On Sept. 3, the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they protested against the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction. If completed, the pipeline would carry about 500,000 barrels of crude per day from North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield to Illinois. The project has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of nearly 100 more tribes from across the U.S. and Canada due to environmental concerns.
If built as planned, the Dakota Access Pipeline will go through the headwaters of the Missouri River, a life-giving source of fresh water for millions of people who live downstream, including Native Americans. It’s supposed to pass under that river just a few miles from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Protesters point out that, eventually, the pipeline is likely to leak into that vital watershed and the contamination could prove to be catastrophic. The Army Corps of Engineers, which authorized the project’s design, and Energy Transfer Partners have continued to insist that there is no such risk. However, they still decided to change the pipeline’s route to avoid the water supply of North Dakota’s capital, Bismark. Throughout this entire decision making process tribal leaders were ignored rather than consulted in the planning stages, even though the project was to pass directly through their lands.
Like much of the country, tribal members are also divided over the pipeline. In South Dakota, the battle pits those who fear irreversible effects on the environment and public safety against those who trumpet the economic payoff and a chance to cash in on a kind of big development project that rarely comes along.
Those concerned about public safety feel that the 600 workers that would be housed along the pipeline are a threat to safety, specifically Native women being sexually assaulted. On the other hand, some view the pipeline as an economic opportunity.
The protest on Sept. 3, however, was sparked because bulldozers had destroyed burial grounds and cultural sites on private land in southern North Dakota. Protestors were maced and attacked by dogs after acting hostile to the Army Corps of Engineers officers.
Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II said in a statement that construction crews removed topsoil across an area about 150 feet wide stretching for two miles. “This demolition is devastating,” Archambault said. “These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”
The repercussions of the Keystone pipeline include political and social issues. From Obama’s veto deciding America’s approach to climate change and energy sources to the pipeline unearthing conflict with Native Americans.