The Dakota Access Pipeline

My brother messaged me yesterday. He said, “someone on my time line posted this.. thought I’d bounce this off people who have been there…” it linked to a long post someone had made about the Dakota Access Pipeline issue. The individual made many bold statements throughout their post, and my brother wanted some insight. I traveled to Standing Rock in October to offer my support in anyway possible to the folks out there and know many people who are there permanently. That’s why he felt comfortable checking in with me about clarifying some of this person’s claims. What started as a quick eye-roll and sigh turned into a long winded rebuttal to what I read. I feel inclined to share it here for multiple reasons. First, I think that as a website about taking a different perspective on travel, this is a prime example of traveling, not to perpetuate settler-colonialism, but indeed in an attempt to do the opposite; to support those in direct resistance to 500+ years of colonization and corporate imperialism perpetuated by the state. Secondly, it is not the job of the oppressed to teach or inform the oppressor about their lived experience. It is the job of those in positions of privilege to keep it in check and to educate themselves. Here is my attempt to educate based on my knowledge of the issue. Lastly, these struggles are exhausting. People on the frontlines should not, and do not, have to explain why they are doing what they’re doing to people sitting comfortably behind their computers. They are being beaten, tazed, pepper-sprayed, shot with rubber bullet, and having sniper rifles aimed at them. So here is my attempt to call out some of the lies being perpetrated to push through this pipeline. As someone not on the frontlines, and with the excess time and energy to respond to the arguments for the pipeline this is the least I can do at this time. Please share this piece with anyone you think needs clarification about the issue at hand.

I will quote excerpts from the individual’s post, with my response to their statements.

*Note: I did my best to provide accurate sourcing and speak from an informed position. Please let me know if there are any corrections to facts/stats. It’s also important to note that I am in no way speaking for anyone other than myself.
So, I think this person has a lot of outright biases, as do I. However it appears ours are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I will say outright that I am anti-oil, anti-racist, and anti-colonization, all things which this pipeline and the construction of it have embodied since day one. That’s my full disclosure, but I’ll attempt to make a fair and even response about this individual’s statements.
If you don’t pipeline for a living, and you’re not from North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, or Illinois then you should really stay out of this conversation
First off, to say that if you don’t work with pipelines or live in the states effected by the current construction of a specific one, is ridiculous. This is a colonial mindset that perpetuates arbitrary lines drawn across this continent by white settlers to allot land to other white settlers; also check out this link, I know it’s Wikipedia, but there are at least 26 documented pipeline spills all across the country this year alone, with only one of these happening in a state the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) will be traversing. But to take this further that would kind of be like saying, “if you’re not a cop, or live in (insert latest location of unarmed police killing) you should really stay out of this conversation.” It’s a fallacy and blatant attempt to write off the valid concerns of people all over the world who see pipelines, the transportation of oil and gas, and the perpetuation of fossil fuel based infrastructures as a legitimate issue.
the Dakota access pipeline DOES NOT cross the Standing Rock reservation
Secondly, he is correct, DAPL doesn’t cross Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, however it comes extremely close, within a mile, and where it crosses is through sovereign 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty land, which was a Eurocetrized attempt at organizing indigenous peoples (two inherently contradictory world-views). This treaty has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as recently as 1980 in the court case the United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians (on that note, the U.S. actually still owes millions of dollars to the tribes). So while the pipeline doesn’t cross reservation land (read prisoner of war camp) it does cross treaty land, and the treaty clearly states that the tribes, as sovereign nations, must be properly consulted by any company or government attempting to build infrastructure on/across their land. Since day one the attempts to consult with the tribe have been riddled with errors and miscommunication (shadowing, ironically, the United State’s troubled history respecting treaties it forced others into). Ultimately ending in the federal and state governments giving Energy Transfer Partners the green light without waiting for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to fully weigh in.
it DOES have all the necessary permits and approvals
Now we get to DAPL having all permits necessary, no it doesn’t. While they have either received approval for construction or taken land through eminent domain (a tactic questioned if truly legal/ethical since this is not a public infrastructure project) there are two important notes. One, they still have NOT received approval from the Army Corp of Engineers to cross the Missouri River. Plain and simple. Secondly while they do have all/most other permits for the rest of the route it’s important to note that they received fast track permitting under NWP 12 that “is used to bypass rigorous environmental and public review.” Now, here’s where race comes into the picture. DAPL was originally planned to cross the Missouri River much closer to Bismark, a majority white community (at a staggering 94.78% white according to the 2000 Census), but the Army Corp of Engineers concluded it was not a viable option, partially because it’s “proximity to wellhead source water protection areas.” Up to this point they haven’t rejected the pipeline crossing the Missouri River half a mile north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation (their main source of drinking water) which is primarily indigenous people.
and it is NOT disturbing any burial grounds
Third, about it disturbing burial grounds and sacred sites; the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s historic preservation officer identified sacred sites and burial grounds on Friday September 2nd and submitted documentation. On Saturday, of LABOR Day Weekend, DAPL went to the area marked by the officer and bulldozed the area before the state had any chance to review the submissions. An important note about that confrontation, which my partner and many friends were at, is that two of the security firms which Dakota Access has hired to support their construction of the pipelines were operating in North Dakota illegally.

