On Saturday, the builders of the 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, razed a sacred Native burial site at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Protests over the building of the pipeline have been going on for months, with camps housing protestors from the seven bands of the Sioux established around the construction, but the desecration has escalated tensions.
The $3.8 billion dollar pipeline, when completed, will carry 450,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude from North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois and crosses the Missouri River about a half mile above the Sioux Tribe reservation. Protests have slowed construction, but this act by Energy Transfer Partners has crossed a new line in the proceedings.
Native News Online reports that Tribal Chairman David Archambault II says the damage is irredeemable, saying, “This demolition is devastating...these grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. in one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”
Democracy Now reports that on that same day, the company attacked protestors with dogs and pepper spray.
On the Wednesday prior to the demolition, eight protestors were arrested for trespassing after two men bound themselves to construction equipment, bringing the total of arrests around the pipeline up to 37. That number was reported by Oil Patch Dispatch, who also said that protestors worry “the pipeline threatens the tribe’s water supply and other sacred sites,”—concerns which have proven to be accurate. Standing Rock is part of a reservation, so for tribe members to be arrested on site is particularly heinous.
On August 25, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell dedicated a segment to how the treatment of the Sioux tribe’s right to their own land is in line with how indigenous people have been and continue to be abused in the U.S.:
In addition to on-the-ground protests and organization, the tribe also launched a lawsuit in July against federal regulators who approved the plans for the pipeline, specifically the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who fast-tracked construction approval. They’ve also filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop construction.
Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, says that the choice to come over Labor Day weekend and destroy the burial site was deliberate: “We’re days away from getting a resolution on the legal issues, and they came in on a holiday weekend and destroyed the site...What they have done is absolutely outrageous.”