Native Americans from Wyoming, Colorado and as far as Oklahoma are pulling up by the busload to protest an oil pipeline in rural North Dakota.
Construction began near the Missouri River section of the 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline last week. This week, more than 1,500 protesters arrived at the border of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
“For two, years we’ve been holding them off, waiting for you to come. Now you’re here with us,” Jon Eagle Sr. told a cheering crowd at a protesters’ camp near the construction site.
The pipeline will carry more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois. It’s crossing under the Missouri River, just upstream of the reservation.
The concern over a potential spill prompted people like Tenille Bluebird of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux Reservation to join.
“If the oil comes through, there ain’t going to be no water,” she said.
Standing Rock and others downstream draw their drinking water from the river.
The tribe recently sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the project. The corps gave final approval for the pipeline in July.
Construction at the site is now halted. Law enforcement said some are carrying pipe bombs and guns. Twenty-eight protesters were arrested over the last week, including Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault. He’s urging protesters to comply with the law.
“We need to work together in peace,” he said.
A spokesperson for the pipeline said it’s an important energy infrastructure project that benefits Americans and the economy. She said she’s disappointed protesters were putting pipeline workers at risk.