By: Annie Beadle
As construction of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline halted this past Friday, thousands of local native tribe members and environmental activists celebrated in their camps after weeks of tireless protesting.
The $3.78 billion pipeline, funded by Energy Transfer Partners, was originally planned to stretch 1,172 miles long, starting in North Dakota and spanning to Illinois to deliver crude oil from the underground Bakken Formation. The pipeline was predicted to transfer over 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day to refineries across the country, creating thousands of new jobs and providing millions of dollars of revenue to state and local governments.
As construction began on the project, the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe wrote a letter of complaint stating that they had not been properly consulted before the pipeline passed through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
They explained in the letter that the pipeline “threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.” These sites included ancient burial grounds of native ancestors as well as Lake Oahe, a body of water that many of the Tribe still use for drinking water.
News of the conflict spread across the nation and lead to an exodus of fellow Native Americans and environmental activists showing their solidarity with the North Dakota tribe.
Protesting ensued in the pipeline construction zones with some members of the Tribe riding in on horseback to face off against local authorities. While the Tribe says they only performed peaceful protests, local officials, who used dogs and pepper spray to deter the protesters, said,“any suggestion that today’s event was a peaceful protest is false.”
“Protesters physically assaulted private security officers hired by Dakota Access Pipeline. The security officers were hit and jabbed with fence posts and flagpoles,” the local officials said. “According to several reports from security officers, knives were pulled on them or they witnessed protesters with large knives.”
After days of protesting, U.S. Justice and Interior Departments and the Army released a joint statement announcing “The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws,” effectively suspending the construction of the pipeline indefinitely.