The Stream

Pipeline standoff at Standing Rock

Native Americans fight a mega-pipeline in North Dakota.

A remote area of North Dakota is the latest frontline in the wave of indigenous-led environmental protests against massive oil pipelines in the United States. Since April, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have resisted the $3.8 billion, 1,879-kilometre Dakota Access pipeline, which would ship crude oil from the Bakken oil fields east to the midwestern state of Illinois. The Standing Rock Sioux say the project encroaches on ancestral sites and threatens their drinking water supply from the Missouri River. Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company leading construction, insists the pipeline poses no threat and will be a boon for job creation and energy independence. 

Members of other tribes and activists from around the country have flocked to a “spirit camp” established near the construction site. Work was halted in recent weeks after activists escalated their protest against construction crews, who are guarded by police and armed contractors. The company says its workers have come under threat, and law enforcement officials have accused the protesters of planning to attack officers with pipe bombs. The Standing Rock Sioux maintain their protest is peaceful.  

The standoff is also playing out in court. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued the Army Corps of Engineers, saying it was not properly consulted when the pipeline was approved last month. A decision is due on September 9. The developers have meanwhile won restraining orders against the protesters. More than 20 people have been arrested.

The showdown over the Dakota Access follows other indigenous-led actions against massive oil projects. Years of activism helped quash the Keystone XL pipeline in November 2015. And in June, First Nations communities in Canada won a major victory after a federal court overturned approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline, ruling the government failed to consult with the indigenous communities along the project’s route. The Northern Gateway’s owner, Enbridge, has invested $1.5 billion in building the Dakota Access.

On this episode of the Stream, we’ll hear from indigenous voices opposing the Dakota Access and from supporters who insist it doesn’t pose the threat its critics claim.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Dave Archambault II
Chairman, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

Kevin Pranis @LIUNA
Organizing Director of North Dakota and Minnesota, Laborers’ International Union of North America

Winona LaDuke @WinonaLaduke
Executive Director, Honor the Earth

Lauren Donovan  @NoDakDonovan
Reporter, Bismarck Tribune

Simon Moya-Smith @SimonMoyaSmith
Culture Editor, Indian Country Today

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