As the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline nears its planned Missouri River crossing, protesters are remaining strong in their fight to protect the water source of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe from the threat of the oil pipeline.
For many weeks now, law enforcement has acted as a militarized force protecting the interests of Energy Transfer Partners and their Wall St. investors. Sacred Native American lands are of no consequence, as we saw in September when DAPL bulldozers took a 20-mile detour to deliberately destroy burial grounds.
On Sunday, protesters – some now known as Water Protectors – held actions at three different locations, including on a piece of land in Cantapeta Creek known as Turtle Island which is claimed by both the Standing Rock Sioux and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
This is the same creek where journalist Erin Schrode was shot with a rubber bullet by police days earlier while she was conducting an interview.
A small group of water protectors began the action by canoeing across the creek and upturning four canoes to create a barricade against police attack. The group also erected barricades of driftwood on the east and west ends of the small beach to ensure the police would not be able to easily move towards them. They then began to ferry more water protectors across the creek, amassing nearly two hundred people on the beach head.
In the video, cops are seen massing at the top of the hill. SWAT officers got in a boat and launched tear gas canisters along the shore of the creek, blanketing the protesters with burning fumes. A reporter with Unicorn Riot narrates as protesters swim and get ferried across the creek to confront the cops.
As the numbers increased on the island, the crowd started to form a line and chanted to each other to move together and take the hill inch by inch. The mass of people advanced up the steep incline as law enforcement launched more tear gas into the crowd. When they neared the top, someone describing themselves as an elder appeared and shouted down those who had gathered. The crowd at first hesitated, but then began to join him as he told those gathered that they were desecrating those buried there. Some water protectors pointed up at the police who’d been stationed on the hill for days, and stated they were the ones desecrating the burial site.
One man, who claimed to speak on behalf of Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II, said that the water protectors needed to disperse because tribal negotiations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had led to a 30-day halt of all work on the Dakota Access Pipeline. As the man repeated this claim to the crowd, DAPL excavators could be seen digging across the river. Arguments ensued and the crowd eventually gave in to the wishes of the elders and moved back to the main Oceti Sakowin camp.
It appears that the attempt to reclaim sacred burial grounds before they’re destroyed by pipeline activities was thwarted by cops who have been occupying the area for days. Excavators could be seen digging across the river, comfortable in the fact that they have uniformed state mercenaries protecting them from the people being victimized.
Energy Transfer Partners is desperate to get the pipeline completed as quickly as possible, so much so that they violated permits by “failing to disclose the discovery of Native American artifacts in the path of construction.”
Cheryl Angel, a Sicangu Lakota tribe member who has been at the Standing Rock camps since April, said she has personally seen what appear to be indigenous artifacts in the line of construction and that she believes the pipeline operators have intentionally hidden discoveries of sacred sites and knowingly destroyed them.
“It’s a tremendous blow to our history. They are trying to erase our existence,” said Angel, 56. “That’s a blatant disregard for our culture. That hurts when someone purposefully tries to erase you as people from … the land we’ve occupied for centuries.”