The Dakota Access Pipeline: What it means, How to Help

Over the past several months, your social media feeds may have been smattered with familiar hashtags as indigineous brothers and sisters withstand oppression, water cannons and tear gas inflicted by fellow American citizens. 

This may have, at first, been passed over with the flick of a finger, but this kind of innocence is something we can no longer afford to hold. Our generation stands to become one of the most influential of all time; a magnificent shift which will take place over the next four years. With our education, influence and empathy, we’re poised to change the world, and - now more than ever - the world needs us. 

As various forms of energy-building infrastructures are starting to take shape (Keystone, and Dakota Access Pipeline, to name a few) and people are starting to take notice, there has been a resounding desire to nix the developments alltogether, ignoring our Nation’s tremendous need for fuel, and an almost oblivious talent for devouring it. In order to lesson our dependance on crude oil and coal, both of which destroy so much (an unfathomable amount, really) of our earth, air, and water, we must warm to the idea of sustainable energy, and the growing pains that will inevitably come with its acceptance. In the meantime, however, the Dakota Access pipeline is threatening the lives and lands of America’s indigineous population, and thousands of indigenous people and allies have gathered in Standing Rock, Iowa, resisting it's construction. In this article, I’d like to stand with you as a reader and concerned citizen in an effort to understand, to educate, and most importantly, help. 

Energy Transfers Partners are the developers of the DAPL, and they have met fierce resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux for the past seven months. The tribe says the pipeline, which comes quite close to their land, has the potential to burst or leak, poisoning their water supply. Additionally, construction runs through newly discovered sacred sites and burial places, and building the pipeline would infringe upon the Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal sovereignty. 

According the the DAPL website, “the Dakota Access Pipeline Project is a new approximate 1,172-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that will connect the rapidly expanding Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline will enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner.” It’s important to note that nothing is 100% safe, citing the tremendous and preventable catastrophe of the BP oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon in 2011. However, the organization also reports that the pipeline will reduce the current use of rail and truck transportation to move Bakken crude oil to major U.S. markets to support domestic demand.


Essentially, the “great news” accompanying those advocating for the DAPL are all synonyms for efficiency. More oil to more places for less money is a formula which, historically, works out wonderfully for big business, though horribly for human beings. This greed-powered cycle can also be found in the fashion industry, the health of public water systems, and our education system, to make this case closer to home. The problem? Our world is huge. Our need for energy is huge. Our desire for more is huge. Our ethics? Not as huge. But we can change that. 

Below is a letter written by Dave Archambault, II, who is the Chairman of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He expresses the urgency of standing up for our earth, our people, all people, much more than I ever could. 

Right now the Rosebud reservation, the Cheyenne River reservation, the Pine Ridge reservation and my Standing Rock reservation represent five of the 10 poorest places or counties in the United States. The 2010 Census tells us this. Our state of being is not our fault. We did not cause this. United States lawmakers and their policies caused this. Why?? Greed. And now again, even what little we have left is under attack.
Is it too much to respectfully and peaceably request that we not live in fear of being bitten by this creature of eminent harm. Isn’t living in fear and terror unacceptable in the United States?
The United States should use all its will and power to be a real great world leader. It should swear off oil production because we all know it is harmful to the planet. The United States should use all its wisdom and technology to develop alternative sources of power. It should be a great wise leader to preserve and enhance the world, not knowingly destroy the webs of life.
What I desire is that my fellow American citizens stand with us. I ask you to please call or write your Senators and Representative to stop this blindness and greed.
And, if nothing else, please, offer a prayer for my people and all the people who are standing with us in prayer. Just offer some thoughts of protection for us. We ask that you offer a prayer for sensibility and common sense in behalf of all the two legged, as this is not just a Lakota/Dakota issue, this is a human issue.
This land that is being disturbed was once ours. Our people, our Indian Nations lived and governed our people all over this territory. This land across the Cannonball River that is now threatened was forcibly taken from us and there was nothing that we could do about it then and now.
Nonetheless, we still believe that we are the keepers of this beautiful land. Although it was taken from us, we know, we must stand and speak on this land’s behalf. We want everyone and the federal government to respect this land and water and take care of it. That is why our people are standing up and standing with the land and water. We have to be here. It is instructions that the Creator has given us. We have to be here. We have to protect ourselves and those that cannot speak for themselves.
When the President of the United States came to Cannonball, I did not ask him for anything. I tried to let his wife, Michelle and him, see for themselves a little of our reality. They saw our people in our happiest times, singing and dancing, but they also heard the tough reality of life for so many of our youth.
I believe both were impacted but knowing what I know now, I wish I would have asked President Obama to help us in this struggle.
I will pass away some day, which is all part of the Creator’s plan, but I have a son and daughter. I have no doubt that they will give me grandchildren. What will we leave for our grandchildren? Poisoned water? The substance of Life! In my language, we describe water as the source of Life. We say Mni Wiconi!
My Tribe asks how can we live with ourselves if we don’t respect the rights and needs of our future generations?
Today I realize that everything happens for a reason. Although I didn’t ask the President for a dime, I see our people are peacefully speaking out in a good way now. This is hugely important to my Tribe and all of our Tribal Nations. This peaceful demonstration is a cry to stop the desecration of land and water.
I pray that the powers that be, hear our prayers because all this behavior we are exhibiting is a prayer on our part.
Thank you for listening and enjoy your families, your children, and grandchildren.
(Dave Archambault, II, Chairman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe)

How can we help? 

Donate to the official GoFundMe of Sacred Stone Camp. 

The tribe has made as Amazon wishlist for much-needed supplies over the winter months. 

Bustle, Vogue, and many other mainstream news outlets have put together precise and helpful articles to help the Sioux Tribe. This attention, by the way, is thanks to people like you - never forget that where the people go, the media will follow. Our voice has power. 

Photographs by Rebecca Bengal, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Liz Hoover, GreenPeace.

madison schill