A groundswell of Native American activists has temporarily shut down construction on a new oil pipeline worth $3.8 billion that would carry about half a million barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken oil field to Illinois, linking with other pipelines to transport the oil to Gulf Coast refineries and terminals.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier explained in a press conference that “construction of the Dakota Access pipeline south of Mandan [N.D.] has been stopped — for safety reasons.”
The protest occurred at a spot where the pipeline would pass beneath the Missouri River, just upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, a community of 8,500 situated on the Missouri River in North and South Dakota.
Now, North Dakota’s homeland security director has ordered the removal of state-owned trailers and water tanks from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest campsite Monday due to reports of unlawful activity, including the presence of pipe bombs and guns. Over the last week, 28 protesters were arrested, including Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault, who wants protesters to comply with the law.
“The position of our tribe is clear — There’s no place for threats, violence or criminal activity,” Arhcambault explained to reporters. “That is simply not our way.”
But Homeland Security Division Director Greg Wilz believes there is cause for concern. “Based on the scenario down there, we don’t believe that equipment is secure,” he said.
Tribal members from across the nation have streamed to the Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, with thousands coming to the peaceful “prayer camps” in recent days, prompting state officials on Monday to remove the demonstrators’ drinking water supply.
Standing Rock spokesman Steven Sitting Bear hinted that the protest is only just beginning, as he’s received “notifications from tribes all over the country that have caravans in route, so it’s continuing to grow.”
And in Washington D.C., high-profile activists and supporters are rallying outside the U.S. District Court, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux will argue that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted Energy Transfer Corporation permission for the pipeline without tribal consent.
In July, the environmental group Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, seeking an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who signed off on the pipeline’s construction. “The construction and operation of the pipeline, as authorized by the Corps, threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe,” the lawsuit notes.
According to the tribe, the pipeline puts the sacred waters of the Missouri River at great risk.
The demonstrators held signs during a rally last Thursday in Bismarck that read, “No Dakota Access Pipeline” and “ReZpect our Water,” while they chanted, “We can’t drink oil. Keep it in the soil.”
Climate campaigner and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben supports the protest, even penning an op-ed on Monday titled “After 525 years, it’s time to actually listen to Native Americans.”
He believes that in recent years, it has been Indigenous people like the Standing Rock Sioux who “have been the vanguard of the movement to slow down climate change.” He also implied that stopping the pipeline process would send a message that, after 525 years, someone actually paid attention to the good sense the Native Americans have had from the start.
He also said:
One has the ominous sense of grim history about to be reenacted at Standing Rock. North Dakota authorities—who are in essence a subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry—have insisted that the Sioux are violent, that they have “pipe bombs.” There are rumors about calling in the National Guard. The possibility for renewed tragedy is very real.
But the possibility for a new outcome is there as well. The Army Corps of Engineers might back off. The president might decide, as he did with Keystone, that this pipeline would “exacerbate” climate change and hence should be reviewed more carefully. We might, after five centuries, actually listen to the only people who’ve ever successfully inhabited this continent for the long term.
As for the U.S. District Court hearing on whether a preliminary injunction should be issued against the protesters, it has now been rescheduled from Thursday to Sept. 8, though a restraining order against the demonstrators has also been extended to that time.
From the Dakota Access Pipeline Resistance: (contact information in the link)
We, the Indigenous defenders of the land and water within the traditional treaty lands of the Oceti Sakowin, makean urgent appeal to the international community to assist us in facing a human rights crisis. Dakota Access is trying to put a crude oil pipeline under the Missouri River. This is a dire threat to the drinking water and future generations of the Oceti Sakowin who have lived here for generations.
For the past few days there has been unidentified air-craft circling the camp and we’ve been surrounded by federal and state police. We believe the elders, women and children present at this peaceful assembly could be under threat and in danger of imminent harm and possible violence from state and federal police (including Homeland Security) as well as private security. The Governor of North Dakota has issued a state of emergency and closed roads and restricted freedom of movement. We are unarmed. We do not have cell phone service or wifi. We are unable to communicate and document for the world community this peaceful assembly.
We are committed to peaceful defense of our water and our territory.
We urgently seek national and international human rights observers to come. We need United Nations’ rapporteurs, NGOs (especially Indigneous NGOs), and Churches, to be aware of the rapidly escalating dangers facing this peaceful gathering. Please come and bear witness.
Joseph White Eyes 605-230-0812
Michelle Cook 914-334-0888
Carolyn Raffensperger 515-450-2320
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