And in North Dakota, indigenous activists gathered in the capital Bismarck Thursday to protest the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which they say would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River. The activists also responded to recent claims by Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier that there have been reports of weapons at Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier: “It’s turning into an unlawful protest with some of the things that have been done and has been compromised up to this point. We have had incidents and reports of weapons, of pipe bombs, of some shots fired.”
At Thursday’s protest, activists denounced the sheriff’s claims, saying their actions were nonviolent and there were no weapons at the camp. This is Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth.
Tara Houska: “People are here to stand in prayer with love in their hearts, because this is our children, this is our children’s children. Water is life. Without water, we cannot exist. And everything that we’re doing is in peace. It is really just to protect. We are not protesters, we are protectors. I’ve seen a lot of prayers, a lot of—you know, there’s dancing, there’s singing. People are doing actions, direct actions, but at the same time, everything is peaceful. Everything that we’re doing is with one goal, and that’s to stop this pipeline from contaminating the river and harming an entire people and every single person that’s along it.”
More than a thousand indigenous activists from dozens of different tribes across the country have traveled to the spirit camp. The protests have so far shut down construction along parts of the pipeline. This comes as, on Thursday, activists from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota reported experiencing traffic checkpoints manned by state and local police who stopped cars to look for tribal members planning to travel to North Dakota. Activists said more than 100 cars were stopped, and those suspected of heading toward the protest were turned back. Click here to see our interview with indigenous activists Winona LaDuke and Joye Braun.