BY: MIROSLAV TOMOSKI
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota have been camped out for months in a standoff against the Texas-based company Energy Transfer Partners over the construction of a major pipeline. The tribe has attempted to halt work on the project, known as the Dakota Access Pipeline, since April over claims that its planned route runs through sacred land.
Members of Standing Rock and hundreds of supporters from other tribes gathered in protest over the Labour Day weekend after the tribe filed an injunction last week providing evidence the pipeline would destroy a burial ground among other archaeological sites.
“We have a sworn declaration from one of the tribe’s cultural experts that describes some of these sites, multiple gravesites and burials, very important archaeological features of the kind that are not found commonly.” Jan Hasselman, the attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, told Democracy Now.
U.S. District Judge in charge of the case, James Boasberg, is expected to provide his ruling by Friday September 9, but when Energy Transfer decided to continue its work over the holiday weekend protesters and private security met in a violent confrontation.
“We were stunned and shocked to hear that they took that information and, Saturday morning, over a holiday weekend, went out and bulldozed the entire site.” Hasselman said.
The Globe and Mail reported that four security guards and two guard dogs required medical treatment after Saturday’s violent encounter. Officials at the local sheriff’s department did not receive any reports of injury from the camp known as Sacred Stone, but photos posted on social media were accompanied by claims that 30 protesters were pepper sprayed and six – including one child – were bitten by dogs.
— Michelle (@Michelle9647) September 4, 2016
Despite last weekend’s violence, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault, insists that, “It has always been a peaceful, prayerful standoff.” He told Democracy Now, “I think what happens is the company or the government, or whoever it is that’s surveilling, doesn’t understand how peaceful, prayerful standoffs work. They look for confrontation.”
Some camp members have cited communications issues for the lack of media coverage over the last five months. But Archambault denied claims that the camp’s communications were tampered with by the oil company or government officials saying that the area has always struggled with poor internet and cell reception.
Energy Transfer has declined requests for comment, but the Army Corps of Engineers who granted the company access to the land have said that they will support the work stoppage until the court makes its ruling.
“The Corps acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the Court can render its well-considered opinion.” they stated in a court document.
Unless this latest delay is extended by the court – or construction is halted altogether – the $3.8 billion pipeline is expected to be finished later this year. It will run through North and South Dakota as well as Iowa and Illinois to connect with an existing pipeline to transport 500,000 barrels a day to the Gulf.
Photo: Joe Brusky/Flickr CC