700 arrests and months of protest, is what the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been overcoming for the past months. More than 200 Native American tribes – The biggest protest from indigenous people in the US – have been defending their territory from the threat of the Dakota pipeline project. The well-known case has build controversy in America but more than that discomfort for those affected. The $3.8 bn pipeline construction is a project in charge of the subsidiary company: Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) who has currently completed most of the project. The remaining part of the construction is the section that compromises the private land of the tribes.
Indigenous and environmentalists argue that the project can potentially pollute their supply of water; a resource that is considered sacred for their culture. The case became a public issue for the company; it is of mutual concern for both the company, the government and those affected. The issue built controversy and it is today a contentious conflict in which many parties are involved. Among the most important characters involved are; President Trump, North Dakota, the US army the tribes and the company ETP.
This Tuesday the 7th of February, the army informed Congress that it intends to grant an easement to complete the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline near tribal territory. It is important to understand that the case became a public issue, as mentioned earlier. Once the company identified the public issue and detected a gap between society’s expectation, they needed to act; as a result, the protest and conflict began. For this reason, in this particular case, we can perceive that the exhaustive conflict has gone through some of the steps proposed as part of the issue management process studied in class as follows: Identify the issue, analyze the problem and possible outcomes, generate alternatives, take action and evaluate results.
Furthermore, the case of this company not only creates controversy but also negative externalities caused by the company in which inevitably someone will end up being affected. It can be said that in this case there is an interesting conversation on moral and ethics in business. The case of the Dakota Pipeline is just an example of the obstacles and conflicts that business faces on a daily basis. There is always a third party that will end up being affected and many times it is in this cases where the businesses have to evaluate the possibilities to define whether or not to commit an unethical or immoral act.
Additionally, it is interesting to analyze from this scenario how these tribes who have preserved their traditions, their land and their cultures are now being affected by development. It is important to consider how is the business damaging the preservation of this indigenous communities and how valuable they are to our society.
I personally believe that it should not be necessary to recur to acts of violence to solve this conflict. It is evident that both sides have been behaving inappropriately but for this reason, there are laws and they should be followed. Moreover, the company as part of their issue management process should have considered a negotiation with the tribe prior to the beginning of the project. Proactive companies do not wait for issues to arise or develop, instead, they are one step ahead. If there is evidence of the appropriate documentation and legal process, I do agree that the pipeline project should continue. Nevertheless, I do strongly support that the company and the government should provide a benefit to the community that feels threatened. As part of a solution possibility they could work with the community to negotiate investment in areas that they need in a way that they receive a positive outcome from the project.
BBC News. “Dakota Pipeline: What’s Behind the Controversy?” BBC News, 7 Feb.