Treaties Still Matter

The Dakota Access Pipeline


The controversial construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) gained national and international attention when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers accepted an application filed by Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based developer behind the project.

The position of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is that the Dakota Access Pipeline violates Article II of the Fort Laramie Treaty, which guarantees the "undisturbed use and occupation" of reservation lands surrounding the proposed location of the pipeline. In 2015 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, operating as a sovereign nation , passed a resolution regarding the pipeline stating that "the Dakota Access Pipeline poses a serious risk to the very survival of our Tribe and ... would destroy valuable cultural resources."

To generate momentum for their cause and demonstrate their opposition to the pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe organized runs, horseback rides, and marches. Many Native Nations, along with non-Native allies, celebrities, and several politicians supported the movement and travelled to join DAPL protesters at the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Reservation. Conditions at the camp became intense. North Dakota law enforcement officials and private guards hired by Energy Transfer Partners clashed with protestors, sometimes violently, and made hundreds of arrests.

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opposing perspectives
The New Yorker reported that the pipeline was originally supposed to cross the Missouri River near Bismarck, but it was moved over concerns that an oil spill at that location would have wrecked the state capital's drinking water. The Standing Rock Sioux oppose the construction of the pipeline on the grounds that an oil spill would threaten their water supply and cultural resources.

Carl Sack, "A #NoDAPL Map," Story Bench, Northeastern University of Journalism, December 2016
Bill McKibben, "A Pipeline Fight and America's Dark Past," The New Yorker, September 6, 2016; Ryan W. Miller, "How the Dakota Access Pipeline Battle Unfolded," USA Today, December 2, 2016
"The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is the safest and most environmentally sensitive way to transport crude oil ... to American consumers. It will be among the safest, most technologically advanced pipelines in the world." The pipeline will be 95 to 115 feet below Lake Oahe and far below the eight other pipelines that are uneventfully operating in the same area.

Map by Mark Nowlin, courtesy of Seattle Times
"The Dakota Access Pipeline is the Best Way to Move Bakken Crude Oil to Market," Dakota Access Pipeline Facts, 2016-2017, retrieved from
Discussion Questions

Identify the stakeholders on either side and summarize their arguments.

Analyze the sources by using evidence to compare and contrast the arguments behind each perspective.

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oceti sakowin youth
In 2016 Oceti Sakowin Youth & Allies organized a traditional relay run from Standing Rock Reservation to Washington, D.C. They arrived in the capital with a petition bearing over 140,000 signatures. The run inspired youth groups to organize an encampment near the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This grassroots movement would grow into the Standing Rock resistance encampment that drew national attention.

Courtesy of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
"Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline," Rezpect Our Water, last modified September 9, 2016, accessed April-June 2017,; Alli Joseph, "Running For Their Lives: Native American Relay Tradition Revived to Protest Dakota Access Pipeline," Salon Magazine, September 12, 2016
"Their [Water Protectors] actions deny private property rights and freedoms to the landowners ... and deny American citizens and businesses the energy they need to produce jobs and build a vital and healthy economy. We will continue to defend the rights we have been granted through proper and legal venues, and the rights of Americans to reduce foreign dependence on fossil fuels ..."

Bakken Dakota Access Oil Pipeline, August 25, 2016. Photograph by Tony Webster
"The Dakota Access Pipeline is the Best Way to Move Bakken Crude Oil to Market," Dakota Access Pipeline Facts, 2016-2017,
Discussion Questions

Using evidence, complete an analysis of the Dakota Access Pipeline, focus specifically on who will benefit and who will suffer as a result of the pipeline.

What statement do you find more convincing? Use evidence from the source(s) to support your conclusion.

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Oceti Sakowin Youth & Allies planned and carried out a 2,000- mile run from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. Teen advocacy groups have been instrumental in drawing attention to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Oceti Sakowin Youth & Allies and the One Mind Youth Movement are two youth groups that initiated the encampment near the Standing Rock Sioux. Their mission is to protect the environment near their homes and ancestral land.

Courtesy of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Discussion Questions

In what ways did youth organize in order to take informed action?

What were the issues, causes and concerns that motivated youth groups to take action in order prevent the construction of the DAPL?

Why were these issues important to the youth who took action?

Mni Wiconi: Water is Life.
by Anna Lee

Dear Assistant Secretary Darcy & The Army Corps of Engineers,

I am writing this letter to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. My great grandparents are originally from Cannon Ball, North Dakota where the pipeline will cross the Missouri River. They lived along the Missouri River all their life. They raised gardens, chickens and horses. I want to be the voice for my great grandparents and my community and ask you to stop the building of the Dakota Access pipeline. If the pipeline breaks the oil will spill on the ground and into the water. Grass, crops, trees and animals will not be able to grow and live because of the oil. People will not be able to drink from the river or use the water. The time and the cost to clean up oil spills will take years and probably millions of dollars. Water to Native American people is the first medicine. Mni Wiconi: water is life.


Anna Lee, "Mni Wiconi," Rezpect Our Water, April 2016

Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter were critical to generating support for the movement. Youth groups organized petitions and wrote letters to their government leaders to initiate change.

Discussion Questions

What opportunities and challenges come with using social media as a platform for taking action?

How might personal connections to place, family, and community inspire an individual to take informed action?

Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter were critical to generating support for the movement. Youth groups organized petitions and wrote letters to their government leaders to initiate change.

Courtesy of Anna Lee Rain and Stephanie Yellowhammer and The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
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