Since August, thousands of supporters from over two hundred Native American tribes in North Dakota have been protesting the construction of a pipeline that will transport oil from Sioux County, North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. Many Native Americans say that the pipeline, which will transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day, will disturb sacred land and burial grounds, and many others, including some that are not Natives, say that the pipeline runs the risk of contaminating their drinking water.
Although the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is said to potentially create twelve thousand jobs, the construction will disturb burial grounds and sacred land to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of Sioux County, North Dakota. The tribes around the location where the pipeline is said to be constructed were not properly consulted before the project was approved. Doug Hayes, an attorney at the Sierra Club who has been involved in many cases centered around pipeline construction, says that The National Environmental Policy Act requires pipelines to be approved, which did not happen in North Dakota or many other pipelines. Also, many others say that it is easier for industries to build pipelines without significant opposition in places with lower incomes since they do not have a way to fight back.
In addition to affecting sacred grounds, the pipeline can potentially contaminate the tribe’s drinking water. The new source of oil for Patoka, Illinois will run underneath the Missouri River, which is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water source. Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company developing the pipeline, said that the protesters’ water safety concerns are unfounded in a letter sent to his employees and the media on Sept. 13. If oil spills into the tribe’s water, there is a chance to not only contaminate their only drinking water source but also to hospitalize many people if they drink it without knowing of any issues.
Although not all of the thousands of natives and non-natives have made an unanimous agreement on what tactics and strategy they will use, they have made an agreement to stand together for as long as needed in order to have an outcome in their favor.