The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, together with more than a thousand indigenous activists from multiple other tribes, today continued their months-long protest of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion project that would transport oil across the state.
The protests began on April 1, and have shown no signs of slowing since then. The proposed pipeline would be 1,172 miles long and would run through South Dakota and Iowa, as well, to connect with an existing pipeline in Illinois. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has sued federal regulators for approving the pipeline in the first place, challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s decision to grant over 200 permits for water crossings. The tribe argues the pipeline could harm drinking water for the more than 8,000 tribe members who live less than a mile downstream. The tribe also says the pipeline could impact the drinking water of millions more who live further way.
The suit also invokes the National Historic Preservation Act, as the tribe argues the pipeline could disturb ancient sites outside the reservation.
The protests are located in Sacred Stone Spirit camp, and have said their protest is intended to remain peaceful.
Work on the pipeline was paused recently after Energy Transfer Partners LP claimed its workers were under threat. The construction crews are now being guarded by police and independent security contractors and have won restraining orders against the protesters. Over 20 arrests have also been made.
Dave Archambault, chair of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman that the pipeline was a threat to the health of members of his tribe.
“And we never had an opportunity to express our concerns,” Archambault continued.
“This is a corporation that is coming forward and just bulldozing through without any concern for tribes. And the things that have happened to tribal nations across this nation have been unjust and unfair, and this has come to a point where we can no longer pay the costs for this nation’s well-being. We pay for economic development, we pay for national security, and we pay for energy independence. It is at our expense that this nation reaps those benefits. And all too often we share similar concerns, similar wrongdoings to us, so we are uniting, and we’re standing up, and we’re saying, ‘No more.'”
The Standing Rock protest has recently been gaining ground and publicity: actors Susan Sarandon, Riley Keough and Shailene Woodley joined the protest, through a demonstration outside a courthouse in Washington D.C. After the restraining orders were granted to the construction company, the tribe sought a preliminary injunction to stop construction. No decision has been made yet, but one is expected by District Court Judge James Boasberg by September 9.
“I’m here as a mother and a grandmother to thank the people of the Standing Rock community for bringing our attention to this horrible thing that is happening to their land, which in turn will endanger all of us … because all of our waters are connected,” said Sarandon, according to Reuters.
The Standing Rock protest is not the first of its kind, by a long shot. Opposition to the proposed Keystone pipeline, for example, went on for years.
Protesters include young tribe members, but also those who have a history of protesting government oppression of indigenous rights, including some protesters who participated in the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff to demand treaty rights.
The protest has been compared by some to Cliven Bundy and his son Ammon’s battle with the U.S. government for years over unpaid grazing fees and control of land. Ammon Bundy, with the help of his brother Ryan, undertook occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon earlier this year. According to Indian Country Today Media Network, the refuge the Bundy boys were occupying was formerly the Malheur Indian Reservation.
Photo: Dakota Access Pipeline protest at the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Flickr/Tony Webster