PINKE: Protesters should speak through action

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests are tragic for all sides. We've read and heard about the intensifying protests, fires, attacks on law enforcement officers and livestock killings. I recently drove through downtown Bismarck, and while sitting a...

Tepees stand in the Seven Council camp, one of three encampments that have grown on the banks of the Cannon Ball River over the last month with the purpose of stopping construction of the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, N.D. Sept. 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
File Photo

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests are tragic for all sides. We’ve read and heard about the intensifying protests, fires, attacks on law enforcement officers and livestock killings. I recently drove through downtown Bismarck, and while sitting at a stoplight watched protesters gather. I saw license plates from Massachusetts, Ohio and Georgia. I'm all for sharing your voice and peacefully addressing issues, but the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute and protests have gone too far. Fear and economic devastation have taken over.

It’s important to note, most of the protestors aren’t from North Dakota. According to the Morton County Sheriff, as of Nov. 22, 503 people have been arrested in connection with the protests and riots. Only 9% are North Dakotans. The other 468 are from 45 other states stretching from Vermont to Florida to California. Of the arrested protesters, 158 have a total of 928 previous citations and charges for illegal activity.

As a lifelong North Dakotan, I care deeply for the land, water and most of all, the people. My great-grandfather was the first white man to own land in Sioux County which began a multi-generation family ranch. My grandma, who learned to speak Sioux from her friends and neighbors as a child, started the first kindergarten program in Fort Yates in the early 1970s where my dad and uncle graduated from high school. That’s the extent of my connection to the reservation and area but I have thought about what my grandma would say in this situation.

The pipeline construction and protests are not happening on the reservation - they are happening on private working land owned by farmers and ranchers who granted access to the pipeline. Less than 3% of the Dakota Access Pipeline is on land where the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction.

Standing Rock Reservation and Morton County, N.D., have a rich history, including the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty referencing the sacred tribal ground. A look back through history could unearth who-knows-what that might have a bearing on present-day activities.


Do you want your private land protected? I do. Our law enforcement is diligently working to protect it and fulfill a duty we all respect and expect as Americans. Like all pipelines, the Dakota Access Pipeline has gone through the regulatory paces. No one from Standing Rock or any of the tribes showed up at public meetings. The pipeline has been granted the necessary permits and approvals. We have to respect the process. Where the protests are taking place, the Dakota Access Pipeline is being placed next to a gas pipeline, the Northern Border that has been there since 1982 to lessen the impact.

The North Dakota Native Americans who are choosing to protest aren't only protesting water and sacred grounds - they’re feeling defeated and lashing out in frustration. I could sense that suppression when I took a class 15 years ago in college at the University of North Dakota to learn more about tribal relations. Indian Studies 220, Tribal Government, gave me my first real insight into their desire to be a “sovereign nation.” The people are being heard now, but unfortunately it’s not in a positive light. I wish their gathering was in a different forum with real solutions being shared to change the issues the Native American people face. As a lifelong North Dakotan, I want the out-of-state protesters to go back to their homes and get to work. They’re not helping any causes, on either side, and they’re making life miserable for many.

I could have lived with a peaceful protest off private land. I’m passionate about encouraging people to find their voice. But out-of-state protesters who are being paid (and paid more when they’re arrested) for the cause? That’s going too far, and it needs to stop for all sides.

If you don’t support the Dakota Access Pipeline then it indicates you don’t support domestic energy or job growth. This past summer, we had an employee leave our small business to go work on the pipeline construction. It was a new opportunity with better pay, and we supported his decision. He made enough money to pay for his college education this year. Our goal is to see him graduate from college, and the pipeline job brings him closer to reaching that goal. Pipeline construction has created 4,000 jobs in North Dakota. In a depressed economic time for both energy and agriculture, I’m thankful for new jobs. The pipeline will continue create domestic energy growth and jobs.

Approximately 90% of North Dakota is farm or grasslands. Last week, I spoke with a farmer who has land around the pipeline. He shared the reclamation work with trees is the best he’s ever seen.

For the land, people and future of North Dakota, our water needs to be protected - and I trust our regulatory system has done just that through this process.

If you don’t support the Dakota Access Pipeline, I respect our difference of opinion. Even without saying so, the actions of protesters are an indication they support foreign oil. Our U.S. soldiers have died to protect us and our access to foreign oil. Why protest a pipeline that will help our state and country gain access to domestic oil?

If you don’t support the Dakota Access Pipeline, please stop using oil. Stop using all transportation that uses any oil. Stop buying any products that have any connection to oil. Put your actions and words into practice.


I support all types of domestic energy growth. I also want the lives of our Native Americans to improve, peacefully. If the current dispute can bring attention to the issues that need to be addressed on the reservations, then that’s a positive impact. But first the protests need to end. We need help.

A resolution doesn’t solely rest on our counties. We need more leadership in our state and at a federal level to help. What can you do? Please pray for the safety and strength for all and for a peaceful end soon.

Editor’s note: Pinke is the Agweek general manager and publisher. She can be reached at .

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