Dakota Access Pipeline protests

Dakota Access Pipeline protests
over water protection
Part of Indigenous rights[1]
Color image of Lakota man locked down to construction equipment at direct action against Dakota Access Pipeline
A Lakota man locks himself to construction equipment in protest
Date April 2016 – ongoing
Location United States, especially North Dakota, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the Missouri River, the Mississippi River, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois
Causes Protection of water, land, and religious/spiritual sites sacred to indigenous people of the Americas
Injuries 167+[2]
Arrested 268+[3]

The Dakota Access Pipeline protests, also known by hashtags such as #NoDAPL, are grassroots movements that began in the spring of 2016 in reaction to the approved construction of Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access Pipeline. The approved pipeline would run from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as part of Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. In April, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a Standing Rock Sioux elder, established a camp as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline. Over the summer the camp grew to thousands of people.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a limited review of the route and issued a finding of no significant impact. They have not conducted an area-wide full environmental impact assessment. In March and April 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation asked the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and issue an Environmental Impact Statement. In July, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the water crossing permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline under a "fast track" option, and construction of the disputed section of pipeline continued. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed suit against the Corps of Engineers, accusing the agency of violating the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws. On November 14, the The Army Corps of Engineers said it needed more time to study the impact of the plan. In a news release they said: "The Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation's dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property."

While the protests have drawn international attention and have been said to be "reshaping the national conversation for any environmental project that would cross the Native American land",[4] there was limited mainstream media coverage of the events in the United States until early September. On September 3, construction workers bulldozed a section of land the tribe had identified as sacred ground in an amendment to the federal injunction a day earlier. When protesters entered the area, security workers used attack dogs, which bit at least six of the protesters and one horse. The incident was filmed and viewed by several million people on YouTube and other social media. In late October, armed soldiers and police with riot gear and military equipment cleared an encampment that was directly in the proposed pipeline's path.

In late November, on and around the Thanksgiving holiday, many new participants ventured from across the United States to join the protesters; fluctuating numbers of protesters remained in the thousands. The weather worsened, with snowfall and temperatures dropping well below freezing. Police use of water cannons on protesters shortly before the holiday drew significant media attention. Officials claimed that the water was used to put out fires, purportedly started by protesters, and to move people off the bridge leading to the barricade to keep them out of danger. This was proven false with the release of camera footage captured by journalist Jordan Chariton clearly showing that there were no fires on the bridge and that the water cannons were used directly against protesters, for the sole purpose of pushing them away from the barricade.[5] The footage also showed protesters putting out grass fires started by tear gas canisters the police had fired.

By November 29, a number of federal officials took an interest in the protest, with some calling on U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate the law enforcement tactics against protesters, and one (Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii) planning to join protesters a day ahead of a scheduled "eviction" of protesters from the site.

On December 4, under President Barack Obama's administration the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not approve permits for construction of the pipeline under the Missouri River near sacred burial sites and would "explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." An environmental impact assessment will also be conducted by the Army Corps.[6][7][8]




Cannonball river area, North Dakota


The Dakota Access Pipeline being built in central Iowa

The Dakota Access Pipeline, a part of the Bakken pipeline project, is a 1,134-mile-long (1,825 km) underground oil pipeline project in the United States. The pipeline is being planned by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of the Dallas, Texas corporation Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. It begins in the Bakken oil fields in Northwest North Dakota and is set to travel in a more or less straight line southeast, through South Dakota and Iowa, and end at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois.[9][10] Routing the pipeline across the Missouri River near Bismarck was rejected because of the route's proximity to municipal water sources; residential areas; and road, wetland, and waterway crossings. The Bismarck route would also have been 11 miles (18 km) longer.[11]

The alternative selected by the Corps of Engineers crosses underneath the Missouri River half a mile (800 m) from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. A spill could have major adverse effects on the waters that the Tribe and individuals in the area rely upon.[12] Using the Nationwide Permit 12 process that treats the pipeline as a series of small construction sites, the pipeline was granted an exemption from the environmental review required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.[13] According to court records, the pipeline is due for delivery on January 1, 2017.[14]. The route of the Dakota Access Pipeline, when completed will run outside of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, north of the reservation by several miles, not encroaching on indian lands.[15][16]

