Before the United States of America became the United States of America, before Europeans sailed across the Atlantic to settle the New World, America was home to hundreds of Native American tribes. Then Columbus discovered the New World, and the Native Americans were decimated. Those who survived were forced off the land that had belonged to them for thousands for years.
Fast forward to 2016. The Standing Rock Sioux, a Native American tribe located in North Dakota, are protesting the construction of a pipeline through their land. Not only would the pipeline disrupt the tribe’s sacred grounds and burial sites, it would pollute the local drinking water. The Obama administration stepped in and ordered construction to stop, but it is only temporary. In the long run, there is nothing to stop the construction from resuming and desecrating the tribe’s lands.
My question is, how far will we go in our insatiable desire for land? We’ve already taken so much from these people. We’ve forcibly taken their land, decimated their populations with warfare and disease, and forced their descendants onto reservations. To this day, poverty and alcoholism are rampant in native communities. As I said before, we already have so much of the country. Why can’t we at least leave the Standing Rock Sioux’s sacred grounds and burial sites alone? After all, these people are Americans too—the original Americans.
My hope is that the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline won’t resume, and that the Standing Rock Sioux’s lands will remain untouched. I’m not saying that the descendants of the European settlers don’t deserve to be in America, or that they should pack up and go back to Europe. But we’ve forgotten that while we think of ourselves as Americans, we’re not the true Americans. Unless you’re of indigenous descent, you’re not a Native American. Before we came, the Native Americans were here. They have just as much right to be here as we do. They’re human beings just like us, and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The least we can do is respect their land, sacred grounds, and their burial sites. And the best way to do that is to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.