Thousands of Native Americans have joined Standing Rock Sioux tribe members in their protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. -Photo: Crow Nation News

Thousands of Native Americans have joined Standing Rock Sioux tribe members in their protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. -Photo: Crow Nation News

Dakota Access Pipeline will desecrate many Native American sacred religious sites.

Native American religion is intrinsically based on nature. Religious places are not man-made structures like churches or mosques, but open landscapes where their nature-gods live. No wonder then, when the Dakota Access Pipeline project came up, Native Americans were outraged at officials not considering the damage it will be causing to the environment and many of their religious sites.

The project will facilitate the transportation of around 570,000 barrels of crude oil across four states from oil fields. Environmentalists and Native Americans are worried if there is an oil spill, the Missouri river will be contaminated permanently. The river is a major life-force for the cities that are dependent on it, and as a result, the project poses a hazard to all the people living in these areas.

The project, which is almost complete, runs across areas that are sacred to Native Americans. The community, already having faced oppression and brutal persecution by European invaders in the past, now feels its religious freedom is being trampled upon simply because it does not adhere to any major Abrahamic religions. For them, the destruction of these natural sacred sites is just as sacrilegious as it would be for Christians if a church was destroyed.

Kelcy Warren, CEO of the Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the project, believes the concerns of the Native American community are unfounded and will go ahead with the project anyhow. The community, on the other hand, is determined to stop the project at all costs. For some time now, protestors have been camping on the site in tepees, gathered together to protest the project by prayer. The protestors, however, have faced arrests, rubber bullets and pepper spray from police forces. To the police, the community is just another troublesome group of protestors. But for the community, the protest is about their religious and human rights.

For a community that is strongly grounded in traditional, natural and earthly ways of life, the Dakota Access Pipeline issue has been a catalyst in reviving the real American way of life. Although the community’s only intention was to come together in prayer, peacefully protesting the project, the police brutalities meted out to them has been condemned as a display of how the now marginalized community’s sentiments and religious freedom are not being given importance, although their ancestors were the true inhabitants of America.

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