Citing potential effects on the Native tribes, most notably the Standing Rock Sioux, in March and April 2016 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Interior (DOI), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and issue an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Noting that the water system serving Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation was only 10 miles (16 km) downstream of where the pipeline would cross Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, the EPA recommended that the Army Corps revise its Environmental Assessment and open up a second public comment period. "Based on our improved understanding of the project setting, we also recommend addressing additional concerns regarding environmental justice and emergency response actions to spills/leaks."[17]

The DOI also expressed concerns about the pipeline's proximity to the tribe's water source:

The routing of a 12- to 30-inch crude oil pipeline in close proximity to and upstream of the Reservation is of serious concern to the Department. When establishing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's permanent homeland, the U.S. reserved waters of sufficient quantity and quality to serve the purposes of the Reservation. The Department holds more than 800,000 acres of land in trust for the Tribe that could be impacted by a leak or spill. Further, a spill could impact the waters that the Tribe and individual tribal members residing in that area rely upon for drinking and other purposes. We believe that, if the pipeline's current route along the edge of the Reservation remains an option, the potential impact on trust resources in this particular situation necessitates full analysis and disclosure of potential impacts through the preparation of an [Environmental Impact Statement].[17]

As of September, the U.S Department of Justice had received more than 33,000 petitions to review all permits and order a full review of the project's environmental effects.[18]

Sacred Stone Camp

Sacred Stone Camp was founded by Standing Rock's Historic Preservation Officer, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, on April 1, 2016, as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline.[19][20] In the spring and early summer of 2016, Allard and other Indigenous leaders focused on media outreach, resulting in tribal delegations and individuals coming to stand with them from all over the country and, eventually, the world.[21] As the numbers grew beyond what Allard's land could support, an overflow camp was also established nearby, which came to be known as the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ camp (the Lakȟótiyapi name for the Great Sioux Nation or Seven Fires Council).[22] In September, Allard said:

Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne...

The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.

If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?[19]

By late September NBC News reported that members of more than 300 federally recognized Native American tribes were residing in the three main camps, alongside an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 pipeline resistance supporters. Several thousand more gathered at the camps on weekends.[4][23][24] As winter approaches, numbers are lower, but the protesters are winterizing and preparing for an indefinite stay. As of October 24, another camp, called "Winter Camp", was established[25] directly in the proposed pipeline's path on the property recently purchased by Energy Transfer Partners. Citing eminent domain,[26] the Native American protesters have declared that the land rightly belongs to them under the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851). Though the initial territory agreed to in the treaty was later broken up into smaller reservations, the treaty was never nullified, and is now being invoked as law.[27] On October 27, armed soldiers and police in riot gear removed the protesters from the new encampment.[28][29]



ReZpect our Water - logo of the water runners, youth who ran from Standing Rock to Washington DC to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline in the summer of 2016

In September 2014, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal (SRST) Councilman Dave Archambault II conducted an initial informational meeting between the SRST and Dakota Access Pipeline representatives. At the beginning of the meeting, Archambault indicated the tribe's opposition to the project within treaty boundaries, stating, "So just that you know: this is something that the tribe is not supporting." Additional SRST representatives voiced opposition and concerns about the pipeline.[30][31]

Pipeline protests were reported as early as October 2014, when Iowa community and environmental activists presented 2,300 petitions to Iowa Governor Terry Branstad asking him to sign a state executive order to stop it.[32] The Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation) also objected to the route and formally lodged their opposition in early 2015. In a letter to the Iowa Utilities Board, Tribal chairwoman Judith Bender wrote:

"As a people that have lived in North America for thousands of years, we have environmental concerns about the land and drinking water...Our main concern is Iowa's aquifers might be significantly damaged. And it will only take one mistake and life in Iowa will change for the next thousands of years. We think that should be protected, because it is the water that gives Iowa the best way of life."

