Nataleah and the Nation: Dakota Access Pipeline

Nataleah Small

What will it take to get you to listen?

dakota access pipeline.jpg
(Photo courtesy of Flickr)



The police came wearing riot gear, brandishing automatic weapons and pressed back the crowd. We came to maintain order, they said, to uphold the law. But what laws were broken? Is it not the right of every American citizen to exercise their right to free speech? Or are you allowed to silence a message if it violates your interest and the interest of your superiors?

The Dakota Access Pipeline is an appealing proposal. You say that it will create new jobs, make shipments easier, help us become independent of foreign oil and close the gap between production and demand. You say that the protests are unfounded. You have done your science, your research, your feasibility studies and you say the potential environmental concerns are baseless.

But did you ask the Sioux if you could squat on their land?

You saw dollar bills but they saw the graves of grandma and grandpa, their great grandma and great grandpa being destroyed. You wouldn’t run pipes across the land where your grandmother was buried, so why here? Because it is convenient and economical? The destruction of history and culture is convenient and economical? Or maybe certain lives matter more than others.

What will it take to get you to listen?

standing rock reservation.png
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)


Will it take another white, millennial actress who has chosen to exercise her privilege and position to force you to pause and reflect? Which voice is louder: the collection of tribes, or a Hollywood starlet? When she says something, you listen, but when entire communities come together in protest, you send in the guard. Here is the proof: a voice, isn’t a voice, isn’t a voice, isn’t a voice. But look at what she did, she got the nation to listen — now listen to the collective.

You think you can use the same tactics that have been used for hundreds of years: silence the opposition, especially if the opposition is dark and Native and bothersome. You care more about economic advancement and the smooth golden lining of your bank accounts than culture and the environment. If there was a spill, the water, the land, the reservation, the livelihood of many would be destroyed.

Or was that the point? Another marginalization, another aggression, another moment of neglect? You ask, what can we do to silence these voices? Why can’t they understand that big business is the future and this pipeline is already 60% complete? You say that this will introduce thousands of new jobs, span 1,200 miles, connect Bakken and Three Forks in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The taxes have increased on ground transportation so let’s build a long, beautiful pipeline. It will make our lives easier. Forget about the protesters.

What will it take to get you to listen?


(Photo courtesy of Flickr)


America was built on the backs of the oppressed. We are the dominant race – all others must be forced into submission. And when you don’t get your way, you use a megaphone. And when you don’t get your way, you use science. And when you don’t get your way, you use a weapon. Because look at how much we can do, look at the potential of us. It is our destiny to conquer this New World. The ones before us weren’t using the land, so it is our duty to take it.

Fill the earth, spread out and conquer it. Push back the families that were here first. They look different, they think differently, they speak differently. They may have been here first, but our Manifest Destiny gives us the authority to make the rules. Savage, you are on my land now. Get out.

Do you see the injustice?

Did you ask permission? Or was this another moment of potential extermination? What do you truly care about? How many voices must come together in unison for you to take a moment and listen?

Now that it is I who has the megaphone, it is your turn to listen.

Collegian writer Nataleah Small can be reached at or on Twitter at @NataleahJoy. Leave a comment!!