BISMARCK – Tear gas and dogs were used by private guards to attack Native Americans trying to protect burial grounds from Labor Day weekend destruction by Dakota Access Pipeline bulldozers. Six people were bitten, and about 30 sprayed. One guard and two dogs were taken in for medical treatment, as the crowd dispersed quietly once law enforcement arrived.
Energy Transfer Partners is under fire from all sides as it tries to force its way across the prairie to construct the quasi-legal pipeline. Demonstrators have been camped out since April in protest of the damaging and possibly illegal construction.
The line is planned to go under the Missouri River, threatening the only water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal land. An original pipeline route proposal was rejected for posing exactly the same kind of water source threat to the city of Bismarck, ND.
On Saturday, Dakota Access came in and bulldozed both a sacred site and a grave site before the ND Preservation Office could get there to evaluate, after learning that the paper work and survey had been properly submitted to the court on Friday.
“This demolition is devastating” said Tribal Chairman David Archambault in a press release. “These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”
The Army Corps of Engineers approved the pipeline without holding public hearings, as required by the Federal Historic Preservation Act. The route also comes close to protected eagle nesting grounds.
Without proper environmental clearance and ignoring treaties that require consultation with affected Native American tribes, Energy Transfer Partners has managed to sidestep many of the legal safeguards that are meant to protect U.S. citizens from the harm of corporate land projects.
Representatives from Native American groups across the nation have now gathered in support. It is the first time since the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn that all seven council fires of the Great Sioux Nation have camped together.
The encampment, Sacred Stone Camp, now has several thousand people in residence, and they have taken careful steps to provide food, sanitation, and even a school for the growing group.
This protest is completely legal, and organizations as diverse as the National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty International, and Black Lives Matter have spoken out in support.
“We’re days away from getting a resolution on the legal issues, and they came in on a holiday weekend and destroyed the site,” said Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “What they have done is absolutely outrageous.”