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Standing Rock: A Year Of Solidarity

Four words have resonated through 2016, summing up one of the most prominent environmental demonstrations in history. The North Dakota Access Pipeline violated the indigenous rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, threatening both sacred lands and the water they depend on. This attracted thousands of protesters from across America, including members of other indigenous tribes, to stand in defiance.

The pipeline’s proposed route ran through undesignated land, with minimised crossing of the Missouri River but, because the pipeline would pass close to Bismarck potentially affecting the people there, it was redirected through Sioux Nation Boundary land to skirt the Standing Rock Reservation, and cross under Lake Oahe of the Missouri; a vital water source for the Sioux tribe of Standing Rock. This new plan increased the risk of leakage into the river and, failing to consult the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, completely disregarded the cultural significance of the land and the sanctity of the river. This made it explicitly clear that the developers of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, valued some communities more than others.

Carl SackArduous peaceful protesting in all weather conditions were worsened when the pipelines private security and local law enforcement started using excessive force such as water cannon, rubber bullets and mace to apprehend protesters; arresting them for trespass and engaging-in-riot charges despite the pipeline crossing through Sioux land pertaining to the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and the protests of the self-acclaimed Water Protectors consisting of pipe ceremonies, prayer circles, meditation and peaceful demonstration.  

Such demonstrations not only united several native tribes but captured the hearts of people all over the world and celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo and Shailene Woodley, both advocating the protests. Woodley actually went to Standing Rock and was subsequently arrested for the same bogus charges as hundreds of other protesters. Journalists were also arrested, most notably Amy Goodman, who was arrested for simply documenting the ill-treatment of protesters carried out by the pipeline’s private security. A group of U.S veterans also showed their support, vowing to form a human shield for the Water Protectors.

Wikimedia | Pax Ahimsa GethenThe year long struggle at the Standing Rock Reservation contesting the pipeline finally succeeded in the abandonment of its construction. This justice arrived in early December when the U.S Army Corps of Engineers refused to grant the construction of the pipeline underneath Lake Oahe, recognising the proposal as irresponsible.

Alternate routes are currently being reviewed for the pipeline and, though the refusal may not stand strong in the face of the impending pro fossil fuel shift in American politics, it is a huge victory for environmental and non-violent activism.

By Thomas Phillips - Online Journalism Intern

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