Confrontation on the Northern Plains: Native Americans fight to stop Dakota Access pipeline

It is with the utmost excitement that I pen this preliminary column as a rallying call. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its supporters are in an unyielding standoff to stop the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline from crossing Indian treaty lands.

The pipeline that is slated to carry 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day is planned to cross the Missouri River a stone’s throw from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. When this pipeline breaks, and it shall, it will take just minutes for the oil to get into the water system of not only the tribes of the Missouri River to whom water is life, but also of millions of ranchers and farmers that depend on that system for their livelihood. Native people are leading the effort to head off this horrendous disaster.

The Texas-based corporation Energy Transfer Partners on July 26, 2016 announced that it had received permits from the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with its Dakota Access pipeline, brought in heavy equipment and began digging. The Tribe responded by rallying protesters to oppose the pipeline. All indications are that the permits were issued without notification to the Tribe and other appropriate parties. This in fact, renders the permits illegal.

On August 16, 2016, at the behest of Energy Transfer Partners, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland granted the ravenous, profit-mad corporation a temporary restraining order prohibiting interference by protesters in its construction of the pipeline route. But, it does not prohibit peaceful protest.

Judge Hovland has set a hearing for Wednesday, August 24, 2016 in the U.S. District Court in Bismarck, to determine if a preliminary injunction against the construction will be issued.

As of this writing, all construction at the pipeline site has stopped.  It is imperative that as many of us in opposition to this life- destroying project, who are available, be present at this hearing.

Tribal leaders are already asking President Obama for assistance in this matter. To my knowledge, there has been no response thus far. I would additionally recommend that the Tribe ask for a response from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

In the meantime, tribes from across the country have pledged their support of the Standing Rock Sioux. Some are sending tribal members by the bus loads to the protest site. For example, the Hoopa Valley Tribe of northern California is “urging any and all of the Tribal membership and community to take the journey and assist the Standing Rock Sioux in their time of need.”   Indeed, the most significant Native American movement in this country in decades is now taking place on the Northern Plains.

I have been told of the need for donations of supplies for protesters at the opposition encampments. The protesters say they are in for the “long haul.” Specifically, needed are blankets, sleeping bags, camping gear, reusable plates, flashlights, tents, solar lamps, first aid equipment, warm clothes, rain gear and tarps and of course food; pasta, sauce, rice and canned goods. Any of the above can be sent to:

Standing Rock Tribe

Attn.: Johnelle Leingang

North Standing Rock Avenue

Fort Yates, North Dakota 58538

Reportedly more supporters are arriving daily from across the country and around the world.  Future columns shall be forthcoming shortly as this reporter is also leaving for Standing Rock within a few hours.

Photo: Native Americans demonstrate against a dangerous pipeline.  |  Honor the Earth/Little Redfeather Design


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.