Once again, we must face the repercussions of what happens when those in power ignore the voices of people of color. The over 200,000 gallons of spilled oil in South Dakota is a detrimental step backward in today’s much-needed environmental efforts. The eerie thing about this scenario is not only the counterproductive effects it will bring, but how the story of a pipeline leak rings vaguely familiar.
This is not the first time a pipeline has leaked oil into its surrounding environment. Over the past few years, oil spills have become an expected consequence of pipeline construction. In 2015, 50,000 gallons of oil were leaked into the Yellowstone River in Montana, contaminating the area’s drinking water and infringing on the local environment and the everyday life of that land's peoples. If this unintended side effect tends to follow and haunt pipeline construction around like a damn curse, then why hasn’t anyone said anything? Why hasn’t anyone stopped the environmental catastrophe before it could even happen? Why not put Native peoples lives over the greed of capitalism?
The truth, is people have spoken up against pipeline construction. People have predicted the oil spills, and vehemently advised against it. People have gathered and gotten angry. Last year, protesters came together in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The protest camp was set up by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe along with neighboring Native American tribes and eager environmentalists. They called well-deserved attention to the sacredness of the land that the pipeline was infiltrating upon and almost guaranteed that the pipeline would threaten the cleanliness of drinking water the tribe and nearby ecosystems heavily relied upon.
Indigenous people called out spills exactly like this most recent one months in advance. They accurately predicted it, and yet nothing was done to stop it. Their protests were left unacknowledged, a stinging slap in the face the moment Donald Trump signed off on the Dakota Access Pipeline giving a go-ahead to its construction and enabling the ruin of Dakota environment.
Now here we are. Living the exact future that indigenous protesters spent days warning us about. For the thousandth time, the cries of the indigenous went ignored. Their predictions of an oil -covered future were disregarded and we must deal with the consequences for not listening the first time 100 times. For not enacting government efforts before the oil touched the ground. For the probable lack of action even after we experience yet another blow to our environment, something that easily could have been prevented. Why was it so hard for officials to listen to the pleas of people of color? America's first people? Why must we get to this point before something finally gets accomplished? Next time, I think we all could benefit if we simply take Indigenous peoples’ word for it the first time around.
Banner Image Via CommonDreams