1,281 professionals from institutions like the Smithsonian and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries claim that the construction work from the pipeline destroyed “ancient burial sites, places of prayer and other significant cultural artifacts sacred to the Lakota and Dakota people.”
The letter reads further: “The destruction of these sacred sites adds yet another injury to the Lakota, Dakota and other Indigenous Peoples who bear the impacts of fossil fuel extraction and transportation. If constructed, this pipeline will continue to encourage oil consumption that causes climate change, all the while harming those populations who contributed little to this crisis.”
President Obama halted construction on the the $3.8bn, 1,170-mile pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe legally challenged the project. The pipeline is supposed to funnel oil from the Bakken oil Fields in the Great Plains to Illinois and run next to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
According to the tribe, construction on the pipeline has already bulldozed through several sacred sites.
“It is long past time for us to abandon fossil fuel projects that harm native communities and threaten the future of our planet,” states James Powell, former president and director of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
David Hurst Thomas, the curator of North American archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History and one of the professionals involved in signing the letter, said that the decision came after professionals decided the project would disrupt land or artifacts critical to our understanding of American heritage:
“In this case, it’s pretty clear that the Standing Rock area is important to our national history for a lot of reasons.”
Thomas also says the opposition from academics, curators and scientists to the pipeline project is unusually vast and that he “can’t recall anything like it.”