Why Native Americans Are Protesting the North Dakota Pipeline

September 7th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Protests over the construction of an oil pipeline turned violent over the weekend, as members of a Native American tribe and opponents to the project clashed with private security guards in North Dakota. The protests are ongoing, but media coverage of the conflict has been limited, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said on Tuesday.

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"Where’s the mainstream media? On Saturday, the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they protested against the $3.8 billion pipeline's construction — but almost nothing of this has been shown or reported by mainstream media," Reich wrote in a Facebook post.

Reich continued:

"This is a big deal. Fights between oil extractors and Native Americans have been going on for a long time, but this one has united nearly 100 tribes from across the U.S. and Canada. And it's turning ugly. The public should be aware."

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg granted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's request to temporarily halt construction on part of the pipeline, but a spokesperson for the tribe said the action doesn't go far enough and "puts my people's sacred places at further risk of ruin and desecration."

The tribe also challenged the decision of federal regulators to grant a permit to Dakota Access for the four-state pipeline, and the judge is expected to rule on the challenge by Friday, the Associated Press reports.

Why are people protesting the oil pipeline?

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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its allies argue that the pipeline, which will stretch across four states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois), is allegedly being constructed in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. There are also concerns that the pipeline will contaminate water supplies and harm sacred sites.

Protestors descended on a construction site near Lake Oahe, North Dakota, on Saturday amid accusations that bulldozers were disrupting land "of great historic and cultural significance to the tribe," Attorney Jan Hasselman, who filed a lawsuit challenging the pipeline, said in a statement. Tribe members said the construction site was a burial ground and requested time to rebury relatives.

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