At the beginning of fall term, Augusta Terkildsen ’19, who lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, faced a decision. Should she return to Hanover for her sophomore year at Dartmouth? Or should she join members of her tribe, the Oglala Sioux, who, with others, are trying to block the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline, which opponents consider a serious threat to the region’s drinking water?
“Others call us protesters,” says Terkildsen. “We think of ourselves as protectors of the water.”
To Native Americans, she says, water is not just a resource—it’s an ancestor.
The conduit proposed by Energy Transfer, a Texas-based corporation, would stretch 1,127 miles from an underground deposit in North Dakota southeast through South Dakota and Iowa into Illinois. The Army Corps of Engineers granted final permits in July, but the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit, saying the pipeline, planned to run under the Missouri River, would threaten the water supply and destroy burial and prayer sites as well as culturally significant artifacts. For several months, Native Americans and their supporters have been camping out about a mile from the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, trying to halt the pipeline’s construction. There have been dramatic clashes with law enforcers. Hundreds have been arrested. In mid-November, the Army Corps announced it was delaying construction pending further analysis.
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