“Environmental protests that spring up around development projects on tribal lands point to an underlying systematic injustice,” says Rev. Gregory Jensen in this week’s Acton Commentary. “Native Americans often lack property rights to their traditional lands and waters. The protests now going on over the Dakota Access Pipeline are in part symptomatic of this gap.”
Resolving environmental conflicts between Native Peoples and developers is a good thing. But if the legal ownership of indigenous people to their own lands is left unresolved, then even the best-crafted “solution” merely ratifies the dependence of Native Americans on outside parties. Being dependent means being vulnerable to harm even by well-meaning others.
At Standing Rock the Dakota Access Pipeline protests are harming the very people they are trying to help. It is more than a little ironic that the protesters themselves are a source of inconvenience and frustration in the day-to-day life of the Sioux living in the immediate area.