The Dakota Pipeline: a case of environmental racism

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As Thanksgiving comes around each year, most Americans spend time with family and friends spreading the holiday spirit, myself included.

It seems to be the season when “giving back”, and “coming together” are much more professed. Even after this divisive election, the sentiment still returned.

But was this really the case this year? As most of us sat around the dining table, thousands of Native Americans sat in protest of an oil pipeline planned to run through their sacred burial grounds and possibly contaminate their main water source. The construction of this pipeline has serious ramifications for the whole country, and our future. It is imperative that this issue is discussed and its implications understood.

The Dakota Access Pipeline represents an intersection of several contentious issues: the rights of Native Americans are being abused, the destiny of the oil industry, and America’s role in fighting climate change.

Over the past weekend, the governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple, ordered the immediate evacuation of the activists in the main encampment, and the Army Corps also ordered them off the land. They both assured that “forcible removal” would not occur. However, that wasn’t the case nor has it been the case.

Protesters have faced water cannons in freezing temperatures, dog attacks, concussion grenades, and even reports of aerial “crop-dusting” over camps. Agents of the UN have voiced humanitarian concern over this issue, and nothing is being done.

The notion of environmental racism is already being demonstrated in North Dakota; underrepresented, poor minorities are having their land exploited. Take a second to guess where the rest of the 1100-mile pipeline is planned to be placed and consider those implications. Native Americans are on the front lines against this assault, and they have shown no intentions of giving up. We’ve taken almost everything these people have left; yet, they are still, intentionally or not, protecting the future of the United States. Isn’t that ironic? 

This is not an issue that warrants sensationalism and social media glorification, but an issue that requires legitimate attention. How do you passively watch while Native Americans have their land, once again, seized and exploited by our government? It seems like this is counter-intuitive to the democratic principles we profess everywhere else in the world.

Take a second to look past the partisan politics, and see the Dakota Access Pipeline for what it is. Human rights are being denied, the environment is being destroyed, and corporate interests are overshadowing the voice of the people.