Standing Rock: 10 Things Everyone Needs To Know Now


The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) began commercial service in June 2017. It is now transporting crude oil from the Bakken/Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to a storage and terminalling hub outside Pakota, Il.

Oil flow didn’t happen without resistance, of course, as thousands of water protectors gathered at Standing Rock for much of 2016 and in early 2017. Those peaceful protests—and law enforcement’s oft-criticized handling of them—turned heads and generated headlines. Two years after water protectors descended gathered at Standing Rock, has the dust settled?


What began with a single teepee on the ground to protest DAPL’s $3.8 billion endeavor that would span 1,172-miles and possibly affect 17 million people in several states where the Missouri River runs, turned into a mammoth indigenous-led spiritual mission and awakening. Many threads are left hanging in the wake of Standing Rock, particularly with Energy Transfer Partners, the company fueling the Dakota Access Pipeline, and other pipelines around the country. Take note of some of the most significant things to know about Standing Rock and DAPL now:

10. Judge Rejects Tribes’ Request To Be Involved In Court-Ordered Environmental Review

On April 18, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected a request from two American Indian tribes (The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux) to be more involved in a court-ordered environmental review of the contentious Dakota Access oil pipeline.

If you have been keeping track of the Standing Rock ordeal, you may already know that last year, Boasberg allowed oil to flow between North Dakota and Illinois. He also ordered the Army Corps of Engineers and developer Energy Transfer Partners to perform additional studies. The two tribes maintain that they are being left out of the process and requested Boasberg grant them more involvement. While some work on the study has already been completed, Boasberg says the tribes can wait to argue their points when the environmental review is completed.

9. See You In Court!

Earlier this month, Indian rights activist and former Congressional candidate Chase Iron Eyes appeared in court in his ongoing battle against a felony charge of inciting a riot at Standing Rock. Iron Eyes’ case is one of hundreds filed in the state however his recent court appearance went virtually unnoticed in the media. While state officials report that they hope 2018 will signify the end to the drawn-out court cases against water protectors, there’s something else to note: 58 anti-protest bills have now been proposed in 31 states. According to Inside Sources, one of them was a North Dakota bill that would have abolished “criminal and civil liability for drivers running over protestors blocking public roads. It never passed, however it generated attention and signaled a greater need for citizens to, well, pay attention to what is unfolding in these peaceful protest matters, particularly those related to pipelines. One intrepid soul who is remains diligent in sharing information about such matters is Indigenous journalist and filmmaker Myron Dewey. Listen in to my conversation with Dewey below:

8. The Original Plan For The Pipeline And Why It Was Diverted

Some things were obvious from the beginning. Mainly, that Standing Rock Sioux Tribe ought to have the same rights as the residents of Bismarck, N.D., the population of which is approximately 92 percent white. The water supply for people at Standing Rock is just as important as it is for the population of Bismarck. These are key distinctions to be aware of because the original pipeline was to be routed just north of Bismarck, according to sources. That route was rejected for similar reasons brought up by protectors of the water at Standing Rock — mainly, that pipeline leaks could pollute the mighty Missouri River, which supplies drinking water for 17 million people.

7. ‘Suck It From Here’

The world witnessed great opposition to the pipeline near Standing Rock Reservation, but some interests in Native country have been for the pipeline, and pipeline development, in general. The Three Affiliated Tribes, historically, has been an oil-producing tribe. Note: Based in Northwestern North Dakota, officials and other tribe members did come down to Standing Rock to support the opposition to the pipeline. However more than 4,000 miles of pipe carrying oil, natural gas and wastewater crisscross the reservation in the heart of the Bakken oil patch, home to the Three Affiliated Tribes (the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara). What is the ripple effect when tribes say yes to oil production? Winona LaDuke, longtime Native American activist and executive director of the group Honor the Earth, told Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” that “some tribes have been forced into production of fossil fuels.” She goes on to say that 85 percent of the Navajo economy, for instance, is fossil fuel-based. “About the same percentage of the Fort Berthold economy is fossil fuel-based,” LaDuke adds. “And then you end up with oil — you end up with haves and have-nots in the oil fields. And you end up with a tribe that now has oil revenues that are coming in. And they look out there, frankly, and they say, ‘You know? Things haven’t been going too well for us, so we’re going to sign a few more of these leases, because, after all, you know, nothing has ever worked out well for us. And so, we’re going to get a little bit of money.’ And that’s how … you force people into that, with a gun to their head, and then they end up destroying their land.”

