Dakota Access Pipeline: More than a HASHTAG

Guest Column by Junior Audrey Hertel

If you have a Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, you have probably seen hashtags such as #NoDAPL and #WaterisLife, but did you take the time to read about what was happening in North Dakota?

The Dakota Access Pipeline was a proposed 1,200 mile-long pipeline that would have stretched from North Dakota to Illinois carrying 470,000 barrels of crude oil. This pipeline was supposed to bring around 8,000 to 12,000 new jobs. More jobs are great for a stable economy, but the creation of these would have stemmed  from a violation of sacred lands and human rights.

On Sunday, Dec. 4, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, part of the Department of the Army, decided to seek an alternative route instead. Although seen by some as a major victory for indigenous peoples and sovereignty, others believe it is just another political ploy with only temporary relief.  Whichever side you think you’re on, you should at least consider the side of the Native Americans.

If your family members’ burial site was to be plowed through for a company’s project, or if your water was undrinkable, wouldn’t you want to speak up?

That’s exactly why the Sioux, other Native and non-Native people were standing up in North Dakota.

Native American culture is rooted in connection to their ancestors, and they hold the land of their ancestors to be sacred. With the Dakota Access Pipeline, this sacred land was at risk of being destroyed in a form of genocide. Genocide is killing a mass group of people. But it’s not only just the physical killing, it is the killing of culture.

The genocide and oppression of Native Americans has been occurring for more than 500 years, and it still continues today, but building this pipeline through their sacred lands caused them in a more aggressive manner. Their culture was being dismissed, and their sacred way of life was getting pushed aside due to corporate greed.

Along with this, clean water was at risk.  The protestors against the pipeline were not calling themselves protestors, but protectors of a basic human right: clean water. The pipeline could leak or break causing oil to threaten the water supply of the Sioux and everyone, including many of us in Nebraska, who rely on the Missouri River as a source of water.

Several people who are not Native Americans went to help protect water, including U.S. veterans. They have been peaceful and prayerful in their protecting, but that does not mean that violence did not occur.

Attack dogs (that were not licensed), water cannons (in freezing temperatures), concussion bombs (these led to a 21 year old student’s arm being severely injured, almost to the point of amputation) and mace were being used against prayerful people.

All of these terrible things were happening in North Dakota and not many people understood the issue. I went around to several lunch tables last week and asked if students had heard about the Dakota Access Pipeline. The majority of people said no. This left me in shock because so many cruel things were occurring, and if more people knew about it, more people would have stood up. They would have stood for not only environmental rights, but human rights as well.

I don’t want to be a part of a generation that turned its head to injustice. I want to be a part of a generation that understands the issues and speaks out on injustice. I want to be a part of a generation that changes the world.

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Junior Audrey Hertel

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