The fight isn’t over for some.
‘What would you die for?’ The question isn’t heard often at the UN Climate Negotiations, but it did break into the halls of power on Thursday 17 November. It was posed by indigenous youth delegate Niria Alicia Garcia Torres.’Tell me, what is it you would die for? And what do you stand for?’
These same questions are guiding the hearts of protestors on the treaty lands of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, USA. Members of over 200 tribes and thousands of allies have gathered over the past seven months to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline, facing off militarized police, sound cannons, rubber bullets, pepper spray and attack dogs to defend their lives, land and water from a 1,172-mile oil pipeline, which they call the ‘black snake’.
Since August, over 400 people have been arrested protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline –140 in the last week alone. This after the tribe sued the federal government in July, stating that they were not properly consulted about the construction project.
One underlying reason for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the construction of the oil pipeline is the tribe’s concern about safe drinking water. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lawsuit argues that the US government failed to properly consider the potential risks of the pipeline construction to the source of the Tribe’s drinking water.
Courts have twice denied the tribe’s request to stop the pipeline construction for now, agreeing with the government’s position that the Tribe was not sufficiently able to show that they were likely to win their lawsuit.
On Thursday, nonviolent protesters outside North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux reservation entered their second day of confrontation with private security and local law enforcement. Armed with drums, tribal flags, and cell phones, demonstrators moved to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.7 billion dollar crude-oil conduit slated to cut just 1,000 feet from the perimeter of native land. Confrontations began on Wednesday, August 10, when construction crews and private security hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based developers overseeing the pipeline, arrived to break ground. Arrests were made beginning Thursday, as 14 protesters were charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing, while dozens more remained defiantly on site.
Thursday’s arrests represented a sharp break after months of quiet occupation on the site. Organizers, led by Standing Rock Sioux, established Camp of the Sacred Stones in April, after learning of the impending project. Concerned that the pipeline would wreak havoc on the sacred sites and delicate wildlife in the area, a group of about 30 indigenous tribal members and allies moved to occupy the proposed construction site. “This is a prayer camp movement to save our sacred land and water and has been entirely supported by the people and the campers,” the group wrote online. LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a tribal historian and organizer, was confident as she spoke to reporters in April. “We will stop it. We have prayer with us.”