Thousands of protesters have been gathering at the Cannonball River on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to stop construction of a $3.7 billion oil pipeline that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says will endanger its main water supply.
The Dakota Access Pipeline would extend underground for nearly 1,200 miles from the Bakken region at the top of North Dakota to southern Illinois, carrying about 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Of particular significance, the pipeline would pass under the Missouri River—the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s drinking water supply—within a half-mile of the reservation boundary. A spill from the pipeline would contaminate the Tribe’s water supply and pose a massive environmental, economic, cultural, and public health threat to the Tribe. In addition, the pipeline would pass through the Tribe’s treaty lands, sacred sites and burial grounds.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of North Dakota both approved the pipeline project, but the Tribe contends that the Army Corps of Engineers did not consult appropriately with the Tribe, as required by federal law, before giving its approval.
The Tribe, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers in federal court to stop the project. The pipeline company, Dakota Access, a subsidiary of a Texas oil company, Energy Transfer Partners, has now joined the suit. The Tribe has asked that the court immediately put the pipeline on hold during the legal challenge. A judge is expected to rule on that request in the coming days.
Meanwhile, thousands of individuals, representing around 90 tribes, have been continuously protesting the pipeline and some have been arrested. They intend to continue the protest until the federal court makes a ruling.
In an opinion piece in the New York Times, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, David Archambault II, explained why the protests will continue, despite pressure from North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, who has now cut off state aid to the protest campsite, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley. “This fight is not just for the interests of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe,” he wrote, “but also for those of our neighbors on the Missouri River: The ranchers and farmers and small towns who depend on the river have shown overwhelming support for our protest.”
Archambault continued, “As American citizens, we all have a responsibility to speak for a vision of the future that is safe and productive for our grandchildren. We are a peaceful people and our tribal council is committed to nonviolence; it is our constitutional right to express our views and take this stand at the Cannonball camp.”
Dakota Access LLC has sued Archambault and others over the protests.
In the absence of widespread media attention, protesters and others have been using the hashtag #NoDAPL to give updates and information to the public.