Alex N. is known to many as a human rights activist, revolutionary, and in this story, a protestor at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation fighting to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  This pipeline’s route spans nearly 1,200 miles, crossing through four different states, including North and South Dakota, Illinois, and Iowa. New construction of the DAPL was planned to run directly through the previously protected native land of the Sioux Nation.

How the pipeline was analyzed and approved by the federal government became the focal point of tension between the native members of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, for the pipeline was planned to run under a Missouri River reservoir named lake Oahe. Construction, members say, would damage sacred sites near the lake, and the pipeline would jeopardize the lives of the many thousands of people that live on the reservations water source.  The construction of the pipeline on native land violates a number of tribal treaties and the rights of the Sioux people.  

To demonstrate their opposition for the construction of the pipeline, Native Sioux tribe members organized marches and horseback rides. Others joined the demonstrations, including other Native Nations, politicians, and celebrities, all protesting the DAPL at the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock ReservationTension between protestors and North Dakota Law enforcement was on the rise in November, 2016.  North Dakota law enforcement officials and private guards hired by Energy Transfer Partners clashed with protestors, often violently, causing the arrest of many hundreds of protestors.  Law enforcement officials used many inhuman forms of crowd control.

“They were loading water with tear gas and throwing it at people. They sprayed people on a day that’s below freezing which can cause hypothermia and death.  We had a lot of medics trying to help these people, but got shot at by cops with rubber bullets. They also sprayed us at night time (With harmful chemicals) with planes that would fly without any lights on, so we couldn’t see them.  But what we did was get searchlights. We lit up those things so we could document it. There are many lawsuits that are pending in court right now.” Alex described that many of the law enforcement officials were in a moral dilemma, because they knew that the way they were treating the protestors and Sioux tribe members was unjust.  “They are getting paid extra money to get out there, and when they get out there they begin to realize that they are getting paid to do evil things. A lot of them started to quit.” What is the morally correct thing to do if you were in the position of the law enforcement personnel? Would you harm innocent citizens for simply protecting what is rightfully theirs, or would you keep doing your job even if it is parallel to what is morally correct?  

Another interesting aspect of the story/moral dilemma is that the DAPL was originally planned to be constructed in another place.  The New Yorker reported that the DAPL was originally planned to cross the Missouri River near Bismarck, but what then moved due to concerns of an oil spill ruining the cities water supplies.  This is odd, because the same thing could happen where it was moved to, which is on the Standing Rock reservation. Alex said, “they could negate a lot of laws by running it through the reservation.  Anywhere else would have gotten into peoples lands that had European heritage. The Native Americans are the most abused people in the country.” We discussed and came to the conclusion that it’s an act of racism.  The reservation is the only concentration of people of one complexion in the area. The governor at the time, Jack Dalrymple, wants to please the middle class, whiteskin people. The native people of the land are and were not the people to put him into office, so he just tramples over them.  This is not morally justifiable. All US citizens should be treated equally by the state, despite of race. 

Standing Rock is an example of how it’s important to have morals that serve everyone, not just those of the same ethnicity as you.  If people give a ruler the consent to be governed in exchange for a social contract that keeps them safe, then the ruler should uphold their responsibility of keeping them safe and not using them for their own benefits, as Governor Jack Dalrymple did.  People from native nations and other countries from around the world came together at Standing Rock to fight for what is morally correct, which goes to show the power people have in the face of injustice and wrongful morals. 

 

Discussion Question:

 

  1. If you were in the position of a law enforcement personnel at Standing Rock, what would good morals tell you to do?  Why?