Understanding Standing Rock

On Sunday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided against constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on Lake Oahe, respecting Native American territory. Currently, the Army is exploring alternate routes for the construction.

The monumental decision to reroute the 3.7-billion-dollar oil project comes after months of demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline Project that opposed the utter disregard of the Standing Rock Sioux Native American reservation and the native community’s well-being.

The destructive pipeline’s construction threatened Native Americans both environmentally and economically, and would have cut through sacred burial grounds and waterways. And though the water protectors’ protests have created an atmosphere of peaceful demonstration, since the Standing Rock resistance began in April, they have faced rubber bullets, intimidation, explosive grenades, uncontrolled police dogs, water cannons in freezing weather, and more – all of which have come directly from on-site police.

The story of Native American land destruction follows a path inverse to America’s growth story. Ever since Europeans first stepped foot on the continent and violently encroached on tribal land, Native American land theft has remained consistent in this country. Hundreds of European-broken land treaties and the imperialistic Manifest Destiny have aided in shoving Native American tribes further and further away from their land.

I believe that the U.S. government has never done enough to alleviate Native suppression after centuries of indigenous brutality and land theft. This is why I am left tragically unsurprised by the seemingly-“unprecedented” intolerance currently in Standing Rock: This exploitation of Native lands does not at all represent a new phenomenon in this unified country. What we are seeing on that North Dakota reservation is simply the continuation of American history and reality: the disregard of Native American lives.

That said, the U.S. Army’s decision does give protectors a crucial victory as they enter winter. I celebrate the Army’s correct ruling, recognizing that the change is vital to moving towards ending Native American oppression and neglect.

I believe that we must shy away from complacency and use this opportunity to understand, and, more importantly, criticize the way this nation actively devalues the Native American community. Centuries ago, Native Americans fought to protect their land from European immigrants. Today, a genocide later, Native Americans are still defending their land and are still fighting for the respect they deserve as people in this nation. The victims should not hold the burden of fighting for their safety. Instead, the perpetrators should take the responsibility upon themselves to ensure the safety of the Native Americans.

Learning Standing Rock’s position in the long timeline of Native American struggle, is important to combatting the suppression facing America’s indigenous people. We need to think about what we can do to create and support efforts for much-needed change. Despite a marginal Native American student presence on campus, Andover must raise awareness and harbor change by hosting speakers and events, promoting courses that accurately depict the tribulations of indigenous people. We must recognize the ongoing abuse our government has inflicted on Native American people and we must stand up for the Native American communities that endure today.