And here are the links showing they have the permits, and that North Dakota’s top archeologists surveyed these sites and found nothing.…/article_5dc1e955-fd71-5003-8……/archaeologist-no-human-remains…/41226410

Quick note on the two articles he links to, the first is an opinion piece authored by the President of North Dakota Petroleum Council who says he is worried his voice isn’t being heard (obviously an oppressed voice), and per usual oil industry tactics he uses temporary construction labor numbers to make it seem like the project will employ way more than the 40 permanent operating job positions that actually last after the pipe is in the ground while falsely claiming the pipeline has all approval necessary. The second is one specific article about remains not being found on one specific occasion at one specific site.
And before you start in about possible water contamination, that’s just another scare tactic. The Missouri river will be directionally drilled and the pipeline will have the latest technologies and monitoring systems to help prevent releases and will be constructed 90 feet below the riverbed to ensure nothing may reach the river — far above and beyond what’s required by federal regulations.

He then says that the pipeline won’t leak/contaminate water. It is a proven, historical fact, that pipelines leak, often. Many have within their first years of operation. Being involved in pipeline work (which I’m assuming this individual is) they may know more about the depth of the pipeline, however the only information available from the company itself states that the pipeline will be buried a minimum of 60 inches under roads and streams (they do not specify rivers so I can only assume they meet the same requirement). Even if the pipeline is 90 feet below the river, it may not leak into the river, but if there is an explosion of the pipeline (something else they have been apt to do), the explosion will easily make it that 90 feet and/or ruin the traditional flow of the Missouri River in ways unimaginable.
Don’t be fooled, the battle right now may be against this pipeline, but the war is on oil. I know some of you hate oil (even though you consume as much as the rest of us on a daily basis)
He continues to make the fallacious claim that one cannot be born into/work within the system and work to change/dismantle it at the same time. He perpetuates the idea that because we use oil on a daily basis we cannot critique it. When trying to change social/political/economic structures there is reformism and abolitionism. He is saying that reformism isn’t valid (Thus, we may have found common ground because I find myself more on the abolitionist end of the spectrum more often than not as well). He is saying that because we were born into this culture dependent on fossil fuels (something we literally had nothing to do with creating; also see, old people yelling at children for using smart phones) we are not allowed to critique it and work to change the status quo.
so this oil WILL be brought to market one way or another, and the safest way is via pipeline. They have a smaller carbon footprint and are 4.5 times less likely to cause a spill than trains. It’s an easy choice. So don’t tell me you’re against pipelines because you care about the environment, because the two ideas are contradictory.
The argument that if you’re pro-environment then you should obviously be pro-pipeline is hilarious. At the UN’s COP 21 in Paris last year “the members agreed to reduce their carbon output “as soon as possible” and to do their best to keep global warming “to well below 2 degrees C.” In order to make this happen a new study released in September of this year found “no new fossil fuel extraction or transportation infrastructure should be built, and governments should grant no new permits for them.” Not to mention it is recommended that oil fields and mines be closed as soon as possible, in a managed effort between governments and companies. He is correct that pipelines are less apt to have accidents than trains and trucks, however that doesn’t make them better, or even necessary. It’s like looking at the difference between your plane crashing because the engine failed or you had a fuel leak. Yeah, one method is more efficient, but it’s a more efficient way to crash a plane. This person is sitting on a plane hurtling towards the ground, still trying to make it fly. People working to change the systems and status quo are the one’s looking for our parachutes. Yeah it’s messy business, but as the old homage goes, “those who say it cannot be don’t should not interrupt those already doing it.” And the idea that if it doesn’t make it to market one way it will make it another is in ways true. There are currently trains (expensive), trucks (expensive), and yes pipelines (cheap in comparison) carrying gas from the Bakken oil fields but let’s talk economics for a second. If this pipeline wasn’t extremely important to the development of this area, why would Energy Transfer Partners be willing to pay $3.7 billion? Maybe I’m more keen on the subtle works of capitalism because I exist within it but choose to be hypercritical, but there is no way that any company would invest $3.7 billion in a project that wasn’t going to increase their capacity for overall development, and in turn capital gain. According to the US Energy Information Administration Bakken oil field production as of the most recent report was slightly less than 1,000,000 barrels per day. The Dakota Access Pipeline will begin by transporting roughly 470,000 barrels per day, with the capacity to reach 570,000 barrels per day. Therefore this one pipeline would increase their capacity by 47%-57%. That is huge economically for the companies invested in the development of the Bakken, a landlocked formation dependent on an industry dependent on overseas trade. Oh yeah and to say that development of this pipeline doesn’t effect people outside of the states it’s being built in is a perpetuation of earlier mentioned settler-colonial ideals around borders (water, air, and land pollution could care less about borders) and is an affront to someone who lives in Montana, which also sits on top of the Bakken. While we’re talking about economics let’s talk about green energy real quick too. He’s totally right, we don’t have enough capacity to provide energy to this country through renewable energy. But you know how we will continue to not have that capacity? By investing in fossil fuel based infrastructure instead of wind, solar, and other methods of