Avarice may cause injustices, but more often pragmatism is the tipping point that wins the day.
That likely will be true of the Dakota Access pipeline being built to carry oil from the Bakken shale fields in northwest North Dakota to storage tanks at Patoka, Ill.
A bit of history:
Until the westward migration of European immigrants became overwhelming for the Great Plains, the Dakotas were home to many thousands of indigenous peoples. They lived in large measure off huge herds of buffalo, eating their meat, using hides for shelter and winter clothing and converting other body parts to everyday use. Except for occasional spates with neighbors, they were reasonably happy and contented.
When the railroads began their march across the continent, a mission of Gen. George Custer was to protect crews surveying rail routes; history shows he was not a friend of Indians, nor they of him.
When gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874, prospectors and speculators flooded the northern plains, long-time residents be damned.
The intrusion led to contentiousness, and armed conflicts.
Peace finally came, mostly after massacres decimated Indians — often helpless women, children and old men. Treaties were signed giving them land totaling millions of acres.
Those set-asides changed quickly with government regulations that favored white settlers. Missionaries also came “to save the savages,” which often proved even more divisive. They had had religions for eons. One Indian said: “You go to church to hear about Jesus; we talk to Jesus.”
Going forward, reservations shrank, and many of the people were moved to places foreign to their cultures.
Today, reservations aren’t the concentration camps of the late 1800s and early 1900s, but the Lakotah Sioux and other tribes think they have been saddled with some of the same woes of their ancestors.
Now, their foe is the Dakota Access pipeline.
LAST YEAR, after protests on the Standing Rock Reservation reached a fever pitch, with locals joined by large numbers of supporters coming to help out, President Obama ordered construction to stop and for the Corps of Engineers to reassess the pipeline’s route.
Much of the 1,172-mile, $4 billion project has been completed. Even so, protesters claim sacred ground is being violated and pushing the huge pipe under the Mississippi River is tantamount to pollution.
Pollution will occur if the line is ruptured — something neither side want. Stopping the flow of oil would lead to the loss of millions of dollars daily; its repair would be exceeding difficult, time-consuming and dig further in pockets that aren’t as deep with $50 a barrel oil as when the price approached $100.
President Trump fulfilled a campaign promise to restart construction. Protesters who had taken up residence, have been — or soon will be — moved from the construction site.
Are their fears founded? Or are they camped in left field, trying to subvert a perfectly logical business decision, the pipeline?
Probably, a little bit of both.
Most Allen Countians would say the pipeline isn’t going to make a modicum of difference environmentally or in any other way.
To wit: The Flanagan South pipeline, the 583-mile, 36-inch conduit that transverses the county on its way from Illinois to a gigantic storage depot at Cushing, Okla., was constructed with minimal problems and added much to local economies, including during its construction and into the future through property taxes.
Pipes were placed under several creeks in Allen County and under the Neosho River south of Humboldt. Enbridge took extraordinary measures to ensure safety, including pressure testing what would far exceed the expected flow of oil would exert, well before the pipeline went online in December 2014.
ONCE COMPLETED, the furor over the Dakota Access line will abate. And, it will be a significant financial perk for the area, just as Flanagan South has been here.
Progress can be a beastly thing, but by its very nature it moves on.
That is the way things work in today’s world, much like the windmills that will pop up in Allen County one of these days.