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September 12, 2016

Native American tribes band together to block oil pipeline

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Essential question

Why have Native American tribes had to continue their fight for social justice in the U.S.?


Unrest in North Dakota persists as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continues to protest the building of an oil pipeline that would threaten its culture and health. Though a federal judge ruled against the people’s petition for construction to stop, the project was put on hold after three government agencies made similar requests.

“The people that I talked to said they think this is going to be an ongoing, protracted battle for weeks, months, maybe years to come,” said PBS NewsHour correspondent William Brangham, reporting from the Standing Rock Reservation.

The tribe has two primary reasons for protesting the pipeline. First, it would destroy sacred tribal sites such as burial grounds and meeting places. Second, since the oil would flow underneath the Missouri River, a spill has the high potential to contaminate drinking water.

On the other hand, the oil company building the pipeline contends that they have followed every rule, including obtaining proper permission from the Army Corps of Engineers, throughout the entire process. In addition, the company believes that the pipeline is necessary for oil delivery to other parts of the country and will bolster the economy by creating jobs.

Meanwhile, a group of protestors at the camp plans to take any necessary action to prevent construction from proceeding.

“We have heard people talking about the possibility of physically putting themselves in the way of the construction equipment, in the way of the workers’ camps,” said Brangham.

While battles at the federal level wage on, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, environmental groups, and other Native Americans are determined to keep up the fight on the ground.


Key terms

Army Corps of Engineers – a federal agency under the Department of Defense and Army made up of 37,000 civilian and military personnel; one of the world’s largest public engineering and construction management agencies

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. What are some key sources of energy our society has come to rely on?
  2. How do you think oil from North Dakota gets to refineries in the Midwest and South?
  3. What are some of the dangers of transporting large quantities of oil?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Why is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against the building of the oil pipeline?
  2. Why did the court approve the construction of the pipeline?
  3. Do you think the oil pipeline should be built? Why or why not?

Sarah Seale contributed to this Daily News Story. 

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