Mar 28, 2016 - The Run for Water: Protecting Water from the Dakota Access Pipeline

We do not need oil to live, but we do need water, and water is a human right and not a privilege.” ~Waniya Locke (Ahtna Dene, Dakota, Lakota, Anishinaabe)

In the Lakota language, the word ‘mni’ is used for water. ‘Ni’ means life and the ‘m’ placed in front refers to yourself. The literal translation of mni is, “it gives me life.” Mni wiconi, water is life.

The Lakota understand the sacredness and necessity of water. Water is healing. Water is medicine. We need water to live. No life can exist without water.

Despite the fact that no life can exist without water, so called modern society gives little to no thought to the significance of water. Multinational corporations have successfully re-branded water as a commodity as they have privatized water resources around the globe and engage in practices that threaten and pollute water sources such as fracking.

After a multi year fight to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the Lakota and Dakota Nations now face yet another proposed pipeline that poses a threat to water.

On Friday, March 25, the Wakpala community on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation gathered for the ‘Run for Water‘ to draw attention to the sacredness of water and to the threat posed to the Missouri River by the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.

Participants in the ‘Run for Water’.  Photo provided by Waniya Locke

The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, backed by Texas based Energy Transfer Partners, is a 1,168-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that would carry Bakken crude from western North Dakota to a distribution hub Illinois on route for refinement in the Gulf Coast.

If built, the Dakota Access Pipeline would transport as much as 450,000 barrels of oil per day with a future capacity of 570,000 barrels per day.

Its proposed route would cross the Missouri River, the source of drinking water for millions, twice.

According to the organization People Over Pipelines, who are organizing to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the pipeline would “cross under the Missouri River two times, cross under sacred native burial sites twice and travel over the Ogllala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the world (supporting 4.5 million people), threatening the safety of U.S. water, ecosystems, and cultures.”

Youth state “People over pipelines!” At Run for Water event. Photo provided by Waniya Locke

Threats pipelines pose to communities, waters and lands are real and imminent. From a two-year span starting in January 2012, North Dakota experienced over 300 oil spills and 750 “oil field incidents”.

The more concerning threat is what this pipeline WILL do to the environment. All pipelines break at some point in their lifetime. Pipelines spill their contents. And in some cases, pipelines explode. Should a pipeline rupture under the river…The contamination will leave the entire reservation without potable drinking water.”
~Nicole Montclair-Donaghy (Lakota)

Runners, walkers, and horseback riders took to an 11 mile stretch to raise awareness to the immediate threat the Dakota Access Pipeline would have on the Missouri River.

In addition to posing a threat to water, the Dakota Access Pipeline violates the 1868 Ft. Laramie treaty. According to a resolution passed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, “the Dakota Access Pipeline violates Article 2 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty which guarantees that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shall enjoy the “undisturbed use and occupation” of our permanent homeland, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.”

The proposed pipeline also threatens burial grounds and sites of cultural and historical significance to tribes of the Northern Plains.

LaDonna Bravebull Allard, tribal and cultural historian for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, stated the following about the Cannonball region of Standing Rock where the pipeline would cross, “this is the place where the Mandan came into the world after the great flood,” and a place “where the Mandan had their Okipa, or Sundance,” and later where “Wisespirit and Tatanka Ohitika held sundances.” She goes on to say that the site is where old Mandan, Cheyenne, and Arikara villages were located, in addition, to where the “medicine rock [is located] that tells the future is in the area.”

Participants in the ‘Run for Water’. Photo provided by Waniya Locke


Pipeline fighter and Run for Water participant Waniya Locke states, “Wakpala is the second smallest district on Standing Rock, but they were the first community to stand in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline. We are descendants of Pizi (Gall). He was Sitting Bull’s right hand man.

The Run for Water was organized by Bobbi Three Legs.

Event organizer Bobbi Three Legs 

Written by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)

Matt Remle (Lakota) – green shirt – is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire.

Last Real Indians