The construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which is proposed to cut through four northern states, has been halted by the Native Americans whose sacred burial grounds the pipeline is planned to cross. Protesters have managed to hold off the continuation of the construction until at least later this week, as tempers flared when they physically prevented the bulldozers from removing the topsoil along the pipeline's route.
The situation in North Dakota reached boiling point over the weekend, as protesters clashed with security personnel in a dramatic fashion. Hundreds of protestors moved to block the construction of the pipeline on sacred burial grounds and prayer sites in North Dakota, which private security guards with dogs hired by the construction company attempted to counter. Eventually the situation reached tipping point, as the protesters say a total of six people were injured by the dogs, while the County Sheriff recorded four guards and two dogs being harmed.
Disagreement continues as the Native Americans of the region, primarily from the Lakota and Dakota reservations, claim that the $3.8 billion oil pipeline – which would carry oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Illinois – cuts through burial grounds and prayer sites. It has led to the local Standing Rock Sioux tribe, in addition to other neighboring tribes and environmentalists, to launch determined protests to halt its construction. In addition, others claim that with the pipeline crossing regionally important rivers, it puts the water supply for many people at dire risk.
Dozens of protesters were doused with pepper spray, including children, and six individuals were apparently bitten by dogs used by the security guards to prevent people from accessing the site. The pipeline was meant to be operational as early as the final quarter of this year, but the protests in North Dakota have been so vociferous, construction has been continually delayed.
It is not, however, quite the victory the Native American tribes may have been hoping for, as the cessation in construction is only until Friday, when the federal government will announce their ruling on the pipeline and its proposed route. If they rule in favor of the tribes, then it would require the US Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their permits for the pipeline. Not only that, but Reuters reports that the halt in construction is only taking place in some but not all of the regions where the tribes say burial grounds are located.