Indigenous Peoples

United States, the Sioux are fighting to save their lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline

MIgliaia di nativi americani protestano contro un oleodotto nel Dakota del Nord che minaccia le terre sioux e il fiume Missouri.

Native Americans have come together to fight the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, a 1,700-kilometre oil pipeline proposed by the Energy Transfer Partners company. Protests have begun in the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, close to Cannon Ball, North Dakota, which first opposed the works. The pipeline would be the first to carry Bakken shale (natural gas and oil extracted from Bakken formations) passing through Iowa to Illinois. The project is worth 3.7 billion dollars and involves 50 cities in 4 US states, carrying 570,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has gathered with the members of 27 tribes from different states including Nevada and Washington to oppose the pipeline.

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2,500 people of 47 Indian tribes have gathered to oppose the pipeline / Photo  by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

How and when have the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline begun

It has all started in April, when the company announced that the oil pipeline would cross under the Missouri River, representing a threat to the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation as the Missouri River is the only source of water natives can rely on. At least 20 protesters accused of housebreaking and disorders have been detained.

The arrests have led activists and prominent personalities (including US actress Susan Sarandon) to support the fight of native Americans against the oil giant, which has halted some operations following clashes between demonstrators and workers. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has sued the Army Corps of Engineers over not consulting local populations before starting the works and violating the laws on the protection of historical and natural sites. Judges will rule after the 14th of September.

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Riley Keough and Susan Sarandon took part in the protests in support of native communities in Washington DC, United States / Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage

Giving voice to those who have not rights

2,500 people of 47 different tribes have been protesting for days. Native Americans have gathered to make rituals, sing chant and pray, recalling the rough relationship between natives and colonists. According to Carolyn Harry, representative of the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation, “colonialism is still a problem this day and age, only in another form. 500 years ago it may have been bayonets and guns, today it is fracking, it is oil”.

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/ Photo by Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

According to Patrick Burtt of the Dresslerville Colony, the conflict in North Dakota is representative of the problems all natives are facing across the country. “A lot of indigenous peoples in North America are going through the same struggles,” Burtt said. “The Standing Rock Sioux are just in the limelight. Standing Rock Sioux is taking a stand and uniting a lot of indigenous peoples, and it really reflects on a lot of the issues as a whole.”

Alongside natives, local farmers are complaining about the damages caused by the realisation of the pipeline. Francis Goebel, for instance, owns 164 acres in the Sioux county, Iowa. His soybean fields have been damaged during coring, which caused the dark topsoil to mix with clay. “Nature separated those soils for a reason,” said Goebel. “If nature put it there, they should put it back the way it was.”

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