Native Americans protesting construction of a crude oil pipeline join a history of civil action aimed at casting a spotlight on unfair treatment of indigenous people. Activists have gathered at the Sioux Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, where more than 200 tribes are represented at the Sacred Stone spiritual camp. Demonstrators want to stop installation of the 1,200-mile Dakota Pipeline. It is planned to run under the Missouri River, a source of drinking water, and through sacred land to the north of the Sioux reservation. Protesters fear the pipeline will leak and pollute the river, and they object because the pipeline passes through sacred stone circles and burial sites. They say that construction has already unearthed places of spiritual significance.
The sites are located just off reservation land, but Sioux leaders say the U.S. government illegally seized the area in 1850, and that the pipeline can’t go forward without tribal approval.
The protest, which has led to conflict and arrests, has pulled together Native Americans and environmentalists to become the largest indigenous demonstration since the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island. At that time, thousands of people descended on the abandoned penitentiary and stayed there for 19 months. Their goal was to restore respect for Native American rights and to bring national attention to the plight of indigenous people, many of whom lived in dire poverty. The occupation is credited with spurring beneficial changes including improved health and education policies and a rekindling of community spirit among Native American groups.
Categories: Sioux Standing Rock Reservation