First of all, the majority of individuals standing in solidarity with the Reservation have no problem with oil. Well, actually, many of us do have a problem with the greed and environmental threat of the oil industry, but we are well aware of own personal consumption and convenience that comes from it. The overall issue at Standing Rock is where the pipeline is being placed.
The indigenous people of America were happily going about their lives when all of a sudden, boat loads of Europeans came ashore and took over. Now really, how would we feel if Canada decided they were going to take charge of the US and violently forced us to comply? We wouldn’t like it, right? But this is our American history. Fortunately, our ancestors had some respect for human life and realized the indignity of their domination over Natives; so while we took much land away from our indigenous people, we designated reservations land to be respected and protected as their own.
However, as time goes on, states and governments seem to “take back” what rightly belongs to our Native Americans. Check out a map that shows the original geography of a reservation when it was put into treaty and you’ll find that many of them have become smaller and smaller because we keep taking more and more Native space. When we do that, we upset Native burial grounds, sacred streams and land, of which all are part of native spirituality. Once again, would we like it if someone came in and uprooted our church? Of course not!
And here’s an interesting point about the Dakota Access Pipeline and protectors at Standing Rock… the pipeline was first routed through Bismarck, but people didn’t like it, rightfully upset that that the city they love would be negatively impacted. So, they re-routed the pipeline to Cannon Ball. A map shows that this is at the tip of a reservation; the pipe would traverse right under the Missouri River. Indigenous people hold rivers as sacred space for life. It makes perfect sense that they wouldn’t want to see oil spills like we’ve seen with many of our pipelines. Of course they would want to protect what is sacred and necessary for life. We should all be as aware and proactive. But too many of us refuse to understand. We think it’s silly and the Natives should acquiesce. My question then is this: Why is it acceptable for the city of Bismarck to protest a threat of pollution, but not okay for the members of the reservations? This, I believe, is where our ignorance lies. We are quick to criticize others, but fail to consider our own feelings and actions when we are in their shoes.
I believe that we as Christians/Americans/humans desperately need to consider how we dismiss things that don’t affect us. We are too quick to reject anything that might jeopardize our self-serving plans and desires, as if nothing should get in the way of our greed. It’s all good and well to place expectations upon others, we do it every day of our lives, but to expect things of others that we wouldn’t comply with ourselves is simply callous. Jesus never asked his followers to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself. If the pipeline was threatening our space, by all means we’d put up a fight! So can’t we find a way to be more considerate of others? If we don’t stand with Standing Rock, we can at least stop trivializing their rights. Yes, we all use oil, but we’re also quite capable of employing compassion when our goods interfere with humanity.