Protestors—some participants prefer the term protectors—have gathered on 50 acres north of Cannonball, North Dakota, near the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers, to fight the Dakota Access pipeline, which is being built across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois to carry Bakken oil to market. Dakota Access opponents, including well-known Indian activists Dennis Banks and Debra White Plume, say the pipeline threatens water supplies as it crosses the Missouri River and other prairie waterways. Tribal opponents say the Army Corps of Engineers failed to consult with tribes to ensure Dakota Access would not harm tribal cultural resources.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is just a half-mile from the pipeline, asked the North Dakota Department of Health to provide support for health and safety for the protestors, now estimated to number around 4,000. North Dakota initially sent water tanks, two air-conditioned trailers, and a command center vehicle, but the state has withdrawn that support and is not allowing trucks to enter the protest camp to clean portable toilets.
The protest is taking place on land belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers, right next to the Standing Rock reservation. The Morton County sheriff says that overtime for police manning the protest and a checkpoint on Highway 1806 is costing his office $100K a week. Police are coming from around the state, including Grand Forks, to add security. The sheriff has accused protestors of planning to throw explosives at law enforcement and is investigating two alleged incidents of unknown individuals pointing lasers at aircraft overhead to blind pilots. Indian Country Today offers a far more peaceful portrait of the protest camp and interactions between pipeline opponents and law enforcement. Jack Healy of the New York Times reports that “More than 20 people have been arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing, but Dallas Goldtooth, who helped protest Keystone XL, tells the New York Times that the Dakota Access protest is “100 percent peaceful and ceremonial” with “no drugs or alcohol allowed” in the predominantly Native protest camp:
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is in federal court in Washington, D.C., this morning seeking an injunction against further Dakota Access construction until the Army Corps of Engineers conducts a proper cultural resource survey. Pipeline construction is already on pause as Dakota Access and protestors await a hearing in U.S. District Court in North Dakota, now delayed to September 8, to determine the merits of the pipeline company’s request for an injunction against protestors who interfere with construction activities. The company is also suing Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault and other protestors for monetary damages.
Dakota Access has already torn its diagonal across eastern South Dakota and Iowa. Farmers in Iowa, pushed to allow the pipeline on their land by threats of eminent domain, say Dakota Access is refusing to properly separate soils excavated from their 20-foot-deep pipeline trench and are thus damaging their soil quality and future crop yields.