Money pour­ing in for anti-pipe­line protest, but how long will it last?

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Regina Gar­cia Cano

CAN­NON BALL, N.D. >> The crowd­sourc­ing goal was mod­est: $5,000, enough to help a few dozen peo­ple camp­ing in North Dakota to protest the nearby con­struc­tion of the four-state Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line. The fund has since topped a stag­ger­ing $1 mil­lion.

The fund is among sev­eral cash streams that have pro­vided at least $3 mil­lion to help with le­gal costs, food and other sup­plies to those op­pos­ing the nearly 1,200-mile pipe­line. It may also give pro­test­ers the abil­ity to pro­long their months-long en­camp­ments that have at­tracted thou­sands of sup­port­ers, as the Stand­ing Rock Sioux Tribe pur­sues the fight in court.

And as the num­ber of protest-re­lated ar­rests in­creased this week, so did con­tri­bu­tions — the funds raked in more than $200,000 be­tween Thurs­day and Fri­day alone.

But demon­stra­tors are quick to note that the amount of money raised and what they have left isn’t the same.

“It still feels un­real some­times be­cause it is such an astro­nom­i­cal fig­ure to me,” said Ho Waste Wakiya Wi­casa, the pro­tester who set up the Go­FundMe ac­count that has raised more than $1 mil­lion mostly for oper­at­ing ex­penses at the camp, which took root in April.

“The money goes as quickly as it comes, but with­out it hav­ing been as much as it is, we cer­tainly wouldn’t have been able to be as pro­duc­tive as we have been in the fight,” he said.

For months now, op­po­nents of the $3.8 bil­lion pipe­line — which is slated to move oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a ship­ping point in Illi­nois — have been camp­ing near the con­flu­ence of the Mis­souri and Can­non­ball rivers. They worry the project will dis­rupt cul­tural ar­ti­facts and hurt drink­ing wa­ter sources on the Stand­ing Rock Sioux’s nearby reser­va­tion and far­ther down­stream be­cause the pipe­line will cross the Mis­souri River.

The Texas-based com­pany build­ing the pipe­line, En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners, in­sists the project is safe. The tribe is fight­ing the pipe­line’s per­mit­ting process in fed­eral court.

Since the num­ber of pro­test­ers soared in Au­gust in North Dakota, do­na­tions started rolling in more fre­quently and more than 400 peo­ple have been ar­rested — in­clud­ing more than 140 on Thurs­day when of­fi­cers evicted pro­test­ers camp­ing on pri­vate land re­cently ac­quired by En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners.

But run­ning a camp — and ready­ing it for North Dakota’s bru­tal win­ter — isn’t cheap. The ac­count Wi­casa set up has only about $100,000 left as of Fri­day night, ac­cord­ing to LaDonna Brave Bull Al­lard, a tribal his­to­rian and preser­va­tion em­ployee. She pro­vided fam­ily land for use in the orig­i­nal camp, Sa­cred Stone, in April and still houses demon­stra­tors.

The money has been used for gro­cery store trips ev­ery two days that cost about $2,000 each, 20 yurts pur­chased for $160,000, and around $7,000 for bail money. It has also paid for a stor­age area, com­post­ing toi­lets, tiny houses, te­pees, a med­i­cal area and gen­er­a­tors pow­ered by so­lar pan­els and wind.

A book­keeper and an ac­coun­tant now keep track of the crowd-sourced money.

“I got peo­ple to take care of,” Brave Bull Al­lard said. “I got to pro­vide homes for peo­ple and blan­kets, ther­mal wear, socks, hats and gloves, and food. Right now, we are feed­ing 670 peo­ple.”

One on­line le­gal de­fense fund has raised more than $655,000 for “the le­gal de­fense of war­riors pro­tect­ing land, wa­ter and hu­man rights.”

Mean­while, much of the money the tribe is us­ing for the le­gal fight is from at least $1.3 mil­lion in di­rect do­na­tions, tribal chair­man Dave Ar­cham­bault re­cently told The As­so­ci­ated Press. He de­clined to say how much tribal of­fi­cials have spent so far, say­ing that could give their op­po­nents an ad­van­tage in the le­gal case.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line pro­test­ers sit in a prayer cir­cle Thurs­day at the Front Line Camp as a line of law en­force­ment of­fi­cers make their way across the camp to re­move the pro­test­ers and re­lo­cate to the over­flow camp a few miles to the south on High­way 1806 in Mor­ton County, N.D..

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