Last year, the biggest oil spill ever from the Keystone Pipeline took place just three miles southwest of Amherst, South Dakota, and very close to Sioux property. Oil spills threaten the survival of necessary wildlife and resources, destroy natural habitats, and wreak havoc on human health. About 210,000 tons of oil leaked out of the pipeline according to TransCanada, the operator of the pipeline. Some of the oil surfaced from underground in areas where the pipeline was close to the grass. The pipeline was shut down minutes after the oil release.
This spill incited concern over the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was approved for future construction in March. It would cut through lands that belong to the Native Americans, as well as one of the world’s largest underground freshwater deposits, the Ogallala Aquifer. This was also South Dakota’s third oil spill this year, following April’s 84 gallon spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was highly controversial because of the resistance by North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
This oil spill was no surprise to the Native Americans who live near the pipeline. Prior to construction, surrounding tribes staged a series of protests and tried to warn about the dangers of building it, but they were plainly ignored. Only after the oil spill were the Native Americans contacted by politicians in attempt to salvage their public image.
In despite of persistent catastrophic failure after local advice is ignored by large corporations, we still see the same events repeated over and over again on the news. The Dakota Access Pipeline protests were an acute example of this careless cycle. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its allies hopelessly protested the pipeline’s construction, while members of these groups were imprisoned for speaking their opinions. Fast forward to April-- the pipeline leaks, like the Sioux tribe said it would. This pattern of events has left many tribes helpless in the aftermath of botched construction projects because politicians, gorged on the thought of money, refuse to listen.
If you want to support Native Americans during their struggles, you can research the Native American tribes near you. This will give you insight on the people who could be affected by large-scale construction in your community. You can also buy products designed by indigenous designers or donate to organizations like the NCAI (National Congress of American Indians). But most importantly, effecting change starts with a voice and someone willing to listen. Go out and protest, and ensure that the oppression of Native Americans ends soon.