A major shift in news coverage occurred this summer as citizens gathered in North Dakota to protest construction of a 1,134-mile oil pipeline.
And, for once, mainstream news media witnessed and reported on the events.
While non-Indian media have failed to attend to critical issues from an Indian perspective—favoring scientists over culture over the bones of Kennewick Man and cheering on businesses that dig copper, silver and gold mines on sacred lands—the proposed pipeline drew media in droves.
And today, November 4, 2106, during National Native American Heritage Month, the New York Times editorial board states:
It’s time to move the pipeline.
The decision about where to place the pipeline plays out like a case study in society’s prejudices.
The pipeline—which will run through four states in North America and deliver crude oil—was scheduled to be built near North Dakota’s capital, Bismarck.
The Times reports that the pipeline was rerouted because regulators saw a “potential threat to the city’s water supply.”
Instead the pipeline is now slated to run through Indian territory, close to Sioux land (less than a half-mile from one reservation) and “under the Missouri River,” which provides drinking water to residents.
And the Indians are standing up to government agencies and private business interests that made decisions favoring the denizens Bismarck over the indigenous people of North Dakota.
The Times editorial notes construction of the crude oil pipeline is one among a boatload of decisions impacting indigenous people, who “pay the price for white people who want to move environmental hazards out of sight, out of mind and out of their water faucets.”
Now is the time for a “meaningful discussion of the pipeline’s merits,” the editorial notes.
About time indeed.
4 November 2016
Alyssa Schukar for The New York Times
Celebrating National Native American Heritage Month