The tribe is also concerned about damage to wildlife habitat and sacred sites.[33] Tribal members have been among those who have opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, and have voiced concern that the Dakota Access Pipeline could be used as a replacement if the Keystone XL pipeline is not built.[34]

In July 2016, a group of youth from Standing Rock Indian Reservation created a group called ReZpect our Water and organized a cross-country spiritual run from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to present a petition in protest of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.[35] Upon their arrival they delivered a petition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The tribe sued for an injunction on the grounds that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to conduct a proper environmental and cultural impact study. Protests had escalated at the pipeline site in North Dakota, with numbers swelling from just a bare handful of people to hundreds and then thousands over the summer.[36]

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe believes that the pipeline would put the Missouri River, the water source for the reservation, at risk. They point out two recent spills, a 2010 pipeline spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, which cost over billion to clean up with significant contamination remaining, and a 2015 Bakken crude oil spill into the Yellowstone River in Montana.[35][37][38] The Tribe is also concerned that the pipeline route may run through sacred Sioux sites. In August 2016 protests were held, halting a portion of the pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.[39][40] Peaceful protests continued and drew indigenous people from throughout North America, as well as other supporters. A number of planned arrests occurred when people locked themselves to heavy machinery.[41]

On August 23, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe released a list of 87 tribal governments who wrote resolutions, proclamations and letters of support stating their solidarity with Standing Rock and the Sioux people.[42] Since then, many more Native American organizations, politicians, environmental groups and civil rights groups have joined the effort in North Dakota, including the Black Lives Matter movement, indigenous leaders from the Amazon Basin of South America, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka, and many more.[43] The Washington Post called it a "National movement for Native Americans."[4][44]

As of September, the protest constituted the single largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years.[45] Around this time, several events happened that drew national attention to these protests.[23]

Security firm use of dogs and pepper spray against protestors

On September 3, 2016, during Labor Day weekend, the Dakota Access Pipeline brought in a private security firm when the company used bulldozers to dig up part of the pipeline route that contained possible Native graves and burial artifacts; it was subject to a pending injunction motion. The bulldozers arrived within a day after the tribe filed legal action.[46] Energy Transfer bulldozers cut a two-mile (3200 m) long, 150-foot (45 m) wide path through the contested area.[47][48]

When unarmed protesters crossed the perimeter fence to stop the bulldozers, the guards used pepper spray and guard dogs to attack. At least six protesters were treated for dog bites, and an estimated 30 were pepper-sprayed before the guards and their dogs left the scene in trucks. A woman that had taken part in the incident stated, "The cops watched the whole thing from up on the hills. It felt like they were trying to provoke us into being violent when we’re peaceful."[48] The incident was filmed by Amy Goodman and a crew from Democracy Now![47][49] Footage shows several people with dog bites and a dog with blood on its muzzle.[48][50][51]

Frost Kennels of Hartville, Ohio ,acknowledged that they were involved in the incident on September 3.[52] Executive director for Private Investigator Security Guard Services Geoff Dutton said Frost Kennels and its owner, Bob Frost, were not licensed by the state of Ohio to provide security services or guard dogs. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said they were investigating both sides in the incident, including wounds inflicted by the dogs, and that they had no prior knowledge of the use of dogs until a 9-1-1 call was made. When asked why the deputies who witnessed the incident did not intervene, Kirchmeier cited officer security concerns,[52] and said:

Any suggestion that today's event was a peaceful protest is false. This was more like a riot than a protest. Individuals crossed onto private property and accosted private security officers with wooden posts and flag poles. The aggression and violence displayed here today is unlawful and should not be repeated. While no arrests were made at the scene, we are actively investigating the incident and individuals who organized and participated in this unlawful event.[53]

After viewing footage of the attack, a law enforcement consultant who trains police dogs called it "absolutely appalling" and "reprehensible". "Taking bite dogs and putting them at the end of a leash to intimidate, threaten and prevent crime is not appropriate."[52] A former K-9 officer for the Grand Forks Police Department who now owns a security firm that uses dogs for drug detection said, "It reminded me of the civil rights movement back in the ’60s. I didn’t think it was appropriate. They were overwhelmed and it just wasn’t proper use of the dogs."[52]

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota spoke out against the use of dogs and pepper spray and asked that the state officials "treat everyone fairly and equally."[52] Speaking on September 4, Ojibwe activist and former Green Party vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke said, "North Dakota regulators are really, I would say, in bed with the oil industry and so they have looked the other way."[47]

High-profile arrests

On August 11–12, 18 people were arrested, according to Kirchmeier, including Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II who was charged with disorderly conduct. Along with the tribal council, Archambault had sued the Army Corps of Engineers days before his arrest.[54] He was himself sued on August 16 by Dakota Access, LLC, which sought "restraining orders and unspecified monetary damages".[55]

