• Liz Venerable

Oil and Water: Update on the Dakota Access Pipeline


The US Army Corps of Engineers will not grant permission for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross Lake Oahe, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The news is a massive win for the Sioux tribe that established the protest camp at the site in April and has gained huge support in recent weeks. Click here to find out more.

While most families spent the days before Thanksgiving putting up decorations or looking up black Friday deals, 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky’s family spent the days before and after the American holiday in a hospital wondering if their daughter would have to have her arm amputated.

Sophia Wilansky was injured while protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota. You can read more about the Dakota Access Pipeline protest here on the Encounter, or here.

Wilansky’s injury is the most serious to have been reported during months of increasingly hostile conflict between the protesters, who are calling themselves “water protectors” and “law enforcement.”

The police and water protectors have differing explanations of how Wilansky was injured. Law enforcement accounts suggest that the protesters caused the explosion; the water protectors maintain the story that the police are to blame. However, it is still unclear on what really happened.

What we do know about the November 20 night Wilansky was injured, according to the Associated Press, is that the clashes began around 6 p.m., when the water protectors tried to remove burned-out trucks that had been blocking the bridge since authorities and activists faced off there in late October. The water protectors were trying to push past a long-blocked bridge but were turned back by authorities using tear gas, rubber bullets and water hoses.

Photo courtesy of wennermedia.com

The use of the water hoses brought major backlash on North Dakota law enforcement because the temperature in North Dakota had dropped into the 20s, making hypothermia a big concern. In fact, government officials have orders to shut down the water protectors’ campsite because of the increased probability of getting hypothermia in the upcoming winter months. Images and videos of police in riot gear spraying activists with a hose mounted atop an armored vehicle went viral on social media.

More debate was sparked when someone tweeted an August 2014 report from The Bismarck Tribune that stated an early proposal for the DAPL planned to cross the Missouri river north of Bismarck, North Dakota instead of near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers had evaluated a plan to have the pipeline go through Bismarck because of chances it could leak into the town’s well water supply and the homes in the community.

Bismarck has a higher population than the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and the pipeline would have to cross more waterways in Bismarck, but Bismarck also has a higher population of white people. Thus, the media backlash, because people wonder, if it is not safe for Bismarck, then why is it safe for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation? Earlier this month, President Obama called on both sides to show restraint and revealed that the Army Corps of Engineers was considering an alternative route for the project.

Photo courtesy of wennermedia.com

However, Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, told The Associated Press last week that it would not consider a different route. On Wednesday, Gov. Jack Dalrymple urged President Obama to authorize the Army Corps of Engineers to allow construction to resume.

2016 is almost over and not everything is clear right now. No one knows if president-elect Donald Trump’s presidency will affect the DAPL or if the pipeline company will try to find another route. However, there are some lessons to be learned from this year. First, that in one of the greatest countries in the world, people will still have to fight for clean water #FlintMichigan. Second, the people who lived in America before there were any Americans are still fighting for their land #TreatyofFortLaramie. Lastly, that the American dependence on oil will cause some to earn money and others to lose their basic rights or needs, like clean drinking water #YouCantDrinkOil.

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