Senior, Louisiana State University
“We’ve lived off this land, it's all we’ve ever done… and then now, they’re trying to build a pipeline outside my door? I don’t want this pipeline. My son is buried on top of that hill. Who wants a pipeline next to their son’s grave?” LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Founder of the Sacred Stone Camp and Member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said during an interview with The Guardian in 2016 . She continued, “You talk about racial discrimination, sexual discrimination; you talk about political power, corporations owning America. I’m seeing it all. Its all happening right here.”
In 2017, after months of protests by environmental activists and the Sioux Tribal nation, construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline was completed. In their first month in office, the Trump administration issued full permits for the development of the project that had been delayed by the Obama administration to get more complete information on the environmental impact to tribal lands. The pipeline was opposed by over 100 federally recognized tribes and was considered a turning point in tribal response to U.S. federal projects. The combined efforts of litigation and on-the-ground protests cost the project’s investors around $750 million and lawsuits continue to this day. In it’s first six months of operation, the pipeline spilled five times, underlining the fact that even the most heavily monitored and assessed of pipeline projects are imperfect. The pipeline is widely considered by tribes as a violation of sovereignty and by environmental activists as a continuing threat to the drinking water of the region. The structure of U.S. tribal consultation policy was not strong enough to give the Sioux Nation substantial influence on permitting for a project that would affect their land. The pipeline decision has been a focusing event for many Democratic candidates running for president and other progressive policy makers in the U.S. who are calling for the integration of a land rights policy that is internationally considered a “best practice.” Those policies have not yet been introduced to the U.S. in order to empower Tribal Nations with greater environmental self-determination.