Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes will hold a ceremonial ride across the reservation Friday, ending at a spirit camp near the Cannonball River to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The 1,130-mile pipeline would take up to 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude daily from the oil patch and transfer it through North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa to a final terminal in Illinois. Regulatory commissions in all four states have OK’d the route, though the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not yet issued a final environmental assessment for crossings on Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe.
Standing Rock tribal members oppose the pipeline being bored under the Missouri River on the upper reaches of Lake Oahe just above the mouth of Cannonball River, where its municipal water is sourced.
The ceremonial ride will start at 9 a.m. at the tribal administration building at Fort Yates and journey 20 miles north to the community of Cannon Ball, near the namesake river that forms the reservation’s north boundary.
Dakota Kidder, spokeswoman for the group Chante tin’sa kinanzi Po, or Standing with a Strong Heart, said the spirit camp is modeled after one occupied for months by South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation members to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline until President Obama rejected it in November.
“It is to be done in a respectful manner, and tribal elders will be there to share information. There will be community feed at Cannon Ball, and the ride will end along the water with prayers in the late afternoon,” she said.
Kidder said the spirit camp, named Wakȟáŋaǧapi Othí, or Sacred Rock, for the original name of the Cannonball area will be semi-permanent and tribal members and supporters will come and go.
“Who’s to say how long it will remain going?” Kidder said.
Tribal members, including Chairman Dave Archambault, have taken their concerns about the pipeline’s proximity to the corps and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Steve Sitting Bear, director of external affairs for Standing Rock, said the tribe is pushing for an expanded environmental assessment, since the corps’ draft assessment for the crossings on federal lands does not mention Standing Rock.
“It’s within 1,000 feet of the reservation, but it completely ignores the existence of a tribal nation,” said Sitting Bear of the pipeline. “We’re hoping to get the information out there that a tribal nation is put at risk for the interests of big oil and the state of North Dakota — everybody’s interests but ours. We’ll be the ones in harm’s way if this thing breaks.”
Joye Braun, community organizer on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, said the four bands of her reservation stand by Standing Rock.
“The dangers imposed by the greed of big oil on the people who live along the Missouri River are astounding. When this proposed pipeline breaks, as the vast majority of pipelines do, over half of the drinking water in South Dakota will be affected. How can rubber-stamping this project be good for the people, agriculture and livestock? It must be stopped,” Braun said.