APTN National News
Hundreds of U.S. veterans are headed to North Dakota to bolster the ranks of demonstrators, known as water protectors, who remain in camps on both sides of Cannonball River and are girding for renewed actions against the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to former Congressional candidate turned grassroots leader Chase Iron Eyes.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday revealed in filings with the U.S. Federal Court it planned to grant the pipeline an easement to construct beneath Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River from where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe draws its water.
The Army Corps said in letters filed with the court that the easement could be granted as early as tomorrow evening and that the agency would immediately terminate a planned environmental review of the project.
The pipeline is being constructed by a subsidiary of Houston-based Energy Transfer Partners. Bloomberg reported Energy Transfer Partners stock shot up by 0.8 per cent on news the $3.8 billion US pipeline, which begins in the Bakken fields of North Dakota, crosses through South Dakota and Iowa before ending in Patoka, Ill., was set for completion.
Iron Eyes said about 400 people remain on the north side of the Cannonball River near the pipeline’s path and another 800 to 1,000 people are currently camped on the south side of the waterway which cuts along the northern edge of the Standing Rock reservation.
“We are calling on all people who can come and help defend our constitutionals rights, our human rights, and our civil rights in a peaceful and dignified manner to join us,” he said.
Iron Eyes said another group of about 1,000 veterans were also headed to the area.
“Drilling could theoretically begin very quickly,” said Iron Eyes, in a telephone interview from Kamloops, B.C., where he was speaking at a conference. “Everyone is on edge.”
The conference held at the Thompson Rivers University was titled, Standing Rock to Secwepemcul’ecw: Pipeline resistance north and south of the medicine line.
Iron Eyes said pipeline opponents on site at the protest camps were prepared to face “live ammo or less lethal ammo” and will take matters to “whatever level is necessary” short of armed insurrection.
“We are all together and we will make a peaceful and dignified stand even in the face of corporate-sponsored state violence,” said Iron Eyes. “There are people who are committed. We are not armed. This is a different strategy.”
Previously filed court records revealed North Dakota law enforcement were prepared to use live ammunition against the water protectors during the battle of Backwater Bridge last November if the police barricades had been breached.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault issued a statement Tuesday evening asking people not to travel to the reservation or the adjacent anti-pipeline camps.
He said actions should be focused on Washington D.C. while the tribe continued its battle against the U.S. government in the courts to overturn the Army Corps decision to grant the easement.
“Please respect our people and do not come to Standing Rock and instead exercise your First Amendment rights and take this fight to your respective state capitols, to your members of Congress and to Washington D.C.” he said. “We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the (administration of U.S. President Donald Trump)….”
“This pipeline was unfairly rerouted across our treaty lands. The Trump administration—yet again—is poised to set a precedent that defies the law and the will of Americans and our allies around the world.”
The tribe’s lawyer Jan Hasselman said in the statement that the Army Corps could not currently grant the easement “legally.” Even if the pipeline began to pump oil, the tribe would be pushing legal action to shut the operation down, said the statement.
“As Native peoples we have been knocked down again, but we will get back up, we will rise above the greed and corruption that has plagued our peoples since first contact,” said Archambault.
Army Corps court filing
Standing Rock’s opposition to the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline sparked a continent-wide movement which triggered the largest gathering of Native American tribes in modern history.
At one point, a resistance camp called the Oceti Sakowin camp, which was set up just over the reservation’s northern boundary, grew to a population of nearly 10,000 people.
It’s unclear what impact demonstrations could have on the pipeline at this point. The project has already reached both banks of Lake Oahe. The drill site by the lake’s edge is heavily fortified with concertina wire, trenches and walls.
On Dec. 4, 2016, fireworks exploded in the Oceti Sakowin camp after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not grant an easement for the pipeline and would instead explore alternate routes for the project. Then, four days after his Jan. 20 inauguration, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum directing the Army Corps to allow the completion of the pipeline.
On Jan. 31, Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, directed officials to comply with the presidential directive and review the matter of the easement, according to the court record. On Feb. 3, the Army Corps issued a memorandum following a legal and technical review which concluded there was no reason it should not grant the easement.
“Those who said the declaration of victory on Dec. 4 was a complete, utterly false and hollow lie are being vindicated,” said Iron Eyes. “Other people declared victory and asked people to go home.”
Over 500 people have been arrested over the past several months as a result of demonstrations against the pipeline, including Iron Eyes who is facing a charge of inciting a riot and a possible jail sentence of up to five years.