CANNON BALL, SOUTH DAKOTA – The debate over the Dakota Access Pipeline is taking place on several fronts, including two courtrooms and work sites near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. In Washington D.C. on Tuesday, a federal judge granted only a partial stop on the North Dakota pipeline work. U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled the company must halt construction on a portion of land where he believes the Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction. The Standing Rock chairman expressed disappointment the scope of the order does not cover the main area requested by the tribe.
The judge’s ruling stems from excavation work the previous weekend in an area tribal officials say is culturally and historically significant. The work prompted confrontations between activists and security guards hired by Dakota Access, LLP, the company building the $3.7 billion pipeline. The guards used dogs and pepper spray against dozens of people who scaled a fence in an attempt to stop the construction work.
Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said the partial denial of the restraining order puts the tribe’s sacred places at further risk of ruin and undermines tribal sovereignty.
“We are disappointed that the U.S. District Court’s decision does not prevent (the Dakota Access Pipeline) from destroying our sacred sites as we await a ruling on our original motion to stop construction of the pipeline,” Archambault said in a written release. The judge is expected to rule by Friday on whether federal officials adequately consulted with tribes before issuing permits to build the pipeline.
Meanwhile, support for the protest continues to pour in from other tribes, celebrities and political figures. The Canadian Assembly of First Nations issued a statement condemning what it calls the pipeline company’s “human rights violations.” The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues calls on the U.S. government to provide a “fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process” to resolve the issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein faces possible charges for spray-painting pipeline construction equipment. Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne promised to donate proceeds from a recent album to the tribes opposing the pipeline.
Meanwhile the company building the pipeline accuses the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of encouraging “illegal conduct” by protesters. In a court filing this week, Dakota Access, LLP said protesters have broken fences, trespassed on private land and issued threats of physical violence against construction workers and other employees.
By Jenni Monet