02 November 2016

Two Maps that Describe Water Security Threats from DAPL for the Missouri River and Indigenous People Living There

*Edit : Please see our webpage for additional maps and information.

My team has produced two new maps to describe the situation of the threats from the Dakota Access Pipeline to the Missouri River water security for humans and ecosystem - particularly the population at risk of Indigenous Peoples.

While our maps are focused on the Missouri River, which contributes close to half of the annual flow to the Mississippi River, the pipeline also crosses the Mississippi and just last week the pipeline construction under the Mississippi was completed. This means that although we are focused now on water security of the Missouri - this pipeline threatens the water security of the Mississippi River as well - a threat that carries all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. But that may take a larger study and more time and resources...

The maps:
While this map focuses on the Indigenous Populations at risk, please keep in mind that major city centers such as Kansas City, Sioux City, Omaha, and St. Lois are also at risk. In fact, there are about 2000 urban centers in the Missouri River Basin. This brings the number of people potentially impacted by a pipeline failure into the tens of millions. 

This first map shows the relationship with where the Tribal Lands are held, the proposed pipeline route, where the proposed pipeline route crosses major waterways (there are hundreds of minor ones), and who lives downstream of those crossings - so who is at risk. This shows where Indigenous People are at risk. We have the names of the waterway crossings identified and listed, and the Tribal Land names downstream from those crossings listed.

What do I mean about Indigenous People at risk? I read a well researched but extremely biased piece about how the Indigenous claim to this pipeline problem is false. That the water intake is not even the primary intake for the Standing Rock Reservation drinking water supply. I am not only concerned with drinking water, although that factors in of course - Kansas City also sources their water from the river, by the way...

Water's biggest use is for agriculture. This is world wide. But water is also used for cultural, religious, and social reasons and this is often overlooked as an important and significant use of water.

Water, for Indigenous People world wide, holds sacred and special significance. Much like for the Christians, water is used for baptism, or Muslims water is used to cleanse before prayer, water for Indigenous People features into religious observance and practice, the spirit of the river itself is of vital importance - and this means that the river, the water, is sacred. So how the river is treated and managed is important not only for consumption, but for identity, prayer, and community. Many of the Indigenous People in question with Standing Rock and the DAPL conflict are river people, as is shown in Map 2 below. This is why, in my opinion, the Indigenous People are calling themselves water protectors. So, if the water is contaminated by oil, there is cultural and religious significance that is ruined or desecrated as well as human health risks and ecosystem health risks - so why would we want to take that risk?

Isn't it illegal to limit someone's religious freedom in this country?

The ecosystem is getting only a vague nod by the Feds. Two birds and fish are listed as endangered in the Missouri River mainstem. I featured them in a post two weeks ago. While this pipeline threatens their already altered and shrinking habitats, oil and hyrdofracking for oil upstream in the Bakken (which is contributing hydrofraking fluid to the Missouri River) is also ruining aquatic habitat and threatens to push more species into a threatened or endangered status. The ecosystems are also very important to Indigenous People's culture and religion. Damage to species of plants, animals, fish, birds are also a threat to Indigenous People in this way.


This second map is a demographic map that shows where populations of people live by county. In this case, we are interested in the percentage of Indigenous Population by US county in relationship to the waterways and the pipeline route. You can clearly see in this map that the Indigenous People living in the Missouri River Basin live mainly along waterways. They are largely river communities and river peoples - connected intimately with the rivers. The importance of the water for the Indigenous People population can be recognized in their presence and proximity to it. Again you can see the populations at risk, downstream of the pipeline route waterway crossings.