Sheriff mistook sacred pipes for pipe bombs at pipeline protest site

Tribal citizens at the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site near Cannonball, North Dakota. Photo courtesy Arlo Iron Cloud

Protests at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline have been peaceful but tensions with law enforcement and officials in the state of North Dakota are flaring.

The state on Monday removed water trailers from the site near Cannonball, The Fargo Forum reports. That means the thousands who have flocked to the Camp of the Sacred Stones and nearby areas have lost their main drinking water supply.

“I feel like I just got shot down,” Johnelle Leingang, the emergency response coordinator for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which had requested the trailers, told the paper. “It’s very hurtful.”

According to the state's Homeland Security Division, the water trailers were pulled due to safety concerns. Also removed were two air-conditioned trailers and a command center vehicle, The Forum reported.

Upwards of 2,000 tribal activists and supporters are at the campsite at any given time and hundreds more have been coming in and out as tribes from the Great Plains and even further away send delegations there. While the demonstration has been peaceful, some 28 people have been arrested, The Lakota Country Times reported.

Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County has been largely responsible for law enforcement at the site and he has accused protesters of shooting guns, carrying weapons and even threatening to use pipe bombs against his officers. But tribal members told The New York Times that the "bombs" were mistaken for sacred Chanunpa pipes used in ceremonies.

“This is our homeland,” Phyllis Young, a Standing Rock Sioux citizen, told The Times. “We are Dakota. Dakota means friend or ally. Dakota Access has taken our name.”

Dakota Access LLC, the partnership behind the pipeline, has secured a temporary restraining order against Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II and several others that prevents them from interfering with construction at the site. Archambault was among those arrested on Friday, August 12, by the county sheriff. Additional arrests followed last week, The Lakota Country Times reported.

Dakota Access was scheduled to go back to court in North Dakota this Thursday to argue for a preliminary injunction against Archambault and the other protesters. But Judge Daniel L. Hovland delayed he hearing after the parties agreed to extend the temporary restraining order.

"The parties are strongly encouraged to meet and confer in good faith in an attempt to resolve this dispute prior to the hearing on September 8, 2016," Hovland wrote in an order on Monday.

The hearing is now scheduled for 2:30pm on September 8 in Courtroom 1 at the federal courthouse in Bismarck.

That case is separate from the one that was filed in Washington, D.C. A hearing on the tribe's motion for preliminary injunction is taking place on Wednesday at 2pm in Courtroom 19, on the 6th floor, of the federal courthouse.

The tribe filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers for approving the pipeline. Dakota Access LLC has been allowed to intervene to defend the projects as has the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would start in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota before crossing into South Dakota. From there the route goes through Iowa -- where the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Meskwaki Tribe have raised objections.

The pipeline path ends in Illinois and backers say it would carry about 470,000 barrels a day. It has the capacity to carry up to 570,000 barrels a day or even more, according to Dakota Access.

The pipeline does not directly cross any reservations but it goes through territories ceded by tribes through treaties and it comes within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. It also goes through historic tribal sites, including a burial ground in the northwest part of Iowa.

Read More on the Story:
As pipeline protest grows, state pulls water tanks (The Fargo Forum 8/23)
Occupying the Prairie: Tensions Rise as Tribes Move to Block a Pipeline (The New York Times 8/23)
Oil Pipeline Project to Remain Stalled at Missouri River (The Wall Street Journal 8/23)
Judge rules landowners didn’t follow process in lawsuit over pipeline (Radio Iowa 8/23)
Tribal members gather at Morton meeting (The Bismarck Tribune 8/22)
Protesters anxiously await temporary injunction ruling to halt construction of Dakota Access Pipeline (KFYR 8/22)
Update on Dakota Access Pipeline protests (Minnesota Public Radio 8/22)
Water Is Life, Oil Is Death: The People vs. the Bakken Pipeline in Iowa and the Dakotas (Truth Dig 8/22)

Some Opinions:
MIKE JACOBS: Pipeline protest shows new dimension in North Dakota politics (The Grand Forks Herald 8/23)
RON NESS: Protests are impeding pipeline progress, safety (The Grand Forks Herald 8/23)
Rob Port: Dakota Access protesters need turn toward honesty (The Dickinson Press 8/22)

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