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The Stories of the Struggles between the American Government and the American Indians are not Over: The Newest Battle at Standing Rock

Kathryn Daigle '17, Editor-in-Chief

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What might be the largest demonstration of Native Americans against the American Federal Government is unfolding in the Standing Rock reservation. It all started when the Federal Government announced a plan to implement a pipeline from Illinois to North Dakota. Sounds fine to start with—just another government construction problem.

The problem with this oil pipeline is that it would go straight through the Sioux tribe’s sacred land. Prayer and burial sites, as well as many significant artifacts, would be destroyed as the pipeline was laid.  It’s the equivalent of digging up Arlington Cemetery for construction purposes. The Sioux tribe feels that the pipeline is an insult to their culture, beliefs, and traditions—their very existence. Not only that, the pipeline is environmentally unsafe. The community faces the threat of contamination of their water supply due to oil leaks in the pipe. Already among the poorest of the poor in the United States, living conditions for Native Americans would plummet if the clean water in the Standing Rock reservation would disappear. The federal government argues that through their investigations, the pipeline would not affect the Sioux sacred land or artifacts. Many are angry, but not surprised, due to the long history of injustices that American Indians have experienced under the federal government.

But their anger has finally prompted many Sioux Indians and hundreds of others from other tribes to unite in protesting for the protection of their land. However, the protesters face extreme dangers, despite the peaceful nature of their protests. Dogs, tear gas, mace, and freezing water cannons threaten the protesters as they demand for the federal government to listen to their plight. In the meantime, the Sioux and those opposed to the pipeline have formed a campsite, the Sacred Stone Camp, in order to protest day and night and not have to leave the area.  With over 100 tribes represented, the unity and support for the Standing Rock and South Dakota Indians is strong. But many wonder what the future of the protests will look like as hostility mounts between the two groups.

When the future did come, in a startling turn considering the government’s attitude toward Native Americans in the past, it finally ruled in favor of the Sioux. The Army Corps of Engineers determined that the pipeline project did indeed pose a threat to the landscape and should be rerouted. After having been joined and supported by US army veterans and having borne grueling conditions, including inclement weather and excessive police force, the Sioux at last won a major victory.

Although the situation is far from being settled (the company still needs to find some access route for the pipeline), these protests are among the largest collective action from Native Americans against the federal government in all of American history. It is forcing the federal government to look back on the years of mistreatment that thousands of American Indians have to live under every day. With this victory under their belts, Native Americans can hope that change is coming, and all because of a construction project and a protest.

 

**Image via Huffington Post**

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The Stories of the Struggles between the American Government and the American Indians are not Over: The Newest Battle at Standing Rock