The United State’s Harsh Treatment of Native Americans Continues as North Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Boils Over

by MarcusJoseph on November 25, 2016 - 12:17pm

With a new government being implemented in the United States of America, I am personally very interested to see how future societal and environmental issues will be resolved. Because there is a large focus on State natural resource management as well as Aboriginal rights and land claims in lectures, This Salon article captured my attention.

Protests surrounding the North Dakota Access Pipeline escalated Sunday night as members of the Standing Rock Sioux Native Americans battled with Morton County police over the positioning of their protest. After militarized police used tactics such as pepper spray, rubber bullets, and tear-gas to try and control the crowd (Lendman 2016). This unnecessary use of force angered the once peaceful protestors, who then set fire to vehicles and parts of the bridge. State police responded by increasing their level of aggression and using water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures as well as concussion grenades; one, which caused a woman to lose her arm after it hit her. There have been no fatalities but other reported injuries include two cases of cardiac arrest, multiple cases of hypothermia, and a teenager who was struck in the face by rubber bullets.

These protests are happening over the North Dakota Pipeline, which is 1,866 km long, and crosses four states in order to deliver 570,00 barrels of crude oil a day from Bakken and Three Forks Areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. (Colwell 2016). The $3.78 billion pipeline that is 90% complete and set to generate over $55 million annually, meanders through over 200 waterways (Colwell 2016) as well as protected land that is incredibly important to the Sioux people. The land protected by treaty contains 27 burial sites and 82 cultural features including the Strong Heart Society Staff, a sacred staff within stone rings where elite Sioux warriors would make pledges, which has already been destroyed (Colwell 2016). The North Dakota Pipeline would be another violation in a long history of conflict between the State and the Standing Rock Sioux.

The first treaty that established the Great Sioux Reservation was signed in 1851, The Treaty of Fort Laramie. Since then, land has been progressively taken from the Sioux for development and industry as can be seen in the map The pipeline also violates the National Historian Preservation Act, a law amended in 1992 to formally protect traditional cultural properties such as the 82 Sioux cultural sites (Colwell 2016). The pipeline even violates the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples, whose many goals include emphasizing the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, this happened even after President Obama declared the United States supporters of the declaration in December of 2010 (Mapes 2016). This historic battle between the Standing Rock Sioux and the State will continue unless members of the United States government move towards reconciliation and recognize all of their resource issues and decisions are part of a long history and can either fan conflict or work toward reconciliation (Roth 2016).

The protests that are arising over the North Dakota Pipeline seem to be justified on the behalf of the Sioux peoples. For generations, their land has been stolen and threatened by pollution and today’s members have had enough. The United State’s command and control of its oil has proven to be challenging as they seek to control nature in order to harvest its products for highly predictable outcomes, usually for short-term benefits. The state should look to uphold their past treaty agreements, and work towards the reconciliation of the State and Aboriginal peoples relationship if they would like to assert better control of its natural resources, and not create such serious issues, that are worthy of demonstration.



Colwell, C. (2016, November 22). Destroying heritage: How the Dakota Access Pipeline plans went all wrong. Salon. Retrieved from

Lendman, S. (2016, November 22). Police State Tactics Against Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters. Global Research . Retrieved from

Mapes, L. (2016, November 1). Destroying heritage: How the Dakota Access Pipeline plans went all wrong. The Seattle Times . Retrieved from

Park, M. (2016, November 21). Clashes over Dakota Access Pipeline Escalate.CNN. Retrieved from

Roth, R. (2016 September 7) Management of the Biophysical Environment, GEOG*3210