For many activists, Indian Americans and environmentalists both, the decision of the Obama administration to put the Dakota Access Pipeline under review, postponing it indefinitely was the triumphant culmination of months of persistent non-violent discipline, weathering severe climates and police opposition. Yet, the victory was short-lived when the Trump administration reversed the decision on the pipeline.
The decision of the Obama administration that the Tribe’s rights were to be respected and the easement should be put under review was an opportunity for America to redeem herself and her legacy of infringing Indian American rights — a legacy that began when European people first set foot on American soil. It was an opportunity to reconcile with the native peoples Americans have a history of alienating.
Instead, President Trump has seen fit to break promises and violate the rights of Indian Americans and the safety of Americans. It seems Trump’s administration has “substantial connections” to Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s company. As a result, America watches the continuation of a shameful past. The Obama administration saw hope of injustice being set to rights, but no longer. Instead, to sign the go-ahead for the construction of the pipeline gives corporate interest precedent over not just the general welfare of Indian Americans, but if error should occur at any stage of construction, the welfare of millions of Americans.
Now, more than ever, the persistence of all opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline are being tested. The many months waging a war against environmental racism have exhausted the cause. Yet, because of the issue, Native Americans have become a symbol of the causes of racism tied with the environment. They have gained our attention, and like a good audience, we must give it to them, full and undivided.
Editor’s Note: This opinion brief is a follow-up to Becka Shuere’s previous opinion article about the Dakota Access Pipeline.