The Standing Rock Protests: What Our Kids Need to Know

This explainer on the North Dakota pipeline project demonstrates the importance of facts over fiction

Celebrities, activists, and even Bernie Sanders have been calling for an end to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in the state of North Dakota.

The back-and-forth battle between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the managers of the pipeline project has sparked divisive protests. And a growing group of supporters of the project — many of them local North Dakotans — have fired back at the protesters. Supporters argue the DAPL was approved years ago and that the behavior of the protesters at Standing Rock is fueled by professional activists and radical, anti-oil, climate change extremists.

The protesters, naturally, call themselves “water protectors” — and say their human rights are being violated and their land stolen from them.

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An all-out social media blitz with the hashtag #NoDAPL has set the internet ablaze, garnering more attention for the protests at Standing Rock. The governor of North Dakota issued an executive order that requires all protesters to clear the area — yet protesters have vowed to continue their resistance.

With all due respect to the Standing Rock Tribe, and without diminishing or forgetting the horrendous treatment of Native Americans that occurred in the past in the United States, a look at the facts shows these protests are an unnecessary and dangerous solution to a nonexistent problem — a grandstanding event with very questionable roots and something that’s now becoming an outlet for partisan propaganda.

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For all the children — both in the area and across the country — who are wondering just what is going on, here’s the deal:

The Standing Rock Tribe had ample opportunity to bring concerns over the pipeline.
The DAPL is a domestic oil pipeline designed to move over half a billion gallons of crude oil across four states daily. The oil enters the pipeline in North Dakota, crosses South Dakota and Iowa, and winds up in Patoka, Illinois, nearly 1,200 miles later. Although the route does not actually cross the Standing Rock reservation, it runs within half a mile of it.  It is important to note that eight other pipelines traverse the same Missouri River safely each day.

Related: Pipeline Protesters Arrested in North Dakota

The protesters at Standing Rock claim the tribe was not given ample opportunity to submit input on the project. The facts tell a demonstrably different story.

Before pipeline construction even began, project leaders partook in 559 meetings with community leaders, elected officials, and organizations in areas neighboring the Dakota Access Pipeline. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held 389 meetings with 55 tribes to confer on the DAPL. In addition, 29 open houses, public meetings, and regulatory hearings were held throughout the four states where the pipeline travels. The Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota even voted unanimously to approve the project on Dec. 2, 2015.

It has been suggested by opponents of the protests that with the pipeline nearly 100 percent completed, the Standing Rock Tribe’s sudden resistance to allowing the project to continue could be linked to the fact that the pipeline doesn’t even go through Standing Rock land. This means that the tribe would be paid no real estate easements from the federal government.

A federal judge denied the Standing Rock Tribe’s request for an injunction against DAPL.
On Sept. 9, 2016, a federal judge denied the Standing Rock Tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would halt construction of the pipeline near Lake Oahe; but the judge made a point to first recognize and voice his respect of the Standing Rock Tribe and all Native Americans. The judge entered an access order fully vetting the entire matter and allowing the pipeline project to continue — but this access order is very rarely mentioned by the protesters.

The protesters at Standing Rock are continuing to claim they are peaceful and that police and military are attacking them at every turn with water cannons, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. A look at log reports from local law enforcement show that protesters have thrown fecal matter and urine on law enforcement officers.

We should show our kids that not everything is a government conspiracy.
The DAPL project is a lawful one that helps the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil and create jobs, which are deeply needed in the Midwest. There is no evidence the pipeline is going to destroy any sacred land, poison any water supply, or violate the human and constitutional rights of the Standing Rock Sioux.

Some 2,000 veterans have vowed now to help relieve the protesters at Standing Rock during the harsh winter weather there — while other veterans oppose that type of action. The Standing Rock Sioux are not having their constitutional rights violated with this pipeline — and the facts unequivocally prove this. The Standing Rock Sioux have a rich history and deserve recognition for their contributions to this country and for the past wrongs committed against them. But we should not dismiss and ignore the facts. We should not dismiss and ignore criminal behavior and radically divisive thinking.

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The protests at Standing Rock need to stop — and we as parents are on the front lines against the divisive and increasingly hostile attitudes of the protesters and those who support them. We must always learn the facts and teach our kids to do the same.

The author, the father of a son, is based in Wisconsin. 

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