Contemporary Issues of Law and Inequality

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Contemporary Issues of Law and Inequality

Operations of Dakota Access Pipeline have been challenged in the past several months by the Native American tribes that reside at Northern Dakota (Associated Press 2016). The pipeline is aimed at connecting an area more than 1,200 miles between Bakken and the oil production sites at Three Forks in North Dakota to a river port located in Patoka, Illinois. The DAPL controversy involves the protests of the Native settlers of Northern Dakota claiming that the pipeline would greatly interfere with their lives in terms of health, economy, culture and other spheres as it destroys their burial sites and water (Reuters News 2016). The tribes developed their protest settling camps at Standing Rock Sioux in efforts to protect their ancestral land from being interfered with by the pipeline construction.

Case Study Analysis

On the controversy facing the Dakota Access Pipeline, the ETP insists that the protestors have no right to disturb the process of the pipeline building, and there is no law that allows them to enter the construction land, which further makes them trespassers. The Energy Transfer Partners states that the land was bought and they did not recognize any claims of a federal law of 1851 the native tribe’s claim they were given with the admission of their land ownership (“Dakota Access Pipeline” 2016). The ETP acted as the owners of the pipeline project and facilitated the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The ETP went further organizing the vacation for the native people from the construction site where they had settled camps to impede their protesting activities.

On the other hand, the US government was involved on the DAPL controversy. The government responded and made statements that were aimed at protecting the people by ordering a stop of the pipeline construction. The federal authority blocked the building in North Dakota as the intervention in the DAPL battle. On its decision, the government considered the claims made by the Standing Rock Sioux concluding that their concerns were not sufficiently heard before approval of the pipeline (“Dakota Access Pipeline” 2016). The governmental Justice Department additionally initiated serious discussions to decide whether there is supposed to be a national reform based on the views of the tribes on infrastructure projects like DAPL. The government has decided to stop the pipeline construction after  a federal judge resolution to deny the Standing Rock Sioux permission to block the construction of the Dakota pipeline.

In the Dakota pipeline controversy, the police were used to disperse the demonstrators as well as their camps to cripple their efforts to protest the construction of the pipeline. The police raided the camp sites of the protesters with pepper spray and managed to arrest approximately 140 representatives (Prakash 2016). Even though the police raid interfered with the protesting processes, they did not evacuate them and protests would resume as usual.

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Different Interpretation of Dakota Pipeline

DAPL has presented many views and reactions from different groups in the society. ETP, for instance, considers the pipeline to be a great opportunity to achieve a significant advantage in the pipeline sector. DAPL is expected to connect the Bakken oil fields, which are situated in North Dakota, with all Southern Dakota and Lowa and extend up to the oil tank that is situated next to Patoka in Illinois. On completion, the pipeline is predicted to provide a great advantage by enabling the transportation of an additional 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day compared to the existing contractual commitments. ETP, therefore, view the pipeline as an economic boost in the oil transporting industry as well as a benefit to the national transport system. It is argued that the reduction of trucks used for oil transport would increase those available for farmers to transport their grain products.

The opinion of the Native American tribes settled in North Dakota who view the pipeline as an abomination to their daily lives contradicts ETP’s viewpoint. Firstly, the natives believe that the pipeline interferes with their ancestral land and culture by destroying their burials (Looking Horse, Chief Avrol 2016). Apart from social intervention, the people view the pipeline as causing a danger to their lives by polluting their water. To demonstrate their disapproval of the pipeline construction, the people engage in fierce protests. The pipeline will transfer river Missouri at the point where it converges with Cannon Ball River, which is considered to hold a significant importance to the people. Unlike the ETP, therefore, the Native American tribes residing in Dakota see the pipeline as a disturbance to their normal and sacred lives.

Police officers support the opinion of the Energy Transfer Partners. The police find the construction of the Dakota pipeline as a right thing for the place in terms of development. Thus, the police participated in dispersing the Standing Rock Sioux demonstrators to allow peaceful continuation of the pipeline construction (U.S. General Service Administration 2016). By assisting in creating a way of continuation of the pipeline construction, the police, therefore, state their viewpoint that the pipeline is an advantage rather than a disadvantage for the society.

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Tribal spokespeople in the DAPL controversy base their arguments of having the right for the construction land on a legal consciousness that was provided by the federal trust responsibilities that were guaranteed in 1851 and 1868 by the US treaties (Associated Press 2016) with the communities, which they term to remain the supreme law of their land (Strickland 2016). Legal consciousness, in this case, is the way people perceive and interpret the law. In addition to the federal law, the National Environmental Act requires the provision of a full Environmental Impact Statement before engaging in major environmental actions. This requirement can significantly assist the communities in defending their land (Associated Press 2016). The Clean Water Act as well as the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act also provide a base of legal argument for the Native American Communities. According to the US Constitution, the tribal spokespeople believe that “In managing federal lands, each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sites” (Camp of the Sacred Stone. 2016b).  Additionally, there are historical ceremony sites and burial grounds in the immediate vicinity of the Missouri River crossing. Hence, the Corps must deny the DAPL a permit to protect these sites in compliance with EO 13007. According to the tribal spokes people “the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) violates Article 2 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty which guarantees that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shall enjoy the ‘undisturbed use and occupation’ of our permanent homeland, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation” (Camp of the Sacred Stone. 2016b).

The critical race theory can be applied to evaluate the state DAPL controversy by looking at the participants of the confrontation. In the controversy, the supreme powers involve the authoritative ETP Corporation and the minor Native American tribes who are trying to fight for the right for their ancestral land. The critical race theory can as well be used to define the controversy as it involves a combination of race, power, and law (Looking Horse, Chief Avrol 2016). In the disagreement, the law contributes to the oppression of the Native Americans by allowing the pipeline constructors to legally start their building process. Additionally, the controversy involves the failing to concentrate on racial discrimination as a source of the DAPL oppression.

According to Perry, “there is always the view that indigenous communities face a lot of policing because they are considered as less than equal”. With this kind of a belief, the indigenous communities are treated with less importance (Valley News Live 2016). As a result, these communities are always involved in violent clashes with the police. In the DAPL controversy, the Native Americans are considered as just stubborn people who oppose a great pipeline project that could be of a great economic importance.



It is clear that the powerful people in the society engage in activities that they consider as beneficial to them and do not exactly care of the effects on the general public population. The Native American communities face a possible threat to their health due to polluted water as well as  their interfered neutrality and originality. They, however, do not receive the proper attention as their protests are dispersed by the police, and the pipeline constructors are given the permission to build it despite the dangers it poses to the people.