About 300 protectors from the Oceti Sakowin, Red Warrior, and Sacred Stone camps, along with other supporters from some surrounding camps, decided that strong prayers were needed at the site where construction continues on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“WE CAME HERE TODAY TO OFFER PRAYERS TO OUR CREATOR TO STOP THIS CONSTRUCTION, AND TO HAVE OUR WOMEN PLANT TREES AND CORN FOR THE COMING GENERATIONS TO ENJOY. THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE. WE ARE NOT VIOLENT, THEY ARE HARASSING US WHILE WE OFFER PRAYERS,” SAID GALESON EAGLESTAR (OGLALA LAKOTA).
The group formed a car caravan and traveled to two construction sites along County Highways 6 and 134 near the unincorporated community of St. Anthony in Morton County. They were met by more than 50 police from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, North Dakota Highway Patrol and the National Guard with a military style vehicles. As a line of police officers moved toward the group, they maintained their space with signs and songs. Construction workers ran from their work sites when the throng arrived.
This land and water they are fighting for is of the utmost spiritual, cultural, and environmental significance to local tribes. It represents the sacred burial grounds of ancestors, historic village grounds, and Sundance sites. The water of the Missouri River is essential to life itself, not only for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation but for the many other Native Nations upstream and downstream as well. To desecrate these sites without so much as an adequate consultation with indigenous nations or a full environmental impact assessment is a continuation of what is now centuries of disregard for Native American rights. While the government’s use of its Eminent Domain powers is straightforward enough, the clear intent to minimize the dangers associated with the environmental impact is very distressing to tribal leaders who understand how vulnerable their people are because of reservation boundaries.
On the other hand, law enforcement responded to the protests with specialized equipment and weapons, including armored vehicles. Protesters were arrested for allegedly resisting arrest, trespassing private property, and possession of stolen property.
“Officers are trained to respond to the threats they perceive and to take appropriate action. A charging horse combined with totality of the situation presented an imminent threat to the officer,”
said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, in the release.
In similar situations in the past, some Native Americans have said “charging” is the traditional Sioux way of introducing horses. Native American protesters — who call themselves protectors — have meanwhile maintained that demonstrations are peaceful.
So far, 95 people have been arrested for protest activities since the start of the Dakota Access pipeline protests, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.