What’s Important? : Media and the DAPL Pipeline

In September of 2016, indigenous groups and their allies across the Americas, Canada, and Mexico banded together to protect culture, treaties, and most of all water. “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life” they chanted together in what was meant to be heard across the country; but it was only heard by certain pockets of the American populous, and taken seriously by an even smaller percentage. Why? Because many different stories were being told across all media resources. With the DAPL protests coming to a close, three timelines portraying very different stories of the pipeline and its protests are being told. U.S. News reported on a conglomerate of things, NPR reported primarily on the legal situations surrounding the construction, and the Sacred Stone Camp’s website provided an archive of various articles to serve as a timeline.

The three media sites agree on the basic events that occurred during this time. They agree that in December of 2014 the Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) applied for the Dakota Access Pipeline(DAPL). Then in January of 2016 the design is opened to the public to address their concerns. In April the Sioux Nations gathered in peaceful protest at the Sacred Stone Camp in Cannonball, North Dakota. The first arrests were made on August 10th. The North Dakota Governor mobilizes the states National Guard on September 8th. Then NPR and USN agree that the U.S. District Court Judge, James Boasberg, denied the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux their request to halt pipeline construction on September 9th; but the Army, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior stated that construction will be halted while its impacts are reviewed. In early November President Obama makes his first statement regarding the pipeline where he states, in short, that the pipeline would be under review. Then on November 21st, Water Protectors were met with water guns, rubber bullets, and tear gas; and many were sent to the hospital. The three sources then unanimously agree that on December 4th the Army Corps of Engineers halts construction in 2016 so a more thorough environmental study and additional routes can be considered.

Where they all disagree and where events are only mentioned by one source are compelling, and rather disturbing. NPR states that in April of 2016 the Army Corps of Engineers send their senior archaeologist to investigate the site, and he concludes that no historical sites would be affected (The Associated Press, 2017). His reference to “historic sites” is crucial to this story. In archaeology a historic site in America is anything pre-1950’s and after 1492, but the sacred sites that the Sioux asserted would be destroyed by the proposed pipeline were pre-historic and had existed on Turtle Island long before colonization had occurred. So the Corps statement was in fact true, but had played on the publics naivety. NPR also says that on September 6th, 2016, James Boasberg had paused construction awaiting news on the lawsuit between the Sioux and ETP (The Associated Press, 2017). But the other two sources state that on September 9th Boasberg had refused the Sioux’s request to halt construction (Camp of Sacred Stones, 2016; Hersher, 2016). But the one thing only one resource goes to great lengths to describe is the violence that occurred, The Camp of the Sacred Stones.

