Standing Rock protests began in April of 2016 after 200 or so members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe rode on horseback to the pipeline’s planned location. If you pay attention to any form of current events, chances are you know the basics of what’s been going on since then. To recap: the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because they authorized the construction of the pipeline through their sacred lands and burial grounds without consent, thousands of people have gathered to join the efforts of preventing the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built, rallies occurred across the country and included the support from celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, Shailene Woodley got arrested on Facebook Livestream while protesting, and Donald Trump has now granted all the necessary authorizations to continue its construction. So, what went wrong?
Sympathy and the ability for people to use their moral compass are things the DAPL debate does not lack. In fact, it has been one of the more widespread reasons why people refuse to get behind its construction. As a result of this, the majority of protests have had the foundation of moral justification and could be simply shortened to people saying, “It’s wrong.” In theory, the strategies and forms of protest that are being used should be extremely effective in getting the government to comply with the demands of the people, regardless of the administration.
“In-person activism” is extremely important and often overlooked now that we live in such a technologically advanced society, but has been used a lot within the time period of the protests, which is fantastic. There has been significant mass media coverage and an amazing response on social media from the younger generations. For example, #NoDAPL trended on Twitter multiple times and millions of people checked into Standing Rock on Facebook to show their support. Plus, having the support of Jack from The Titanic isn’t so bad either. Notably, one of the very first moves made by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was the lawsuit which was a major step in the right direction because activism can only go so far without some sort of government/legal action. The issue with this specific movement isn’t how it was carried out; rather, the information and facts that had a lack of presentation during it.
The aspect of moral compass is extremely important to this issue because it’s literally history repeating itself. I mean, we’ve seen this before, right? Wealthy white men taking Native American’s land without their consent for one reason or another. We’ve read our Over 2,000 Years of the Oppression of Everyone Except the Anglo-Saxon Male books, sometimes better known as our United States History textbook. We know why this is wrong and are rightfully appalled that our government believes they can get away with something like this. All of this should be taken note of and voiced; the problem is when we only use this argument to condemn its construction which is what unfortunately made some portions of the movement unsuccessful.
During the time of the protests I personally never heard too much, if anything at all about the environmental effects of pipelines and their dangers they cause to humans. A study from Auburn University conducted by Brant Phillips on the Keystone Pipeline revealed that, “Children in surrounding the new pipeline are 56% more likely to develop leukemia versus children that live ten miles away.” Residents near pipelines are also put at risk if a leak occurs because toxins are released into the air leaving those who’ve been exposed to experience headaches/migraines, nausea, breathing problems, chemical sensitivity, extremely painful rashes, and possible cancerous activity.
Environmentally, oil is unsustainable and terrible for the environment because its usage adds greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, causing our ozone layer to deplete, and its depletion allows more heat to make contact with the Earth, etc. (You know, our little problem with global warming). Not to mention if the DAPL does leak it completely destroys the safety of the usage of Lake Oahe which many tribes such as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe rely on for water and oil removal from water is within the millions.
At the end of the day the outcome is steered by the decision of big business and government. It is our job as citizens to voice our opinions and take part in activism, no matter what side of the debate you’re on. An important lesson learned from the unsuccessful aspects of the Standing Rock protests is that moral justification is unfortunately not enough to sway government, especially in this situation because of the possibility to create more jobs and of course, have an increased flow of oil. The downfall of many protestors was their lack of complete education on the deeper issues of the Dakota Access Pipeline such as detrimental environmental effects, our government’s lack of concern for sustainability, and health complications that will affect those living within a close proximity to it.
I believe the Standing Rock protests would have been more effective with the widespread presentation of facts and clearly stating it’s domino effect; but, time is not up yet so there is still hope for a possible reroute. Taking action and pushing your ideas to government and big business may seem like a tall and maybe even impossible task. Well, it’s not. Gathering your information and doing whatever you see fit to push your agenda forward is supporting our democracy more than you think. I truly applaud all those who have partaken in protests, donated, tweeted, or maybe even got arrested for their work to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I wish the rest of their efforts the best of luck.