North Dakota Pipeline

Interview with George Garnier

Dominic Lowry, Features

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The fall air carries a scent of despair. Flags flail in the wind of the camp-in. Shouting and chanting disrupts the peaceful hum of passing cars. Suddenly, a scream pierces the air louder than the rest. The grass begins to whip wildly around the protesters. Everybody looks up. “Get down!” someone shouts. Tear gas explodes on the protesters. The sounds of crunching boots and trucks surrounds the tribe.

“We have no guns!” someone else yells.

Police armed with military-grade weapons raise them in fear.

“We have no guns!” they repeat.

German shepherds bark vitriolically. They are held back by chains that amplify the anger.

“We have no guns!” they say, as gallons of water are showered down on the protesters from above.

“We are just praying!”    

On the North Dakota/South Dakota border, Dakota Access, a major oil company, wants to drill a hole into the ground that will transport crude oil all the way to Illinois. The problem? Standing Rock, a Native American tribe native to South Dakota has sacred land exactly where Dakota Access wants to drill. The oil pipeline could very possibly burst and pollute the air while also poisoning the reservoir’s water. The pipeline has the ability to hurt and kill yet another indigenous American population. Nothing’s being done to stop it, which is infuriating those who it will affect most profoundly. According to culturalsurvival.org, the United States has no definite law that protects the land of Native American people. The fact that this is true makes it very hard to believe that Dakota Access wants to do right. And, even so, if Dakota Access really wanted to stop the pipeline, they would have already. They would have stopped it a long time ago. “The goals and needs of those who want to “develop” such lands are generally more readily incorporated into land management policies and decision-making, than are the religious beliefs of Native Americans affected by that development,” says Cultural Survival Inc. This is saying that Dakota Access would have known beforehand about Standing Rock.

“You’re making your voice heard.” says President Obama in regards to the Standing Rock protests. They hope so.

On the afternoon of September 28th, I sat down with Herron High School sophomore, George Garnier, who is of Native American heritage, to talk about the Dakota Access problem. I placed my laptop on a rickety black cart outside room 251 and began the interview.

So, what is your tribe?

My tribe is Chiricahua Apache.

Does your tribe have sacred land? If so, where?

Traditionally, or historically, most of New Mexico, but I can’t be specific. Today, most of us live in Northern Arizona.

Name one tradition, if you can, in which you participate.

Me, personally, I am not old enough to participate in sacred traditions. Mainly men, women, and elders do that. An old tradition is called “Crown Dancing” where stories are retold in that manner, usually visually.

Can you explain, to people who might not know, what’s going on in North Dakota?

Basically, in North Dakota, there have been multiple pipelines from companies that want to transport oil from, say, Canada all the way to Texas, sometimes. And that has been very controversial in the eyes of some environmentalists and indigenous rights activists because the pipelines can burst and pollute sacred land and the resources of the tribes there. That aggravates a lot of activists.

What are your thoughts?

My thoughts, personally, are that, yes, oil is important (I don’t personally support oil) but yes, it’s very important to the economy and to the world. It is cheaper to transport oil via pipeline rather than trucks but, and I can’t speak for everyone,  if you’re going to put money over the environment and basic ethics, that, I find enraging.

What would you do if you were Dakota Access?

If I, myself, were DK pipeline, if I was involved in the project, I would find a way to balance, to not build the pipeline on sacred land. And I would find better ways to maintain the pipeline so it doesn’t burst and pollute the environment, while simultaneously being beneficial to the oil  world.

What do you propose as a solution?

If I were to propose a solution, I would prefer a pipeline. It could still be built, but under my abovementioned regulations.

How do you feel being Native American in 21st century America?

Personally, being indigenous in America, the climate has improved greatly over the years, um, but the main problems with us singled out are poverty and the disrespect of indigenous religions. I can’t speak for all indigenous people, but I do know that disrespect and lacking resources is very common amongst many tribes in America.

Have you experienced any discrimination, or do people not know?

In terms of experiencing discrimination, my cousins have. But there’s a fine line between outright discrimination and just simply picking on someone. I, myself, have been picked on several times and some would say that’s discrimination.

Was that because of you being Native American?

Oh, yes, it was most definitely because of that.

How do you think this will affect the Native American population, specifically Standing Rock?

The pipeline itself will definitely negatively affect the tribes that have the pipeline built on their sacred land. Standing Rock, I think, first off, much like how the border fence was constructed, many sites that the government didn’t recognize as being protected, were destroyed via bulldozers or other heavy construction equipment. So, I think we can safely assume that that would happen in Standing Rock. There is also a strong chance that this said pipeline could burst and heavily pollute the land that it surrounds. I am VERY much against the construction of this pipeline, especially seeing as it’s on sacred land. And, of course, I can’t speak for everyone and I know that they’re doing it for money, but we should always remember to put money aside and we need to treat people as equally valuable, as well. So, those are my thoughts.  

In other words, there’s practically no defense for Dakota Access. They knew what they were doing. And still did it. Angering Natives everywhere, this is a serious issue. What are your thoughts? What is more important, money or heritage?

 

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North Dakota Pipeline