Women are leading the battle against the Black Snake, the latest in fast-tracked fossil fuel pipeline projects attempting to carry crude oil across the U.S.
Described as a great serpent that will run through the land and bring destruction to the earth and its people in a Lakota tribal prophecy, the Dakota Access Pipeline is facing fierce opposition from tribes, landowners and ranchers. Citizens rightfully fear a crack or leak that would leach oil into water and land. It’s the great unifying power of this shared crisis that may be bringing historically divided communities into the fight together against the Canadian oil company Enbridge and various firms they have hired for the pipeline’s construction.
And it is in this spirit of cooperation and protection of health that camps like Standing Rock are spontaneously appearing along the route. Communities are rallying together to protect their water after witnessing countless spills and exploding fuel trains in their news feeds. DAPL is planned to carry nearly 500,000 gallons per day of crude from North Dakota to Illinois.
Having spent time reporting at Sacred Stone camp on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, as a well as water protection encampments in Iowa, I can’t help but notice the presence of mothers protesting with their children at their sides.
From Home to the Protest Lines
Families that perhaps have never protested are finally feeling a threat to their neighborhoods. Part of it could be social media and mobile web technology that have allowed anyone to create and share news instantly with their personal networks in ways never before possible, helping enlarge this movement. The safety of numbers could be the social catalyst that many people need before speaking out about something they have until recently only spoken about at home. Or it could be the widespread knowledge that renewable energy now appears close to out-competing coal and gas.
Regardless of the cause, I am now witnessing protest camps that look more like family reunions than hordes of protesters. People are starting to understand that fossil fuels do harm, and women in particular are peacefully demanding the end to pipeline construction projects like the infamous Dakota Access.*