This weekend was eventful for water protectors battling the Dakota Access Pipeline—or the Black Snake, as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe often calls it. Construction continues in North Dakota despite the federal government’s request on October 10 for Energy Transfer, the company behind the pipeline, to pause construction 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe.
In two days, from North Dakota to Iowa, there were arrests, construction was halted and some battles were won, others lost by the activists.
Saturday, October 22
Water protectors in Morton County, North Dakota, near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, arrived dawn to pray on an occupied construction site, in order to protect their sacred burial grounds. At least two Morton County Sheriff’s Department officers were on site by 6:30 a.m. CT, as seen in the video below.
Water protectors also locked themselves to cars and blocked roads, according to alternative news outlet Unicorn Riot, which has been following the North Dakota actions closely since April 1, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe launched its first camp against the 1,172-mile long pipeline. The Sacred Stone Camp Facebook page estimates that approximately 200 water protectors were marching—including young children and elders.
By 10:30 a.m., Unicorn Riot estimates that close to 100 police, some in riot gear, were on the scene with helicopters and armored vehicles. In a statement sent to Colorlines, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said that out-of-state law enforcement agencies joined them.
Though officers didn’t shoot, they pointed their firearms toward the group of marchers. They also pepper sprayed the group, which can be seen in several videos posted to the Sacred Stone Camp Facebook page. Police began arresting people on trespassing charges, throwing some to the ground. The total number of arrests on Saturday were 127, including members of the media.
Archambault II expressed disappointment in North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple for failing “to ensure the safety and rights of the citizens engaged in peaceful protests who were arrested on Saturday.” He called on the Department of Justice to “impose an injunction to all developments at the pipeline site to keep ALL citizens—law enforcement and protestors—safe.”
Sunday, October 23
Law enforcement officers shot down private drones using rubber bullets near camps contesting the Dakota Access. Unicorn Riot reports that water protectors were using the drones for media purposes.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department released a statement yesterday (October 23) stating that a drone “flew at a helicopter in a threatening manner.”
“The FAA has strict guidelines and regulations governing the use of drones around unprotected people and manned aircraft,” said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier in the statement. “The drones being operated near the local protests and the camps south of Mandan generally are not being operated within the regulations. Reports of drones not being operated within the FAA guidelines or in a reckless and unsafe manner are being investigated and forwarded to the Morton County States Attorney’s office.”
Earlier that day, at approximately 8 a.m. CT, water protectors set up their winter camp in unceded territory, which they say is affirmed in an 1851 treaty as belonging to the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires (the proper name for the Sioux). Energy Transfer owns this property, where the pipeline’s final three miles is set to run before it heads beneath the Missouri River, a source of drinking water for Standing Rock. Water protecters blockaded three roads to prevent militarized police from entering their camp.
“We have never ceded this land,” said Joye Braun, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, in an online statement. “If DAPL can go through and claim eminent domain on landowners and Native peoples on their own land, then we as sovereign nations can then declare eminent domain on our own aboriginal homeland. We are here to protect the burial sites here. Highway 1806 has become the no surrender line.”
Meanwhile, in Lee County, Iowa, allies with Mississippi Stand, a group dedicated to protecting the Mississippi River from the Dakota Access Pipeline, held a “funeral procession” for lives lost to the oil industry. Its Facebook page states that more than 20 cars took part, with more than 50 water protectors riding, as seen below.
This same group conducted a lockdown on a road that pipeline vehicles use to access a pit where they allegedly dump toxic sludge from their work on Dakota Access. At least four officers were on the scene, as seen in a video posted to the Mississippi Stand Facebook page.
No arrests were reported, and, as of this morning, the group confirmed via Facebook that no work will be occurring at the site in Iowa.
To continue following actions in North Dakota and Iowa, follow #NoDAPL on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the group’s Facebook pages.