Duluthians take a stand at Standing Rock
Thousands of Native Americans have established a tent city on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Cannon Ball, N.D., to stop a controversial oil pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners is building the 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline through the area, but protesters say it poses a danger to water and the environment.
The matter has become an internationally celebrated cause with supporters from around the world traveling to the area to bring supplies and show solidarity. Many Duluthians have undertaken the 18-hour round-trip drive.
Lisa Herthel, who grew up in Duluth but is from the Sokaogon (Mole Lake) Band in Wisconsin, headed out in a van Sept. 19 along with family and friends. She described the camp as "very peaceful" with everyone working together to prepare communal meals. There was a prayer breakfast every morning, "the sort of thing they did 50 years ago but today we forget about," she said.
Amanda Hansen, who took a few days off from her waitressing job and traveled in the van with Herthel, had a similarly tranquil experience, in which the big crisis was tracking down the owner of a lost kitten. Still she doesn't lose sight of the big picture. "It's about protecting the water more than anything else," she said. She plans to return soon, hauling a firewood-processing machine on loan from a former employer.
"It's amazing out there," said Madeline Nelson, another Duluthian who visited the camp. "All these people from all over the world have created a community that is highly functioning. A lot of people go out there to learn more. People who don't know a lot go out there to listen."
Reyna Crow had a less mellow experience when she visited the area over Labor Day weekend, when things got violent. "I don't know if it was mace or pepper spray but I was one of the people who caught it in the face," she said.
On Sept. 3 the pipeline company brought in bulldozers and a private security company. As protesters approached the bulldozers, guards used pepper spray and dogs. Both sides reported injuries. On Sept. 9, President Obama announced a halt on construction until the pipeline's effect on the environment could be further assessed.
But the issue is far from over and campers are settling in for the long haul. "It's going to be a really tough winter, really cold with a lot of wind," Herthel said. A list of needed supplied can be found at sacredstonecamp.org.
Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer, said in a Sept. 13 statement, "Concerns about the pipeline's impact on the local water supply are unfounded. Multiple pipelines, railways, and highways cross the Missouri River today, carrying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil. Dakota Access was designed with tremendous safety factors and redundancies, including compliance with and exceeding all safety and environmental regulations."
As of the Budgeteer's deadline, matters have flared up again with 21 protesters arrested on Sept. 28.