NORTH DAKOTA — Standing Rock Camp in North Dakota has swollen to hold several thousand people since people there looking to protect the Missouri River from Dakota Access Pipeline project clashed with their private security forces on Saturday.
The Standing Rock Reservation is located downstream of the site where the pipeline is set to be tunneled under the Missouri River. Camp members say they are concerned about leakage because the Missouri is their only source of water.
Linda Black Elk, who has been living in the camp is an ecologist and ethnobiologist with Sitting Bull College and has been actively involved with water protection efforts.
She says forms filed on Friday by archaeologist Tim Ment, documented 27 burial and prayer sites that were in the line of bulldozers who began plowing through the very next day.
“Friday, the papers were filed. On Saturday, we were sitting in camp. We were all just sitting in camp, having a good time. That is what that camp is for, for us to unify, and to visit, and to talk about issues, and things like that. All of a sudden, the women started going around saying, ‘they’re digging up those graves,’ and no one could believe it at first,” Black Elk said.
“We’re like, ‘who is digging those up?’ And we all ran up there, and it was actually an amazing sight because, young men ran up there on horses. Some people were so desperate, they took off there on foot. The fence was still there, and a security guard came up and just wafted the whole crowd, on the other side of the fence with pepper spray, and you can see that on the footage too,” she continued.
The incident that ensued escalated until security forces brought out dogs that reportedly bit people in the crowd. Dakota Access personnel left shortly after.
“We’ve been protesting for weeks now. The Standing Rock Tribal Chairman called for peaceful protectors to come out and help us protect the water, and help us to protect the land, and people answered that call. I get goosebumps just talking about it right now. This is the first time in hundreds of years that we all have come together,” Black Elk said.
A federal judge is expected to make a decision late this week, on the injunction filed by the Stand Rock Sioux Tribe against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is the primary federal agency responsible for issuing construction permits to Dakota Access, according to the tribe’s legal representation, Earthjustice.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a temporary restraining order on Sunday, to stop the Dakota Access from bulldozing further.
The University of Montana School of Journalism had people in the camp over the weekend. Professor Jason Begay and two students told MTN News that what they witnessed in camp was different than what they had read in news media.
“The biggest lesson I think that we’re learning is that there is a huge difference between reading about, and watching news about, and actually being here,” Begay said.
Montana Journalism Review Multi Media Editor Olivia Vanni shared some photos with MTN News. The group visited the camp for the first time Saturday with Vanni saying the camp was organized and peaceful.
When the protesters came back from their organized walk to view the site of the pipeline construction, she was surprised to hear about the violence that happened there Saturday.
“We were in the camp all day, and we felt totally safe. We had no idea this was even going on. We were just doing our interviews and people start coming back saying, ‘we were maced, there were dogs.’ There was no panic in the camp, we had no idea, nothing like that,” recalled Vanni.
Vanni says the people are working to set up a school, a sign the protesters have no plans of leaving anytime soon.