Standing Rock’s Rocky Road

Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline hits another bump in the road following an act of vandalism it experienced earlier this week. According to Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Brown, a hole had been cut out of an exposed section of the piping by what would appear to be a blow torch, but as of now, it can’t be confirmed.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company in charge of the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction has come forth, pegging this a serious offense on the basis of safety concerns and potential environmental damage; as it stands no suspects have been identified. However, while accusations have yet to be thrown on this issue, the public’s focus in the search for responsibility has been somewhat narrowed due to the pipeline’s tumultuous history.

Since its conception, the Dakota Access Pipeline brought with it a few major issues that have not gone by unnoticed. For one, it represents a huge environmental concern. The pipeline is expected to run almost 1,900 kilometers transferring well over 450,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Starting in North Dakota and ending in Illinois, its construction will be a huge undertaking, impacting the environment it stands on as it weaves its way through the United State’s Midwest. The project prides itself on its efficiency, but renders a good portion of rural America vulnerable to any technical mishaps.

While the pipeline is imposing this environmental threat, the arguably bigger issue here deals with the rights of certain Aboriginal groups in the area. The construction has garnered mass protest from the Standing Rock Sioux and those in solidarity on the basis that the pipeline will damage sacred burial sites. According to Native Americans in the area, the United States government never once consulted them about the pipeline, which will run through land that was illegally taken from them in 1868.

Following the news release, groups, such as activist group on the forefront of pipeline protest, Climate Direct Action, have denied any involvement with the recent act of vandalism. Likewise, according to an article from the Canadian Press, both the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes have denied responsibility and condemned the act of violence.

However, this small act speaks to the broader issue here; the construction of a very polarizing pipeline has been carrying on full-steam ahead with little regard for those most affected in the area. If you can recall, last year users of Facebook made a big social statement when millions of people signed in and changed their location to Standing Rock, North Dakota. The message it sent was important, connecting those around the world and showing their solidarity with the women and men protesting this pipeline, but clearly more needs to be done. It was positive and inspiring, but lacked the tangibility the protesting needed.

Let me make it clear, in no way is vandalism or violence the answer to this issue, for it has been experienced first hand the kind of social impact the public can have when it stands behind a cause. That being said, as we are now almost three months into 2017 and witnessing before our very own eyes subtle signs President Trump does not plan on slowing down, Standing Rock might need another public push.

Wyatt Lang