After six months of protests and peaceful and prayerful resistance, the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) Camp has largely been evacuated. The camp was once a bustling community that, at its peak, was considered the largest gathering of indigenous peoples in recent history. After the recent executive orders from President Donald Trump, reauthorizing the construction of the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, the camp’s numbers dwindled to only a few hundred inhabitants.
The camp was recently issued an eviction notice by the Army Corps of Engineers, the deadline for which expired Wednesday, Feb. 22. Most inhabitants of the Oceti Sakowin Camp left willingly, many stating they wished to take the fight elsewhere and that being arrested would do nothing for the cause. Others defiantly stayed, awaiting their inevitable arrest by militarized police who have been moving in on the camp's remains.
Though I’m upset at the months of unrest and police brutality that happened at the camp, what bothers me the most about this eviction and the executive orders is the ensuing ripple effect. The Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines — though they were at the forefront of the struggle — are not the only pipelines being built. We have the Sabal Trail pipeline, the Atlantic Coast pipeline and the Comanche Trail pipeline, to name just a few of the many projects currently in construction.
I won’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of any of them. The movement against the Dakota Access pipeline — often referred to as the #NODAPL movement — though important to the struggle, eclipsed most of the other pipeline resistance movements in the country. You might not be surprised about the locations of some of these pipelines. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), located right here in North Carolina (don’t worry, it’s not near Elon University — our bubble is still safe), runs through many impoverished, minority and indigenous communities.
Robeson County is nearly 40 percent American Indian and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 30 percent of the county lives in poverty. Cumberland and Nash counties each have close to an 18 percent poverty rate and Halifax County, home to the Haliwa Saponi tribe, has a nearly 28 percent poverty rate. The pipeline will also be crossing or adjacent to many rivers, creeks and streams within the locations.
Some say that, though the Oceti Sakowin Camp is being evacuated, it is still a victory because the resistance was documented and broadcast to the nation. Millions saw it and millions voiced their support. I appreciate the optimism, but the pipelines are still being built, our president is still orange and as long as there are white and/or upper-class communities who can say no to pipelines in their backyard, there will always be marginalized communities who don’t have a choice.
Oceti Sakowin is the original name of the tribe more commonly known as the Sioux or Lakota, who currently inhabit a number of reservations that used to be a single, considerably larger reservation known as the Great Sioux Reservation. The U.S. government broke the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, which established the reservation in pursuit of gold found in the sacred Black Hills. This resulted in the Great Sioux Reservation being broken down into the much smaller, separate reservations we see today.
Does this ring any bells? Government makes a promise, breaks a promise and the indigenous people resist and are violently suppressed by white men with guns and no conscience. Unfortunately, this is yet another case in which the government violates a treaty that, according to the Constitution, is the law of the land. Do I sound like a broken record? Of course I do, but I actually can’t think of a better analogy for U.S. history than a broken record.
The resistance needs to continue. These pipelines break, a lot. According to Ecowatch, there were 220 “significant” pipeline accidents in 2016 alone. Google "pipeline leaks" or "breaks" and I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find more than a dozen recent incidents.
The Lakota, as well as the many other indigenous nations and hundreds of other protesters, were fighting for our right to clean drinking water. The camp has been moved, and the resistance will continue. One can only hope that the movement won’t lose momentum.
Water Is Life.