“Horseback riders, their faces streaked in yellow and black paint, led the procession out of their tepee-dotted camp. Two hundred people followed, making their daily walk a mile up a rural highway to a patch of prairie grass and excavated dirt that has become a new kind of battlefield, between a pipeline and American Indians who say it will threaten water supplies and sacred lands.” J. Healy, The New York Times
Excerpt: Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline — By Jack Healy, The New York Times
“The Texas-based company building the Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, calls the project a major step toward the United States’ weaning itself off foreign oil. The company says the nearly 1,170-mile buried pipeline will infuse millions of dollars into local economies and is safer than trucks and train cars that can topple and spill and crash and burn.
But the people who stood at the gates of a construction site where crews had been building an access road toward the pipeline viewed the project as a wounding intrusion onto lands where generations of their ancestors hunted bison, gathered water and were born and buried, long before treaties and fences stamped a different order onto the Plains.
People have been gathering since April, but as hundreds more poured in over the past two weeks, confrontations began rising among protesters, sheriff’s officers and construction workers with the pipeline company. Local officials are struggling to handle hundreds of demonstrators filling the roads to protest and camp out in once-empty grassland about an hour south of Bismarck, the state capital.
More than 20 people have been arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing onto the construction site. The pipeline company says it was forced to shut down construction this month after protesters threatened its workers and threw bottles and rocks at contractors’ vehicles.
Leaders from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation lies just south of the pipeline’s path, say the protests are peaceful. Weapons, drugs and alcohol are prohibited from the protest camp. Children march in the daily demonstrations. The leaders believed the reports of pipe bombs were a misinterpretation of their calls for demonstrators to get out their wooden chanupa pipes — which have deep spiritual importance — and pass them through the crowd.
The conflict may reach a crucial moment on Wednesday in a federal court hearing. The tribe has sued to block the pipeline and plans to ask a judge in Washington to effectively halt construction. The pipeline’s route starts in the Bakken oil fields of western North Dakota and ends in Illinois.
There have been no moves so far to disband the camp or keep people from demonstrating. But Sheriff Kirchmeier told reporters that the demonstration had become an unlawful protest, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple, citing public safety risks, declared a state of emergency on Friday.”
“They need to stay out… They don’t know where the burials are. They don’t know where the sacred sites are. I’m trying my best to keep the peace.” ~ Jon Eagle Sr.~ historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux