Protesters keep up the pressure to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline

Rebeca Partida Montes, Staff Writer

On April 1, 2016, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux historian, allowed the first of the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to set up camp tepees on her private and sacred land which she used as burial ground for her late son who had passed away.  Sacred Stone would grow to an unprecedented population over the next eight months, with thousands of Native Americans and those in solidarity coming together to halt and ultimately defeat the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

After a few months since signs of the first protestors gave sign of resistance in North Dakota, and

with harsh winter conditions in full effect, Native Americans have shown little to no signs of giving up any time soon. Tribe members have swarmed the building sites, vandalizing construction equipment, attaching themselves to bulldozers, and facing law enforcement hoping to have their voices heard and acknowledged in the building of the pipeline.

The proposed building plans have the pipeline running under the Missouri River, a primary water source to many of the tribe members in that area. While initial plans of the Dakota Access Pipeline had it running northeast of Bismark, ND, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the plan after an environmental assessment. Native Americans along with supporters questioned the intentions of this decision because of the proximity the initial pipeline had to a predominantly white neighborhood.

Now the scheduled pipeline route travels parallel to the original, only this time cutting directly through Sioux Territory and half a mile away from Standing Rock Reservation. The fear of leaks and ruptures have stirred feelings of anger, fear, and oppression within the tribe community, who are arguing that water is their first medicine and that water is life. Building contractors have stated that the pipeline will be secure, though the Natives argue that thousands have been killed, injured, and displaced by hazardous leaks, ruptures, and explosions with the existence of other pipelines.

The safety of the tribe members is not the only thing they are protesting. The pipeline would disturb sacred burial grounds which would interrupt hundreds of years of culture and spirituality. Native Americans have grown tired of being invisibilized. With protests flooding mainstream media, it has given the rest of the country a wake-up call of how the roots of this country are being treated and ripped apart from what little belongs to them.

In recent weeks, people have traveled from across the country to help the tribe in numbers when facing law enforcement and harsh laws trying to restrict them from crossing into their own land. The protests have grasped the attention of celebrities as well, who tribe members are not turning away for they are thankful of their optimism and the attention that follows them.

Many have described this as a fight that is barely beginning and have proved that even the harshest winter conditions will not make them back down. Although the pipeline is 87% complete, protesters continue to stand tall through the midwest snow in hopes of deteriorating the remaining plans of the pipeline. Sioux tribe members have described it as a historical and cultural offense, with little to no care for the lifestyles they have spent years on creating for tribe members.

Their roots are being ripped right out of the ground, and for many, it has hit an emotional low-point due to the historical reminders of what first happened to natives when settlers came to America, destroying homes, killing thousands, and acting viciously and violently against those who opposed their presence.

December has brought new-found hope for the defenders of the sacred land; ‘Veterans Stand for Standing Rock’ was an event organized through Facebook which successfully brought together over 2,000 U.S. Veteran volunteers to stand at the front-line of protests, placing themselves between police in riot gear and protesters. Aside from having the physical support of the military, the month has held partial victories after the Army Corps of Engineers rejected a permit needed to continue construction of the pipeline through the Sioux reservation.

With the permit being rejected, the pipeline now needs to be re-routed. But the fight is not over. Native Americans continue to stay put on the midwestern lands because there is a chance it could be turned over and once again have the pipeline reroute through another part of their land.

In a recent article published by CNN, Dallas Goldtooth, a lead organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said “We are asking our supporters to keep up the pressure, because while President Obama has granted us a victory today, that victory isn’t guaranteed in the next administration.”

Protesters have recognized that the fight is not over, and Goldtooth encourages people to “keep up the pressure” until the pipeline is completely done.