Native Americans take oil pipeline protests to White House

Hundreds marched to a park across the White House to protest the controversial pipeline that threatens the Missouri River, and cuts across indigenous land. Protesters emphasised the need to “protect water for future generations.”

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

An indigenous activist waves an upside down US flag with an image of historic Native American leader Sitting Bull on it during a protest rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines in front of the White House.

Native American groups marched to the White House on Friday against the construction of a controversial oil pipeline, which they fear could desecrate tribal lands and threaten drinking water.

Chanting "water is life" and shouting out tribal calls, a circle of dancers beat on drums in protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, part of which runs through lands inhabited by indigenous groups.

The protest follows months of demonstrations in a remote part of North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe demonstrated in an attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing upstream from their reservation.

That pipeline is being installed now, after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month smoothing the path for construction. He also cleared the way for the Keystone XL project that would pipe Canadian crude into the United States.

Slushy snow fell as more than 500 demonstrators marched through the capital before rallying in a park across from the White House, many wearing traditional dress and feathered headdresses and draped in colourful printed blankets.

"The government is violating our public right to clean water," Sarah Jumping Eagle, 44, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, said.

TRT World’s Jennifer Glasse attended the rally in Washington DC.

Fighting for water

A physician, Jumping Eagle arrived in Washington late Thursday after making the long trek from North Dakota, where Native Americans and their supporters camped out for nearly a year, physically blocking construction at the site and drawing international attention. She travelled to the capital with a group of fellow demonstrators to show her concern over the potential for oil spills and contamination from the nearly-completed construction project.

"We know that we have to protect the water for future generations," she said, the aroma of burning sage used for tribal prayers wafting through the chilly air.

"People are tired of the government not listening to us and not listening to the word of the people," she added. "They are supposed to represent us and not corporations."

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their backers say the pipeline threatens the Missouri River and the Lake Oahe reservoir, a key drinking water source.

They also worry about the impact on nearby sacred lands.

"We face a lot of obstacles," Standing Rock chairman David Archambault told the rally. "But we are not defeated. We are not going to be the victims."


TRTWorld and agencies