On September 7 an arrest warrant was also issued in Morton County for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka on misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. Stein had spray-painted "I approve this message" and Baraka wrote the word "decolonize" on a bulldozer.[56]

A warrant for journalist Amy Goodman's arrest was issued by Morton County on September 8. She was charged with criminal trespass related to the filming done on September 3.[50][51] The prosecutor, Ladd Erickson, said Goodman was like a protester because she was only giving time to the protesters' side of the story.[57] In response to praise from Erickson, Matt Taibbi wrote, "a prosecutor who arrests a reporter because he doesn't think she's 'balanced' enough is basically telling future reporters what needs to be in their stories to avoid arrest. This is totally improper and un-American."[58]

On October 1, award-winning Canadian journalist Ed Ou, on assignment with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to cover the Standing Rock protests, was detained at the US border for six hours and his cell phones and other electronic media were confiscated. Ou was eventually denied entry to the US without explanation.[59] The American Civil Liberties Union has requested that any data collected from Ou's electronic devices be destroyed and that he be given assurance that, as a journalist, he will not be harassed again.[60]

Speaking on October 5, Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said that as of that date 135 anti-pipeline demonstrators had been arrested. Archambault also said that law enforcement officers were "heightening the danger" by using anti-riot gear.[61] Saying, "Confronting men, women, and children while outfitted in gear more suited for the battlefield is a disproportionate response", Amnesty International has also expressed concern about the militant response to the protesters.[62]

On October 13, Goodman announced her intention to turn herself in to the Morton County–Mandan Corrections Center on Monday, October 17, to face misdemeanor riot charges. (Though she had originally been charged with criminal trespass, the prosecutor said that there were "legal issues with proving the notice of trespassing requirements in the statute.")[63] She stated that she would be fighting the charges against her as a First Amendment violation.[64] The Committee to Protect Journalists,[65] the North Dakota Newspaper Association,[66] the American Civil Liberties Union in North Dakota,[67] and the Freedom of the Press Foundation[67] all expressed concern over the developing challenge to freedom of the press.

On October 17, District Judge John Grinsteiner did not find probable cause for multiple riot charges, including the one brought against Goodman. Following the judge's decision, Kirchmeier reasserted that trespassing would lead to arrest, while the state prosecutor said that the investigation would remain open pending new evidence.[68]

Allegations of harsh treatment

As of mid-October there had been over 140 arrests. Some protesters arrested for misdemeanors and taken to the Morton County jail have reported what they considered harsh and unusual treatment. Sara Jumping Eagle, a physician on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, was required to remove all of her clothing and "squat and cough" when she was arrested for disorderly conduct. In another such case, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who founded Sacred Stone Camp, said that when her daughter was arrested and taken into custody she was "strip-searched in front of multiple male officers, then left for hours in her cell, naked and freezing." Cody Hall from Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota also reported being strip-searched. He was held for four days without bail or bond and then charged with two misdemeanors.[69]

Actress Shailene Woodley, arrested on October 10 along with 27 others, also said she was strip-searched, adding, "Never did it cross my mind that while trying to protect clean water, trying to ensure a future where our children have access to an element essential for human survival, would I be strip-searched. I was just shocked."[70] Amnesty International spoke out against the use of strip searches and said that they had sent a letter to the Morton County Sheriff's Department expressing concern about the degree of force used against people taking part in the protests. They sent a delegation of human rights observers to monitor law enforcement's response to the protests.[62]

Police move to clear camp

On October 27, police from several agencies, including North Dakota state troopers, the National Guard, and other law enforcement agencies from surrounding states, began an intensive operation to clear out a protest camp and blockades along Highway 1806.[71] The Morton County Sheriff's Department said in a statement: "Protesters' escalated unlawful behavior this weekend by setting up illegal roadblocks, trespassing onto private property and establishing an encampment, has forced law enforcement to respond at this time. I can't stress it enough, this is a public safety issue. We cannot have protesters blocking county roads, blocking state highways, or trespassing on private property."[28]

