(Editor’s Note: This piece was originally intended for publication in November).
Hundreds of people are gathered in peaceful protest, in hopes that their efforts will halt construction through sacred grounds. Some members of a Native American tribe form prayer circles during the protest, praying that their land and drinking water will be left alone. All this occurs while white policemen on horseback and riot gear surround the protesters. Some are hit with beanbag firearms, rubber bullets, pepper spray gas and subjected to loud sirens as the police force tries to break up the protest, peaceful “waterprotecters” falling in pain and arrested.
Does this seem unreal? Unfortunately, it’s the reality for too many. By the evening of Oct. 28, at least 142 protesters were arrested from the site while more received repercussions for protesting – something that is allotted (peacefully) by the first amendment.
The Sioux Tribe is a Native American tribe that lives on a slew of reservations in North Dakota. Originally, the Great Sioux Reservation was formed in 1868 as a large reservation to be later broken up. The Standing Rock Sioux are those currently fighting for the preservation of their land.
The pipeline is being constructed to carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline construction is said by the tribe to destroy burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts. Furthermore, it is said that the NAPL will fuel climate change, damage the environment and disturb the way of life for those in the upper Midwest, including, but not limited to, the Sioux Tribe. In addition to climate change, opponents of the NAPL are worried about what happens if the pipeline (which is to go under the Missouri River), was to rupture. The drinking water of many would be contaminated, leaving them without natural resources vital to life.
So why should you care? The NAPL is the equivalent to the Sioux Tribe as it would be to Americans if the Arlington National Cemetery was to be dug up. Years of burial ground that’s important to the American culture would be destroyed. This is EXACTLY what’s happening in North Dakota.
Several celebrities and politicians are siding with those of Standing Rock.
“I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.” Full statement: https://t.co/AQ8IJISjcY
— Al Gore (@algore) October 25, 2016
Protesters, such as Camp-Horinek and other members of her prayer circle were among the 140+ arrested. According to Camp Horinek, she and the others were pepper-sprayed as they prayed because they didn’t move as the ND State Highway Patrol had asked.
Russell Eagle Bear, another member of the tribe was arrested. In an interview with PBS he showed his concern regarding the pipe Camp-Horinek was playing before it was confiscated and they were arrested. The pipe is a cultural resource to the tribe, according to Eagle Bear.
Ben Rhodd (demonstrator) is quoted as saying “For us, it’s the freedom of religion. Constitutional rights are being violated here.”
While the question of religious freedom, granted by the Bill of Rights, is in question, teepees on historic treaty land have also been moved. Sheriff Kyle Kirchemeier ensures that any cultural effects will be handled with care.
From what has been reported thus far on various news sites, it seems the NAPL threatens so much that’s promised to the American People: freedom of religion, right to assemble and peaceful protest.
Which side of the Pipeline do you stand on?
Featured Image Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images