Guest Blogger: Tanner Pinkerton

Land Use and its Impacts on Social Justice

As the issues of responsible land use, and ethical management practices remain at the forefront of many discussions, the impacts on the environment, and communities affected by irresponsible policy, continue to strike a chord of discontent among many.


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As noted during past protests regarding the TransCanada-Keystone XL Pipe-Line, mining, construction, and refining of ‘tar sands crude oil’, have the potential to displace many Native North American Indigenous Peoples. Large fossil fuel industry has maneuvered its’ way into once pristine Native Peoples’ forest land, and is now beginning to devour an area the size of the State of Florida. Environmentalists like Sierra Club, and, stand in unity with members of the Native American Communities on both sides of the U.S., Canadian Border, as this development project utilizes, removes resources, and passes through several regions of Cree First Nations homelands.


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This strong-arm development policy drastically effects the ability of these peoples to survive according to their cultural histories, and forces an adaptation to assimilate once again to Western ideals and cultural values. Not only does this policy have lack of respect for the earth and its’ people, this domestic resource will be sold over-seas, thus out-sourcing our energy security. This is not a strategy, it’s a tragedy.

Since April, hundreds of representatives from numerous tribes across the United States have been gathering in North Dakota to stage a passionate protest. What they are protesting is the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The 1,170-mile project starts in western North Dakota and goes all the way to Illinois.

Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s land lies just next to the planned path of the oil pipeline. The 8,000-member tribe is vehemently opposed to the project’s environmental and cultural impact. The tribe sees a strong potential that the pipeline would cause a catastrophe if it leaks or breaks, ruining their water supply and sacred sites.


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One particular issue is the involvement of Enbridge Inc., a stakeholder in the pipeline. Enbridge has a mixed record on oil spills. In 2010, one of its pipelines had one of the worst inland spills in American history, spilling 1.2 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.

The Sioux tribe blames the US Army Corps of Engineers for failing to properly review cultural and historical factors before granting the pipeline federal approval. For their part, the Corps says it did consult the tribes and no one described specific cultural sites that the pipe would damage.

As the struggle to become self-sustainable in a growing world becomes more of a challenge, development of vast areas of land for the express purpose of profit, continue to impose unreasonable amounts of change on indigenous cultures. As many tribes and other ‘nomadic’ societies can easily fall through the cracks of established legal processes, or become victims of a marginalized political policy, the United Nations had established the, ‘Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples’-on Sept. 13, 2007. This declaration makes certain accommodations to ensure for the humane and respectful treatment of all tribal cultures considered to be native. However, as water and other resources become scarce, the concept of fair and just treatment seems increasingly unlikely.

Posted on September 26, 2016, in Guest bloggers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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