In 2014, Energy Transfer Partners announced their plan to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172 mile pipe that would transport 470,000 barrels of sweet crude oil per day from South Dakota to Illinois. The United States currently imports half of the oil it consumes, some of
which is extracted from unstable regions of the world. The Dakota Access Pipeline would make the United States more energy independent, in addition to providing a safer way to transport oil. Compared to truck and rail, pipelines are statistically the safest mode of transportation. Despite these benefits, however, thousands of people have gathered to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protestors say that the pipeline will threaten both the water supply of millions of people and the sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux Native American tribe. To make sure this does not happen, protesters have set up various camps around the construction site.
Anycia Jimenez, a South Eugene High School freshman, spent several days in the Red Warrior Camp and has shared what her involvement in protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline has been like.
“I first heard about [the Dakota Access Pipeline] from my mother who heard it from her sister,” Jimenez said. “My mom’s sister lives near where the pipe is being built, and she has family members near there, too. My mom’s sister was basically raised by the Lakota tribe when she was younger. I’m not related, but the tribe is still like family.”
Jimenez hopes that by protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, she will be able to protect her family’s home, but this is not the only reason she has joined the movement. Jimenez also hopes to preserve the environment for future generations.
“I know that if I grow up and I have kids and this pipe gets put in, it’s not going to be a good environment for them. The pipeline is going to have a hugely negative environmental impact, and I don’t want that for future generations,” Jimenez said.
As an example, Jimenez pointed out that the Dakota Access Pipeline would run underneath the Missouri River, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. If the pipe were to malfunction, it could poison the drinking water for more than 8,000 tribal members, not to mention the drinking water of millions of people downstream.
In order to prevent these outcomes, Jimenez and her family personally visited the Red Warrior Camp in North Dakota and joined the protests to, as Jimenez’s mother said, “support our family and protect our water. The Missouri river is being threatened, and our family’s mission to protect it is a responsibility.”
While at the Red Warrior Camp, Jimenez witnessed the scale of support the cancellation of the pipeline has received, the arrest of nearly 200 protesters, and the removal of Native American figures due to security culture — the act of keeping potentially dangerous parties out of a given situation.
“The first week I went up there, I was working with the Red Warrior Camp, the main action camp. When you’re up there, you can see a lot of what was happening. There were a lot of people who weren’t even related to the tribes; they were just there to support the cause, which I think is great. [However], recently, almost 200 people were arrested, and I remember there were these elders sitting by the fire who were kicked out because of security culture. That was really surprising to me,” Jimenez said.
Undeterred, Jimenez continued to protest with the rest of the camp, and a few days later, their efforts were met with success.
“The third night I was there, there was an action, and it successfully closed construction on the work site down for the day, which was awesome,” Jimenez said. “That night there was a celebration. There was a lot of singing and dancing and drumming. They even lit off fireworks. It was a huge success.”
Even with this progress, protesters have yet to officially stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The swelling number of protesters in September drew the attention of three federal agencies who decided to withhold the permit Energy Transfer needed in order to cross the Missouri River, momentarily halting further developments. However, in mid October, Energy Transfer said that it soon expected approval from the Army Corps for the river crossing, the final approval needed in order to complete the pipeline.
Jimenez stressed that this cannot happen.
“What is being done is hard on the tribes and the people who live their because it’s their home and where their family has been for generations,” Jimenez said. “Their ancestors are buried there and ceremonies have been performed there. If the [pipeline] is constructed, a lot of people will lose land that has been theirs for years.”
As Jimenez says, the Dakota Access Pipeline should be cancelled in order to protect the rights of Native Americans and the environment. Preventing the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is not impossible, as proven when the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline was rejected in 2015. The Keystone XL Pipeline was a planned 1,700 mile pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, all the way to the Gulf Coast. However, the pipeline would cut through sensitive environmental and agricultural areas such as the Nebraska Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer. In response to these environmental threats, thousands of people protested, and in 2015, President Obama refused to give TransCanada the permit it needed to cross the United States border and complete the pipeline. TransCanada is still seeking approval to build the pipeline, but as it stands, the construction of Keystone XL has been halted.
If people continue to stand strong together and protest, Jimenez is confident that the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline can be stopped, too. “People will continue fighting, no matter what, because this is their land,” Jimenez said.