Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock

What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) or Bakken crude oil pipeline is a 1,172-mile-long underground pipeline, spanning from North Dakota to Illinois. From when it was proposed in 2014 and through its construction, the project received backlash from many, including environmentalists and indigenous people. Issues regarding the pipeline have risen about land disturbance, health, and the environment. 

In July 2020, a district court judge ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline would need to be emptied, at least for the time being, "while the Army Corps of Engineers produces an environmental review." While this is not a permanent solution for the impact that the pipeline has had on the communities surrounding it, it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the results of the environmental review will shed light on what still needs to be done to ensure the safety of the water and the people who rely on it.

north dakota access pipeline

Who does it affect most?

Indigenous people, namely the Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, have expressed concern towards the pipeline as it poses a threat to the land, air, water, and way of life. During the planning and construction process, treaties with native tribes were often ignored, and the jobs that were promised residents were not provided as planned. Additionally, even the smallest spill of oil could damage the water supply of entire communities of indigenous people.

Read, Watch, and Learn


Young Water Protectors: A Story about Standing Rock (2020) by Aslan Tudor, Kelly Tudor, and Jason Eaglespeaker

At the not-so-tender age of 8, Aslan arrived in North Dakota to help stop a pipeline. A few months later he returned - and saw the whole world watching. Read about his inspiring experiences in the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. Learn about what exactly happened there, and why. Be inspired by Aslan’s story of the daily life of Standing Rock’s young water protectors. nonfiction


Standing with Standing Rock (2019) edited by Nick Estes and Jaskiran Dhillon

Amid the Standing Rock movement to protect the land and the water that millions depend on for life, the Oceti Sakowin (the Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota people) reunited. Through poetry and prose, essays, photography, interviews, and polemical interventions, the contributors reflect on Indigenous history and politics and on the movement’s significance. Their work challenges our understanding of colonial history not simply as “lessons learned” but as essential guideposts for activism. nonfiction


Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock (2017) directed by Myron Dewey, Josh Fox, and James Spione

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota captures world attention through their peaceful resistance against the U.S. government's plan to construct an oil pipeline through their land. documentary




"The Standing Rock resistance and our fight for indigenous rights" TedTalk by Tara Houska 

Still invisible and often an afterthought, indigenous peoples are uniting to protect the world's water, lands and history -- while trying to heal from genocide and ongoing inequality. Tribal attorney and Couchiching First Nation citizen Tara Houska chronicles the history of attempts by government and industry to eradicate the legitimacy of indigenous peoples' land and culture, including the months-long standoff at Standing Rock which rallied thousands around the world. "It's incredible what you can do when you stand together," Houska says. "Stand with us -- empathize, learn, grow, change the conversation."


"News Wrap: Judge halts Dakota Access Pipeline pending environmental review" from PBS News Hour

In their news wrap Monday, a federal judge has ordered the shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline pending an environmental review. The decision represents a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. (2:13-3:16)

What You Can Do

ndap what to do

While you continue to educate yourself on issues like the Dakota Access Pipeline that affect disadvantaged communities, remember to have open dialogues with friends, family, and colleges about the ways that access to water clean is not always equal. Recommend different resources from above that helped broaden your own perspective and continue the conversation. 


With all social justice issues, it’s important not only to have open discussions but to take action if and when you are able. Below are a number of places to get involved through donations, participation in events, and simple actions.

Stand With Standing Rock


If you have any other information or resources related to the Dakota Access Pipeline or other issues, please let us know at mwi@gvsu.edu.