Why Manitobans should care about the Dakota Access Pipeline

Graphic by Aldo Rios.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a $3.8 billion oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois, covering approximately 1,900 kilometers of terrain. Nearly as long as the previously rejected Keystone XL Pipeline, it is estimated that the pipeline will transport about 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day. If built, this pipeline will run through Standing Rock, a Sioux reservation in South Dakota, home to over 8,000 people. What this means is that it would run through sacred Indigenous sites and burial grounds. Additionally, the pipeline would be built under the Missouri River, which is Standing Rock’s main source of drinking water. A leak or oil spill would be catastrophic for their water source and local ecosystems.

Through the use of a loophole known as Nationwide Permit 12 – a fast-track permit issued through federal law that does not require projects to undergo rigorous environmental review, tribal consultation, or public input – the Army Corps of Engineers has allowed construction of the pipeline to begin. Although temporarily halted, construction has resumed on private land in North Dakota.

Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline have been ongoing since April, but the rest of the world has only recently turned its attention to Standing Rock as other Native American tribes, activists, and even celebrities gathered at Standing Rock, the pipeline construction sites, and courts in Washington D.C. to protest the pipeline’s construction. Peaceful protesters have been pepper sprayed, attacked by guard dogs, and arrested. Just last week, a truck ran over Native American protesters a couple states over in Reno, Nevada who were involved in public demonstrations against DAPL.

Among those arrested are Deia Schlosberg, a documentary filmmaker facing up to 45 years in prison for her coverage on the pipeline protests, and Shailene Woodley, a Hollywood actress who live-streamed her arrest as she was leaving a protest at a construction site and who has since been charged for criminal trespassing.

The protesters’ defiance has evoked America’s ugly racial past and is a reminder of how little has changed in the American government’s relationship with Native American communities. History always repeats itself; the same government is violating the same treaties.

Our planet continues to get warmer; every month in this year has been the warmest month globally, meaning that 2016 will surpass 2015 as the hottest year on record. This year has also witnessed its share of environmental disasters due to global warming, from India’s record-breaking heat wave this spring, which killed hundreds and severely damaged crops, to Hurricane Matthew, one of the most devastating hurricanes in recorded human history due to record-high ocean temperatures that took the lives of over 1,400 people and completely destroyed southern Haiti. Reading about this should leave us terrified and worried about where our planet’s future is headed.

And so, when we hear about environmental protests, or read about Standing Rock, we should not just brush it off and pretend the Dakota Access Pipeline will have no direct effect on our lives since it’s not our water being contaminated or our homes being damaged. Whether or not we notice the repercussions, we will be affected if this pipeline is built.

This is not just their pipeline battle; this is our pipeline battle. People’s lives are at stake. People who have the guts to stand up to multi-national billion dollar corporations who hire private security companies that sic guard dogs on protestors. This protest is a matter of life and death. The people of Standing Rock are fighting to protect lives: human life, animal life, and plant life. The extraction, transportation and use of fossil fuels is destroying our planet. We too are at risk, so our response to the Dakota Access Pipeline matters. And we can help.

We can contribute by expressing our support, by sending funds, supplies, and food, and by spreading information to others about DAPL. Most importantly however, is increasing our own knowledge about what is happening at Standing Rock. This is essential, and we have an abundant amount of resources that we can look into. There are numerous articles, both news reports and opinion pieces, on DAPL that have been published. There’s the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s official Facebook page which is constantly keeping us updated on what is happening, alongside opportunities at the U of M to learn more about DAPL through the World Opportunities Week happening on campus during the first week of November.

We’re only an eight-hour drive from Standing Rock, so we cannot distance ourselves from what is happening; and even if we could, we shouldn’t.


During World Wise Opportunities Week, you can join the discussion and attend a panel called Water is Life: A Time for Civil Disobedience on pipeline expansion, Standing Rock, and the global movements for change. This panel will be held on Thursday, Nov. 3, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. at 230 University College.