environment

From North Carolina to North Dakota: Stop the Pipelines, Respect Native People, Protect Clean Water

Since the spring, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Native Americans from nearby tribes, and allied activists have been gathered at Sacred Stone Camp to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their efforts, as well as the militarized police response to their peaceful protests—which has includedwater cannons, rubber bullets, mace, and more—have made national news.

But the fight to protect Native land and clean water is not limited to North Dakota.

As the Bismarck Tribune and others have pointed out, the original Dakota Access Pipeline route led through Bismarck, North Dakota, but was moved citing dangers to the area’s drinking water, among other things. Residents of the Standing Rock reservation are being forced to accept health hazards North Dakota’s whiter, wealthier residents can avoid.

That dynamic has governed the relationship between the United States and Native peoples since the days of Columbus. It also governs the relationship between the rich and the poor of more generally across the capitalist world. It’s simply the way capitalism works: to improve the lives of the rich, the poor are forced to accept dangerous, unhealthy conditions.

Given how widespread these forms of oppression are, it shouldn’t surprise us that the same issues motivating the protests at Sacred Stone Camp are coming to North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will span six hundred miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, could begin construction as early as fall 2017, according to WNCN. The pipeline will carry natural gas that has been collected through fracking, and the communities who live along the pipeline’s proposed route will face the well-known environmental dangers of fracking and gas leaks.

Mac Legerton, who led a protest against the pipeline the weekend before Thanksgiving, made clear that the people who are forced to suffer these risks are those who have already suffered most from capitalist development: people of color and the poor.

“We feel very strongly that this is being done because this is the poorest part of the state. We always seem to get the waste that other people want to get rid of and the dirtiest economic plans,” he told WNCN. The pipeline’s route also goes through tribal land in North Carolina, and many native people participated in Legerton’s protest.

The North Carolina chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America stands with Standing Rock and the Native and poor peoples of North Carolina. We believe that all people should have clean water and a say in how their community’s land should be used. We believe that we must build a new economy on clean, reusable energy to avoid the devastation of climate change and ecological catastrophe—disasters that most affect those least responsible for them.

Legerton announced another protest against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in early March. Watch for further announcements from the Center for Community Action and EcoRobeson. In addition, the US Army Corps of Engineers said that it will close Sacred Stone Camp on December 5, and that any protesters remaining will be subject to arrest. The Huffington Post compiled a list of ways to support Standing Rock, including ways to donate to the tribe, to a legal defense fund, and to provide supplies.