Since the spring of 2016, many people have gathered near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In recent times, protests began against Wells Fargo, Citibank, and TD Bank to dissuade the banks from investing in the Dakota Access Pipeline. These protests were the most recent events in a long-standing controversy concerning the pipeline’s construction and its impact on the local area.
First announced to the public in 2014, the Dakota Access Pipeline stretches over 1000 miles, beginning in North Dakota and ending at an oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. The project has created concerns and controversy from the time it was initially proposed. One such concern was water safety, since the pipeline, which is stationed north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, could potentially contaminate the tribe’s sole water source with a large amount of oil if a spill were to occur, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident and the Refugio Oil Spill in 2015. Moreover, construction and the current path of the pipeline would encroach on the sacred lands of the Sioux. Other worries involve the Dakota Access LLC’s refusal to perform an environmental evaluation mandated by the Clean Water Act. Early protests included the ReZpect Our Water movement, which crossed the country to Washington D.C. in order to deliver a petition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers protesting the Pipeline’s construction.
Media coverage and violence quickly escalated in early September when the Standing Rock protests began at the North Dakota construction sites. As Native Americans and other protesters alike camped out at the site in protest, the site’s private security firm unleashed dogs on the people. As demonstrations progressed, police and security officers at the site were reported to be arresting protesters, such as the high-profile actress Shailene Woodley, and using tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, and rubber bullets to attack or defend from the opposition. Minor dissent also occurred in states like Iowa, where farmers resisted Dakota Access LLC’s use of eminent domain to seize their land and construct the Pipeline.
Currently, progress on the Pipeline has been halted by both Standing Rock’s impact and the denial of necessary authorization for construction at Lake Oahe. While an alternate route has been proposed by the Obama administration, it was dismissed for its potential impact on other towns that the Pipeline would run through. However, the question of whether this progress will continue to be halted is currently unknown. President-Elect Donald Trump has previously expressed support for completing the Pipeline along its original route which could prove to be a challenge for those opposed to the pipeline. Ultimately, the future of the Dakota Access Pipeline remains as uncertain as the divided opinion on whether such a project is necessary and in the nation’s best interest.
Graphics: Jessica Chang