It’s the alternative ending to history that Native Americans have been seeking since the dawn of modern America.
A land dispute between the indigenous and the federal government did not end, for once, with the latter asserting its authoritative power to get its way.
The Dakota Access Pipeline has been blocked — for now.
The Sunday night announcement was a major victory for the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, Native Americans everywhere, and their supporters who championed for their cause either in person or on social media.
The historic treatment of the United States government towards Native Americans is something that most people are aware of, but prefer not to talk about. In short, it’s been a one-sided affair.
So in a way, this dramatic standoff along the Missouri River in North Dakota became a last stand, of sorts. Not that the Native American community is still not prospering in certain parts of the nation, but in a way, this showdown either could have continued a historic trend, or set a precedent that we simply cannot take whatever land we want.
The support that rained in from all parts of the country has also shown the awesome power of social media. These protests have been occurring for most of this year, but without the exposure from local news and its subsequent spread throughout social media, it likely would not have become household news, as it did sometime around September.
But it’s absolutely worth noting that the pipeline has not officially been halted. The Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not grant a required easement to Energy Transfer Partners (the company building the pipeline), and that it would seek alternative routes. The process could take years, but it doesn’t mean it won’t ultimately end with them sticking with this one.
The dispute, of course, revolved around Native Americans claiming the pipeline route is across sacred ancestral lands, and that the drilling beneath the Missouri River carried huge risk of contaminating their drinking water.
President Obama has yet to take any specific credit for this, but is there really any doubt he played a major influential role?
A battle has been won, but the war is far from over, as Republican officials signified shortly after the announcement.
Also, President-Elect Donald Trump may or may not own stock in Energy Transfer Partners. So there’s that.
I hate to invoke the Avatar comparison again, but that movie was just so prescient for this exact situation. The reason people loved Avatar so much is because it was so believable. Powerful bureaucrats kicking people from their land is not only a recycled trope in movies, but in real life.
There’s a reason why we rooted for the indigenous in Avatar. There’s a reason why the humans were the bad guys.
Because any one with an ounce of humanity understands that the land belongs to the people who were there first. Who only want to conserve the natural resources that the Earth has provided us.
In Avatar, humans went in with bulldozers and guns. In this instance, the “opposition” used drills and spray hoses. I mean, it requires the bare minimal amount of human decency to understand that something is wrong here.
Combined with the well-documented and scientifically accepted harm that fossil fuels have on our planet, how can anyone who is not cartoon villain root for the oil executives in this instance?
If this fight impassioned you enough to become a grassroots advocate, then good for you. Don’t stop. Because this isn’t over. And when it’s settled, another dispute will pop up involving similar themes.
Incidentally, there also happens to be four more Avatar sequels upcoming.
On the bright side, by the time Avatar 3 comes out in December 2020, we may have a new president-elect.
There’s still hope for Standing Rock — and the rest of us — just yet.