The construction of a $3.7 billion pipeline in North Dakota is at the center of an ongoing battle and now local tribes are showing their support.
Although the issue takes place miles away, local tribal members say this conflict represents a bigger problem.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is slated to run through four states, transferring crude oil. It runs close to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. Raising tribal members’ concerns that it will disturb sacred sites and affect the reservation’s drinking water. The concerns have sparked several protests. "we’re making a statement that our ancestors fought so that we shall remain. It’s up to us to do the same for our future generations," says Julia Richards, of South Dakota.
Those protests against the pipeline turned violent recently. In a confrontation between protesters and private security hired by the pipeline company. Six tribal members, including a child, were bitten by dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed. Four private security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment. "I wish we could do more, I wish we had enough power to do a lot more," Jarid Kopaney, a local demonstrator, said.
The pipeline’s developer, Energy Transfer Partners, argues the pipeline would help the U.S. become less dependent on foreign oil. They also say it would add thousands of construction jobs.
Meanwhile, a federal judge has ordered to temporarily stop construction of the pipeline. Local tribal members here in the valley are showing their unconditional support. "We may be far away from them, but regardless from what reservation we are from, we are all one nation, we stand together," said Shalina Elizondo, an Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians tribal member. They also lament the broader request to completely halt the construction still hangs in the balance.
The temporary stoppage will be in effect until Friday. No word yet about what will happen after that. Meanwhile, protestors say they will do as much as they can to try to make sure the pipeline is not completed.
Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians letter of support:
Statement from The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians: