A crime that could have been prevented:
Dakota Access Pipeline crossing Standing Rock reservation
Visiting Standing Rock was part of dream of stepping into the sacred lands and birthplace of wise Lakota Sioux leader, Sitting Bull, one of the greatest warriors of resistance.
As the journey evolved, Sunshine Rose, our guiding sun, walked us through her homeland and without exception, this place was in imminent threat: a potential environmental crime. The Dakota Access Pipeline, was just freshly excavated under the Missouri river, creating a potential oil spill in their river and for Lakota people WATER IS LIFE.
As oral people, stories are going from generation to generation, like the ancient Lakota prophecy: “a Black Snake would slither across the land, desecrating the sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the Earth, a moment of unity, power and solidarity will change in human history”. They believed this black snake is the Dakota Access pipeline in which this prediction is happening now. The resistance to prevent this pipeline, had spread in the hearts of native American tribes and beyond, people were coming from all over the world, the scream of the river united them again for the first time in many years of history. This gathering was a symbol of hope, which was carried by the cosmology of Missouri river ancestors and its protectors. In a conversation in Fort Yates, someone told us a story that the builders of this pipeline were being chased in dreams by the spirits of their ancestors because their were realized by their machines while digging sacred burial sites.
After months of protests and resistance by thousands of indigenous and environmental activists, the Dakota Access Pipeline was builded and the idea that the power of people united could stop an environmental crime, was a myth like the story of the black snake.
An environmental crime brings many temporal legal questions, if the crime didn't happen yet lawyers have no evidences to present in court. So they've tried to prevent this crime, by persisting, standing and reacting politicly with their own life. What are the odds of being arrested by preventing a crime to happen? In this fight many indigenous people, were violently exposed and arrested by authorities under Trump governance.
Two years later, the legal system in North Dakota is still busy processing the people arrested during the anti-DAPL protests. Many have had their charges reduced or dismissed, but there are still people in prision.
Ongoing law suit and multiple oil spills
Not so long after the pipeline was build in a location 2.5 hours away from the Standing Rock, leaked 176,000 gallons of crude oil into a creek and the surrounding countryside, killing the whole ecosystem around this area, and contaminating drinking water, and multiple oil spills occured along this pipeline which crosses five american states.
Lakota people seeks a declaration that the Corps’ decision to build the pipeline was
decision taken without a comprehensive environmental review and adequate consultation with the Tribe and is a total violation of the APA, NEPA, and the Tribe’s Treaty rights.
Since then, the law suit has been an ongoing court case, and oil spills are constantly happening.
Field research interviews with:
Lakota tribe are oral people, I had conversations with people from tribe council, lawyer, organizer of the standing rock camp and Sunshine rose our guide.