Reprinted from Palestine Chronicle
Thousands of Native Americans resurrected the fighting spirit of their forefathers as they stood in unprecedented unity to contest an oil company's desecration of their sacred land in North Dakota. Considering its burdened historical context, this has been one of the most moving events in recent memory.
The standoff, involving 5,000-strong Native American protesters, including representatives of 200 tribes and environmental groups, has been largely reduced in news reports as being a matter of technical detail -- concerning issues of permits and legal proceedings.
At best, both the tribes and the oil company are treated as if they are equal parties in a purportedly proportionate tussle.
"'Dakota' means 'friendly' and yet, it seems, neither side has been too friendly to each other," wrote Mark Albert in the website of the American broadcasting television network, CBS.
The Dakota Nation is justifiably alarmed by the prospect that its water supplies will be polluted by the massive pipeline, which will extend across four states and stretching over 1,100 miles.
The "other side" is the company, Energy Transfer Partners, whose construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at the cost of $3.7 billion is infringing upon the territorial rights of Native American tribes, destroying sacred burial grounds and threatening to pollute the main water sources of large communities of Native Americans.
Fear over future spills under the Missouri River is hardly a hype. The US is struggling with ongoing water crises, partly because of dilapidating infrastructure, but also because of numerous oil spills and natural gas leaks.
The recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the BP oil spill earlier in the Gulf of Mexico -- both resulting in massive humanitarian and environmental crises -- are only two recent cases in point.
But the problem is far deeper and constantly worsening.
Data obtained by the news network, CNBC from the government's Environmental Protection Agency showed that "only nine U.S. states are reporting safe levels of lead in their water supply. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee."
As if that is not worrying enough, the massive crude oil pipeline will be going across several of these states, likely shortening the list of these states even further.
Discussion about the potential risks of the construction of the pipeline has been rife for years. The issue, however, received national and international coverage when Native American tribes mobilized to protect their land and water resources.
The mobilization of the tribes has been met with state violence. Instead of appreciating the serious grievances of the tribes, particularly those in the Standing Rock Reservation -- which is located only one mile away, south of the pipeline -- the state governor summoned all law enforcement agencies and activated the National Guard. Mace was used on protesters; they were beaten, arrested and chased out by armed men in uniform.
In the United States, when the people stand up to corporations, it seems that, more often than not, state violence is galvanized against unarmed people to protect the big businesses.