Washington, DC – Thousands of Native Americans have rallied in the US capital to protest against the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline and raise awareness of indigenous rights.
With snow falling on Friday morning, demonstrators marched to the White House, stopping on the way at the Trump International Hotel to erect a tepee.
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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has been involved in a long-standing dispute with authorities over the pipeline in North Dakota, led the Native Nations Rise march along with advocacy groups.
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The tribe has argued in court that the pipeline crosses sacred land, was approved by the government without adequate consultation, and would contaminate its water supply.
“Water is life,” chanted Jobeth Brownotter, a Standing Rock member who had travelled for 32 hours by bus from South Dakota.
“We came here to stand up for our people, for water, for our rights, for future generations,” she told Al Jazeera.
Betsy Richards of the Cherokee Nation, living in New Jersey, marched under a huge pipeline-shaped puppet with the text “No consent, no pipeline”.
“When things are happening on native lands, we need to not just be informed of what the government is doing to us, but to have consent as native nations,” she said.
Others carried banners reading “Native Lives Matter”, referring to the disproportionate rate at which Native Americans are killed by police.
The march comes days after a federal judge ruled against a request by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to stop construction of the last section of the Dakota pipeline, which would cross under Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation reservoir.
The pipeline is due to be complete and ready for oil by April 1.
Last November, the US Army Corps of Engineers halted the construction of the $3.8bn pipeline.
But in January, President Donald Trump signed an executive order instructing the agency to “review and approve” the project “in an expedited manner”. He also cleared the way for the controversial Keystone XL project.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has fought the pipeline project for years.
Until recently, they maintained a protest camp near the construction zone for nearly a year that drew Native Americans from hundreds of tribes, bringing attention to the indigenous rights movement.
The march was the culmination of four days of workshops and cultural activities organised in the capital to raise awareness of Native American issues.
Taking a jab at Trump, Kristina Elote from the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico wore an oversized “Make America Great Again” hat, with a Native American twist.
“I saw the hat everywhere and I hated it. I wanted to do something about it so I put an arrow through it,” she said.
“We need to keep our sovereignty, to keep our land safe. We’re tired of companies taking advantage of our resources.”