Oil Pipeline Blocked in North Dakota by Native Americans and Other Activists

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A segment of the Dakota Access pipeline under construction in North Dakota.
Source: Lars Plougmann, “The Dakota Access Pipeline (Under Construction),” flickr.com, July 1, 2016

On Aug. 10, 2016, a coalition of Native American tribes and other activists began a blockade of the Dakota Access oil pipelineA in North Dakota in an effort to stop its construction. The pipeline is being built by Energy Transfer Partners and, if completed, will run 1,172 miles from the North Dakota Bakken oil fields to Patoka, Illinois. It is estimated the pipeline could carry between 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of oil per day.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe initiated a protest encampment in April near where the pipeline is slated to cross under the Missouri River, about a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The encampment now includes thousands of people and representatives from nearly 90 Native American tribes from across the United States. Since the Aug. 10 blockade began, construction of the pipeline has been halted.

Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, landowner and director of the Camp of the Sacred Stones, says that the campers blocking the pipeline construction “are disappointed that the proposed 1,172 mile long pipeline slated to carry fracked oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois is ignoring pending legal action taken by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Oceti Sakowin tribes of the Lakota/ Dakota/ Nakota Nation in an effort to lay as much pipe as possible while ignoring treaty law, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.”

According to the environmental assessment of the pipeline project, performed by Dakota Access, LLC, “[i]mpacts on the environment would be temporary and not significant,” and “[n]o known cultural resources would be impacted by the proposed Project.” Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline, states on its website that the “pipeline will enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner,” and that “increased domestic crude oil production translates into greater energy independence for the United States.”

In an Aug. 24 New York Times OP-ED, David Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, wrote that the proposed pipeline route “crosses the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for millions of Americans and irrigation water for thousands of acres of farming and ranching lands… we need the public to see that in standing up for our rights, we do so on behalf of the millions of Americans who will be affected by this pipeline.”

According to Bill Gerhard, President of the Iowa State Building and Construction Trade Council, “[t]he last ditch efforts by opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens to kill the jobs of thousands of Iowans… Construction should be allowed to take place, as it was before, because the letter of the law was followed and this project was approved.”

Of the four major 2016 Presidential candidates, Green Party candidate Jill Stein has been the only one so far to comment on the Dakota Access pipeline. In an Aug. 24 press release, Stein stated, “we salute the courageous people of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and their allies who are standing up to protect their land and our future on Earth from the poisonous fossil fuel industry and an economy that puts corporate profits over people and planet… Extreme weather exacerbated by climate change shows why we need to immediately say no to fossil fuel expansion, and say yes to wind, water and solar.”

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, though he has not publically commented on the Dakota Access pipeline, believes that “the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don’t buy that–and I don’t–then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.”

[Editor’s Note: On Tue. Sep. 6th Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka joined in a blockade of the Dakota Access Pipeline construction. A warrant was issued for their arrest on Sep. 7 by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department for Criminal Trespass and Criminal Mischief, both Class B Misdemeanors.]


Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, “Spirit Camp Warriors Stand in Path of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” sacredstonecamp.org, Aug. 10, 2016

David Archambault II, “Taking a Stand at Standing Rock,” nytimes.com, Aug. 24, 2016

Dakota Access, LLC, “Draft Environmental Assessment: Dakota Access Pipeline Project Crossings of Flowage Easements and Federal Lands,” nwo.usace.army.mil, Nov. 2015

Jack Healy, “Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline,” nytimes.com, Aug. 23, 2016

Jill 2016, “Stein and Baraka Call for Halt to Dakota Access Pipeline Construction, Say US Must Honor Treaties with Native Americans,” jill2016.com (accessed Aug. 29, 2016)

Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, “Dakota Access Supporters Rally in Front of IUB,” mwalliancenow.org, Aug. 25, 2016

Jenny Schlecht, “Amnesty International to Observe Pipeline Protest,” bismarktribune.com, Aug. 24, 2016

Donald Trump, Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, 2015