Dakota Access Pipeline protesters facing police officers in North Dakota this month. Credit Terray Sylvester/Reuters
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The Native Americans who have spent the last months in peaceful protest against an oil pipeline along the banks of the Missouri are standing up for tribal rights. They’re also standing up for clean water, environmental justice and a working climate. And it’s time that everyone else joined in.
The shocking images of the National Guard destroying tepees and sweat lodges and arresting elders this week remind us that the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline is part of the longest-running drama in American history — the United States Army versus Native Americans. In the past, it’s almost always ended horribly, and nothing we can do now will erase a history of massacres, stolen land and broken treaties. But this time, it can end differently.
Those heroes on the Standing Rock reservation, sometimes on horseback, have peacefully stood up to police dogs, pepper spray and the bizarre-looking militarized tanks and SWAT teams that are the stuff of modern policing. (Modern and old-fashioned both: The pictures of German shepherds attacking are all too reminiscent of photos from, say, Birmingham, Ala., in 1963.)
The courage of those protesters managed to move the White House enough that the government called a temporary halt to construction. But the forces that want it finished — Big Oil, and its allies in parts of the labor movement — are strong enough that the respite may be temporary.
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