A Seattle Times journalist present at the confrontation described it as "scary". On PBS Newshour, she said that she had spent the previous night in the camp "with tribal members who were singing their death songs. I mean, they were very worried about the possibility of violence. And who wouldn’t be? You have seen law enforcement marshaled from six states, armored personnel carriers, hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement officers with concussion grenades, mace, Tasers, batons. And they used all of it. I mean, it was frightening to watch." She said that the confrontation ended the following day and said, "the law enforcement officers had advance[d] more than 100 yards with five armored personnel carriers side by side, hundreds of law enforcement officers advancing on them. And it finally took an elder to actually walk by himself in between the two lines, stand there, face his people, and say: 'Go home. We’re here to fight the pipeline, not these people, and we can only win this with prayer.'"[72][73][74][75]

Responding to the confrontation, on October 28 Amnesty International published a press release saying in part: "These people should not be treated like the enemy. Police must keep the peace using minimal force appropriate to the situation. Confronting men, women, and children while outfitted in gear more suited for the battlefield is a disproportionate response. Under International law and standards, arrests should not be used to intimidate or prevent people from participating in peaceful assembly."[62]

Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza contrasted the aggressive police action with the treatment of the organizers of a standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge (acquitted of federal charges on the same day as the police raid of the camp),[76] saying "If you're white, you can occupy federal property ... and get found not guilty. No teargas, no tanks, no rubber bullets ... If you're indigenous and fighting to protect our earth, and the water we depend on to survive, you get tear gassed, media blackouts, tanks and all that."[77]

Protesters move to clear blocked bridge and police respond

On the evening of November 20, protesters attempted to open Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806, which has been blocked since October 27. The bridge is about a mile (1600 m) south of where the pipeline developer plans to drill. According to the sheriff's department, the bridge was closed for safety reasons "due to damage caused after protesters set numerous fires" on it on October 27. But the protesters believe that the police are using the closure to "lock [them] in" and say that the closure blocks access for emergency vehicles coming from the north.[78]

According to news reports, the police launched an attack on the protesters with water cannons in 28 °F (−2 °C) weather, along with teargas, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades, injuring hundreds.[79] The police said that the protesters had been "very aggressive" and that the water was used to put out multiple fires that they had set while the protesters said the fires were peaceful bonfires used to keep warm.[78] A number of videos posted on social media show protesters being doused with continuous streams of water. Initially the Morton County Sheriff's Office said the water was used only to put out fires, but the following day Sheriff Kirchmeier corrected his statement, saying, "Some of the water was used to repel some of the protest activities" and adding that it was "sprayed more as a mist and we didn't want to get it directly on them but we wanted to make sure to use it as a measure to keep everybody safe."[80]

A woman's arm was seriously injured by an explosion, which protesters claimed was part of a concussion grenade but which police suggest may have been an exploding propane canister. The victim's father stated in a press conference that his daughter had seen a police officer throw the explosive device directly at her as she was backing away.[81] The Morton County Sheriff's Department denies using concussion grenades, and reports that protesters were throwing expended propane canisters at police during this period.[82][83][84][85][86][87][88] Law enforcement, including the ATF and FBI, are investigating the incident.[89]

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers


Lake Oahe in winter

On July 27, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the pipeline. The tribe also sought a preliminary injunction.[90][91][92] Following a hearing on September 9, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the motion.

After that, a joint statement was issued by the US Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior temporarily halting the project on federal land bordering or under the Lake Oahe reservoir. The US federal government asked the company for a "voluntary pause" on construction near that area until further study was done on the region extending 20 miles (32 km) around Lake Oahe. In closing the agency representatives said:

Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites. It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest".[92][93]

Energy Transfer Partners rejected the request to voluntarily halt construction on all surrounding private land and resumed construction within 48 hours.[94]

On September 13, chairman and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners Kelcy Warren responded to the federal government's request, saying concerns about the pipeline's impact on the water supply were "unfounded." Warren said that "multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route". They did not indicate that they would voluntarily cease work on the pipeline. Warren wrote that the company will meet with officials in Washington "to understand their position and reiterate our commitment to bring the Dakota Access Pipeline into operation."[95]

On October 5, federal appeals judges heard arguments over whether to stop work on the pipeline; a ruling was not expected for several weeks. At that time the Army Corps of Engineers had not yet made a final decision on whether to grant an easement to build under the Missouri River. Under questioning, a pipeline attorney said that "if the court allowed it, the company would continue building up to the lake's edge even before the easement decision, because each extra month of delay will cost the company more than million.[61]

