Native Americans Are Barred From Disrupting Oil Pipeline Construction

A North Dakota federal court ordered Native American protesters Wednesday to stop blocking the construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline set to cross four states and major rivers, a Sioux official said.

The restraining order comes as construction at the site has been suspended following days of protests.

“The tribe is committed to doing all it can to make sure the demonstrations … are done in the right way,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in a call with reporters Wednesday. “As we have said from the beginning, demonstrations regarding Dakota Access must be peaceful.”

On Monday, workers were instructed to leave their equipment after protesters walked onto the work site and surrounded machinery, the Bismarck Tribune reported. That same day the pipeline developer, Dakota Access, filed a lawsuit against the Standing Rock Sioux reservation alleging worker and law enforcement safety was at risk.

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The so-called Bakken pipeline, a line about as long as the proposed Keystone XL, is set to cut through the Dakotas, Iowa, and Illinois diagonally. Owned by a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, every day the line will transport up to 570,000 barrels of sweet crude oil fracked from North Dakota’s oil-rich Bakken Formation, to a market hub near Patoka, Illinois.

Most of the affected land is private farmland, but the project does run through wildlife areas and sacred Native American sites, as well as major drinking water sources like the Mississippi, and the Missouri, the longest river in North America. Federal agencies have said the Bakken pipeline avoids “critical habitat,” and developers have assured states the pipeline is safe. Critics, on the other hand, consider the Bakken pipeline an unreasonable threat and say the line is poised to leak.

Iowa was the last state to bless the pipeline earlier this year after much opposition from environmentalists, Native Americans, and some farmers who ended up suing state regulators. Then last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established paths to avoid sacred sites and approved the last set of permits developers needed to build. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe countered with a lawsuit against the agency to challenge the permits. A hearing is set for next week.

“The pipeline presents a threat to our land, our sacred sites, our water and to the people,” said Archambault, who has reached out to the White House and North Dakota senators. “Our basic message is that the Corps of Engineers has failed to follow the law and has failed to consider the impacts of the pipeline on Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”

Archambault was among several protesters charged late last week with disorderly conduct or trespassing at a construction site located near where the Cannonball and Missouri rivers meet, according to published reports. Law officials first started detaining people Thursday, some two days after the protest began.

As the weekend progressed, the protest grew in size and attention with celebrities like actresses Shailene Woodley, Rosario Dawson, and Riley Keough voicing their opposition. In fact, Woodley, 24, was in the protest last week , the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“It is our responsibility to learn the narrative in which Native Americans recall their own history and are walking their own history, and this is a beautiful opportunity for that,” said Woodley, according Look to the Stars, a celebrity news site. “Not only are we saying enough is enough to the fossil-fuel industry but we’re saying enough is enough to silence. That’s why this fight is so profound to me.”

Though a restraining order is in place, the protest is likely to continue further away from the site.

The Bakken pipeline is scheduled to be operational by the end of the year.