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Native Americans deserve rights to land

Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren declared on Sept. 20 that the construction of a $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline would continue, despite the fact that it is located near a Native American reservation in North Dakota. To the company, it is an opportunity for additional revenue. However, to Native American tribes, it is another blow to their civil liberties.

The pipeline is part of the company’s four-state, 1,172-mile scheme. Employees revealed that it is approximately 60 percent complete. When finished, it will transport petroleum from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to its final destination of Illinois. ETP anticipates that the pipeline will haul 470,000 barrels of oil a day.

The possible dangers are alarming. Creating the pipeline beneath the Missouri River may contaminate drinking water if the pipeline bursts. The toxic water will not only harm the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its thousands of people, but also millions of residents in the surrounding states.

It is unsettling to hear Warren dismiss this potential problem when he says, “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.” ETP justifies its plan by saying that it will aid the United States in becoming less reliant on shipping energy from hazardous locations around the world.

The pipeline is devastating news for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It will damage the tribe’s holy land, prayer locations and culturally notable heirlooms. Dakota Access Pipeline and ETP bulldozed the land last Saturday during a holiday weekend for the Native Americans.

The United States is unfortunately no stranger to the oppression of Native Americans. Schoolchildren are taught about the Trail of Tears, which refers to the trek made by Native Americans after their forced removal from native lands in 1838. The Cherokee, Chickasaw Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes were deemed a menace to amity and were ordered out of their homelands. They endured a brutal trek of 800 miles. They suffered disease, malnourishment and vulnerability to the harsh climate, which claimed the lives of 4,000 Cherokees.

The affliction continued at the end of the Civil War, when white U.S. citizens besieged Native Americans at Little Wolf, Power River and Sand Creek. Prominent Native American leaders such as Chief Joseph, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were beaten. The near annihilation culminated with the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890. Remaining Native Americans accepted defeat.

ETP should be mindful of its behavior toward Native Americans. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has a remarkable heritage that is worthy of preservation. Culture is key to understanding the past and appreciating one’s roots. It is frightening that the construction of this pipeline will cause the Native Americans to lose elements of their precious heritage. The company seems to perceive the tribe as a nuisance that is in the way of its success. Warren forgets that the tribe members are humans, who have hopes and aspirations just like everyone else.

The Native American protesters remain focused as they continue to bring awareness to this subject. Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II and his people are camping out in southern North Dakota to safeguard their native lands. Their attempts to stop the pipeline from being constructed were overturned by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg.

Three federal bureaus requested that ETP suspend construction within a 20-mile radius of Lake Oahe. ETP agreed and withdrew 30 pieces of construction equipment, but did not comment on its further action. Protesters remained on construction sites hoping to make more of a change.

The movement is making an impact nationwide. In Washington, 140,000 people signed a petition at a rally. Along the East Coast, people in Atlanta marched with signs that read “Oil Kills.” The outcry has further attracted international awareness.

The Obama administration released a statement saying that executives from 567 federally acknowledged tribes will engage in meetings scheduled from Oct. 25 through Nov. 21 in six areas of the country. Discussions about the preservation of Native American lands, settlement freedoms and assets will take place among the leaders. From there, new regulations hopefully will be proposed.

Warren should be ashamed for bringing agony to the Native Americans. ETP is suggesting that self-interest and power are superior to a long-lasting culture. The pipeline should be terminated if the beauty of a culture is at risk. If the construction of the pipeline continues, a remarkable heritage will slowly start to fade.

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