Army Corps of Engineers delays decision

On November 14, the The Army Corps of Engineers said it needed more time to study the impact of the plan. In a news release they said: "The Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation's dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property."[96]

Energy Transfer Partners responded criticizing the Obama administration for "political interference" and said that "further delay in the consideration of this case would add millions of dollars more each month in costs which cannot be recovered." North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple criticized the decision saying the pipeline would be safe and that the decision was "long overdue".[97] Craig Stevens, spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, a labor group, called the Corps’ announcement "yet another attempt at death by delay" and said the Obama administration "has chosen to further fan the flames of protest by more inaction." North Dakota Senator John Hoeven said in a statement that the delay "will only prolong the disruption in the region caused by protests and make life difficult for everyone who lives and works in the area."[98]

Speaking on the PBS Newshour on November 16, Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren responded to questions about the Tribe's two main concerns, damage to ancestral sites and the potential of water contamination if a leak occurred:

Well, first of all, I think this is well-known by now. We’re not on any Indian property at all, no Native American property. We’re on private lands. That's number one. Number two, this pipeline is new steel pipe. We’re boring underneath Lake Oahe. It's going to go 90 feet to 150 feet (27.5-45.7 m) below the lake's surface. It's thick wall pipe, extra thick, by the way, more so than just the normal pipe that we lay. Also, on each side of the lake, there's automated valves that, if in the very, very unlikely situation there were to be a leak, our control room shuts down the pipe, encapsulates that small section that could be in peril. So, that's just not going to happen. Number one, we’re not going to have a leak. I can’t promise that, of course, but that — no one would get on airplanes if they thought they were going to crash. And, number two, there is no way there would be any crude contaminate their water supply. They’re 70 miles (110 km) downstream.[99]

On December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not approve permits for construction of the pipeline beneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that tribes say sits near sacred burial sites.[100]

The announcement was made by the Army's Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy:

Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do. The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.[101]

Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners issued a same-day response:

The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency. As stated all along, ETP and SXL fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.[102]



Seattle Stands with Standing Rock! - peaceful march and rally held in Seattle in September 2016. Indigenous drummers, activists from a number of Nations, and diverse supporters march in solidarity.


Dakota Access Pipeline protestors at March for a Clean Energy Revolution, Philadelphia, July 2016


Solidarity rally in Saint Paul, Minnesota, September 2016.


Standing Rock solidarity march in San Francisco, November 2016.

Sioux Tribes have passed resolutions in support of Standing Rock, including the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Crow Creek Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.[20] Oklahoma tribes have also expressed support for the pipeline protest movement. In August, Principal Chief Bill John Baker of the Cherokee Nation said, "As Indian people, we have a right to protect our lands and protect our water rights. That's our responsibility to the next seven generations."[103]

Field reporter Jordan Chariton (of The Young Turks' on-the-road program TYT Politics) has been one of the most active journalists participating in the protests. He has directly covered the protests since their inception. He has also commented on the scant presence of journalists from mainstream networks such as CNN and MSNBC.[104]

Solidarity march in Denver

On September 8, about 500 Native Americans and other protesters marched in Denver to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Americans. State Representative Joe Salazar spoke about the safety of pipelines and described a recent Colorado Oil and Gas Association statement on oil pipeline safety as "full of lies."[105]

Solidarity march in Seattle

On September 16, a rally and march was held in Seattle to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The mayor of Seattle and city council members joined leaders from Northwest tribes from Quinualt, Makah, Lummi, Suquamish, Tulalip, Swinomish, Puyallup and others to show opposition to the pipeline. Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, said that while the tribes are "determined to win this fight", a "deeper fix" is needed. "The U.S. must recognize that we have political equality. This is much larger than a specific infrastructure project. It goes to the fundamental relationship."[106]

Cities declaring opposition to the pipeline

According to the Grand Forks Herald, on October 13 the governments of 19 cities, including St. Louis and Minneapolis, had passed ordinances to support the Standing Rock tribe in opposition of the pipeline.[107]

In October, the Morton County Sheriff requested police from surrounding areas to assist in regulating the protests near the pipeline. The Dane County Sheriff's office of Wisconsin sent 10 deputies to aid the local police,[108] but they were recalled a few days later because of opposition from the Dane County residents and county officials.[109]

