Written by Trisha Etringer
As a newly graduated college student, I freshly recall how paying for college was a daunting subject to fathom. Being a single mother on top of working and going to school full-time was incredibly hard to do, but I managed to see it all the way through. According to Student Loan Hero, the most recent report indicates that about 44.7 million Americans are in student loan debt that amounts up to $1.56 trillion dollars collectively (2019). This can be very intimidating when contemplating whether to enter a post-secondary institution. Scholarships and grants seem to be the answer to combat the student loan debt crisis that most students face. Although scholarships and grants are great, I had a problem in analyzing a recent scholarship that I came across via social media.
Indigenous communities suffer higher rates of suicide, poverty, domestic abuse, sexual assault, and substance abuse. When a tribal member makes the choice to pursue a post-secondary education, it is a huge deal (as it should be). However, I noticed that TransCanada Energy is now offering scholarships to tribal members. I could not help but express my distaste when I saw this. I grappled with it. I fought with it. I tried to place my thoughts around it with the best intentions. In the end, I just could not come up with any good that can come from this except offering money to a tribal member that supports their education and family short-term. Here’s why I say short-term.
First and foremost, we cannot forget where it all began – Standing Rock. We cannot forget what happened. (Trigger warning) Dog attacks from an unlicensed security team, endless amounts of pepper spray, police brutality, the numbering on Water Protectors’ arms while some stood naked in cells not being fed for 24 hours, desecration of sacred lands, and water cannons. For most, how can we forget? Energy Transfer Partners LP sat back and watched as the blood of Water Protectors spilled at their hands with the destruction of sacred and sovereign land stated by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. Now TransCanada Energy is proposing a similar pipeline project that will start in Canada and reach all the way down to Nebraska.
Although the construction of the pipeline is now delayed until next year, the pre-construction and mancamps are still being built today. NPR reports that the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota have filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration when it approved the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline without consulting with them (2018).
Mancamps pose a threat to our indigenous women who live along the route. Mancamps are notoriously tied in with the increase of sexual assault and rape. Honor the Earth’s Mancamp Fact Sheet states,
“In 2012, the tribal police department reported more murders, fatal accidents, sexual assaults, domestic disputes, drug busts, gun threats, and human trafficking cases than in any year before. The surrounding counties offer similar reports. But there is one essential difference between Fort Berthold and the rest of North Dakota: The reservation’s population has more than doubled with an influx of non-Indian oil workers—over whom the tribe has little legal control.” (The Atlantic)
With the construction of these mancamps, tribal nations will need to anticipate and take precautions as there are no legal procedures that ensure the safety of our loved ones if such acts are carried out. We have seen time and time again how the police treat our indigenous communities – as if we do not exist.
Lastly, we are now in the Green Revolution. All these projects of extraction and taking away from the Earth will have grave future consequences. The climate is steadily changing, and people are starting to feel the effects. Our children are now suffering from contaminated water and air that are filled with toxins simply because our government fails to acknowledge it. TransCanada Energy’s Keystone XL Pipeline will do nothing but harm the environment and future generations more. What does imply for the indigenous communities who already suffer from higher rates of everything across the board?
TransCanada Energy claims to be “proud to help build strong communities, develop the next generation of community leaders and provide a skilled workforce for our industry” (2019). I would like to inform other potential indigenous recipients of TransCanada Energy’s Indigenous Legacy Scholarship that TransCanada does nothing but harm the well-being of sovereign nations through repeated systematic oppression via abuse of corporate power by exerting unnecessary force through the judicial and governmental realm, and the extraction of our sacred lands that is granted through “treaties” which have not been honored since day one. The scholarship will justify the Big Oil corporations that they in fact support the indigenous communities when in the long-term, they are lining their pockets with blood money from “critical infrastructure” that does not help anyone at any point while denying consultation from other sovereign nations who do not want a pipeline desecrating their sacred grounds.
In conclusion, this seems to be a ploy to display positive propaganda for TransCanada in the wake of constructing the KXL pipeline. We have heard countless times before of how pipelines can be “state-of-the-art” but pipelines break. They contaminate soil and watersheds. As a college student, be cautious and fact check your scholarship sources. Make sure they are credible and in good standing because it could be something in the future that may influence a decision for a future position at a dream job.