A tweet that's gone viral days before Thanksgiving shows exactly why the indigenous communities of South Dakota didn't want oil pipelines on their lands.
"Just a reminder last year on Thanksgiving that Natives were being tortured with dogs, illegal scare tactics, being run over by angry white [people] all to protect our water," the tweet reads. "And this year on Thanksgiving they are now cleaning up 200,000 gallon oil spill on a South Dakota reservation."
Just a reminder last year on Thanksgiving that Natives were being tortured with dogs, illegal scare tactics, being… https://t.co/eV3qBcZ3Xc— ً (@ً) 1510884251
The tweet, published on Nov. 16 by user @lilnativeboy, has amassed over 100,000 likes and tens of thousands of retweets because of its powerful — and entirely sobering — message.
The tweet is referencing 2016 protests on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation that turned violent.
Last fall, indigenous demonstrators — or self-identified "water protectors" — rallied to protect the local land and water from construction on the 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline. In November that year, when officials became agitated with their ongoing presence, the demonstrators were sprayed with water and tear gas in freezing cold weather. That same fall, security dogs reportedly bit protesters on multiple occasions.
Police spray Dakota Access Pipeline protesters with water and tear gas in freezing temperatures… https://t.co/boIuesrCAc— Smithsonian Magazine (@Smithsonian Magazine) 1479849314
Between then and now, a lot has changed; most notably, an oil-friendly Trump administration took the reins in Washington, approving the final pipeline construction permit needed in February 2017.
Trump has opened the floodgates (so to speak) on a number of oil infrastructure projects; among them is the also controversial Keystone Pipeline, which is disrupting much of the same upper Midwest region as the Dakota Access.
One year later and with Thanksgiving upon us, demonstrators' fears and predictions have come true as the viral tweet alludes to.
Over 200,000 gallons of oil has leaked in South Dakota, Keystone pipeline creator TransCanada confirmed on Nov. 17. The leak, the largest in the state to date, follows another leak in April from the Dakota Access Pipeline that tainted the land with nearly 17,000 gallons.
"It is a below-ground pipeline, but some oil has surfaced above ground to the grass," Walsh said of the most recent environmental setback. "It will be a few days until they can excavate and get in borings to see if there is groundwater contamination."
A demonstrator protests Trump's executive order fast-tracking the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in Los Angeles. Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images.
David Flute, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal chairman, said his community is "keeping a watchful eye and an open ear" in the wake of the leak, according to the CBC. There's a real possibility the spill could pollute the area's aquifer and waterways. "The concern is at a high level, but there is really nothing we can do," Flute said.
But there is something you can do now.
TransCanada has proposed an extension of its Keystone pipeline system into neighboring Nebraska — a decision being weighed now by the Nebraska Public Service Commission. A vote to accept or deny TransCanada's proposal is set for Monday, Nov. 20.
Many environmental and activist groups are rallying support in hopes of keeping the pipeline out of the Cornhusker State. MoveOn, for instance, is encouraging supporters to sign a petition to say "no" to the project.
"If this spill had happened along the proposed route in Nebraska, it would be absolutely devastating," Brian Jorde, a lawyer representing Nebraska landowners opposed to Keystone XL, told Reuters. "Their proposed route is within a mile of thousands of water wells."