Over the last few months, protests have intensified over the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota where Native American residents are speaking out to maintain the environmental integrity of their homeland.
The pipeline project, which is to be completed at the end of 2016, would go from North Dakota to Illinois and transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil each day. While Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, says it will follow safety precautions to “avoid spills,” the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists contend that the 1,172-mile pipeline would still create a risk for oil spills. Tribe members say it would threaten sacred lands, burial grounds and the Missouri River, which is the main source of water for the community.
The Huffington Post went to the Oceti Sakowin Camp near Cannon Ball, N.D. and spoke with some of the young protesters, seen in the video above, who put their lives on hold to join the ever-growing #NoDAPL movement.
“We are all water warriors from all different tribes, all different bands, here for this cause of supporting the water,” Sioux tribe member Roy Murphy said.
The pipeline was originally proposed to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota ― but the path was rerouted to its current course after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied its permit during an environmental assessment. The Corps rejected the Bismark route to protect the municipal water supply and homes in the area. Rev. Jesse Jackson previously told Colorlines that the reroute is a prime example of “environmental racism.”
“It’s not a matter of if the pipeline breaks, it’s a matter of when the pipeline breaks,” Adreanne Catt-Ironshell, a protester who hails from the Sicangu Lakota tribe, told HuffPost. “And it’s not gonna just affect our generation, it’s gonna affect all of our kids’ generations and their kids. So we’re here fighting for the future generations.”
Standoffs between protesters and police have resulted in violence and arrests but one demonstrator said he’s not interested in promoting more pain.
“I’m not confrontational. I didn’t come here to fight anybody,” Kai Mundo said. “They send military, they send police. To deal with what? The people want to be heard out here. This is our way. This is [the] American way.”
Catt-Ironshell said the cause is about continuing the legacy of native leadership and protecting the environment that has given her people so much.
“I come from a family of strong, American Indian movement leaders, so my spirit was called here and I just showed up,” Catt-Ironshell said. “I think Mother Earth gives us everything that we need. And it is our job to protect it, to give back to her the same way that she does us.”
For more information about ways to help the cause or contact government representatives about the pipeline, head here.
This video was produced by Alex Berg and Kohar Minassian, edited by Kohar Minassian, shot by Chelsea Moynehan and Dan Fox with sound recording by Ian MacInnes and sound mixing by Terence Krey.