August 29, 2016

Pipeline Protest in Full Swing: Standing Strong with Standing Rock

Kelsey Hill

Thousands of people — including members of more than 90 Native American communities — continue to reside at the Camp of the Sacred Stones in North Dakota in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The protest camp was created by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation is a short half-mile from the proposed pipeline. If completed, DAPL threatens Standing Rock’s sacred sites and their main water source, as it would transfer millions of barrels of fracked oil under the Missouri River daily.

Construction on the pipeline, which is currently halted, depends on the results of a federal lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permitting Dakota Access so close to their Treaty lands. During a preliminary injunction hearing on Wednesday, federal Judge James Boasberg stated that he expects to issue a ruling on the matter by Sept. 9.

Ongoing action against the pipeline has, however, garnered significant hostility from various government agencies.

Despite being a predominantly peaceful occupation, 29 people have been placed under arrest in the last two weeks. The FBI has even been called in to investigate a report of a laser allegedly being pointed at an aircraft that was surveying the area.

Amnesty International USA stated in a press release Wednesday that they have sent a delegation of human rights observers to the camp to monitor law enforcement operations. The international NGO has grown concerned over policing efforts at the construction site following the removal of state-owned water tanks that supplied the camp — supposedly due to “public safety concerns”.

This has led to mass donations of water and other supplies, ranging from food to camping gear, to the Sacred Stone camp. These shipments, along with financial contributions, are coming in from tribal organizations, nonprofits, individuals, and — in one case — a Native American Fraternity, Sigma Nu Alpha Gamma at Oklahoma University.

Along with sending observers to the camp, Amnesty International also sent letters to North Dakota authorities enumerating both constitutional and human rights standards they are obligated to protect while policing the protest.

“Public assemblies should not be considered as the ‘enemy,’” the letter states, “The command hierarchy must convey a clear message to law enforcement officials that their task is to facilitate and not to restrict a peaceful public assembly.“

In recent weeks, there has been a swell in support for the Standing Rock Sioux in their fight against the Bakken pipeline, both at the camp and in the media. Indigenous communities from all over the world have offered statements of solidarity with the Standing Rock via social media outlets. Several high-profile individuals, like actresses Shailene Woodley and Susan Sarandon, protested outside the U.S. District Court for Wednesday’s injunction hearing in Washington D.C.

The Lakota People’s Law Project stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, and their allies at Sacred Stone, in their fight to protect sacred water rights. It is imperative that the federal government prioritize people over pipelines, as disregard for the environmental implications of DAPL is disregard for native life and sovereignty.