Yesterday, the Army Corps of Engineers decided to pass the final easement allowing for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
I’ve been thinking about this as momentum builds behind the pipeline. The executive order, the banks that continue to fund it, and the large proportion of the country that view themselves as unaffected and therefore remain unfazed.
The question I hear, often from white men and women, is why should I care?
Maybe it’s the Pisces in me, or maybe my roots in Christianity, or maybe it’s the ecologist in me that tells me with utter conviction that everything but everything but everything is connected.
You may not live downstream of the pipeline, so your water supply may not be in danger. You may not know any members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, so your sense of cultural identity may not be at stake.
But as an ecologist, I can tell you that the mere act of constructing yet another massive pipeline through an already fragile ecosystem, not to mention the possibility (probability) of a rupture that would contaminate the water source for thousands of people and hundreds of acres of land… such an event has major ecological impacts with swathes of downstream (literally and figuratively) consequences. You may not see them all immediately, but trust me, you will.
In addition, our country is already overly reliant on fossil fuels and moving the production of those fuels from foreign countries to our own does not remove this reliance.
Our country, and in truth our planet, is careening towards its own human-induced suicide thanks to practices EXACTLY like this, wherein the environmental impacts are not fully considered or discussed. The Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct a full environmental review. This is not only irresponsible but downright dangerous, sentencing the entire central portion of our country, already a vastly overlooked and under-valued segment, to once again bear the physical cost of corporate greed.
But, even if all of this weren’t true, the more important point remains:
This. Is. Not. Our. Land.
Honestly, this should be the thought that we wake up to every single day. (Primarily directed towards the white folks in the audience.) No, no one asked to be born here. If you are African American it is highly likely that your ancestors were kidnapped and brought here against their will.
As a white person, though, even if your ancestors weren’t a part of the initial colonization and genocide, our existence still contributes to one of the largest and most prolonged cases of gentrification the world has ever seen.
The question before us then is not only a question of physical survival, it is a question of spiritual reckoning.
You may not believe in human souls, but I certainly hope you believe in humanity.
The question facing us is this: Do we choose to atone for the sins of our ancestors by joining the fight of our brothers and sisters, listening to their voices too long ignored, and ensuring their rights so long denied?
Or do we once again turn our faces, block our ears, and continue our downward spiral into moral decrepitude?
This is the question that faces our country and each of us as individuals. It is the question that answers the initial query “Why the DAPL?”.
Native Americans, the myriad tribes, cultures, civilizations, traditions, and languages, have survived against all odds in the face of continuous brutalization, forced mass eviction, murder, sustained economic depression and spiritual and physical poisoning inflicted on them by white colonizers.
It is long, long past the time that we return the sovereignty that we have unlawfully usurped. It is long past the time we hold ourselves responsible for our transgressions. These transgressions may not have been enacted by us personally, but if we gain from the status quo and remain silent and passive, then we are a part of the inertia that obstructs the arc of justice.
It is long past the time that we stop asking the question “Why the DAPL?” and started asking the question “What can I do to heal these wounds?”.
Thank you for your time.