Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Tribal Culture, Oil Access Collide in North Dakota

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Tribal Culture, Oil Access Collide in North Dakota

Article excerpt

Over Labor Day weekend, developers building the Dakota Access Pipeline demolished what activists say was an ancient burial site sacred to the Sioux. Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters, who have been protesting the construction of the pipeline daily, were driven back by security guards from the development company wielding pepper spray and attack dogs.

It was an escalation of what is now a months-long conflict between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the pipeline developer, the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline is expected to carry 470,000 barrels of oil daily from the oil fields of North Dakota to Illinois, with a potential capacity to carry 570,000 barrels daily.

While the pipeline's developers are touting it as a safer alternative to fuel imported from outside the Unites States, activists opposing the pipeline say the environmental risks associated with it are too great for it to go forward, echoing criticism of the scrapped Keystone XL pipeline. Specifically, there are fears that a Dakota Access Pipeline spill could result in catastrophic environmental damage and the contamination of local drinking water.

The pipeline already has been rerouted from its original path, which would have cut across the Missouri River, near Bismarck, North Dakota's capital. Due to concerns about a potential spill poisoning Bismarck's water supply, the pipeline was moved south of the city, closer to the Standing Rock Reservation.

Activists say that the development of the pipeline, which traverses ancestral Sioux lands, will also disturb historic and religious sites.

Tension over the pipeline has been building since April, when activists first established a camp by the construction site. Protesters have been living in tents and teepees at the camp, which is known as the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp, since then.

"I don't know of anybody who is for Dakota Access; most people are against it," Dakota Kidder told Diverse in a phone interview. "Most people have a really strong connection to this land. They grew up here, we spend our summers down in the water, we hang out, we fish. So it's really sad and disheartening to see what's going on."

Kidder is the spokesperson for the group Chante tin'sa kinanzi Po, or Standing with a Strong Heart, the group behind the Spirit Camp. …

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