STANDING ROCK RESERVATION — On a cool spring day just right for horses still wearing fuzzy winter coats, about 50 riders rode into a chilly northwest breeze to protest a Bakken crude oil pipeline.
The riders from Standing Rock Sioux and neighboring South Dakota Cheyenne Sioux reservations oppose construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that is intended to carry as many as 570,000 barrels of oil under the Missouri River-Lake Oahe less than one-fourth mile from the Standing Rock boundary.
Chairmen from both reservations were on the day-long ride that ended Friday evening at a spirit camp along the Cannonball River near where it meets the big Missouri waters flowing by. The protest camp will remain occupied indefinitely, organizers said.
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Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault said the ride had political and spiritual significance. It was a striking sight, with flags fluttering and the horses pounding along, covering the soft damp ground at a quick pace.
“This is a stance and our prayer,” he said.
He said Standing Rock should have been consulted before the pipeline was approved just 1,000 feet from the reservation boundary and upstream of several important water uptakes. The 1,100-mile pipeline has regulatory approval from all four states it will pass through, starting near Williston and terminating in Illinois.
Besides the potential for spills, Archambault said the planned crossing infringes on the sacred nature of the Cannonball River, where eagles still gather in great numbers every spring and where, in the old days, the people collected sweet grass, berries and food.
“We have paid a great cost historically,” said Archambault, referring to the flooding of the Missouri River into Lake Oahe that destroyed tribal land.
He said the tribe will go to court if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement, and instead issues the less rigorous “finding” as it’s poised to do now.
“If they issue the permit, we will go to court,” said Archambault, adding that he believes his recent work in Washington, D.C., with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior will further his case.
Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation chairman Harold Frazier said he and 25 other Cheyenne Sioux came to ride with their fellow Sioux in opposition.
“We’re here to show unity and support — to stop this pipeline. We’re concerned about our water; a barrel of water is more valuable than a barrel of oil,” Frazier said. “You can live without oil, but not without water.”
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We’re concerned about our water; a barrel of water is more valuable than a barrel of oil. You can live without oil, but not without water.”
-- Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation