[Header Image] “Water is Life… The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is gathering under the mantra “water is life” to protest the potentially dangerous Dakota Access Pipeline.” (photo © Alex Wong/Getty Images), Image Link.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe:

The Great Sioux Reservation today is comprised of part of North Dakota and  all of “South Dakota west of Missouri River, including the sacred Black Hills and the life-giving Missouri River.”[1] The people of Standing Rock “often called Sioux, are members of the Dakota and Lakota nations.”[2] The tribe has approximately 10,000 members.[3]

Karklis, Laris, The Washington Post, 2016, Image Link.

The Dakota Access Pipeline:

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests are a key example of Native American fights for environmental justice. The pipeline plans have been going on since 2014, but in recent months the case has received significant national attention.[4] The controversy surrounds the 1,200-mile oil pipeline that the Energy Transfer Oil Company has been trying to develop that would “transport crude oil from the Bakken/Three Forks play in North Dakota to a terminus in Illinois with additional potential points of destination along the pipeline route.”[5] According to the oil company, the pipeline would help to generate significant local and state revenue and create jobs.[6]The project, in total, would be a $3.7 billion investment for the United States.[7]

“The Route,” Energy Transfer Partners, 2015, Image Link.

The Dakota Access Pipeline was routed to “travel underneath the Missouri River, the primary drinking water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”[8] The major pushback comes from the Sioux Tribe because the risk for contamination of the water would jeopardize their only water source. While the pipeline developers have “insisted that they have taken extraordinary measures to safeguard against disaster…opponents point out that even the safest pipelines can leak.”[9] Since 2010, “the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines.”[10] Additionally, developers argue that the pipeline would not actually go through reservation land. However, this is another reflection of the contention between Native Americans and government with regard to who has the rights to the land, an extremely intentional and ambiguous phenomenon. Many people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have expressed concerns about the pipeline’s desecration of sacred lands, where many of their ancestors have been buried.[11]

While this is not an isolated case, it does show how modern activist platforms such as social media have significantly influenced the public’s reaction. It is interesting to compare the media’s interest in covering the Dakota Access Pipeline in conjunction to the public’s social media reactions to the uranium contamination that we discussed in the Navajo Nation. Water protectors in the Navajo Nation have been fighting for their access to safe water for years, yet it has not received the same amount of social media attention.


[Above] “The fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline, explained” (2016). Courtesy of Vox, Video Link.

[Below] “Native Americans Fight Against Dakota Access Pipeline” (2016). Courtesy of Fusion, Video Link.


[1] “Standing Rock History,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Accessed 12 December 2016, http://standingrock.org/history/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Worland, Justin, “What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests,” Time Magazine, 28 October 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “The Route,” Energy Transfer Partners, 2015, Accessed 12 December 2016, http://daplpipelinefacts.com/.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Worland, Justin, “What to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests,” Time Magazine, 28 October 2016.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.