Column: Government should prevent the building of DAPL

Photo Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Photo Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Andie Evans, Photo Editor

Having volunteered on a Native American reservation in Minnesota, the struggle is palpable. Islands of trash litters the streets because there are no public services to pick it up. Buildings are old, neglected, most of them left decrepit with broken windows covered by black plastic bags. The particular task I did was helping teachers as an aid for a preschool class in the morning; the class was held in the basement of an old church, a Christian church built by missionaries. In the afternoon, I would paint the outside of the church and help with repairs. Much of the damage could not be handled by 15 suburbians. I met a couple who had long suffered from alcoholism, and their door was spilling with small children, because birth control was not easily available or affordable. One of those small children spent three days of work following me as I showed her how to paint and read. A five year old didn’t know how to read. When the time came for the crew to leave, the girl regressed back to a toddler. She begged me to hold her and wouldn’t let go for several hours once I did. Tears welled in my eyes when I turned from her, having to leave her with her father and an open bottle of gin. Being exposed to reservation life has given me an out-of-school, real world education. This experience made me aware of the situation of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota and how its residents would be affected.

Since before the beginning of our country, European settlers have been encroaching on Native American land, taking advantage of their resources and culture through learning their ways of survival in the 1700’s to dream catchers tattoos in technicolor. Today, Native American territories are subjected to restricted amounts of land with low and improper resources. The U.S. government does not give proper funding to the Natives for schools, homes and health care, with up to 63 percent of Natives living below the poverty line on reservations, according to Partnerships with Native Americans. On top of this, the U.S. government is currently attempting to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would source Canada’s oil to its destination of oil refineries in Illinois. This pipeline, however, crosses sacred burial and spiritual grounds on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Building on this land would break the contract the government holds with the Sioux over their reservation land, continually failing to stick to our word as Americans by taking the parts of culture we like in Halloween costumes and sweat lodges, and leaving the rest to struggle on small plots of their original land.

Under the Castle Doctrine in several states, a resident may use force to  defend themselves in the event of an intruder. While the Sioux and supporters are protesting peacefully by sitting in front of bulldozers and camping at the construction site as residents, security has retaliated violently by using mace, dogs and water cannons on protestors in freezing temperatures, resulting in seventeen people being hospitalized on Nov. 21. Recently, over 2000 U.S. veterans have arrived at the pipeline protest to form a human shield for the protestors. The vets said they hoped to bring some peace to the protest on both sides.

Previously, the Dakota Access pipeline was planned to cross into the North Dakota town of Bismarck. Residents claimed a potential pipeline spill would threaten their water supply, so the town with a 94.78 percent Caucasian population were granted their plea, and the pipeline was re-routed to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

As for the government, they ordered arrest and a 1000 fine for each protestor if they hadn’t vacated the site by Dec. 5. Vacate to where? These Natives have been corralled like livestock to live in a miniscule plot of abused land, to which the government has limited them to. So the Native people will defend their land, like they have for centuries.

Progress was made on Dec. 4, when the US Army Corps of Engineers announced they would no longer allow the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline to be routed under the river that feeds into the Standing Rock reservation. The company who is building the pipeline intends to continue to build it by paying the fines that would be set upon them of about five thousand dollars a day. Currently, this decision to not continue building the pipeline on the reservation stands, however it may be overturned with the upcoming presidency.

The government should exhaust all of their judicial efforts to prevent the Dakota Access company from building because contracts were previously in place to refrain from impeding on reservation land. Not to mention, Native Americans were here first. This should not be a “finders-keepers, losers-weepers” situation. Christopher Columbus’ feigned discovery of the New World brought forth mass destruction of the original tenants of North America. The absolute least the American government and people can do is allow Natives to live the lives they deserve, free from assimilation, discrimination, and casino sharecropping.

Remain aware of human struggle, because there is no difference between the residents of Bismarck and the Sioux. They are voicing the same concerns about protecting their communities. In order to uphold our American dreams and morals we portray, we must be inclusive and equal. Our American underdog story should highlight our hearts with compassion, especially for those we have wronged.

To help the Standing Sioux tribe, please donate through the link at the bottom, or send supplies such as canned food and toiletries, winter coats, hats and gloves to: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Attention: Donations, PO Box D, Building #1, North Standing Rock Avenue, Fort Yates, ND 58538.–dakota-access-pipeline-donation-fund/