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A floating caravan of boats from Pacific Northwest tribes were welcomed by whoops of encouragement as they arrived at the Sacred Stone Camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. A helicopter hovered above as the boaters made landfall.
Just hours before, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple activated the state’s National Guard to help provide security along with local law enforcement in areas where the protesters and construction crews cross paths.
“Public safety has always been and continues to be paramount,” Dalrymple said at a press conference. “We must make sure that peace is maintained.”
The increasing tension has tribal leaders urging calm.
“We’re here to stand strong with unity and prayer and when we do that that’s a lot more powerful than if we do something that’s irresponsible,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault.
Both sides — the tribe and the company backing the Dakota Access Pipeline construction– have vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling if the decision is not in their favor. The ruling will determine whether the Army Corps of Engineers violated a section of the National Historic Preservation Act that calls for consultation with tribes prior to any development that may affect tribal lands. The tribe claims construction has already disturbed culturally significant sites.
Meanwhile, supporters of the project insist modern technology makes the Dakota Access Pipeline the safest way to transport oil compared to trucks or trains cars. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness says the development is also a good way to generate tax revenue for the state. He says even if the tribe manages to stop the pipeline in court, development of the oil is inevitable.
“This oil’s going to get produced, there’s absolutely no question,” Ness said. “This oil’s being produced today. I think the pipleline continues.”
If it’s built, the Dakota Access Pipeline would transfer more than a half million barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois.
By Jenni Monet