Although USN glosses over that fateful day only a few days before Thanksgiving regarding the tactics used to suppress the crowd, they failed to recognize that this was not the only time this happened; it wasn’t the first and it wouldn’t be the last. The Camp of Sacred Stones website compiled many sources and created a timeline according to the publish date which is either the day of or a few days after the event occurred. USN mentions in conjunction with Sacred Stone that the first arrests were made on August 10th of 2016. After that day the arrests and charges only got worst. 12 water protectors were arrested the next day, and the day after that the Standing Rock Sioux’s (now renamed Sacred Stone) Chairman is arrested. On August 15th, Morton County Police Department declares a state of emergency, and the day after that the State begins issuing restraining orders against peaceful citizens. On August 23rd, the State Police removes water trailers supplying the protectors camp with drinking water. They claim that they posed a “safety hazard” (Camp of the Sacred Stones, 2016). NPR acknowledges the fact that the ETP had hired private security to protect the pipeline, but failed to go into detail regarding the severity of the injuries caused by this so-called “security”. Live videos revealed that security dogs were often pushed on top of the protectors, protectors were sprayed from less than an arm length away with pepper spray often, and many water protectors were bitten by the dogs regardless of sex or age (Camp of the Sacred Stones, 2016). On the 29th of September protesters praying in a non-violent display are met with assault rifles and armored vehicles (Camp of the Sacred Stones, 2016).  Then in October the Iowa camp receives the eviction notice for treaty land and their leader is arrested for the fifth time. On International Indigenous Peoples Day, twenty-nine individuals are arrested including a man who was dragged out of a sweat-lodge while in prayer. Water Protectors are then suspected of arson which destroyed 2.1 million dollars’ worth of DAPL equipment, and of stealing cattle. The farmer admitted later that he found his lost cattle in a ravine and retracted his accusation. A live video recorded a DAPL worker driving past water protectors and shouting “How much for the little girl”; this disgusting inquiry was never mentioned on national news. Amy Goodman, a journalist for Democracy Now, faced riot charges for video taping the protests. Then on October 18th, DAPL skips ahead approximately 200 miles to begin construction at the Missouri River site and to avoid any further legal issues by bypassing them completely. The next day the pipeline hires a new security force known for being exceeding brutal. On the 27th one sneaks into the camp disguised as a water protector with an assault rifle, and as Water Protectors gather to push him out of the camp he begins aiming the rifle at civilians (Camp of the Sacred Stones, 2016). His true intentions are still unknown. The next day 117 protesters are arrested and sent to various jails across the state. Some reported that they were stripped, and had numbers written on their arms. They also reported that the jails had run out of cells so many protesters were put into dog kennels (Camp of the Sacred Stones, 2016). On that fateful day that US News also reported on in November they somehow failed to mention that a young woman was in the hospital and could potentially lose her arm, because DAPL security had also been firing crowd suppressing grenades into the crowd. But instead of firing the grenades above the crowd as they are intended, they were being fired directly at citizens. During this violent altercation, US News also failed to mention that the protesters had been blocked in on a bridge that entered the camp and could not escape the violence (Camp of the Sacred Stones, 2016). Journalists were arrested for videotaping the events, Water Protectors were made targets for hit and runs, and everyone on the opposing side received a rather brutal greeting. But both US News and NPR also never mentioned any of the wins or progress that was made by the Sioux and the Water Protectors.

By December, five cities including Seattle, Belingham, Lawrence, Portland, and Minneapolis had sided with the protectors. Amnesty Now and Black Lives Matter also supported their cause. The indigenous youth of the Oceti Sakowin nation ran 2000 miles to Washington D.C. and held a protest outside the capital. And as the story of resistance spread via social media across the country many grassroots protests spurred up all over the world, including Germany and Switzerland as well. Both the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Chairmen traveled to address the UN regarding the numerous human rights violations they were experiencing. Women and youth planted fruit trees and corn along the intended pipeline route. And in October, Canadian protesters were able to shut down 5 major oil lines; which sparked hope for the movement. The Sunoco gas line spilled 55,000 gallons of gas into the Susquehanna River; which although was not a win, but it proved the validity of the Water Protectors vows. Then on National Day of Action 250 actions for No DAPL occurred in 43 states. Then in December thousands of veterans arrive in support and build the protestors a better winter infrastructure even though they had just had their first big win. The Army Corps of Engineers had denied easement under the Missouri River. Then on December 11th, the youth light the All-Nations Fire which symbolized the unity of all the tribes who came to support and protect the water. Sadly this is where the Camp of Sacred Stones timeline ends but we know all to well that this was not the end.

All three sources cherry picked what was most important in their own eyes. But both US News and NPR seemed to ignore much of the violence as well as the triumphs for the water protectors and exercised a general ignorance for the culture. With so many great headlines that would catch people’s attention like, “DAPL Worker Solicits Girl for Sex” (Camp of the Sacred Stones, 2016); why wasn’t there more coverage?  In the end, on Jan 24th newly elected President Donald Trump signed the executive order pushing the DAPL and Keystone pipelines through to completion (The Associated Press, 2017; Hersher, 2017).

But that does not mean we should give up our land, our culture, and our earth.

Forget the 1%, and remember the 5%.


References Cited

Camp of the Sacred Stones (editor/compiler)

2016    DAPL Timeline. Electronically accessed September 27, 2017.

Hersher, Rebecca

2017    Key Moments in the Dakota Access Pipeline Fight, National Public Radio,                                February 22. Electronically accessed September 27, 2017;                                                                                          moments-in-the-dakota-access-pipeline-fight

The Associated Press

2017    A Timeline of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline, U.S. News, March 28.                                            Electronically accessed September 27, 2017;                                                                                                        the-dakota-access-oil-pipeline


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