Plea to President Obama to adhere to treaties

In an October 28 public statement, Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader and Keeper of the Sacred Pipe Bundle of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nations, invoked his role as the voice of traditional government of the Great Sioux Nation and called upon President Barack Obama to communicate "nation to nation, as indicated by our treaties."[110] Looking Horse called upon President Obama to keep his word:

When you met with our people on your campaign trail in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, you stated that you are a lawyer and understand treaty documents. You told us that you realized our treaties were violated and you would address these violations against our people if you became President. This was your Word.[110]

"National Day of Action"

On November 15, hundreds of cities held protests against the pipeline in a coordinated protest which organizers called a "National Day of Action."[111] Hundreds of protesters gathered peacefully in Chicago, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Denver, and other cities; dozens of protesters were arrested, including demonstrators in Mandan, North Dakota, where protesters were arrested after blocking a railroad.[112]

Tara Houska, Director for Honor the Earth, spoke at a rally in New York City saying, "Because of the power of social media and the millions of those at Standing Rock, the Army Corps are going to invite the tribe in to discuss their concerns."[112] Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at a protest in front of the White House. Robert Kennedy Jr. visited the protest camp and spoke to the protesters. He commented on the PBS Newshour: "I think they have a lot of courage. I think they’re standing up for America, that they’re standing up in the face of a bully."[99]

Thanksgiving Day protests

Thanksgiving Day has been described as a reminder of the strained relationship between the U.S. government and native people. On the November 24 holiday, several thousand continued to protest the pipeline; some estimated that the number of protesters, which fluctuates, doubled that day.[113] Hundreds of people joined the protest that day,[114] including groups from California,[115] Oregon,[116] Wisconsin,[117] Colorado,[118] South Carolina,[119] and Washington.[120]

Protesters built a floating bridge to Turtle Island, considered sacred ground, and 400 gathered near the bridge, some crossing over to perform a prayer ceremony.[113][121]

The influx of many new people over Thanksgiving weekend caused new problems, according to some activists. Some criticized a group of young, mostly white, people at the protest for treating it like a festival such as Burning Man by bringing drugs and alcohol, requiring supplies and provisions rather than sustaining themselves, or performing unsolicited live music.[122]

Actress Jane Fonda was one of a delegation of 50 people who served a Thanksgiving dinner in nearby Mandan, capturing media attention.[123][124] Business owners traveled from as far as Massachusetts[125] and Pennsylvania[126] to serve food to protesters at Standing Rock.

A Thanksgiving Day protest in Portland, Oregon drew about 350 in heavy rain.[127]

Support from military veterans

In November, a group called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock formed to participate in nonviolent intervention to defend the demonstrators from what the group has called “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.” According to The New York Times, "as many as 2,000 veterans" indicated that they would gather at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to serve as “human shields” for protesters. The organizers of these protests included retired Baltimore police sergeant Michael A. Wood, Jr., and Wes Clark, Jr., the son of former Supreme NATO Commander and 2004 presidential candidate Wesley Clark. Both are affiliated with The Young Turks.[128]


In September, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of about 3,000 members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and supporters at a protest held outside of the White House. Saying "the pipeline threatens the environment and water resources and exploits Native Americans", he asked President Obama to take action and conduct a full environmental and cultural impact analysis of the project, which he believes would kill the pipeline.[95] Following the use of the National Guard and armed militia in riot gear to remove protesters from a protest camp in October, Sanders again called on the president to suspend construction of the pipeline. In a letter to the President, Sanders said in part: "It is deeply distressing to me that the federal government is putting the profits of the oil industry ahead of the treaty and sovereign rights of Native American communities. Mr. President, you took a bold and principled stand against the Keystone pipeline – I ask you to take a similar stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline."[129]

Saying that the Dakota Access pipeline project is part of a "long history of pushing the impacts of pollution onto the most economically and politically disadvantaged people and communities across this country", Representative Raúl Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, on September 22 asked the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the existing permits for the pipeline.[24]

Saying "the project's current permits should be suspended and all construction stopped until a complete environmental and cultural review has been completed for the entire project", Senators Sanders, Dianne Feinstein, Ed Markey, Patrick Leahy and Benjamin Cardin on October 13 called on President Barack Obama to order a comprehensive environmental review of the pipeline project. They also requested stronger tribal consultation for the contested part of the route.[107]

