This week, protesters of the Dakota Access pipeline, who were removed from their protest grounds have vowed to extend their fight to other pipelines. Almost 50 protesters, many of whom are Native American and Environmental activists, were removed or arrested from the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose land the pipe will affect, has said it will take the fight to court. Despite this setback, protesters claim they will not give up on Standing Rock and will extend their protests to other pipelines.
The Dakota Access pipeline is a $3.7 billion pipeline designed to carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The project was announced on June 25, 2014 and the argument was that the pipeline was a more reliable alternative to rail or road. Major protests opposing the construction of the pipeline began around April 2016, when a camp inside of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation was created by an elder of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Members of the tribe argued that the pipeline would be detrimental to the land by polluting drinking water and allowing an increased risk of oil spills, which could potentially harm areas sacred to the Native American people. The tribe further argued that the decision to allow the pipeline to run through Native American land without the consultation of the tribe violated both US federal law and Native treaties held with the US government.
In September 2016, tensions between protesters and construction workers heightened when an area, which was deemed historic by Tribal preservation officers, was bulldozed. When protesters entered the area, attack dogs were deployed, which resulted in, at least, five injuries. Further protests were treated with force in October 2016 when law enforcement aggressively attempted to push back protesters by deploying pepper spray and arresting 141 people. In November 2016, as the protests caught the attention of both national and international headlines, major US cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York held protest rallies in solidarity with Standing Rock. As the battle between protesters and heavily armed police raged on, 2,000 war veterans made a surprising appearance and joined the protests at Standing Rock in December 2016.
Although these protests managed to shut down construction of the project in December 2016, they were restarted again in February 2017 with the removal of protesters from the Oceti Sakowin camp this week. President Trump issued an executive order authorizing the pipeline construction to go ahead with the argument that it would bring tremendous economic benefits. Despite these setbacks, the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes continue to press for the end of the pipeline in court, with Federal Judge James Boasberg to consider their request and make a ruling by April 2017. While the outcome of Judge Boasberg’s decision remains uncertain, protesters remain hopeful for the future of other pipeline protests.
“A lot of people will take what they’ve learned from this movement and take it to another one,” said Tonya Olsen, a protester who lived at the camp for three months. Protest leader Tom Goldtooth further added, “The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight, it is a new beginning; they cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started.” Forest Borie, a protester from Tijuana, Mexico reiterated this sentiment claiming, “This is going to be a revolutionary year.”