The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been notified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it will close a Dakota Access Pipeline protesters’ camp by December 5. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion project that would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from the oil fields of western North Dakota to Illinois, where it would be linked with other pipelines.
Not coincidentally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers action came quickly after November 15 related filings in a Washington, D.C. U.S. federal district court on behalf of Energy Transfer, which describes itself as one of the “largest and most diversified investment grade master limited partnerships in the United States.” According to a company press release, it has sought a judgment declaring that Dakota Access Pipeline has the legal right-of-way to build, complete, and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline without any further action from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says they were not consulted on the project and argue that the pipeline is a major environmental and cultural threat. The proposed pipeline route traverses ancestral lands and sacred burial grounds just one mile off the tribe’s reservation in North Dakota. They worry as well that catastrophic environmental damage could occur if the pipeline were to break near where it crosses under the Missouri River, the only source of drinking water for some 10 million area people.
John W. Henderson, a district commander with the Corps, said anyone found to be on “Corps-managed land” north of the Cannonball River after the designated date will be considered trespassing and subject to prosecution. He acknowledged that violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials have occurred in this area.
In response, tribal leader Dave Archambault and other protest organizers made it clear that they plan to stay in the Oceti Sakowin camp — one of three camps near the construction site — which would have been shut down. Their pleas come as passions across social media have drawn thousands of protesters to camp out in rural North Dakota in support of the tribe.
“We ask that all everyone who can appeal to President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the future of our people and rescind all permits and deny the easement to cross the Missouri River just north of our Reservation and straight through our treaty lands. When Dakota Access Pipeline chose this route, they did not consider our strong opposition.”
Ironically, the letter to Archambault arrived one day after the U.S. national holiday of Thanksgiving, which commemorates gestures of goodwill extended by native Americans to the first European immigrants. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is one of 562 federally-recognized native American Nations. Their population is around 15,000 people, living mainly on a reservation about half the size of Wales.
Photo Credit: We are Water, Camp of the Sacred Stones