Monthly Diversity Article: Dakota Access Pipeline

In mid 18th century, this “Dakota Access Pipeline” region began as part of the sacred land for Indian reservation, known as the Great Sioux Reservation. Between President Trump and the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partner, the government and police force, Sioux tribes and protestors, this land has become an intense battlefield as conflicting views on issues of social equity, eminent domain and environmental concerns arise.

In September, 2016, the Obama administration temporarily blocked construction on the project for “examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.” On November 2nd of 2016, former President Barack Obama proposed that “we’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.” On day two of President Donald Trump’s term, he signed the executive order to advance the construction process of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline.

This roughly $4 billion project is predicted to transport 570,000 barrels per day. An estimate of 28,000 (temporary) construction jobs and availability of cheap oil is predicted by President Trump. This 1,200-mile-long underground oil transportation traverses across sacred burial ground and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s primary source of drinking water. Even after the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administrations reported 3,300 leaks since 2010, this is ignored and the hazardous Dakota Access Pipeline project proceeds.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II argues, “President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process… Americans know this pipeline was unfairly rerouted towards our nation and without our consent. The existing pipeline route risks infringing on our treaty rights, contaminating our water and the water of 17 million Americans downstream.”

While former President Barack Obama’s interests were aiming for what’s morally best for both the Native and non-Native Americans, President Trump’s interests are aimed for what’s best for “us Americans” (excluding the first, Native Americans). For the oil industry, this project indicates more freedom to expand groundwork and ease transportation blockages. Environmentalists have responded with concern about climate change, damage to waters, and land and Native-American cultural sites. Many Sioux tribes have responded with saying that the pipeline threatens the tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, as well as damaging and destroying sites of great historic, religious and cultural significance.