Indigenous Nations Resist Construction of North Dakota Access Oil Pipeline

Posted Sept. 7, 2016

MP3 Interview with Cody Hall, South Dakota Cheyenne River Sioux tribal nation member and spokesman forRed Warrior Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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In what is the largest gathering of indigenous tribes in the U.S. in many decades, members of more than 100 native nations have come together on the land of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota under the battle cry, "Water is life!" Members of the tribes and their non-native allies have come together to protect the waters of the Missouri River from being crossed by a fracked oil pipeline linking the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a giant storage facility in Patoka, Illinois near regional refineries.

Those assembled are committed to all-out, non-violent resistance against Transfer Partners' attempt to build the Dakota Access pipeline across their land. The 1,100-mile pipeline would carry 500,000 barrels of highly explosive oil per day across four states to Illinois. On Sept. 3, the company's security guards used dogs and chemical mace to keep protesters at a distance while the company began bulldozing a new piece of land to build the pipeline. The bulldozed area is a burial ground considered a sacred site by the tribe. Representatives of the tribe went to federal court on Sept. 6, seeking an emergency temporary injunction to immediately stop construction, allowing time for a lawsuit to be considered that seeks to permanently halt the pipeline project.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Cody Hall, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribal nation in South Dakota, who is acting as a spokesperson for the Red Warrior Camp, which is directing the non-violent resistance. Here, he explains what activists are doing to oppose the pipeline and how those in solidarity can support their effort.

CODY HALL: This proposed pipeline, it's going to go right over the 1851 treaty land. That’s what we’re talking about being native domain land. And then of course, the powers that be shortened the 1851 treaty down to the 1868 treaty and said, here’s what the native people have, what is now presently Standing Rock. But we’re going by the 1851 treaty land.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What can you tell us about the legal effort in Washington, D.C. (on Aug. 24) to get an injunction against the company from proceeding with the work?

CODY HALL: The judge didn’t make a ruling on it, yes or no, but he did mention that construction can still happen; they can still proceed with construction. So when we saw the underlinings of that in the fine print, it was like, okay, there has to be something to be done about the progression of this pipeline. Because even though at the original – they (the energy and oil companies) call it the protest site, they’re still proceeding to the east – they’re building up on the east side of the river – and they’re building on the west side of the river, where the protest site is. And we need to stop that not just here in the northern part of the Standing Rock rez – I’m saying the existence of the whole pipeline itself, all the way down through South Dakota, through Iowa and Illinois. That’s why I phrase that term that we’ll make sure that pipeline dies. We’re just on the frontlines right now.

BETWEEN THE LINES: But the company is continuing to build the pipeline.

CODY HALL: They want to have a good majority of this construction done so by the time the judge hears the case, the judge will say, How far have you progressed? Where are you at? And if they can say, We are 95 percent near-completion for North Dakota, the judge will say, Well, there’s not much I can do about it, if you’re that close. I’ll let you plead it, just pay your fines, and move forward. We’re trying to prevent all that from happening, because it’s not right. You know, we’re not going to wait for the judge to make a call. If we can stop that momentum, then we have to. We need to take that action. So that way when the judge does look at it and says, Well, how far are you guys? And if they say, We’re not half-way yet. Then I think it would be fair for us in our fight to say that we’re stopping momentum and hopefully the judge will rule in our favor. That’s why the sacrifice of those that are giving up their freedom to do this.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Cody Hall, the indigenous people leading this fight have put out a call for solidarity actions around the country – and I guess the world – focusing on the companies that own the pipeline as well as the consortium of banks that are funding it. Can you say more about that?

CODY HALL: We’re hoping that people and groups, organizations, whatever it is, will go and make a stand at worksites, to make a stand at headquarters – the Enbridge headquarters. Raise awareness of what’s going on, you know, because I get it. Some people needed an action; they needed somebody to be the fall guy, to take all the heat, and that ended up being the indigenous people, the native people who all gathered up here at the camp. This is a movement, this is a people’s movement. This isn’t one tribe or many tribal people saying it’s their movement. It’s everybody’s movement. It’s a humanitarian issue right now. Because this water will be poisoned, and it will affect the Standing Rock people first, and then it goes down the river and it will affect my people at Cheyenne River next, and it just keeps going down the line. It’ll affect all of South Dakota; it’ll affect all of Nebraska. So we just have to raise awareness on this. There are other alternative means for fossil fuels. There’s no alternative for water. There’s no Plan B if the water’s gone.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Hundreds of indigenous and non-indigenous people have been flocking to your camps on the banks of the Missouri River. Are more people welcome?

CODY HALL: If you can make it, physically, come support and we welcome you with open arms and open hearts. But if you cannot make it in a physical presence here in North Dakota, please keep us in your prayers, and just hear our fight. Find us on Red Warrior Camp on Facebook and Instagram. We need all these social media accounts, and join, and definitely share the truth that we’re speaking, and I thank you guys so much for your support. We love you, and cannot express how much we love everybody’d outpouring of donations. Even if it’s a word of encouragement to give the camp of We support you from here and there, that means a lot to the people that are on the front lines.

For more information on resistance to the North Dakota pipeline project, visitnodaplsolidarity.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/RedWarriorCamp.

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