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For Great Sioux Nation, Dakota Access Pipeline Is “A Disaster Waiting To Happen”

The Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota will not only impact the environment but also lead to an influx of out-of-state workers and increase crime, drug use, and sex trafficking, according to an indigenous columnist.

If completed, the pipeline, also known as the Bakken Pipeline, would travel from North Dakota to Illinois through 50 counties in the United States and transport crude oil. A data sheet published by Dakota Access, LLC, indicates it is a $3.7 billion “investment” intended to run some 1,172 miles, or 1,886 kilometers. It is expected to “transport approximately 470,000 barrels [of crude oil] with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels per day or more.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe launched a protest encampment called the Sacred Stone Spirit Camp back in April, but in recent weeks, demonstrations against the pipeline have intensified, as thousands have traveled to the camp to support the struggle of indigenous people against Dakota Access.

Ruth Hopkins, a Lakota and Dakota of the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, and an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Nation, told Shadowproof oil development tends to bring in a lot of non-Native men from out of state who do the work, often on a temporary basis. This influx of transient workers “brings an increase in crime, drug use, and sex trafficking. The Bakken is a perfect example of that.”

As the oil boom began, North Dakota saw a major population spike, and the state’s law enforcement, particularly on reservations, wasn’t prepared.

“We don’t have the kind of funding necessary to combat crimes waves, and there are special concerns regarding jurisdiction on tribal lands,” Hopkins said. “As a tribal judge on a nearby reservation, I witnessed the effects of this oil boom. It pushed the tribe to the point of declaring a State of Emergency due to rampant drug use.”

Hopkins, who is also a columnist for Indian Country Today Media Network and co-founder of Last Real Indians, described how the pipeline will be built on a shifting riverbed and directly threaten the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation’s main water source.

Dakota Access has already failed to complete a sufficient “environmental impact statement” as required by law, according to Hopkins. The company has failed to consult the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe regarding human remains in the ground at the site. This was the reason the tribe was awarded an injunction against Dakota Access.

Hopkins argued the pipeline “is a disaster waiting to happen, and once a leak occurs, there aren’t stringent enough regulations in place to ensure proper cleanup.” She has seen this scenario before in the case of TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, which spilled on her reservation, Lake Traverse. “It was never properly cleaned up.”

A leak would also impact millions living along the Missouri River, but locals continue to be told the pipeline will never leak.

The mainstream media has played a part in compounding the trauma caused by the project by ignoring events and forcing local indigenous activists to work tirelessly to garner any media attention. For example, despite Sacred Stone Camp protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline having taken place for over a week, with more than 2,000 people there in order to defend the land and water, they’ve been “pretty much shut out by national news”.

Hopkins suggested, “Dozens of other Native Nations are joining the cause. If this story isn’t worthy of coverage, nothing is. The public is beginning to realize this. #NoDAPL trended nationally on Twitter.”

Jon Eagle Sr., Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, recently stated in a video interview with Newsy that “the last time the seven bands of the Lakota-Dakota-Nakota Nation stood together was at the Battle of the Greasy Grass in June 25, 1876”, making their presence at the Bakken protest incredibly historic.

The movement against the Bakken Pipeline project isn’t the first for indigenous activists. They have battled against the Keystone XL pipeline in recent years. They have fought to save Pe’Sla, a sacred site in the heart of the Black Hills, which private parties attempted to auction in 2012.

Throughout history, indigenous resistance has remained creative, vibrant, and unrelenting. “The Black Hills were promised to the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, in the Fort Laramie Treaty. They were stolen after gold was discovered. The Supreme Court of the United States held that the Black Hills rightfully belongs to us. After much effort, we got it back,” Hopkins recounted.

For those interested in helping local indigenous communities with their movement against Dakota Access, Hopkins says they can share information about their protests, and fund their efforts.

“Also, you can show up. Come and join us.”

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine

Roqayah Chamseddine is a Lebanese-American writer, published poet, and journalist, whose work can be found at