Angels Camp, CA…The United States has broken over 500 agreements between the government and First Americans, according to NPR. Currently, in North Dakota on the Sioux reservation, the Laramie Treaty of 1851 is being violated. The land dedicated to the Indigenous people, as a result of this violation, is being desecrated by a large oil company, called Energy Transfer. This is patently illegal. “Tensions have escalated …, with local security forces employing an increasingly militarized response to protests and forcibly moving encampments located near the construction site,” said Maina Kaia, the UN Special Rapporteur concerning the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The United States must honor it’s treaties.
The first issue at hand is that of the illegality of the pipeline construction. In 1851, the United States pushed many Lakota and Dakota tribes to Fort Laramie to protect the traveling of American settlers to the West coast. Now, however, the government is doing nothing to halt the wrongful construction taking place in the south-western region of North Dakota. Treaties, laws, ordinances, and codes are all implemented in the hopes to solve problems, improve society, and preserve depletable resources. If individuals and institutions like Energy Transfer, do not uphold, or obey, these vital regulations, then not only could the land be poisoned, but society itself is subject to the utter failure of the state.
In addition to the breached treaty, first amendment rights are being threatened, and in some cases violated, by police agencies at Standing Rock, North Dakota. For example, the practice of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, press, and arguably freedom to petition are all being infringed upon. This has evolved into a fight for Native Americans to obtain human rights parallel to the human rights granted to countless other individuals and minority groups in this country, and across the globe.
The harms of this pipeline construction are significant at multiple levels and from many different perspectives; being politically, socially, culturally, and environmentally damaging. Both the construction of the pipeline, and the proposed use of the pipeline, threaten life from almost all ecosystems. There are over 24 million people who live downstream from the construction site near the Missouri River. This construction threatens the water quality for these people, along with all animal and plant life that is dependent upon the water from the Missouri River.
Amid a historic Presidential election cycle, how do we, the public, stop what is being done? Many citizens feel that they must travel to North Dakota and physically participate in the peaceful protesting, but even more individuals are restricted in some way, making the trip unfeasible. No matter the reason behind not being able to make the journey to North Dakota, there are helpful things that we can do here at home to support those being directly affected, and threatened, by this conflict.
Ironically, the most efficient strategy to halt construction of this pipeline is through legal processes. An initiative is a legal process by which the citizens of this country can propose laws, and in some states, constitutional amendments, that will end up on the ballot to be voted on. With support in numbers, an initiative can be an effective way to set meaningful and permanent precedent. However, many Americans are not extremely familiar with the United States’ legal institutions or their workings. For those who can relate to the unfamiliarity with government procedures, there are other supportive measures that can be taken. For example, the Sacred Stones website has published a list of goods that the camp, and its’ inhabitants, are in need of. This list includes simple supplies like: firewood, canvas, sleeping bags, propane and rope. The website notes that the camp appreciates all supportive banners and posters sent to them as well!
The land being threatened and destroyed in North Dakota is not just land that natives are concerned about due to the Laramie treaty, but is land that is best described as sacred. The Sioux tribe in North Dakota has explained that if the construction continues and is successfully completed, then burial sites, ceremonial sites, and culturally significant artifacts will be annihilated. This absolutely cannot proceed. The North Dakota access pipeline construction is illegal, threatens our environment, threatens the health of individuals, animals, plants, and further strips First Americans of their constitutional rights.