Indigenous communities from across the United States have mobilised on the Standing Rock reservation to protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), as clashes turned violent this weekend.
Over 3,000 indigenous persons have gathered to protest the $3.8 billion fracked-oil pipeline project since April, with deep environmental concerns expressed by protestors. There are fears that the project will trigger a steep increase in fracking activity while also endangering water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux indigenous community. In addition, they state the DAPL would disturb with sites that are sacred to several indigenous communities.
On Saturday afternoon protestors clashed with private security guards and guard dogs, with reports that six people were bitten by dogs and at least 30 pepper-sprayed. Four private security guards and two guard dogs were also said to have been injured in the clashes.
The BBC reports that the protest against DAPL has brought together the largest mobilisation of Native Americans in over 100 years. Activists have formed a community through the emergence of protest camps – participating in non-violent demonstrations and community building activities. However, some participants have been arrested for interfering with pipeline construction.
Whilst protests against the construction continue, environment law organisation Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the group on the grounds that the project infringes upon several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act. These mobilisations have led to a temporary halt in construction, with federal courts due to determine the legality of the pipeline on September 9th.
"This is the first time the seven bands of the Sioux have come together since Little Bighorn," one protestor told the BBC. "We have endured 250 years of betrayal by the white man," he said. “Now, we have no weapons, only prayers… We are here for what our ancestors fought and died for.”