Standing With Standing Rock

     What is the problem with the Dakota Access Pipeline? Why is everyone protesting this? Why is Shailene Woodley getting arrested: Is this a part of her secret life as an American teenager? Here is what you need to know. First, this is an oil pipeline that stretches from North Dakota into South Dakota, snaking its way through Iowa and finally ending up in Illinois. The controversy arises in North Dakota at Standing Rock Reservation, the home of the Sioux tribe, because this pipeline borders the tribe’s water reserves, which means if there was a spill they would have no clean water. The protests are not just due to environmental concerns, but are also about how the Sioux view the land as being sacred. Let me try to put this into a perspective that you, the reader, might be able to relate to. Imagine this: one day you get up to go visit your grandmother’s grave, which is also located at your home church, and as you approach, you are told that you are trespassing on government land. Think of the outrage you would have if that was your reality. Well, for many, this fictitious reality is all too real.  There has been an immense number of protests due to the United States not holding up their agreement of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. This treaty states that all land covered by the treaty is considered Native American land and is not to be touched. Due to this treaty being breached, there have been protests that started out peaceful but have since led to violent confrontations between police and protesters, an all too-common problem these days. After resorting to beatings and the use of pepper spray, the police arrested 142 people, including Shailene Woodley, on charges of trespassing.

     The $3.7 billion pipeline allows Americans to get closer to the goal of being independent from foreign crude oil, which is very appealing to many. However, this drives the biggest question of the day: What is the cost? Can we as a country put a price on potentially destroying a whole people group’s water supply, building on their holy lands to make this happen? It is a hard call on many fronts, but I think it’s important for us to remember that this is a people group that has been mistreated since America’s founding. Native Americans are living in a country filled with people who only value Native American spiritual practices when it doesn’t interfere with them making money. Further, Native Americans constitute a people group that had been told they could no longer live in a particular place and were forcefully relocated to a land that was not their home and far less hospitable to their way of life. They learned to tolerate living conditions that your average middle-class American would consider appalling and not fit for humans.

     A lot of people are saying things like, “The Sioux just want more money so that they can build more casinos.” There may be some truth to that; I don’t know. But maybe they are tired of being stepped on continuously by people who have decided to move into their home and tell them what they can and cannot do and what they must allow to be done to them despite their religious convictions? Maybe they just want to protect their sacred land and tribal burial grounds from commercialization or possible environmental harm? In a statement to the press, Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said, “We need our state and federal governments to bring justice and peace to our lands, not the force of armored vehicles.” This is a complex issue, and when tensions are high, people tend to act irrationally and view things through a lens of fear and not a lens of rationality. But I, for one, am standing with Standing Rock. Will you join me?

     Source: The New York Times

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