Calling the proposed pipeline route "the ripest case of environmental racism I have seen in a long time", on October 26 the Reverend Jesse Jackson announced support for the movement, saying, "The tribes of this country have sacrificed a lot so this great country could be built. With promises broken, land stolen and sacred lands desecrated, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is standing up for their right to clean water. They have lost land for settlers to farm, more land for gold in the Black Hills, and then again even more land for the dam that was built for hydropower. When will the taking stop?"[27]

In September, Obama spoke to tribal representatives, saying, "I know that many of you have come together across tribes and across the country to support the community at Standing Rock. And together, you’re making your voices heard." He again discussed the protest movement on November 2, saying:

"We’re monitoring this closely. My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline. We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of First Americans."[130]

The White House press secretary said the president had been in touch with several government agencies "that are taking a fresh look at the procedures that they follow to incorporate input from Native American communities that could potentially be affected by infrastructure projects."[130] In an interview with Alicia Menendez, Senator Tim Kaine said he supported efforts within the Obama administration to consider rerouting the pipeline.[131]

On November 5, Harald Serck-Hanssen, group executive vice president of Norway's biggest bank (DNB), said that the bank, which has invested over million in the project, was considering withdrawing the funding if its calls to respect indigenous rights were not met.[132][133]

In an October 2016 interview with Daily Energy Insider, Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), which represents 3 million members across 15 unions in the United States and Canada, warned of the consequences resulting from opposition to oil and natural gas pipeline projects. "When projects are postponed or canceled or don’t get approval to go forward, that has a huge ripple effect on the suppliers, manufacturers and construction workers", McGarvey said. "And it adds to the local population's cost of energy because they don’t have that free flow that creates competition and brings energy costs down for local homeowners."[134]

Eugene, Oregon lawyer Lauren Regan filed a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit against several North Dakota law enforcement agencies for "potentially lethal" actions against protesters.[135]

Several members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives weighed in on the protest in late November 2016. Senators Al Franken of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey called upon U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate the tactics of law enforcement officers against peaceful protesters, and to send monitors to track any violence against protesters.[136] Several members of the House made statements as well, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii announced plans to join hundreds of other military veterans in protecting the protesters in early December.[136]

United Nations presentation

On September 20, 2016, Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault II addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, where he called "upon all parties to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline." Citing the 1851 Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, two treaties ratified by the U.S. Senate that recognize the Sioux's national sovereignty, Archambault told the Council that "the oil companies and the government of the United States have failed to respect our sovereign rights."[137]

On September 22, 2016, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a United Nations expert on the rights of indigenous peoples, admonished the U.S., saying, "The tribe was denied access to information and excluded from consultations at the planning stage of the project, and environmental assessments failed to disclose the presence and proximity of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation." She also responded to the rights of pipeline protesters, saying, "The U.S. authorities should fully protect and facilitate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of indigenous peoples, which plays a key role in empowering their ability to claim other rights."[138]

See also


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  132. Jump up ^ "Norway's biggest bank may reconsider Dakota Access funding". CBC News. November 8, 2016. Retrieved November 8, 2016. 
  133. Jump up ^ Geiger, Julianne (November 7, 2016). "Another Setback For DAPL As Norwegian Bank Rethinks Funding". oilprice.com. Retrieved November 8, 2016. 
  134. Jump up ^ Rozens, Tracy (2016-10-13). "North America's Building Trades Unions: Pipeline project delays hurt economic growth". Daily Energy Insider. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  135. Jump up ^ "Eugene lawyer takes a stand, files suit against North Dakota police agencies". KVAL. November 30, 2016. 
  136. ^ Jump up to: a b Tesfaye, Sophia (November 29, 2016). "Congress finally begins to notice the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock". Salon. 
  137. Jump up ^ Medina, Daniel A. (September 20, 2016). "Standing Rock Sioux Takes Pipeline Fight to UN Human Rights Council in Geneva". NBC News. Retrieved October 26, 2016. 
  138. Jump up ^ Germanos, Andrea (September 25, 2016). "UN Experts to United States: Stop DAPL Now". Common Dreams. Retrieved September 27, 2016. 

External links