The Washington Post Sunday
Cold feelings at Standing rock
Tepees and cars dot the snowcovered Sacred Stone Camp, near Cannon Ball, N.D., where people are making their voices heard about the Dakota Access Pipeline. To ensure peace between protesters and police, the U.S. government is dispatching mediators.
From across the country, they have come to this place called Cannon Ball. By the thousands. Native Americans and military veterans. Environmentalists. Police from nine states. Movie stars. Cattle ranchers and lumberjacks, college students and nurses, landscapers, investment bankers and a waitress from a Florida joint called Smokey Bones.
All have been drawn by a 30-inch steel pipe that, in the unlikely setting of a desolate North Dakota prairie, has become a powerful symbol of heritage and history, progress and oppression, indigenous rights and corporate might.
In America’s unsettled and angry winter of 2016, people on all sides of a fractious issue are here to make a stand and have their voices heard.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,170-mile, $3.8 billion project to carry oil extracted from rock through four states to refineries and pipeline networks in Illinois. It is more than 90 percent complete.
To its proponents, the pipeline represents America’s energy independence, jobs and a common-sense boost for the economy. What happens next also may offer an early glimpse of the presidency of Donald Trump, an outspoken advocate for removing environmental barriers to U.S. energy production — and an investor in an oil company that owns a 25 percent stake in the pipeline project.
To its opponents, the pipeline represents the latest chapter in the nation’s long history of disrespect and abuse of Native Americans. It runs within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, and tribal leaders argue that it threatens the drinking water for thousands of Native Americans and has caused the destruction of sacred artifacts and burial sites.
Since early 2016, protesters have occupied a federally owned site near the pipeline’s proposed crossing under the Missouri River. Now, nearly 2,000 are living in tents, tepees, yurts, RVs and cars. They are native and non-native, elderly and newborns. The camp has become so large and permanent that it has a book-swap library and a medical center.
More than 560 people have been arrested. Protesters claim police have brutalized them with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and water cannons. Police say they don’t possess many of those weapons and that protesters have instigated violence, pelting officers with rocks, bottles, burning logs and bags of urine and feces.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) and the Army Corps of Engineers have ordered protesters out of the camp, but they vow to remain.
With the first snows of a bleak North Dakota winter threatening, The Washington Post visited the area to record the personal accounts of people on all sides of an issue that is tearing at the American heartland.
Views from Standing Rock For more videos and photos from the prairie in North Dakota, visit wapo.st/standingrock