Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

Christopher Hanna '18, president of Amnesty International at Cornell, speaks about the intersection of human rights and environmental justice.

October 3, 2016

Cornell Students Host Write-A-Thon Opposing Dakota Access Pipeline

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Students wrote letters to Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R-N.D.), the executives of Energy Transfer Partners and the Standing Rock Sioux — a Native American tribe in North Dakota — protesting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Thursday.

The write-a-thon was jointly hosted by Amnesty International at Cornell, Native American Students at Cornell and Climate Justice Cornell.

“We’re writing to draw awareness to the issues at stake here,” said Skye Hart ’18, the external relations chair of NASAC.

According to Hart, the Dakota Access Pipeline has drawn substantial opposition for many reasons, one being its imposition on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation is half a mile below the pipeline.

Hart recounted the many times Native Americans have been stripped of their land and their rights in U.S. history.

“Once the United States or a private entity realizes … that there’s something valuable about the land … they want to take advantage of people who they see as not having many rights anyways, who are always disadvantaged and always set up to be disadvantaged,” she said.

Not only does the pipeline risk depriving Native Americans of their rights, but it also has the potential to harm wildlife, land and livelihood if the pipeline leaks, according to Hart.

“The fact that they’re placing this pipeline just half a mile over the reservation, after [the Army Corps of Engineers] declared that it wasn’t safe for Bismarck means that it [probably] isn’t safe [for the reservation either],” said Elizabeth Chi ’18, an officer for Climate Justice Cornell.

Chi cited a recent pipeline leak in Alabama, which resulted in the spill of 250,000 barrels of crude oil. She explained that the Dakota Access Pipeline would use 400,000 barrels of crude oil, making it even more dangerous.

Chi also discussed how the use of crude oil would advance climate change in a region very vulnerable to it.

“The primary form of income [for the Standing Rock Sioux] is through cattle ranching and agriculture,” she said. “So, climate change will impact them more severely than, for instance, an upper-middle class Cornellian.”

According to Christopher Hanna ’18, president of Amnesty International at Cornell, thousands of people converged at the construction site in North Dakota to protest the pipeline and were mistreated by law enforcement.

“This is an environmental issue but it’s also a human rights issue, because there are a lot of demonstrators whose civil rights are at risk while participating in demonstrations … so that’s where Amnesty International comes in,” Hanna said. “Human rights and environmental justice have a lot of intersections, and we’re trying to highlight those intersections.”