Standing Rock Shows We Need to Protect Our Right to Protest

Native Americans successfully protested the construction of the Keystone Pipeline through their reservation.

Photo by Creative Commons

Native Americans successfully protested the construction of the Keystone Pipeline through their reservation.

By Laura Sneller, Social Media Editor/Video Team

In Spring 2016, the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline was approved. This is a $3.7 billion investment to transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day through four states. The Native American people of Standing Rock, North Dakota are protesting under the pretenses of it destroying the environment, hurting their economy, jeopardizing their health, and more. However, the protesters have been subjected to many obstacles that have attempted to silence them, such as unfair policing and a lack of media coverage.

Originally, the site was going to go through the Missouri River, and in the vicinity of Bismarck, North Dakota. However, once the people of Bismarck spoke out in protest about it, citing the possibility that the pipeline can contaminate their water, the route was changed to go through treaty lands, endangering the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux.

However, the grave circumstances of the situation are not being covered as they should be. There may be a few tweets and articles here and there, but considering that a Native American tribe, who has been oppressed by Americans since colonial times, is being denied the right to drink clean water, there should be a larger spotlight on this topic.

According to an August CNN article, the Standing Rock Sioux have filed a federal complaint that the construction of the pipeline threatened the Sioux’s environmental and economic well-being, and would destroy significant historic and religious sites that hold cultural importance.

More and more people have joined in the protests, not just in the country, but from all around the world. Also, celebrities have been seen at the protests, such as actress Shailene Woodley and actor Matt McGorry. Other celebrities are taking to social media to show their support, as well as politicians, such as Bernie Sanders, who has spoken that he does not support the pipeline.

The most terrible aspect of these protests is how the state dealt with it. The state of North Dakota activated the National Guard, and riot police with military-grade equipment have attacked Native American protesters. They used pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and sound cannons.

According to a November Democracy Now! article, the state of North Dakota has approved $10 million to police the protest, and has called hundreds of deputies from neighboring states.

However, what is more disturbing is how little the news and media has reported on the violence endured by the protesters. Major news outlets have written articles about the protests, but they don’t show the true horror or the significance of what happened. The fact that American citizens are being shot at and exposed to tear gas just for exercising their right to protests the potential contamination of their water is disgusting.

Also, there have been reports from protesters that their phones’ signals are being jammed. It was been said that when people near the front lines of the protests try to videotape what is going on, their phones say that they do not have enough data. But, as soon as they were not in the vicinity of the protests, their phones are fine again. Therefore, it was very difficult to document live footage of the violence that the Standing Rock protesters are being exposed to.

The act of an unfair shutdown of a peaceful protest is not a new story here at CHS, with the walk-out protest that was originally planned to happen during lunch on Nov 21 being cancelled by the superintendent. The reason for the canceling of this protest was understandable, but if students believe that they cannot protest or exercise their constitutional rights in school, and see the violence being acted on the Native Americans of Standing Rock, they will be discouraged from speaking out on their own interests.

Even though the Standing Rock protests are happening in North Dakota, the effects somewhat similar of the government’s efforts to silence the protesters can be seen even here at CHS. The more that the government and higher up people discourages and attempts to stop protests, the less people, especially the impressionable CHS students, will speak out and fight for basic rights, such as having safe drinking water.

Do not let the attempts of silence on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe discourage you. Instead, let this feed the flame of a new, and more aware, generation of people who are not going to stand by idly.