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The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation encompasses 2.3 million acres of land in North Dakota and is home to more than 8,000 members of the Sioux tribe. For the past several months, the people of the reservation have been fighting to protect their sacred lands and precious water supply from potential destruction in the form of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Water is life,” according to the Sioux. In a land where surface water and shallow groundwater are scarce and unreliable sources of water, the Missouri River has become a vital water supply for both the people and the wildlife who have made the reservation their home.

For Rezpect Our Water, an activist group of Sioux leading the charge against Dakota Access, water is the main concern when it comes to preventing construction near the reservation. The pipeline, a $4 billion project which is planned to carry about  470,000 barrels of crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, would cross under the Missouri River less than a mile from Standing Rock. Despite the oil company’s assurances regarding the safety of the project, those opposed to the pipeline remain unconvinced. As Leonardo DiCaprio worded it in an Instagram post supporting the protest, “three million gallons of oil are spilled in the USA annually. No #DakotaAccess.”

A History of Failures

Oil pipelines have proven themselves notoriously defective in the past, and few places have witnessed the tragic results of pipeline failures as often and as dramatically as North Dakota. As recently as May of this year, a mechanical failure in a Denbury Onshore pipeline flooded nearby pastureland with over 20,000 gallons of oil. A Duke University study following the spill found the ground had been saturated with ammonium, selenium, lead, and other toxic substances that can poison land and wreak havoc on an ecosystem.

Looking farther back, in 2013, North Dakota suffered one of the worst inland oil pipeline accidents ever recorded in the U.S. Over 865,000 gallons of oil were spilled after a Tesoro Logistics pipeline ruptured, shining a spotlight on the gross lack of regulations in pipeline construction. While some form of leak detection is necessary in any pipeline, there are no minimum standards for the quality of the process – leaving the door wide open to companies willing to cut corners at the risk of “mechanical failures.”

Trampling Sacred Ground

Tension between activists and the oil company hit a boiling point when construction crew disturbed land which had been legally declared sacred by the Sioux only the day before. On Saturday, September 3rd, the two sides clashed in a protest which quickly turned violent. According to the Morton County Sheriff’s office, four guards and two security dogs were injured, while a tribe spokesman reported that six protesters had been bitten by the dogs and at least 30 others were subjected to pepper spray.

The actions of the company and the construction crew made one thing blatantly clear: the pipeline is a threat not only to the ecology of the reservation but also to the culture of the people living on it. As tribe chairman David Archambault II wrote after the incident, “they ransacked the ground, clearing topsoil across a two-mile stretch. Our sacred sites were ravaged and ruined by an oil company focused solely on profit … Our people are heartbroken. Our history is destroyed. That ground is now hollow.”

How to Help

Courts denied the injunction filed in July on behalf of the Sioux against the Army Corps of Engineers, the organization that approved construction of the pipeline. Though this first battle has been lost, however, the war is far from over. According to Jan Hasselman, the attorney who filed the lawsuit (along with the help of environmental group Earthjustice), the ruling will be challenged. “We will have to pursue our options with an appeal and hope that construction isn’t completed while that (appeal) process is going forward,” he told the press. “We will continue to pursue vindication of the tribe’s lawful rights even if the pipeline is complete.”

To help fight the good fight, be sure to sign the Rezpect Our Water petition protesting the construction of the pipeline. The more people speak out against this project, the better our chances are of stopping it! Then, be sure to share the story of the Standing Rock protests (and the petition link!) with as many people as you can reach. Media coverage of this important issue has been shockingly meager, but word of mouth can be just as effective if we all pitch in to bring this situation into the spotlight.

Lead image source: ReZpect Our Water/Facebook

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7 comments on “Native American Lands are Threatened With Destruction by Oil Interests – How You Can Help”

Click to add comment
1 Years Ago

PETA needs to know about things likethis! The Humane society needs to step in anr remove these starving animals NOW! The ones fencing in these animals should be held accountable to law enforcement for their actions!

Muriel Servaege
1 Years Ago

First of all, I\'d free the buffalo before they\'re dead. What they do is utterly shameful, revolting. They should be inflicted what they inflict on buffalo. There are too many people on earth. Good riddance is what I\'d say. And I mean it.

Tammy Brown
2 Years Ago


Brenda Erven
2 Years Ago


Patricia Milligan
2 Years Ago

Greed? They are serving consumer demand. Stop with the lifestyles you are living. Give up airplane travel, give up any synthetic materials or fibers including those really cool fabrics for hiking and workouts,give up on mass produced food. I mean who cares if a few million people starve?give up your desire for electricity 24/7. Let's all go back to using non-disposable medical supplies. Etc etc. convince the rest of the world that this is a better way to live . And there is no government conspiracy to blame. You can blame the laws of physics and chemistry and your own desire to live with certain expectations. Like the computer or cell phone you are using to access this page. Time to get educated about the issues so that these problems are understood on the physical level as well Astor societal implications and cost vs benefit.

Jeffrey Stephens
14 Sep 2016

There are alternatives to all of that. We can make 100% renewable energy, no problem. We can make bio plastics for medical devices, no problem. Even if there weren't alternatives to literally everything you just listed, is it absolutely imperative to run this pipe through sacred burial grounds, and through people's water supply? No, it fucking isn't. It's just cheaper than using a different route. The only reason this pipe is being built the way it is, is greed and zero integrity. Oil companies don't give a shit about your way of life. They only care about money. No one has to give up anything, we just need to THINK about the cost of products rather than the profits. Your asinine denialism IS the entire problem.

Stephanie Winslow Seed
2 Years Ago

Please sign the petition. Thank you! https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline?recruiter=1756038&utm_source=petitions_show_components_action_panel_wrapper&utm_medium=copylink

Bah Humbug
2 Years Ago

I think the link to the petition is broken, nothing happens.

Patrick Schramm
2 Years Ago

More greed for money , money money Humans are heading towards there own extincion its gonna take a while but that will happen .....oh well


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