Do Native lives matter in America

Other | Thursday 26th January 2017 | Patience

The struggle of the Native Americans has been a long and well documented one but on many frontiers, the battle has yet to cease.

In 2016 The Guardian’s Counted Project revealed that Native Americans were the number one victims of police brutality. With African Americans coming in at a close second since dropping from the number one spot in 2015. Showing that protesting and public awareness can make all the difference.

It is unfortunate that in a country that boasts ‘liberty and justice for all,’ Native Americans make up 3 of the top 5 ethnic groups that are more likely to be killed by the police. Victims ranging from the youngest to the oldest are targeted. Like 27-year-old Loreal Tsingine, shot and killed by a police officer after she was suspected of shoplifting in March 2016. Or Paul Castaway a 32-year-old mentally ill man who was killed after holding a knife to his own throat in July 2015. In both cases, none of the police officers were charged, suspended or even condemned. 

But the oppression of Native Americans is not just limited to police brutality. It can also be seen in the current political climate. President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to advance the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.Even though construction on the DAPL had been halted in December 2016. This comes as no surprise since Trump owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company overseeing most of the pipeline.

The DAPL is a proposed pipeline that will carry 470,000 barrels of oil over 1,172 miles. It will go under Lake Oahe on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. This will put the reservations only supply of drinking water at risk to oil spills. Creating irreversible damage to the Standing Rock reservation.

 But the current route is actually a re-route. The original path of the pipeline was meant to cross the Missouri River just north of Bismarck in South Dakota. A city that is predominately white. When issues were raised about the potential oil spills and contamination the pipeline was re-routed to The Standing Rock reservation. Yet when the Native Americans bought up the same fears with the added sting of sacred burial sites being dug up, protestors were met with dog attacks, tear gas and water cannons.

Alongside police brutality, land appropriation and lack of media attention to Native issues. America still has a long way to go before it can confidently say Native lives do matter.