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Why I Stand with Standing Rock

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Alli Woodard ’18

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Coyocihautl Carbone, of Boulder, does a traditional blessing of the people during a rally on Tuesday in Boulder, Colo. to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, who are protesting a four-state oil pipeline. For more photos of the rally go to www.dailycamera.com Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer/ Sept. 13, 2016

DC

Coyocihautl Carbone, of Boulder, does a traditional blessing of the people during a rally on Tuesday in Boulder, Colo. to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, who are protesting a four-state oil pipeline. For more photos of the rally go to www.dailycamera.com Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer/ Sept. 13, 2016

It is one of the unfortunate truths that the United States was built on the backbone of Native American genocide. This notion is not easy to swallow, but it is necessary to understand. While these days of outright mass murder and forced pilgrimage may be over, the tensions between Native American nations and the rest of the United States are still rising. This has become extremely relevant within the past few months, with the threat of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline commissioned by Energy Transfer Partners, a company based in Texas. This pipeline, spanning through four states, would begin in North Dakota in part of sacred burial grounds in Standing Rock Reservation, belonging to the Sioux Nation. Consequently, the Sioux Nation and others have banded together to protest the pipeline, but their message has not been well received. The past few months have proven to be a crucible of conflicting interests, with more than 100 protesters arrested just two weeks ago.

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This is not just a battle between big oil corporations, the police and the Native people, but it is a battle of how we as Americans respond and value sacred ground. We wouldn’t build a pipeline through Arlington National Cemetery, and we wouldn’t build it under the Lincoln Memorial. Then how could we condone building a pipeline through burial grounds given to the Sioux people through a nineteenth century treaty?

There is another variable in this pipeline, and it’s the access to water. According to a WhiteHouse.gov petition, the proposed pipeline can transport about 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day. With so much crude oil, a single leak could contaminate the only source of drinking water for the entire reservation. Energy Transfer Partners has claimed that a leak is highly unlikely, yet another pipeline also in North Dakota was discovered to have spilled over 500 barrels of oil back in July. Imagine if the same thing happened with the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their drinking water would be completely demolished.  

Just last year, the stories from Flint, Michigan and their leaded pipes broke down partisan barriers and hit us all in the gut. We saw how the government could deceive it’s people, and refuse to fix problems that were threatening the physical and mental safety their citizens–– these citizens of mostly color and/or poverty. This demographic is not that dissimilar from the Standing Rock Sioux, and the Dakota Access Pipeline once again exemplifies how we value corporations and money over the lives of marginalized communities–– not to mention, the environment.

Hundreds have been arrested for nonviolent protests, including actress Shailene Woodley. Many of the arrests have been due to refusing to leave private property. While this may seem arbitrary, there are many, many people who do support the pipeline, and have taken their own stance on the issue, believing that these protestors are disrespecting law enforcement. But if you’re only drinking water and your sacred grounds were being threatened, wouldn’t you stand up for your rights?

This may not be genocide, but it is an abuse of entire groups of people for corporate gain and greed. Is this kind of America we want?

1 Comment

One Response to “Why I Stand with Standing Rock”

  1. Lisa Hall on November 11th, 2016 4:46 pm

    Thank you Alli. I am happy that you address an issue others are willing to brush aside.

    [Reply]

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