Battle Over Dakota Access Pipeline Intensifies: Youth Run, Spirit Camp, Capitol Occupation

Yesterday, a group of Oceti Sakowin youth from different Dakota and Lakota nations arrived in Washington DC after running ~2000 miles by relay, in spiritual opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL, also known as the ‘Bakken Pipeline’).  The run will culminate with a rally today at the White House after the delivery of 140,000 petition signatures to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today, to ask President Obama to pressure the USACE to repeal its water-crossing permits for the pipeline.

Meanwhile, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continue to occupy a spirit camp, the Camp of the Sacred Stones, between the pipeline’s proposed river crossing and the water intake valves for the tribe.  The Camp was established April 1, 2016 as a center of spiritual and cultural opposition to the pipeline, and is determined to stop construction through prayer and non­violent direct action.

The Dakota Access pipeline is proposed to carry 450,000 barrels of fracked oil per day, 1,172 miles, from the Bakken fields of ND to Patoka, Illinois.  Though originally planned to cross the Missouri River (the longest river in the U.S.) just upstream of Bismarck, the crossing was relocated just upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation, which also draws its water from the river. The threats this pipeline poses to the environment, public health, and tribal and human rights are strikingly similar to those posed by the Keystone XL, even though the project has seen a small fraction of the attention from media and major environmental groups.  

Construction is underway, and last week the company received its final water crossing permits from the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has filed a lawsuit and a request for a Temporary Restraining Order against the company.  Meanwhile, community members set up a tipi and held demonstrations in front of North Dakota’s State Capitol Building during a 3-day special legislative session.   The Cheyenne River, Rosebud, and Yankton Sioux Tribes are currently filing their own lawsuits to contest the USACE permits and demand formal nation-­to-­nation consultation and a full Environmental Impact Statement.

A broad multi-state coalition of tribes, landowners and environmental groups issued a statement in support of the tribal lawsuits and speaking out against the project.  The coalition called the USACE process for issuing permits “an egregious violation of the relevant federal environmental laws and the 1851 and 1868 treaties between the US and the L/D/Nakota Nations, which remain the supreme law of the land.”

Earlier this week, Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge announced that, along with Marathon Petroleum, an agreement to acquire a 49 percent equity interest (US $1.5 billion) in the Bakken Pipeline System with Dakota Access LLC.  This deal effectively terminates the proposed Sandpiper pipeline, which faced years of grassroots resistance in Minnesota, and shifts industry focus and resources to DAPL.    

Joye Braun, DAPL Organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network, says, “While we are disappointed that the USACE decided to trample on treaty rights yet again, we are undaunted in our task to stop the black snake.  These corporations and the United States government do not have the right to say that the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota people are expendable.  We stand firm in our commitment to stop Dakota Access through prayer and non-violent direct action.  Expect resistance.”

LaDonna Allard, Director of the Camp of the Sacred Stones and Standing Rock Section 106 Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, says, “I am heartbroken that Army Corps of Engineers has allowed the permit for Dakota Access to cross the Missouri River above the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe with no consideration for burial, cultural sites and the water. We must stand against the injustice and corruption of Big Oil and do our best to protect our water. We must fight and continue to work toward stopping this pipeline. We are the protector of this land and water. Remember water is life mni wiconi.”