Protesters attempting to block the Dakota Access Pipeline have challenged local law enforcement and private security with tribal flags, cell phones and drums.
The standoff began Wednesday as people attempted to halt the $3.7 billion pipeline from being constructed a mere 1,000 feet from indigenous land. Fourteen protesters have been arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct, while dozens remain on site.
Prior to the arrests, the site had been occupied since April by the Camp of the Sacred Stones, an encampment of 30 Native American tribal members and their supporters established by Standing Rock Sioux organizers.
"This is a prayer camp movement to save our sacred land and water and has been entirely supported by the people and the campers…We will stop it. We have prayer with us," LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a tribal organizer and historian, told reporters in April.
The group’s chief concern is that the pipeline will contaminate the local water source, as it will be built near the intersection of the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers. Their rallying cry is "mni Wiconi," a Lakota phrase meaning "Water is life." Organizers say the pipeline would pump some 570,000 barrels of crude oil under the Missouri River daily, posing serious public health and environmental risks. They have appealed to the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a more thorough survey of the pipeline’s potential hazardous impact.
"The dangers imposed by the greed of big oil on the people who live along the Missouri river is astounding," said Sacred Stone organizer Joye Braun in a statement on the group’s website. "When this proposed pipeline breaks, as the vast majority of pipelines do, over half of the drinking water in South Dakota will be affected… It must be stopped. The people of the four bands of Cheyenne River stand with our sister nation in this fight as we are calling on all the Oceti Sakowin or Seven Council Fires to do so with our allies, both native and non native in opposing this pipeline."
USACE has declined to conduct another assessment, and announced July 26 that the permits requested by Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based developer overseeing construction, had been approved. In response, a coalition of activists and lawyers released a protest statement on August 5, stating that threats to the environment and Native communities had been ignored. The statement read in part: "We call for a full halt to all construction activities and repeal of all USACE permits until formal tribal consultation and environmental review are properly and adequately conducted."
Local media reported that arrests began August 11. Energy Transfer Partners emailed a statement saying, in part, "We will press charges against anyone who interferes in the construction of the pipeline. Construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline will continue across all four states along the route."
A representative for the Camp of the Sacred Stones said that despite threats by the petroleum company, supporters continue to arrive and they have no intention of leaving.