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The Paw Print

Jefferson High School, Daly City, California

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December 11, 2017

Sacred Land or Sacred Oil? Dakota Access Pipeline stirs controversy


The Standing Sioux Tribe, along with many supporters, has begun protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, arguing that it will destroy sacred Native American sites, among other things.

Approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the pipeline will run through four states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.  The $3.7 billion dollar project was created in hopes that the United States could tap into the estimated 7.4 billion barrels of oil hidden in the ground below, but this entire plan has been challenged by a recent lawsuit.  An emergency motion, as part of the original July suit, was submitted by the Sioux who claimed and provided evidence that the developers in charge of the pipeline had or plan to destroy several historically sacred sites, like graves of the tribe’s past members, less than 24 hours after the tribe filed.

This is simply one item on the list of troubles the Sioux have expressed.  They, like many others, are also concerned about the pipeline potentially contaminating the land and water.  On the internet, a petition is circulating for support in the opposition of the pipeline on grounds of environmental concern, as well as the hashtag #nodapl.  In addition, their lawsuit claims that the Army Corps failed to follow legal procedures when they approved the project.

Recently, a judge ordered that construction on part of the land designated for the pipeline will be halted.

However, the issue is not yet solved.  For the pipeline’s opponents, the judge’s order failed to include the areas they were most concerned about.  Many have joined in protest at a construction site in North Dakota, with posters and banners reading “Defend the Sacred.”  In fact, Jill Stein, the Green Party’s 2016 presidential candidate, is now facing charges after having been seen and filmed allegedly vandalizing construction equipment.  Even celebrity actress Shailene Woodley joined the protests demanding for the ending of the pipeline’s construction.    

Yet, while the protests began peacefully, the tension was undeniable when violence erupted.  According to various reports, several protesters threatened officers while officers were seen simultaneously using pepper spray, tear gas, and even police dogs to attack protesters.  

But the Dakota Access Pipeline serves an economic purpose for our nation.  As the years have passed, America has grown increasingly dependent on foreign oil and the construction of this pipeline, as many of its supporters say, would alleviate that dependency.  Not only that, the pipeline would bring in millions of dollars in taxes as well to both state and local governments.

Bryan Lee, a senior at Jefferson High School, argues, “This whole case highlights America’s capitalistic greed and our ruthlessness in trying to get those extra dollars. America has put oil as a top level priority.  We’ve even gone to war for oil, so it’s no surprise that America wouldn’t hesitate to destroy cultural lands in the name of oil.”

The Bay Area itself is no stranger to the danger of these pipelines, but developers have promised the public that it would “be among the safest, most technologically advanced pipelines in the world.”  

As for the allegations of desecrating sacred grounds?  Advocates for the pipeline argue that the Sioux’s claims are unfounded and false, stating that the pipeline does not interfere or cross into any of the lands the tribe has deemed as historical, cultural, and religious sites.

But as for now?  Neither opposing side has reached victory.  The judge presiding over the Sioux’s injunction has yet to reach a decision, and though the online petition may have over 200 thousand signatures, Lee himself is doubtful.

“In all honestly, I don’t feel that the movement has enough power to stop the construction. They are headed against a corporation that has the money and political influence to get their way. At the end of the day, this society values money above many other things and that pipeline will be built to make money[…]I feel like this case is a rerun of the 18th century when Native Americans were being kicked out of their own homeland by the Americans.”

As of September 9, Obama’s administration has placed the construction on hold within the vicinity of Lake Oahe, but a permanent resolution has yet to be found.

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