In shocking images broadcast across the internet this week, private security personnel working for the Dallas-based energy firm Energy Transfer Partners deployed dogs and pepper spray against Native American protesters attempting to block the construction of a controversial pipeline in North Dakota.
The protests emerged following the approval by the US Army Corps of Engineers of an oil pipeline, called the Dakota Access Pipeline, slated to span four states. Approval was made without consideration for Native American customs, which include religious beliefs that value sacred sites threatened by the proximity of the pipeline that encroaches on Native American reservations.
Spearheaded by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the popular backlash against the pipeline’s construction has attracted scores of tribes and allies from across the nation. In addition to the concerns relating to the destruction and desecration of religious sites, tribes also fear potential contamination of reservations’ drinking water resulting from the pipeline.
While company representatives contend that protesters broke onto private land where the pipeline is being constructed – thus warranting the violent response – the use of dogs invokes harrowing images from the United States’ past, when authorities deployed canines to attack minority populations fighting for equal rights and a seat at the table. Furthermore, a day following the violence, a federal judge ordered a stay of construction on the stretch of pipeline where protesters have currently set up resistance.
This temporary reprieve – however – has not allayed concerns of some tribal leaders, who point to the fact that construction east of the area temporarily protected by the judge’s order can still continue apace. This essentially means that the pipeline will, eventually, reach full completion.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II explains the effect that the pipeline’s construction will continue to have on the region:
This demolition is devastating. These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.
The Impact Tap will continue to bring you updates relating to the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Native American protests currently underway.