non-fossil fuel based energy development. (*Note I am making this argument as someone who doesn’t agree with green capitalism as much as I detest regular ol’ capitalism, however to prove this individual is caught in old paradigms I’ll argue it just for fun). A 2014 progress report from the U.S. Treasury found that fossil fuel subsidies cost the United States $4.7 billion in revenue, meaning that U.S. literally pays the fossil fuel industry, the third most profitable industry in the world according to Forbes, billions of dollars to continue with business as usual extraction. Now, in 2013, a larger amount of $7.3 billion did go to renewable energy; however if we look at the market value of each industry, oil & gas at $4.65 trillion vs. clean energy at $220 billion, it is phenomenal that any sovereign entity would be dishing out money to either sector, but in particular the sector that has over 21 times the worth of the other. Then to have people like the President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council assert that he’s worried his voice isn’t being heard is illogical, especially if we take into account that we are living in a country that recognizes money as speech. Mr. Ness, the United States Government is literally speaking to people like you, and telling you to keep it up buddy.
The individual ends,
With that being said, I will not hold back any longer, if you’ve got the nerve to post these lies, I will call you out on it, so you better do your research before you chime in on something that you know nothing about.
Here you go, here is my research.
But all of this has gotten beside the point. This struggle against the pipeline is partially about the environment, but from the people on the ground they have continually repeated that it is about the water, something the Lakota (and other indigenous people) see as a living, sacred entity. It is also about the land, where their ancestors are buried, and just because the sacredness of the land cannot be qualified by Eurocentric standards is not justification to destroy it, that is merely the perpetuation of 500+ years of Catholic doctrine claiming the indigenous people of the land now called North and South America are subhuman and incapable of being proper stewards (see the 1493 Papal Bull). It is up to us, instead of blatantly making claims about what is right and wrong, to listen to the people trying to speak and assert their sovereignty, as they have for centuries; as their ancestors, the grandparents of some who are still living–Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Crazy Horse, etc.–did fighting against the U.S. Calvary to protect their women, children, elders, land, and water from the encroachment of a foreign scourge onto their traditional lands. This individual, in refusing to listen to the actual arguments being made by the tribe and allied water and land defenders at the camps has made it into an environmental argument because they know, deep down, that it is an argument they are losing. They have to spread the false claims about the invalidity of non-petroleum based life styles, deny scientifically verified existence of anthropogenic climate change, and prop up the fossil fuel industry even when that isn’t the true discussion being had. This is about sovereignty and self-determination. Something that has been taken from indigenous people around the world, and something being taken back by those same communities with their resilience, humility, connection to spirit and an added access to globalized communications and information. There is a reason why an estimated 100200 different tribes, from North and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands are represented at the camps out there. It’s because these people are now acknowledging that indigenous communities have been fighting a common oppressor this entire time. What this individual probably doesn’t see is that the camps are entirely peaceful, based since day one on prayer. Weapons, along with alcohol and drugs, are not allowed in those spaces. Elders are consulted daily about what tactics should and should not be used. That is why no violence has been initiated by people at the camps. Because they are listening to the guidance and wisdom of their elders. When I traveled there I was greeted with open arms and humility. While there is a diversity of perspectives on this issue (as diverse as the number of people there) all who I talked to recognize that that pipeline workers are not the problem, they are laborers working to support themselves and their families. Each day the people meet in prayer and they don’t only pray for the water and land, but for the pipeline workers and law enforcement, those who have been the source of their brutalization, because they recognize that you have to be hurting to hurt another person. You have to be hurting to hurt our Mother Earth.

M. A. Chavez

Is co-founder of Vagrant. Anonymous. He spends his time split between traveling and the North West. He is currently working on getting his debut novel published, and working on a graphic novel.

What do you think of the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline?

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*Note: I did my best to provide accurate sourcing and speak from an informed position. Please let me know if there are any corrections to facts/stats. It’s also important to reiterate that I am in no way speaking for anyone other than myself.

29 thoughts on “The Dakota Access Pipeline

  1. I feel like this is ultimately an issue of whose lives and livelihood matter more. And obviously, as has been the case for all of Europeans’ time in the Americas, white people win out over indigenous people. Even if this troll were right about all the proper permits being in place, all the jobs it would create, whatever, the fact that it MIGHT poison the drinking water of a whole group of people should be enough reason to stop it. But we all know what happens when you get in the way of someone who wants to make money :/

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a supporter of the protest, this article was greatly appreciated. Have re-blogged and will continue to do what I can. It isn’t just about the pipeline, you’re right, it’s about standing up and giving the earth a voice before it’s too late to repair the damage. It’s also about rights. And about stopping these tactics that are used on peaceful protesters. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

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