Activists march for missing and murdered Indigenous women at the Women’s March California on January 19, 2019, in Los Angeles, California.
SARAH MORRIS / GETTY IMAGES
October 6, 2019
Later this month, the South Dakota Water Management Board will be holding five hearings on water permits needed for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which will cross several rivers as it makes its way from the tar sands in Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. If the pipeline expansion is approved—it’s been on hold for nearly a decade —it will affect several tribal and First Nations communities along its route. Tribal activists fear this will bring not only economic and environmental impacts, but also sexual violence.
Angeline Cheek, a community advocate on the Fort Peck Reservation in Northeastern Montana, is vehemently opposed to the extension. As proposed, Keystone XL would cross just a few miles from the western side of the reservation. On the eastern side, across the North Dakota border, are the Bakken oil fields.
Cheek’s organization provides workshops and information to reservation residents on the dangers of man camps in the Bakken area. Man camps are large company-owned housing units that people who come to work in the oil fields can move into.
With the Bakken oil boom, these man camps have increased in the region. Population growth because of an extractive industry leads to a surge of individuals—mostly men—who are paid well and living temporarily in rural areas they aren’t otherwise connected to. Since the boom, violent crime, sex trafficking, and rape cases have increased, according to tribal police and local activists.