The Great Souix Nation initiated a protest over the construction of a pipeline in North Dakota last January.
Since then, the pipeline protest has grown significantly and coverage has continuously increased in recent months, yet many people are unaware of what is truly occurring in North Dakota. The majority of the coverage for the protest has been about the arrests made at the pipeline, primarily the arrests of well-known names, but few understand the purpose of the protest and why exactly the pipeline is being protested.
First of all, the protest is way larger than it has previously been depicted. It began with the tribe's resistance, but the protest has since grown by thousands. The main issue with the pipeline is that it could potentially contaminate the Great Sioux Nation's main water source: the Missouri River. Another issue is that the pipeline would cut directly through the tribe's burial grounds, as well as other sacred areas. In September, the Obama administration halted construction on the pipeline. This was a major win for the protestors, but it wasn't enough. The protestors are calling for an end of the pipeline's construction through their land altogether. The protest has been recognized by well-known names such as Bernie Sanders, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and even Edward Snowden.
An issue arose at the protest when a group of protestors approached security officers and were met with dogs and pepper-spray, which is an obvious use of excessive force as the protest has been primarily peaceful. These protestors are unarmed and non-violent, so why are they being treated as if they are a physical threat? Many protestors were arrested under trespass charges. Amy Goodman, of Democracy Now, was one of those arrested and almost faced charges for "inciting riot." Deia Schlosberg, highly acclaimed documentary filmmaker, was arrested as well and is currently facing three felony charges including conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services, and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service. She, herself, didn't physically do anything to halt the construction, but she recorded an activist as they shut down a TransCanada oil sands pipeline. If she is found guilty, she may face up to 45 years in prison.
The protest has received much more attention after the arrest of well-known actress Shailene Woodley. Woodley had been raising money for the protest by selling T-shirts online that say "Standing with Standing Rock." She traveled out to North Dakota to join the protestors in their fight against the pipeline. Woodley has since pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. Jill Stein, a presidential candidate, was wanted by the police for vandalizing construction equipment at the protest. The Morton County Sheriff's Department released a statement saying "They [Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka] are charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief, both class B misdemeanors. Video displays Stein and Baraka spray painting construction equipment on private property." This is not the first time this has occurred for Jill Stein. In 2012, Stein was arrested for trespassing while trying to deliver supplies to the Keystone XL pipeline protestors. The photo below shows Stein just before she started spray-painting the bulldozers.
Celebrity endorsements have helped to increase the coverage of the protest, but there is still a need for more information. The point being that this protest is huge and is not getting the coverage it needs/deserves. On top of all of this, the tribe claims that they were never informed or consulted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before they agreed to allow the pipeline's construction. They were completely disregarded in this process and this is highly disrespectful.
Let's put this into perspective. Let's say, hypothetically, the government decided that they wanted to build a pipeline straight through Arlington National Cemetery. Wouldn't that seem just a tiny bit disrespectful? Don't you think people would be lining up to complain and shut down construction? Say the government decided they were going to put a pipeline in your city or town that they knew could potentially contaminate the main water source in your area; wouldn't you be at least a little bit annoyed at the notion of unclean drinking water? This is how it is for this tribe currently and the government's hand in an entire tribe's water supply, which is clearly necessary for survival, should outrage the majority of this population. It's simple: This group's livelihood and survival should not be disregarded by the government.
Where is the conversation on this topic? There are plenty of news stories on the internet about the issue in North Dakota, yet so many people are unaware of what's occurring. It's time to start talking. It's time to get angry. It's time to care about fellow Americans and more importantly, it is time to care about the wellbeing of all humans. We love to preach that "all lives matter," but why does it seem like some matter more than others? Get mad, America. Stand with Standing Rock.
UPDATE: Since this article was written, someone at the protest set fire to $2 million dollars with of construction equipment. This is the second time fire has been used to stop construction at the protest and this article is not in support of these actions. This is supporting only acts of civil disobedience and peaceful protest.