Protests that began as a local dispute have attracted national attention as the saga between Native American tribes and a Texas-based energy company continues to unfold unmitigated. A federal suit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, that has the potential to cease the pipeline’s construction, is expected to be decided upon this week. The case contends that the proposed pipeline’s route under the Missouri River would threaten the local water supply and devastate sacred land.
The $3.7 billion, 1,170-mile Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners claims, would diminish the United States dependence on foreign oil and inject millions of dollars into local economies.
What began as small gatherings of protesters back in April has swelled over the last few weeks to include hundreds of individuals from surrounding areas, mostly Native American tribe members. The tribe members have appealed to human rights groups to support their cause.
Protests Remain Mostly Peaceful
The standoff near Cannon Ball, N.D., between the protesters on one side, and police and construction workers on the other, have been largely peaceful, with a few exceptions. Over two-dozen arrests have been reported, citing minor offenses of disorderly conduct and trespassing, and construction ground to a halt earlier this month as workers were threatened by bottles and rocks hefted at their construction vehicles (though construction on the project continues in other areas). To date, no injuries related to the protests have been reported.
“I’m trying my best to keep the peace" ,Jon Eagle Sr., the historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux.
A Community Makes Camp
The protesters have created a makeshift community camp a mile from the construction site, replete with tents and tepees, open-air kitchens, and nightly campfires. A day care has sprung up to care for the smaller children of families who’ve come to the prairie to contribute their voice.
Initially, the state lent support to the community in the form of portable toilets, large tanks of drinking water, and an air-conditioned medical trailer, but removed the water tanks and medical trailer last Monday in a strategic move to pressure protesters to disband.
No further action has been taken to break up the protests as of yet, but Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County, the individual in charge of law enforcement’s response, has called the demonstration an “unlawful protest”.
Last Friday, Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency.
More Legal Battles
Energy Transfer Partners has filed a counter-suit against seven tribe leaders, those heading up the protest, accusing the named of blocking access to the construction site, threatening workers and trespassing onto private land. Today a federal judge postponed the hearing until September 8th.
And thus the standoff persists, as protesters and pipeline advocates await verdicts in their respective cases.