The Fight for Environmental Justice

The Dakota Access pipeline is designed to carry almost 20 million gallons of oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois everyday. The project has been met by thousands of protestors, or land protectors as they call themselves. The “protectors” are Native American people who oppose the construction plans, on the grounds that the pipeline “crosses areas of great historical and cultural significance.”

In July, two days after the pipeline was approved, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit attempting against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In the lawsuit, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe explains that “since time immemorial,[our] ancestors lived on the landscape to be crossed by the DAPL…the potential damage or destruction of which greatly injures the Tribe and its members. The pipeline also crosses waters of utmost cultural, spiritual, ecological, and economic significance to the Tribe and its members.”

The Standing Rock Sioux are not alone in this fight. Intense protests by the tribe and its allies have been going on for more than six months. Camps have been set up all around the North Dakota area welcoming new members of more than a dozen native American tribes. Environmental groups such as The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club have both expressed their disdain for the DAPL, and their support for the Native Americans fighting for the cause. 

Former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has joined the protest in Washington D.C where he spoke earlier this month saying,“If there is one profound lesson that the Native American people have taught us, it is that all of us as human beings are part of nature.” As he stood in front of a crowd at the White House, Sanders went on to add, “Our species will not survive if we continue to destroy nature, so today we stand united in saying, ‘Stop the pipeline, respect Native American rights, and let us move forward to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels.’”

Although they are amassing thousands of people in support, this is no easy fight for the Native Americans. Over the course of these protests, DAPL protesters have been arrested, gassed, and even attacked by guard dogs.

As of September 19th a federal appeals court has officially halted construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access 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.