Dakota Pipeline victory sparks hope

In the 1800s, over 10,000 members of the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes set up camp to protest the United States army’s attempt to relocate them in their search for gold. Although this took place nearly 200 years ago, it mirrors another event that has been a major news source in the past year, one involving a long, black snake.

The long black snake is the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is just what its name entails — a 30-inch diameter pipeline that plans to transport crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois over a span of approximately 1,172 miles. The pipeline had originally planned to cross under the Missouri River, and the project’s goal is to reach major refining markets in a more cost-effective and safer way than road transportation.

While this sounds all well and good, there’s been a major issue. If you have heard about the Dakota Access Pipeline, you’ve heard about the protests which have been ongoing since April and have picked up steam in the last several months. The protests have been based on accusations made by The Standing Rock Sioux — a tribe of around 10,000 people — who believe that the pipeline could contaminate the Missouri River, their main water source, and harm sacred cultural lands and burial grounds.

What began as a small camp in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota by a Standing Rock Sioux elder has drawn thousands of people, both from various tribes and including non-Native Americans, the support of countless celebrities — well-known actress Shailene Woodley made headlines when she was arrested while protesting there — and created the largest gathering of Native Americans in the past 100 years.

During Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving in Standing Rock became a major hashtag) lots of new participants journeyed to North Dakota to aid the protest. It was around this time that things took an ugly turn, with reports of protesters being bitten by dogs, shot by rubber pellets, and sprayed with tear gas and hoses in freezing weather by police. This also happened after construction workers bulldozed a section of sacred ground on Sept. 3.

However, the protests continued to occur in full force, and a huge turn of events has happened in favor of the Standing Rock protesters. On Dec. 4, under President Obama’s administration, the United States Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would not build the pipeline under the Missouri River near sacred burial sites and would explore alternate routes.

I found this victory to be incredibly inspiring, even though their battle is still not over as far as the protesters are concerned. What they’ve accomplished goes beyond protecting Native American culture and the environment. In this troublesome age where Donald Trump will be our president, tons of Americans are unsure of what will be left for them in our country. The Standing Rock victory is a sign that protesting and raising your voice can certainly make a difference. Although 2016 has been a pretty dark year in many aspects, the Standing Rock protesters have shown us that there is always hope, so long as you are willing to work for it.