6. Leaks, Leaks, Leaks

With five spills (that the public is aware of) reported during the first six months in operation in 2017, the Dakota Access Pipeline’s track record may not appear to be a glowing one. The fact remains: Pipelines leak. The most significant leak was 168 gallons near the DAPL endpoint in Patoka, Illinois—that was on April 23, nearly a year ago. No wildlife was impacted, however soil was contaminated and required care. DAPL went into operation on June 1, as did an under-reported related project—the Energy Transfer Crude Oil (ETCO) pipeline. This was a natural gas pipeline converted to carry crude oil. DADL and ETCO make up what is known as the Bakken pipeline system. In 2017, ETCO leaked at least three times. It is also important to note that Energy Transfer Partners, the company fueling the Dakota Access Pipeline and the fracked gas Rover Pipeline, boasts an extensive spill history. Stats from The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) reveal that the Dallas, Texas-based company has “spilled hazardous liquids near water crossings more than twice the frequency of any other U.S. pipeline company this decade,” according to “The Street.” A report notes that the company has “spilled hazardous liquids five times near water crossings since 2010 when PHMSA started collecting detailed data. The company’s spills account for almost 20 percent of all hazardous liquid spills near water crossings since 2010, primarily because of a 55,000-gallon gasoline spill in 2016 near the Susquehanna River in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania.” In other news: According to Reuters, “Oil is the best-performing global asset this year, with Brent crude up 11.4 percent since January.”

5. Moving On From Fossil Fuels

Fact: Wind and solar energy can produce more energy for the world than the production of oil. North Dakota, for instance, is a massive thoroughfare for wind. Like Palm Springs, California, massive wind tunnels can produce ample energy. Additionally, oil transported through the Dakota Access Pipeline travels through four states and is carbon-heavy. Should other pipelines continue to be approved, the result will add hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 to the environment. Beyond that, we hear news of pipeline leaks weekly, catastrophes in the fossil fuel industry, and climate change. Note: DAPL carries 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day at a cost of $3.78 billion. Elsewhere, and this is just a glimpse of what is occurring, the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Canada has faced major opposition, most recently toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It has been dubbed it “Standing Rock North” as it reportedly triples the amount of oil transported from the Alberta tar-sands fields to a Vancouver-area port. Multiple lawsuits have been filed.

4. PTSD And Ancestral Trauma

Many things were illuminated at Standing Rock — the rights of indigenous people, environmental justice, the power of peaceful protest. However, collectively, the events uncovered something that has been there all along: the heavy weight of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and ancestral trauma. According to a report by a Department of Justice advisory committee, 22 percent of American-Indian and Alaskan Native juveniles have PTSD — that’s three times higher than the national rate. And now, reports of Standing Rock-related PTSD offer a more sobering look. Factored into the mix is intergenerational trauma, also known as historic trauma because … the rights of indigenous people have been repeatedly overlooked or abused for centuries. When everything that is “out here” has been done at the expense of your own people, how does one cope? Can these revelations morph into a unique opportunity to address such vital issues — and heal?

3. Brutal Force

Dog attacks. Water canons. Pepper spray. Rubber bullets. These were some of the measures used by “law” enforcement officials during peaceful protests. That it all took place is still head-stratching for some people. After all, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe supports the peaceful and prayerful message of the Oceti Sakowin leaders. Its on-reservation camp allows the tribe to explore long-term methods to meet the needs of the community and much of that is done 100 percent off-the-grid, using solar and wind power. Why was brutal force used in a peaceful enclave? And will officials be held accountable for the extreme actions they chose to take?

2. 10,000 People Converge. What Did They Learn?

What did protectors of the water, especially individuals who traveled near and far to take a stand in a peaceful protest against DAPL, actually learn, especially about themselves? I was asked this question in several discussions I had with several Indigenous People who live in North Dakota and South Dakota. The issue at hand: Did “protectors” come to Standing Rock for a greater cause? For themselves? For environmental justice? For Indigenous People? Many people arrived on the scene, showed their support and left. But for the individuals who stayed longer, their journey may have taken a different trajectory. Those souls, reports suggest, found themselves in a quandary, asking deeper questions about their own humanity, and humanity in general. “Who am I? What am I all about?” For the younger people who arrived, there seemed to deep ache to mend what one Indigenous water protector calls “their broken souls,” and, perhaps, desperately understand their own path in life. Clearly, the events at Standing Rock exposed what was already present: Racism. But it also sparked a profoundly unique and deeper spiritual, esoteric exploration of the soul.

1. Racism

Speaking on racism … if there is one thing 2016 truly illuminated it’s this: that, sadly, racism is alive and well. (From urban to rural areas, and especially around, and directed at, Indigenous communities.) As a culture, we have believed these deep issues were transformed long ago, but, in actuality, they have been swept under the rug. I’m reminded of what several indigenous people recently shared with me — not to mention many yoga instuctors I had over the years. They said: “When you shine a lot of light onto things, it exposes what has been in hidden in the darkness … so that it can transform.” Here’s to that. Like the strong winds that often cascade through the plains of North Dakota, perhaps Standing Rock can serve as a powerful marker of the real work that lies ahead: Healing.

Keep track of my the latest on Standing Rock here. Follow me on Twitter.

Author, Editor, Multimedia Journalist, Humorist. Grace Revealed: A Memoir available on Amazon.