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Kayla Cook

Mr. Edwards


4 December 2016

Civil Disobedience in 2016

While America is known as a land of opportunity, freedom, and democracy, not all

people within the United States have fully enjoyed these liberties. The Native Americans, who

have preceded American civilization in America by thousands of years, have continually

suffered from American expansion in North America. During the Columbian Exchange, Native

Americans suffered from the settlers diseases, particularly smallpox, and from clashes between

the natives and settlers. After America became its own country, Americans expanded upon

Native American territories, and continued to move them further and further west, dislocating the

tribes. In 1830 when Andrew Jackson was President of the United States, he enacted the Indian

Removal Act. Thousands of Indians were forced, in some cases violently, off of their homelands

and into small, undeveloped, desolate lands labeled reservations. Nowadays, after American

encroachment on Indian lands seemed to have stopped, the Native Americans are experiencing

this intrusion on their land again. The North Dakota Pipeline, an q 1,172-mile-long underground

oil pipeline project in the United States, is attempting to run through an Indian Reservation in

North Dakota. All Americans, and especially the Native Americans, have a civil right to protest

this pipeline, as it clearly goes against the United States democratic ideals of equality in

America, and it puts the health of the Indians at risk.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has exercised civil protests since the

spring of 2016. It has protested against the thousand mile long pipeline that has plans to run

through land of cultural importance to the Sioux Tribe. The Standing Rock Tribe do not only fear
the loss of land that has for centuries had a cultural importance to them, but they fear that by

placing an extensive oil pipeline so close to their reservation, there is a great risk of water

contamination that could affect the Indian tribes significantly. The project will cost $3.7 billion

for the United States, and it is projected to help transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day from North

Dakota to Illinois there it would meet with the rest of the pipeline connections in the U.S.

Supporters of the tribe suggested that it would open up 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in construction.

However, the Native Americans have argued that regardless of how many jobs will be opened

and how much oil will be distributed, the tribes will more than likely suffer environmentally.

According to the New York Times, Pipeline spills and ruptures occur regularly. Spills have

caused detrimental water disasters, such as in Michigans Kalamazoo River when a pipeline

dumped over 8,400 gallons of oil into it and took years of cleanup and money (New York Times,


The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has turned to peaceful protests in order to keep their land

safe, and they have been joined by thousands of other Americans. Theyve gathered at Cannon

Ball, North Dakota, to protest the Pipeline. After months of fighting for the Pipeline to be halted,

the protesters finally won on December 4. 2016. The Pipeline agreed to reroute after the Army

Corps of Engineers denied the route. This shows the impact that civil protests can have on a

nation. One of the most significant introducers of the idea of civil protests, or civil

disobedience, is Henry David Thoreau. During the Mexican War of 1826, Thoreau disagreed

with the intentions of the war. He believed it was a result of President Polks greediness for land

and westward expansion. Therefore, he refused to pay taxes that he believed funded the war

effort. In his refusal to pay taxes, he was taken to jail. This night in prison, however, was

considered less of a punishment and more of an opportunity to protest, according to Thoreau.

This act was one of the first instances of civil disobedience, and his example served as a template
for Americans in the future, such as Martin Luther King Jr., and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

But to show that the North Dakota Pipeline, it is important to compare it to Henry David

Thoreau. Both Thoreau and the Tribe felt that a group was being subjected to inequality and

unfairness. The Tribes were at risk of losing a land that was important to their cultural identity,

and were at risk of environmental disaster. In order to voice their opinion, as Thoreau insists

minorities must do: A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a

minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight (Thoreau, 1849), the

Indians and other Americans had to stand up and speak out against the Pipeline. By not

conforming to the majority, the Indians were able to win their battle--which shows the

essentiality of protesting against the North Dakota Pipeline.

In 1849. Henry David Thoreau set an example of civil protests. Because of this

phenomenon, several minority groups in the United States have exercised their freedom of

speech right and spoken out against the flaws of the United States. These civil disobediences

have helped shape America as a whole. From Martin Luther King Jr, to Black Lives Matter, to

the North Dakota Pipeline, minority groups have spoken their ideas allowed in order to reform

America for the better. This is why it was so necessary that the Tribes in North Dakota protest

against the Pipeline; they fought for the betterment of the health and the betterment of their

cultural heritage. And, the protests have proven very effective since the Tribes won the land.

Thus, it can be seen that peaceful protests are essential to the growth and development of the

United States of America.


Blau, Max, Kalt Richmond, and Marisa Russell. "North Dakota Pipeline: Protesters Vow to


Ground." CNN. Cable News Network, 30 Nov. 2016. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

Thoreau, Henry D, Michael Meyer, and Henry D. Thoreau. Walden: And, Civil Disobedience. ,

1983. Print.

Healy, Jack. "North Dakota Oil Pipeline Battle: Whos Fighting and Why." The New York


The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2016. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.