Men and women of #noDAPL gather water, food and their children to begin a day of peaceful protests. Meanwhile, police officers from Cannon Ball, North Dakota gather their batons, rifles, helmets and shields to protect themselves from men, women and children. The protestors are unarmed. The officers are in riot gear. This is the incongruent reality of the peaceful protests happening against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
It isn’t right.
The Resistance Is Peaceful
I support the resistance because it is peaceful. Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency, which may lead you to believe these are violent riots. They are not. The protestors only gather to walk and pray. One protestor even stated the plan for the day was “to ask for permission to go through the line [of officers] so we can all go and pray.”
Violent protestors don’t ask for permission. Riots don’t culminate in prayer.
In addition to peaceful protests at the site of construction, the Standing Rock Sioux have also pursued their case in court. The tribe has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Furthermore, Chairman of Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II, went before the United Nations to file an intervention. He also invited Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to visit the protest camp.
It’s clear that the Standing Rock Sioux are following a course of peaceful, law-abiding resistance that deserves our support.
The Resistance Defends the Environment
I also support the resistance because the pipeline is dangerous for the environment. In addition to transporting more than 570,000 barrels of crude oil, it stands to carry 245,100 metric tons of carbon daily.
If the pipe leaks, that’s enough carbon to cause the entire planet to burst into flame and be reduced to ashes.
The pipeline could also contaminate the water supply as it spans over 200 water crossings, including the Missouri river — of the most polluted rivers in the United States. But the pipeline doesn’t just threaten the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux. It also endangers the drinking water of millions of Americans as well as the water purity for thousands of acres of farming and ranching lands.
Based on data from 2001 to 2011, the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) suggests pipelines have a 57% chance of experiencing a major leak. Concern for the probability of contaminated water is not unwarranted. Major leaks aren’t uncommon. In fact, it’s more common to have an issue than have everything perform perfectly.
What makes the probability of a leak in the case of DAPL even higher is the average pipeline has a 57% chance of failure even when it undergoes rigorous review prior to construction, and the Dakota Access Pipeline hasn’t been reviewed even once — not by the Clean Water Act nor the National Environmental Policy Act. Instead, it has been treated as a series of small construction sites, not warranting such in-depth review.
It stands to reason, then, that the risk of a major leak could be even higher for the DAPL due to potential defects that should have been caught during review.
Furthermore, even if the DAPL underwent a rigorous review, danger would still exist because there is a shockingly small number of pipeline inspectors. There are 150 to be exact — for the entire nation. There is little reason to believe that inspections could occur often enough to detect issues before they turned into a major leak.
In light of these concerns, it would be careless for the Standing Rock Sioux not to protest the construction of this dangerous pipeline.
The Resistance Defends the Rights of a Sovereign Nation
Aside from the peaceful nature of the protests and the environmentally-sound stance of the Standing Rock Sioux, I support the resistance because their rights are being violated. The Standing Rock Sioux is a sovereign nation, meaning it is to be treated government-to-government, as equals, by the United States.
We wouldn’t go to Canada and demand they allow us to put a pipeline in their land and then have the audacity to call their protests unlawful and dangerous. So why do we do that to the Sioux Nation? We don’t honor their rights as a sovereign nation.
The truth is it’s their land. If they say no to the pipeline, that is enough. End of story. The Standing Rock has ample reason not to trust the U.S. government or Enbridge: This is the third time land and resources have been taken from the Sioux Nation, even though there are signed treaties in place — dating back to 1851 — that are supposed to protect the tribe from just that.
The bottom line is it doesn’t matter why the Standing Rock rejects the construction of the DAPL. If they said no to the pipeline because they didn’t think it would be pretty, I would still support the resistance. It’s not about whether or not we agree with their reasons. It’s about whether or not we honor their right to decide what happens to their land.
It’s their land. They said no. That’s all we need to know.