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Native American Heritage Month

I'm Fed Up With the Dakota Access Pipeline So My School Helped Me Write a Speech About It

Christina Torres was inspired to write this speech on the Dakota Access Pipeline after completing coursework influenced by the Common Core State Standards at the Academy for Global Citizenship. Click here to read the introduction to this piece.
500 years. 500 years that the Native Americans have been ridiculed by Whites, it’s been so long and yet nothing has changed: money before human beings. I understand that money rules our society, it always has. I understand that money is important and those broken treaties have been repeated throughout history. So, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal to put their basic need to access water at stake. They say the Dakota Access Pipeline is safe, but if it was, why did the location change from an 80 percent White town to a sacred reservation? This isn’t just about digging a pipeline under sacred land but also about continuing the work of stripping Native Americans of their religion and telling them that what they believe is wrong, which has been going on for centuries. Referencing Red Jacket’s defense of Native Americans speech of 1805, “You have our country but are still not satisfied, now you want to force Christianity upon us.” Reasons and excuses change with time but it’s all connected. The Energy Transfer Partners claim it’s safe, not commenting on the fact that there were 26 oil spills in the United States in 2016 alone. We have been breaking treaties, treating them like dirt, all while making it seem like we’re the winners. A vicious cycle that no one seems to want to stop. Let’s take a moment to remember the 1862 massacre, the hanging of 38 Native American men with no real evidence, you say it’s behind us but now you’re killing them in a different way, endangering their water supply. You claim it’s safe, that the pipeline won’t do anything to their land but you can’t just act like it’s never happened before, their fears are reasonable. For example, on April 17, 2016, a petroleum products pipeline failed in Wabash County, Illinois, resulting in 48,000 gallons of diesel oil being spilled onto the Wabash River. Along with that on March 11, 2016, a leaking plug on a pipeline tank farm in Sioux city, Iowa about 30,000 gallons spilled. In addition, there have been 26 other oil spills in 2016 alone, so the threat is there, you’re just doing your best to hide it. Let’s take a moment to think about the effects that the oil spill would have on all living creatures. Around the water, the wildlife would die off, and the Sioux relies on the water in Missouri and the plants and animals it feeds off as their source of food. And it’s not only the Sioux relying on the Missouri river, it’s over a million people, 18,000 to be exact. To be fair, it’s safer to put the pipeline underground than using a train or a car, so it’s a no-brainer for some to put the pipeline underground and even make the pipe shorter by using a shortcut. But it matters when shortcuts go through sacred land that time and time again you promise to Native Americans but end up taking for economic gain. These most likely weren’t your intentions and you’re trying to improve our economy but this isn’t the way to go. We’re so blinded that we’re not listening to the people that don’t deserve this. Their protecting a basic need—water—while we create death at every turn, digging up bodies and artifacts without any remorse or second thought. Native Americans have been ridiculed and pushed aside for centuries and it’s time we give them some respect. We’re repeating the same disrespectful and biased history by endangering their water supply and stealing and ruining sacred, religious and cultural ground that we had already promised them. I know the intentions aren’t to kill off the indigenous people but all we seem to care about is money and it’s getting in the way of what is morally right. We are oblivious to the fact that they have rights just as we do. I hope our leaders understand how this action could endanger many lives, and think twice before they act.
Cristina Torres is an eighth-grade student at the Academy for Global Citizenship.

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