Our Native American brothers, sisters, relations & settler supporters have assembled at the Sacred Stone Camp and are converging with hundreds of Indigenous Tribal Nations and thousands of Water Protectors at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. They are holding the line against construction of a pipeline that would carry highly flammable, fracked oil from the Bakken oil fields in that state to Illinois. The pipeline would go under the Missouri River, and protesters — referring to themselves as “protectors” and holding signs such as “Water is Life” — are carrying out radical non-violent resistance. Their numbers swell daily at the Camp of the Sacred Stones and the Red Warriors Camp. They have maintained their determined, nonviolent stand even when confronted with force, such as on Sept. 3, when security workers brought dogs and mace to the work site to terrorize the men, women and children who had rushed to an area where bulldozers had begun digging the pipeline trench. Shouting, “We’re not afraid of you!” and “Make your money some other way!” they pushed the security workers, dogs and bulldozers off their land.
The $3.8 billion, 1,134-mile Dakota Access pipeline crosses the Missouri River a half-mile outside the Standing Rock Reservation, but Cody Hall, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux and spokesperson for the protectors, says it’s still on Indian land.
“This proposed pipeline, it’s going to go right over the 1851 treaty land. That’s what we’re talking about being native domain land. And then of course the powers that be shortened the 1851 treaty down to the 1868 treaty and then said, ‘Here’s what the native people have on what is presently Standing Rock.’ But we’re going by the 1851 treaty land.”
The white-supremacy, genocide, land theft, and greedy-conquest culture that dominated Indigenous encounters in the mid-1800s was on display again in the planning for the pipeline. As reported in Inside Climate News, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the Dakota Access pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, while ignoring not only tribal concerns but those of three federal agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. “Citing risks to water supplies, inadequate emergency preparedness, potential impacts to the Standing Rock reservation and insufficient environmental justice analysis, the agencies urged the Army Corps to issue a revised draft of their environmental assessment,” Phil McKenna reported. But the Army Corps ignored these concerns and a few months later issued its final environmental assessment, which stated, “The anticipated environmental, economic, cultural, and social effects” of the project are “not injurious to the public interest.” That assessment gave the project the green light.
The assessment also said the route specifically avoided tribal land as a way of addressing environmental justice concerns, and included the statement: “The Project does not anticipate any impact to water supplies along its route, and to the extent a response action is required [emphasis added], federal regulation will be complied with.”
The pipeline would carry about 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day through four states, from North Dakota to Illinois, along a route parallel to and east of the rejected Keystone XL pipeline. That battle was won with a national mobilization, led by local people known as the Cowboy and Indian Alliance.
The judge hearing the case has indicated he will issue a ruling by mid-September on the tribe’s request for a temporary injunction that would halt construction on sections of the pipeline where it hasn’t already started (which could explain the appearance of the bulldozers working on new ground last week). The injunction would allow a lawsuit requiring the Army Corps to redo its permitting process to be heard.
Over Labor Day weekend, sacred burial sites were bulldozed, prompting the tribe to file for another temporary restraining order to halt construction of the Pipeline. (DC Media Group reports that U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg has ordered the parties involved in a standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline to appear in court on Sept. 6 to hear a motion for an emergency injunction.)
Cody Hall says every minute of every day is critical for the company to lay its footprint. “They want to have a good majority of this construction done so by the time the judge hears the case, the judge will say, ‘How far have you progressed? Where are you at?’ And if they can say, ‘We are 95 percent near completion for North Dakota,’ the judge will say, ‘Well, there’s not much I can do about it, if you’re that close. I’ll let you complete it, just pay your fines, and move forward.’ We’re trying to prevent all that from happening, because it’s not right. You know, we’re not going to wait for the judge to make a call. If we can stop that momentum, then we have to. We need to take that action. And hopefully the judge will rule in our favor.”
Hall says that several protectors have already been arrested. He urges everyone to heed the call of The Red Warrior Camp, which is leading the non-violent resistance, to hold solidarity actions from Sept. 3 – 17 that target the pipeline owners’ offices, the consortium of financial institutions bankrolling the project, or the construction company doing the work. Information about solidarity actions is here.
“This is a movement, this is a people’s movement,” he says. “This isn’t one tribe or many tribal people saying it’s their movement. It’s everybody’s movement. It’s a humanitarian issue right now. Because this water will be poisoned, and it will affect the Standing Rock people first, and then it goes down the river and it will affect my people at Cheyenne River next, and it just keeps going down the line. It’ll affect all of South Dakota; it’ll affect all of Nebraska. So we just have to raise awareness on this. There are other alternative means for fossil fuels. There’s no alternative for water. There’s no Plan B if the water’s gone.”
He adds, “If you can make it, physically [to the camp], come support and we welcome you with open arms and open heart. But if you cannot make it in a physical presence here in North Dakota, please keep us in your prayers, and just hear our fight. Even if it’s a word of encouragement to give the camp, that means a lot to the people that are on the front lines.”