Over the weekend I had the opportunity to travel to San Antonio, Texas with my super-awesome crew of intelligent, passionate public speakers (JMU speech team- we’re kind of big deal…) Amidst our flights and pre-tournament shenanigans, I had quite a bit of time to read up on some pressing stories in the news, most notably the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests. For a detailed timeline of events regarding this story, I encourage you to check out this link. To sum up, the project entails the construction of a massive oil pipeline that would haul over 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois. While this was certainly enough for environmentalists to perk up their ears, the real issue lies within the fact that this pipeline would run directly through Native American reservations in North Dakota. Note that the proposed construction of this pipeline comes less than a year after President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline (thanks, Obama!). Last week, however, victory was awarded to protestors from across the nation in their effort to halt construction of this project. As the momentum of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s protest continues to grow, it is critical that we, as intersectional feminists, go below the surface of this issue.
Environment and Indigenous Rights
The Dakota Access Pipeline poses a lot of serious issues concerning the infringement of tribal property. For those of you who skipped that one gov. class in high school where we actually talked about the structure of Native American reservations, go ahead and brush up with this article. Essentially, the US government is supposed to consult with Native Americans about a project of this caliber. Surprise! They def didn’t. Instead, like we’ve consistently seen in the past, (i.e. uranium excavation, the fracking boom, and other environmentally shady projects) the Feds have failed to make good on their agreement of preserving sacred indigenous sites. As I write this, I too am internally screaming: “Why does the national government continue to allow projects like these to thrive???” Unfortunately the answer comes down to one thing: money. Simply put, it’s easier for the government to construct these projects in low-income areas where little to no opposition is expected.
Environment and Gendered and Sexual Violence
Unfortunately, the connection between resource extraction and sexual violence predates all current environmental issues facing this population. Since the colonization of indigenous lands, sexual assault and violence have often gone hand in hand with government efforts to conquer available resources. As rates of sexual trafficking, violence, rape, and murder continue to increase, federal and state policing of these crimes has remained at an unresponsive low.
Environment and Global Protesting
While the work is certainly not over, this is perhaps the first time that we’ve ever seen protests of this size against an indigenous environmental issue. It’s also pretty much the first time we’ve seen visible success on the side of said protestors. With representatives from over 200 tribes and global demonstrations of solidarity, officials everywhere are taking note. It’s now important for us to ask the question: “How was this marginalized group able to gain the traction needed to oppose centuries worth of oppression from the US federal government?” Finding the answer to this question may be just what social justice advocates of all areas are looking for.
While this is certainly a centralized issue, I encourage you to read up on the above hyperlinked sources in order to become a better advocate against indigenous oppression. The best way to combat macro issues, such as this, is to stay informed and advocate on behalf of the North Dakota Pipeline protestors. Talk to your friends, share posts like this on social media, and start the conversation!