This Thanksgiving, the star of our national menu wasn’t a bronzed colored turkey or golden potatoes or pies; no crisps or crumbles or gravy or greens or beans – no insane cook times or obscure ingredients or peculiar pans for prep.
Despite how few Americans properly got the memo, the most notable character in the collage of courses this past Turkey day was: Water.
Like, H-2-O. That clear, plain potion with no real flavor to savor, but a key player in, well, most things generally life.
The Dakota Access Pipeline incident, most recently featuring a blockage measure by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, frames a larger issue in America today – one that consumes a scope far beyond this fall, this blockage, and this specific minority.
In January 2016, Dakota Access LLC (a subsidiary of the larger Energy Transfer Partners LP), received consent to build by the North Dakota Public Service Commission. Since its initial proposal in December 2014, this marked the group’s approval by three out of four of the states required in constructing the pipeline, which was shortly followed by the March approval by Iowa.
Shortly, on April 1, 200 Native Americans of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe lead the first wave of resistance. Their reservation, which straddles both parts of North and South Dakota, further contained sacred land directly in the pipeline’s path. They soon formally petitioned for a more complete investigation on environmental impacts to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Throughout the summer, however, the Corps approved both the land and water routes for the pipeline – including passages through the Mississippi River, Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe. Not only do these constitute sacred ground for the tribe, but they also constituted the local sources of water.
This momentary win was the fuel of encouragement needed after the traumatic unfolding of the pipeline-related events this past year.
Protests and resistance escalated but gained little media attention until about the beginning of November. Most notably, a set of Facebook posts – urging all in solidarity around the nation and country – called for individuals to check in their current Facebook location as Standing Rock, North Dakota, as to throw off any officials using Facebook location data to disrupt the activity of and track activists actually on the spot. It was later apparent that perhaps the true effect of intention was just a myth. Nonetheless, however, this wave helped to garner the national attention Standing Rock had been so unfairly missing.
Pressure was put on the Corps throughout November, especially during Thanksgiving, when many celebrities also joined the cause – some even on the ground at the resistance site. How ironic, after all, was it that the story substantiated by the we-made-peace-with-the-Native-Americans story would not only be a distorted – but now a distorted present, too.
No bronzed colored turkeys or golden potatoes, no crisps, crumbles, gravy, greens, beans, what have you. This was about the clear liquid rushing, for most people, from the sink – AKA an issue over which few would even stop and think.
As the attention grew post-Thanksgiving, enough pressure precipitated the Corps’ diagnosis of the project as ecologically and ethically harmful, hence declaring a ban on the pipeline from taking this route. This momentary win was the fuel of encouragement needed after the traumatic unfolding of the pipeline-related events this past year.
And yet, the politics both leading up to, as well as following, the early December ban only begin to demonstrate the scope of the issue at hand. In other words, the initial recommendation by the Corps has not halted the intentions of the group, nor does is discount the disastrous circumstances facilitated by the parties at play who only exacerbated the cost of this situation.
The media, like in many minority movements especially as of the last few years and months, simply failed to cover this issue at all, especially at some of its most critical junctures. The “otherization” of these “Native American issues” marks yet another failure on the media to lend any sort of validity to a minority issue, as it has done time and time again with those concerning other communities – including, though certainly not limited to, those of Muslims, Blacks, Latinxs, etc.
A large chunk of Americans initially developed exposure to the Standing Rock issue by seeing friends’ Facebook check ins post in that endeavor-gone-viral. Again, it grows increasingly apparent that those statuses perhaps did not aid much in terms of real, ground support to divert the attention of police, yet the awareness bred through the publicizing of such mass posting helped avalanche the cause into a field of vision that was beyond local Native communities and anyone beyond one or two degrees of separation.
The “otherization” of these “Native American issues” marks yet another failure on the media to lend any sort of validity to a minority issue…
The media even failed to cover the problem from the purely environmental point of view, which, though it obviously wrongly discounts the struggles and humanity of the people and daily lives at stake, only again shows the intentions and focuses of what our news cultivates. This summer, so much time went allocated toward bogus and petty political arguments that simply broadcast the dullness of the American state of politics and our now President-elect; apparently such minutes are more worth air than Native American lives, losing land and clean water.
Water is of further, critical concern here on an elevated level, even beyond the elementary notion that it is literally water: a key ingredient in life. It speaks to the larger disconnect between those who risk losing proper and clean access to this daily need and those to whom it won’t affect on a direct day-to-day basis reflects the shameful state of American social and political awareness. It speaks to how the outsides at best appears to not care.
A subset of the activists, who show up in November to camp out on the reservation where Native Americans were being attacked as they stood up for their land, joined from Flint, Michigan – another example of disastrous water and basic needs crisis in our nation today.
Even beyond this all, a huge question of uncertainty lies in what the pipeline company will do next – yet most options still destroy the basic principles for which this resistance stood.
Water is of further, critical concern here on an elevated level, even beyond the elementary notion that it is literally water: a key ingredient in life.
For one, the Energy Transfer company literally wants to challenge the ruling in court. The result of this proposal aside, this stance only indicates yet further lack of acknowledgement of humanity and awareness of just what the harm caused by the greed here will be. It also is likely the DAPL will simply be diverted and built along another path, yet a new path might not be any safer than the currently proposed one. Even worse, the corporation could also halt plans until the inauguration of Trump and obtain a federal executive order from him to build through the current path anyway.
In fact, while the early December ban by the Army Corps of Engineers represents a win in the proper direction, this situation is still at high risk directly due to the President-elect. Jason Miller, Trump’s transition team communications director, noted that the DAPL situation will be reviewed again once Trump assumes office. The incoming administration, he reported, will “support the construction of” the pipeline.
As we must prime ourselves toward action these next four years, we cannot remain complacent or appeased by one act or saying or promise – even a comforting, winning moment like the Corp’s blockage.
On holidays like Thanksgiving, we can enjoy our families and gravy and greens and beans, but wholly neglecting the glaring struggles of a suffering minority on our soil leaves us vulnerable for when we could very well be in that position, too. This self-oriented approach should not be the tipping argument to win the care of others, but perhaps that is the grave territory in which we find ourselves today.
When it comes to DAPL, there is risk for harm to any and all minorities, in addition to the literal Earth, and this only augments the personal standards we must uphold to remain proactive, aware, and awake. After all, this is nothing but the first round of many until, at the very least, January 2021.