Approximately 150 people marched through Toronto’s downtown last Tuesday in order to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline construction. One of the protesters, Dorian Douma, stressed the value in awareness of what is happening just across the border, “it’s important to show our solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and it’s important for Torontonians to learn about what is happening.”
Matt Remle of the news source Last Real Indians, gave a quick timeline of events for those who are still catching up. On April 1, the Camp of the Sacred Stones was established on Standing Rock to block the construction of the pipeline. As of September 16, James McPherson of The Associated Press notes that this camp is now made up of approximately 4000 people. On July 27, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit, for violating the National Historic Preservation Act, against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On August 10, despite these filings, workers arrived on site to begin construction of the pipeline across the Missouri River.
Standing Rock Sioux tribe say that the pipeline threatens not only their cultural heritage, but also their water supply. Although North Dakota is where the local protest is taking place, countless other protests in the US, Europe, Japan and New Zealand are also protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in its entirety. Bernie Sanders also addressed the issue in front of hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House, saying the pipeline must be stopped “once and for all”. Sanders also noted that there are several issues that are being discussed, and, “number one is the end of exploitation of Native American people and the respect of Native American Rights, period.”
On September 9, according to The Guardian, a federal judge rejected a legal attempt by tribal leaders to stop work on the pipeline. Shortly after this decision, according to The Atlantic, the Obama Administration stepped in to “temporarily block” the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, in order to reconsider the company’s decisions.
Kelley Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer, the company behind the pipeline, commented on the ongoing protest, saying the company respects the, “constitutional right of all assembled in North Dakota to voice their opinions for or against projects like [theirs]”. “However, threats and attacks on our employees, their families, and our contractors as well as the destruction of equipment and encroachment on private property must not be tolerated,” said Warren.
Energy Transfer’s website says that the pipeline will, “enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner.” The pipeline will transport approximately 470,000 barrels per day.
Warren also said that Energy Transfer “values and respects cultural diversity”, but that no sacred Native American items have been found along the route of the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe disagree. According to EcoWatch, an environmental news source, an ancient burial ground was discovered only days before its destruction and was awaiting review by the state historic preservation office.
On Sept. 3, videos first aired by the site Democracy Now show pipeline security workers using attack dogs and pepper spray on demonstrators. EcoWatch claims that, “several of the protesters were bitten by security dogs and 30 suffered from the effects of pepper spray”. Cody Hall, a spokesperson for the Red Warrior Camp, claims that the attacked protesters had no weapons, which Energy Transfer claims the construction workers were hit with.
“We had no weapons, just our voices. The video doesn’t lie,” said Hall of the attacks.
Energy Transfer’s website also has a heading under their page “Quick Facts About Dakota Access Pipeline” that reads: “protecting landowner interests and the local environment is a top priority of the Dakota Access Pipeline project”. In the following lines, the company vows that it is their intent to “live up to our promises of openness, honesty and responsiveness before, during and after construction and throughout operations.”
Carrie Lester, a protester from Mohawk Six Nations Grand River, said of the situation, “it’s up to me, it’s up to all of us, to protect our land and water. We can’t let these extractive industries continue what they’re doing. They’ve held a noose around our neck for far too long.”