Student’s Corner

Hello all! I am the new Sustainability Assistant Intern for Facilities Team Green. I’m Emma, a junior majoring in International Relations with a double minor in History and Legal Studies. I’m excited to start off the Fall learning more about sustainability and incorporate my knowledge of politics in order to offer a unique perspective.

On that note, one of the most profound experiences of my life was volunteering on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota two summers in a row while I was in high school. The impact of the people I met and worked with has continued to inspire me throughout my college career. Currently, there is an ongoing battle between Native Americans in North Dakota (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) and Dallas based Energy Transfer Partners about the building of the Dakota Pipeline. The pipeline would stretch at least 1,168 miles from North Dakota to Illinois. Native Americans have continued to try to halt construction of the pipeline, noting that the pipeline could potentially contaminate drinking water and sacred lands.

Members of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others have been holding protests at the site of the new pipeline. Over the weekend, clashes broke out between protesters and construction workers which ended with four private security guards and two dogs being injured. Furthermore, several residents reported being bit by dogs and at least thirty protesters were pepper sprayed. Then on September 7th, a federal judge allowed the halt of construction in certain areas. This can be seen as a partial victory for protestors, however it is only a temporary restraining order.

In my opinion, I think it would be absolutely tragic if sacred land was destroyed and replaced by something that will only negatively affect our environment. Furthermore, the US Government has continually shown no respect for Native American spiritual land. For example, a treaty signed at Fort Laramie in 1868 protected the Black Hills as a part of the Great Sioux Reservation. However, this was violated by the US government within 10 years. After a Supreme Court decision in 1980, over 100 million dollars was set aside as compensation for violation of the treaty. However, it has never been collected by the Sioux. Many say that this is because it has never been about money, it’s about the importance of the land.

Unlike the Black Hills, the United States still has the chance to do the right thing in North Dakota by not damaging sacred lands and following the wishes of the people who love that land. No one would ever consider knocking down the Vatican for a pipeline, it’s important to show an equal amount of respect for other cultures. It would be incredibly upsetting to see that despite claims of national progress and greater equality, things had not changed significantly, especially for Native Americans, since 1868.  

Written by Emma Briggs, Class of 2018

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