Songs of prayer and peaceful demonstration met with canine units and tear gas. This is what’s happening on American soil right now.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s sacred ancestral grounds and water quality are at risk of being destroyed due to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil transportation system in North Dakota.
The federal government-approved pipeline is a $3.8 billion project.
Since the beginning of the pipeline’s construction, protesters have set up camp across the street from the site, praying for the safety of their water and burial lands. Protesters have been met with daily arrests for misdemeanors such as criminal mischief, causing some to spend several days in jail for defending what treaties once said belonged to them.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are fighting for our lives, our people and our sacred places because of a failed process for approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” the tribe said in a press release.
Protests made headlines for a few weeks as videos and pictures of both dog attacks and pepper sprayed protesters circled the web. Coverage of the protest has since slowed down, but make no mistake — it is still happening and people are still being arrested for defending land that belongs to nobody but the Earth.
Journalist Amy Goodman has been covering the protests at Standing Rock, most specifically the pepper spray attacks that took place on Sept. 3, and was arrested on riot charges, which is punishable by jail time and a fine, according to The Nation.
Until Monday, Oct. 17, when a judge dropped riot charges against Goodman, she was facing prison. Goodman was one of the first reporters from a major media outlet at Standing Rock and wasn’t considered a reporter at the time of her arrest, rather “a protester, basically,” North Dakota State Attorney Ladd Erickson said.
Though cleared of her charges, Goodman and other reporter arrests at Standing Rock are a clear violation of the First Amendment. Goodman identified herself as a reporter in video coverage released by Democracy Now!, which was seized for “justifying the protest actions.”
According to the Society of Professional Journalists, it is a journalist’s ethical duty to give a voice to the voiceless. Wasn’t Goodman just doing her job?
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not hold meaningful consultation with our Tribe before approving construction of this pipeline,” the Sioux Tribe said in a press release. “They did not conduct a survey of cultural resources. They have not conducted a full Environmental Impact Statement.”
Indigenous Americans are the voiceless in this situation.
“At the end of the day, journalism is designed to tell people the truth and spread news about important issues.”
The Editorial Board
Why is it that our government is so quick to defend the First Amendment, but as soon as someone says something they don’t agree with, reports something shocking or takes a knee during the National Anthem, they’re censored, arrested or condemned?
At the end of the day, journalism is designed to tell people the truth and spread news about important issues.
The betrayal of Native American treaties for the sake of transporting oil, and potentially contaminating the drinking water of thousands, is important.
Being a journalist is the only protected job under the Constitution. It is the job of a journalist to be a watchdog over the government, businesses and citizens.
Journalists are part of the checks and balances system. Unfortunately, the arrests of these journalists is part of a different system designed to silence Native tribes.
Don’t give big companies the power to silence those in need of a voice by feeding into the misinformation they peddle.
Without honest news, we wouldn’t see the changes we need to make as a society — we would be blind to issues such as racism, classism, unfair imprisonment, human trafficking or infringing on the freedom of speech and press.
Injustices like Standing Rock happen on American soil every day without citizens being informed. As college students and the next generation of changemakers, don’t underestimate the power of knowledge. Be critical of where you get your news. Be informed and seek voices of the voiceless, whether it’s at Standing Rock or other oppressed populations. Be the change.