November 17, 2017

Redefining American Values

Photo courtesy of Andrew Cullen/ Reuters

by Kelsey Dass ’18

Opinion Staff

This land is your land; this land is our land?

As President Donald Trump begins his time in office, many new decisions and policies are being made. This includes his decision regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which straddles the boarder between North and South Dakota, established in 1868, is forever changed with the decision by our president to move forward in using Dakota for natural gas pipelines. The question this action raises: what do we value as a country?

Our country’s foundation is supposed to stand on the rights to religion, speech, equal justice, and private property. However, in drilling a hole through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, we take away these rights for Native Americans.

The concept of drilling holes and striking oil might sound like a good idea. When we think of oil, we think of money. Having this type of accessibility to natural gas in our own territories would be a huge financial gain.

However, this pipeline would seriously violate some of these American rights. One of the biggest concerns is how this pipeline could affect drinking water. If the pipeline has any type of leak, even a small one, this could majorly affect the water the tribe has access to. Another issue regards the religious grounds that the reservation exists on. The people of the Sioux tribe feel that this pipeline will disrupt their sacred burial ground.

The truth of the matter is that one does not need to understand that the Sioux tribe feels this ground they live on is sacred. It is not the easiest concept to comprehend for people who did not grow up on a reservation,  understanding its morals and customs. However, if we choose not to value their personal principles, then we choose not to value human rights like equality, religion, private property, and freedom.

Taking an economic look at the situation, it is understandable why accessing the pipeline would be so profitable. The United States would see around $2 billion in economic benefits. The amount of money could be extremely positive and put our country into a better place financially.

Nevertheless, the United States is not solely based on money, and such decisions cannot be made through one economic lens. The scope of the field needs to include the consequences such actions may have on people.

When President Donald Trump signed the Keystone pipeline re-negotiation, he said it would provide   “A lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs.”

What is interesting though, is that he chose not to discuss the close relationship he has with the Energy Transfer Partners (ETP). The ETP, which is a natural gas and propane company, will profit significantly if the Keystone pipeline goes into effect, which Trump would know considering he holds stock in that company.

The president values jobs, which is great, but it means nothing if he cannot value all people. When he was questioned about the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, he chose to not comment, again de-valuing the people who have called the reservation home for generations.

Trump has placed his focus on economics, profit, and growth in industry. These are not negative ideals. However, because he has so purposefully neglected other important aspects of the situation, in the grand scheme of things, he is actually more deeply de-valuing human beings than he is valuing the economy.

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