A group of tribal members, numbered around 200 from US states, worries that the Dakota Access Pipeline would lead to contamination of the river. “Without water there is no life, and this is our main source.” Actually, this pipeline will cross the Ogallala Aquifer -a million year-old shallow water table spanning eight US states-, which provides fresh water for drinking and agriculture while running alongside the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. A spill could contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer already in crisis and under threat of running dry and greatly jeopardizing a water source for millions of people. Not only that, but it would also cross through lands of historical significance to this Sioux Nation, including burial grounds as claimed by a Standing Rock nation member: “They’re going under the river 500 yards from my son’s grave, my father’s grave, my aunt who I buried last week.” Moreover, even though this people lives now on a reservation, the Dakota pipeline would cross over original land given them by treaty. The Bakken Oil Field looks as a forward operating base for the latest industrial invasion of Indian Treaty Lands, bringing with it corruption, pollution and violence, like the time when gold was discovered in South Dakota in the 1800s. Therefore, the Sioux Nation’s battle shows the right steps to a successful advocacy struggle. First of all, the tribes asked for an environmental impact study, which has not been done; second, they can truly feel justified legally because the pipeline infringes on the tribe’s water rights guaranteed by treaties and the protocols associated with those rights; third, they are looking for a common good: “It’s not just our issue. Everybody downriver is going to be affected, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico,” says the spokesperson.
Actually, the group is composed of members of the Standing Rock nation as well as others from North and South Dakota nations, including the Cheyenne River Lakota and the Rosebud Sioux. Therefore, they joined to ride, run and walk to Cannonball, North Dakota and to establish a Spirit Camp where the proposed pipeline would cross the river. They plan to stay there indefinitely as a mean of bringing awareness and symbol of resistance against pipeline construction. A further more important aspect is this: the pipeline’s socio -cultural impacts reach far beyond its environmental destruction and natives and non-natives have joined for a 500-mile-long relay race called "Run for Your Life." It began on April 24th to end on May 3rd at the office of the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha, Nebraska, where the runners would deliver a petition.
"Everything comes with the pipeline, the high crime rate, the drugs, sex trafficking and we don't want that for our people," said two Kettle Lakota mothers. The pipeline is seen like the former railroads first coming in through the territory: it not only split the buffalo herd in two and affected the access of local people to the buffalos. The buffalo hunters exterminated the buffalo herds and “brought the settlers and the pilgrims into the treaty territory and impacted our way of life and our freedom," they said.
The Lakota Nation legal right is based on "Winters Doctrine", the landmark Supreme Court case that in 1908 clarified their water rights to clean Missouri River water. "We gave the US the right to use our water," says Yellow Fat, their representative. "The US government is once again allowing big money to trample all over our rights. We once had land as far as the eye can see. Now we are in a prison camp. Now they are chipping away at that," he continues. The hope of a peaceful end must always to prevail, but he warns, "This is a fight for our future. Look at how our ancestors as recent as our great grandparents have fought and died for what little we have now. We are not going to allow them to take any more." A great example of advocacy that joins legal base, human rights claim, common good search in a wholly historically supported struggle. It can be taken as a guideline and a paradigm for any self-empowered advocacy.
Source to be red: