The UTD College Democrats were among the allies of the American Indian Movement of Central Texas, which descended upon the headquarters of Energy Transfer Partners in Dallas on Friday to peacefully protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The construction of the pipeline, which will transport crude oil from the Bakken/Three Forks rock formations in North Dakota to a terminus in Illinois, would cross Sioux territory. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is arguing that the DAPL was fast-tracked by the federal government, which is a direct violation of the Tribe’s rights as a sovereign nation and would jeopardize historic and cultural resources.
“The problem with the pipeline is that it crosses through native lands and their only access to water is the Missouri River, and if anything happened to the pipeline, all of the water would be contaminated, so the Native Americans who drink from it have a problem,” Hira Saleem, the communications director of College Democrats at UTD, said. “Their cattle and the animals who drink from it would be destroyed.”
Saleem, a finance and entrepreneurship senior, helped mobilize the student organization and is eager to shine light on the controversy.
“The goal was to bring more attention to this because so many people have been protesting already, but it’s not seen in the media much,” Saleem said.
A variety of property rights, including bodies of water, are subject to eminent domain, which is a power of the government allowing it to take private property through condemnation proceedings. Throughout these proceedings, the property owner has the right of due process. But, Saleem said, this power may not be in play in the case of the pipeline.
“It doesn’t seem like they’re doing that because they’ve used eminent domain to implement the pipeline,” Saleem said. “So, I don’t think they are dealing with the land owners nor the Native Americans who are protesting across North Dakota.”
Proponents of the DAPL argue that it, among other energy pipelines, is necessary to reduce AThe United States’ dependency on foreign energy sources. Saleem said she disagrees with that imperative.
“I feel like they can respect the Native Americans who own that land and the environment first,” Saleem said. “(The DAPL) crosses through what Native Americans consider sacred land, which is a problem for them, and on top of that it could contaminate their water.”
Christian Briggs, a computer science junior and president of College Democrats at UTD, said he was pleased with the protest.
“It was really lax,” Briggs said. “The Dallas Police Department was really nice. There were different people from the various tribes from the local area. A member of the Sioux tribe of North Dakota was there, so that was nice.”
Briggs said he knew convincing ETP to shut down their operation was a far-fetched idea, but he was happy to show support for the Sioux tribe and he and the College Democrats will stay the course.
“It was largely to show solidarity with the people of North Dakota,” Briggs said. “The company didn’t announce they were going to (cease construction of the pipeline) but it can be blocked, so of course we are going to continue that hope.”
Briggs also said it is important to stay focused on the broader picture.
“Honestly it takes policy,” Briggs said. “People can go out there and we can protest constantly, but it’s all about those votes. It’s about getting out there and lobbying for important causes, it’s about getting out there and actually voting for candidates who will push this forward as a health emergency (…) it’s about getting people together and making them feel like they are a part of something.”