Native Americans and their allies are coming from across the country to support the Standing Rock Reservation’s efforts to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172 mile long pipeline that would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to Illinois for processing.
As tensions rise, they are asking for more help, from church people to the United Nations.
One of the key issues is that the pipeline will run under the Missouri River just one mile from Standing Rock Reservation’s drinking water intake. The pipeline threatens their drinking water and also will run through sacred sites, opponents say. (The reservation straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border towards the west.)
Several thousand people are estimated to have joined the growing protest at Standing Rock, called the “Camp of the Sacred Stones.” The gathering has triggered a strong reaction by the state. According to the Bismarck Tribune, in a story headlined: “State pulls relief resources from swelling Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp,”
North Dakota’s homeland security director ordered the removal of state-owned trailers and water tanks from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest campsite Monday, citing mounting reports of unlawful activity …
… the loss of their main drinking water supply came as a blow and sent local officials scrambling to find an alternative water source.
Those organizing the protests maintain they are peaceful.
The Indigenous Environmental Network has appealed for national and international human rights observers and church leaders to come and witness.
Its statement said:
We, the Indigenous defenders of the land and water within the traditional treaty lands of the Oceti Sakowin [Seven Council Fires or Sioux people], make an urgent appeal to the international community to assist us in facing a human rights crisis. Dakota Access is trying to put a crude oil pipeline under the Missouri River. This is a dire threat to the drinking water and future generations of the Oceti Sakowin who have lived here for generations.
For the past few days there has been unidentified air-craft circling the camp and we’ve been surrounded by federal and state police. We believe the elders, women and children present at this peaceful assembly could be under threat and in danger of imminent harm and possible violence from state and federal police (including Homeland Security) as well as private security. The Governor of North Dakota has issued a state of emergency and closed roads and restricted freedom of movement. We are unarmed. We do not have cell phone service or wifi. We are unable to communicate and document for the world community this peaceful assembly.
We are committed to peaceful defense of our water and our territory.
We urgently seek national and international human rights observers to come. We need United Nations’ rapporteurs, NGOs (especially Indigenous NGOs), and Churches, to be aware of the rapidly escalating dangers facing this peaceful gathering. Please come and bear witness.
An Aug. 20 story in Indian Country Today said Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault and the Treaty Council are seeking “an immediate moratorium on all pipeline construction until the Treaty Rights and Human Rights of the Standing Rock Tribe can be ensured and their free, prior and informed consent is obtained.”
The Standing Rock Community and Treaty Council also jointly submitted an urgent action communication to four U.N. human rights Special Rapporteurs citing “ongoing threats and violations to the human rights of the Tribe, its members and its future generations.”
Some churches are weighing in, too. Several denominations have acted in recent years to repudiate the legacy of Christian colonialism and oppression of Native peoples. The Dakota Access Pipeline is one area some have chosen to be an ally.
For instance, the Council of Indian Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota issued a statement supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. It read in part:
The North Dakota Council of Indian Ministries …of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their peaceful and prayerful efforts to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line … because of its degradation of sacred sites and possible catastrophic contamination of their drinking water and irrigation projects
The statement was endorsed by the Diocesan Council of the Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota, Aug. 20.
The ELCA American Indian/Alaskan Native Lutheran Association also has issued a statement of support on its Facebook Page:
We stand in support and solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to Stop the Dakota Pipeline Access. We hold in prayer the Tribal Oyate that is raising prayers and voices to protect Sacred lands, water, traditions, and culture of our great Nation.
According to Indian Country Today, a federal court in Washington D.C. will hear the Standing Rock Nation’s request for an injunction tomorrow (Wednesday August 24).
Here are action steps for those who would like to support this work:
- Here is a petition (through Change.org) asking the Army Corps of Engineers to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- A separate petition (through Whitehouse.gov) is being addressed to Congress and the federal government.
- This site is raising money for the legal defense fund for protesters.
- This GoFundMe site is raising money to support the Camp of the Sacred Stones.