By Kelly Many Guns
Over 200 North American tribes and First Nations, Indigenous groups from the Amazon, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and international supporters have been descending on the Standing Rock Reservation over the past four months, in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The protesters have so far made a difference in halting construction, but supporters say they still have a ways to go in the fight against the project that threatens the tribes water supply and its sacred lands.
On September 19th, a federal appeals court officially halted construction of the $3.8 billion pipeline within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe along the Missouri River. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals says this ruling will give the court more time to rule on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an emergency injunction against construction over concerns it could destroy sacred sites and burial grounds. The emergency injunction was filed by the tribe after a lower court rejected a request for an injunction the previous Friday. This latest ruling now makes mandatory the Obama administration’s request that Dakota Access voluntarily cease construction along the same 40-mile stretch.
David Archambault, chairman for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says, he wasn’t sure if the news was accurate on what the Obama administration’s latest decision was but glad that some people in the administration and agencies have the courage to step up and answer the call.
“I think they know that public policy is something that needs to be reformed so that we can better insure the protection of indigenous people and indigenous rights.”
Since September 9th, at least 22 protesters have been arrested and at one time attack dogs were sent in by the oil company, Energy Transfer Partners, to fend off the peaceful protesters’; resulting with a number of protesters being treated medically for dog bites.
The Dakota Access Pipeline begins in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, and would carry crude oil almost 1,200 miles through South Dakota and Iowa down to Illinois. The pipeline’s original path crossed the Missouri River just north of Bismarck, a city that’s ninety percent Caucasian, but when concerns were raised about a potential oil spill, the pipeline was rerouted south to go under the river right next to the Standing Rock Reservation. The Missouri River is the Standing Rock reservation’s primary source of drinking water. The tribe says a spill there could be catastrophic for them. So, when construction started, a plea for help went out.
According to a U.S. publication, the company Energy Transfer Partners says it’s followed all the rules and it points out the pipeline isn’t even on a reservation land. It argues that moving oil via modern pipelines is a far safer way than putting it on trucks or trains, which statistics show are far more likely to crash and spill. It also says the pipeline will generate revenue and jobs for North Dakota.
Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, says that the pipelines are the most efficient, safest, and cost-effective way to move oil to market.
“The products get there virtually one hundred percent of the time without issue.”
In a recent PBS television report, it was shown that the 2.5 million miles of oil and gas pipelines across the U.S. do sometimes leak and rupture, and when they do, they often spill far more oil than a single train car carries.
Since 1995, there have been more than 2,000 significant accidents on oil and gas pipelines, causing about $3 billion in property damage. For example, in July 2010, at least 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. It was one of the largest inland oil spills in U.S. history, and the costliest. Almost 5,000 acres of wetland habitat was inundated with oil, hundreds of animals were killed, thousands more were recovered, cleaned and released; full recovery could take decades.
This past summer as First Nations Drum reported, about 65,000 gallons of oil and other toxins spilled into the North Saskatchewan River, polluting the drinking water used by the James Smith Cree Nation. The Petroleum Council says those kinds of spills near the Standing Rock Reservation are very unlikely. “This pipe is ninety-feet below the riverbed, it’s not going to leak right into the river. It’s got the detection equipment and the shutoff valves on each side of this pipeline.”
Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, Standing Rock member says she doesn’t believe the industry’s assurances. She says half-a-million gallons of oil coursing every day under their drinking water is not safe.
“When that oil spills, who’s going to come save us? We’re Indian people. We’re expendable. Who is going to come? Who is going to come and give us water?”
Many musicians and actors like, Neil Young and Susan Sarandon have voiced their support, and on September 16th, hundreds of supporters marched through downtown Seattle to show their support in protecting clean drinking water for Standing Rock.
At press time, David Archambault, went to the United Nations to ask for support against the Dakota pipeline, and told the U.N. that U.S. courts have failed to protect native peoples’ sovereign rights.
“The United States has its’ laws, and pipeline know how to comply with those laws, but just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.”
Finally, four states: Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina, were declaring states of Emergency due to major pipeline leaks
* This article references from PBS Television and MSNBC reports