Aug. 23 — The start of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, a multi-state, 1,100-mile-long crude oil pipeline to be built under the Missouri, Mississippi and Big Sioux rivers, was temporarily halted on Aug. 18. Led by people from the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation) and other Indigenous nations, protesters forced the U.S. government and the pipeline’s corporate owners to stand down after a series of heroic actions blocked access to the construction site near the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota.
Thousands of people representing about 300 Indigenous nations as well as many non-Native people have gathered in solidarity near Standing Rock, and vow to stay there until the pipeline project is cancelled. They stand ready to peacefully defy any court injunction that would allow the pipeline construction to proceed. They will not back down despite arrests, surveillance, police highway blockades, and limited resources.
On July 26, the Obama administration, via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, quietly approved the pipeline, and construction plans by Energy Transfer and Enbridge swiftly moved forward. Standing Rock received a “48-hour notice” that digging was to begin under the Missouri River, a source of water, livelihood and a way of life for Native and non-Native peoples in the region.
Months of struggle by Indigenous peoples, farmers, ranchers and environmentalists of many ages and nationalities preceded this important temporary victory. This included “the establishment of the Camp of Sacred Stones in Standing Rock, actions in Iowa, several youth runs for sacred water, including a 2,000 mile trek from North Dakota to Washington D.C., petitions and testifying at hearings with the Army Corps,” outlines Lakota writer Wakíŋyaŋ Waánataŋ (Matt Remle). (lrinspire.com, Aug. 19)
‘Historic moment’ unfolding
The struggle to protect the water and defend tribal sovereignty is mobilizing Indigenous people in the U.S. to a degree not seen in decades. Many say that they are protecting the water for the millions of people in the region who rely on the Missouri River for water. They point out that oil pipelines inevitably leak and break and cause immense environmental devastation as a result.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a mouthpiece of the corporate defilers of the Earth, the Dakota Access Pipeline, one of the interrelated Bakken pipelines, has many big-name oil companies connected with it: “Dakota Access is being built by Energy Transfer Partners LP and its affiliate, Sunoco Logistics Partners LP. Phillips 66, the refiner, owns a 25 percent stake. And Enbridge Energy Partners LP and Marathon Petroleum Corp., bought a stake in the Dakota Access line for $2 billion earlier this month, leaving the fate of a separate Bakken pipeline they had been planning unclear.” (Aug. 18)
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency Aug. 19, seemingly accusing the protesters of unlawful actions and stating they cause “a significant public safety concern.” Parks were closed and roadblocks were set up to the Cannon Ball Camp in Standing Rock. This may be a prelude to his eventually calling in the National Guard.
Dave Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, called the governor’s actions “unfortunate” and decried the fact that the tribe had not been consulted. He said the Tribal Council voted unanimously that the roadblocks should be removed. (lastrealindians.com, Aug. 21)
“What is happening at the Cannon Ball Camp reflects a historic moment for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” said Archambault. “For the first time in 100 years we are hosting the reconvening of the Seven Council fires of the Oceti Sakowin.”
A federal judge will soon decide on a temporary restraining order sought by the corporations to stop or limit protesting. In a separate case, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will appear on Aug. 24 before a Washington, D.C., federal court seeking a stop to construction of the pipeline. Standing Rock has consistently opposed the pipeline in any form.
Statements and resolutions in solidarity with the struggle are requested and pouring in from across the country and around the world. (See “Supporting the Fight Against the Dakota Access Pipeline” at tinyurl.com/z3y8qkv.)