Digital Project Archive

Primary Research Questions: How was The Dakota Access Pipeline constructed despite widespread protests and condemnation? How does this specific case relate to tribal sovereignty?

Carl M. Sack’s map that shows the original and current routes of The Dakota Access Pipeline
Final Assessment of the Pipeline by the Army Corp of Engineers that found no significant Environmental Impacts.
AnnaLee Rain Yellowhammer’s original handwritten note
Protesters at Standing Rock. John L. Mone/ AP

#NoDAPL protestors in DC. @AlexR_DC on Twitter
Page one of the case between the Sioux Tribe, the Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access
The safety procedures in place for the pipeline, from The Dakota Access website.
All the corporate funding for the pipeline.
Donald Trumps Financial Disclosure Forms from 2016. On pages 48 and 49 it is shown that he has interests and dividends in the company Phillips 66, which owns a quarter of Dakota Access. As of 2019 Trumps office has not disclosed whether he got rid of his shares in the company, either by selling them or placing them in a blind trust.
Trump signing the executive order to green-light construction of The Dakota Access Pipeline.
Tweet from the 2017 Dakota Access Pipeline Spill. Local government was notified hours after the spill was detected by the company, and it was recorded that the pipeline spilled 200,000 gallons of crude oil into the surrounding wetlands. As of January 2018, the pipeline leaked seven more times.

The construction of The Dakota Access Pipeline despite tribal protests and litigation show how important it is for tribes to be fully autonomous, on paper and in practice. Although on paper they are said to be sovereign nations, they are instead treated as quasi-states with no constitutional protections against the federal government. Many of their political decisions are controlled and monitored by the federal government as well. If native nations were actually treated as sovereign, the pipeline would not have been built near them because they would not have allowed it. Instead, the Army Corps spoke over them and legally allowed the pipeline the permits to be built, and eventually President Trump green-lit the project himself. Whenever there is money to be gained, Native interests goes out the window and greed takes over, ignoring federal laws and treaties in the hopes of increased revenue. Due to our current political system, corporations and politicians are becoming more intertwined, and this has led to the situation seen at Standing Rock. Native Nations should be treated as the sovereign states they are, so they never again have to deal with this kind of injustice.

Rules for curation:

The artifacts either had to be in regard to The Dakota Access Pipeline, its construction, or its funding, or in regard to the Sioux reaction and response to the pipeline.

No artifacts from further back than 2014-2015, and nothing from the current Democratic primary campaigns.

Centered firmly on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and how they approached the situation.

I excluded examples from other tribes, and how other tribes were involved with this situation, because including all of them would be too large a task for me to complete in one semester.

I tried to avoid confirmation bias by looking at The Dakota Access point of view, through litigation and their own website. I also looked at the points the Army Corps of Engineers made when environmentally assessing the pipeline. This allowed me to look at both sides and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the nuances apparent in this situation. I understand the points they made about economic profits and safety, but by looking at the other side, I am able to draw my own conclusions about their where their priorities lie.

The Storytelling tool that I found the most useful in showcasing my story was Juxtapose. I used it to show how widespread the protests had become at Standing Rock; whole camps had been erected at protest sites. This shows how important these protests were to so many people. It also leads into the fact that although so many people were against the pipeline, it got pushed through permitting anyway. Part of my research was in discovering why that happened. I also used Juxtapose to show how construction of the pipeline would negatively affect the environment of the Dakotas, which would then have a direct impact on Standing Rock’s ecosystem, which its residents are dependent on for sustenance.

The most exciting part of this research process has been finding unexpected connections, like when I found documents that showed Trumps interest in the pipeline, or when a chart on a paper I analyzed about tribal sovereignty used the same medicine wheel image that I found in my primary source analysis.

The most challenging part has been finding the documentation and sources; many articles were written about this subject, but some only reference “documents” without providing links or other sources. This makes verifying the claims of articles much more difficult.