the project is slated to pass underneath the Missouri River less than one mile upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation, the final environmental assessment concluded that there will be no direct impact on nature.

Represented by Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, the Sioux filed an injunction Aug. 4 to halt the construction.

Energy Transfer then filed a countersuit against the tribe for attempting to stop the project.

In the hours prior to the Sept. 3 fight with DAPL private security, construction crews cut a two-mile long swath of land 150-feet wide through grounds the Sioux claim as sacred burial lands.

With legal options shrinking, the water protectors used the only option they had to make a definitive stand, their bodies.

Three days after the Sept. 3 K-9 attacks, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg temporarily halted pipeline construction pending a Sept. 9 ruling. At the same time in North Dakota, Gov. Jack Dalrymple called for an increase in on-site law enforcement in preparation for a ruling against the tribes.

Homeland Security Division Director Greg Wilz already removed the state government-issued water tanks that provided the protest camps with drinking water Aug. 22.

The judgment on Sept. 9 went against the Sioux attempts at halting construction, essentially giving DAPL a green light to continue.

The ruling stood, despite suggestions by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Justice that construction be stopped until tribal issues can be addressed.

Energy Transfer continued construction.

Arrests mounted for vandalism and destruction of construction property as protester numbers increased.

On Oct. 27, more than 140 protesters were beaten, shot with rubber bullets and, ultimately, taken into custody.

Although efforts continue to halt the pipeline, Energy Transfer says the project is nearly 42 percent complete.

In an interview with NowThis news published on Nov. 1, President Obama said, “I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline. I think as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans.”

In the same statement, the president offered no immediate resolution to the conflict saying, “We are going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”