Tribal members gathered on the state Capitol grounds Tuesday to protest the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline’s Missouri River crossing as lawmakers met to address a budget shortfall left by a drop in price of the very oil the pipeline project would carry.
“I just hope that the lawmakers listen,” said Joye Braun, of Eagle Butte, S.D., an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
Camp of the Sacred Stones members have vowed to continue their fight against the 1,172-mile pipeline project.
About 15 campers arrived Tuesday morning with more expected by the evening.
Braun said the campers will remain for the full three days of the special session called by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. They are encouraging the governor to issue an order to stop work on the pipeline and calling on lawmakers to be less dependent on fossil fuels.
“They’re in financial straits because of their miscalculations on oil,” said protester Cante Ohkitika, of Cannon Ball.
Last week, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its approval of easements allowing the pipeline to cross corps-controlled waterways, one of them being the Missouri River near the reservation.
The tribe, represented by EarthJustice, alleges the corps violated the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws and is seeking an injunction to stay the pipeline's construction until its case can be heard. In a complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the tribe says the corps wrote off its concerns and ignored the pipeline’s impacts to sacred sites and water sources.
The pipeline still needs permit approvals on five corps-controlled sites in South Dakota and Illinois to complete its route.
Dakota Access Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners has said it is disappointed the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and EarthJustice have decided to take legal action to try to stop what it calls “one of the most important energy infrastructure projects in U.S. history.”
“Additionally, the project is contributing millions of dollars into the U.S. tax base from direct tax benefits to sales tax from material procurement and manufactured goods, and tens of thousands of jobs. We support the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and plan to provide whatever support we can to defend and protect this project and our national interests as Americans,” spokeswoman Lisa Dillinger said in an email.
Braun said the tribe was still waiting Tuesday for a judge to be assigned to their case. Meanwhile, the tribe received notice of the start of construction, slated to have begun July 30. She said the drilling pad to be used by contractors to do the directional drilling has been moved on site. Though the drill is not there yet, it is expected to arrive any day.
Cepa Seaboy, a Spirit Lake native who lives in Mandan, said she feels very strongly about stopping the pipeline’s current route.
“Water is very important; it keeps all of us alive,” said Seaboy, adding she wants to protect tribal water sources for her daughter and future generations.
Seaboy also said she worries about the speed at which the pipeline has gone into the ground and fears that could increase the possibility of a leak.
“Water and oil don’t mix,” Ohkitika said “You can’t cook with (contaminated water); you can’t shower with it; you can’t water your animals with it; you can’t wash your clothes in it.”
The campers will hold a prayer vigil at 8 p.m. today and Braun said the public is encouraged to come out.
“It can be stopped,” she said of the pipeline.