By BLAKE NICHOLSON / Associated Press
American Indians from across the country are bringing their frustrations with the Trump administration and its approval of the Dakota Access oil pipeline to the nation’s capital Tuesday, kicking off four days of activities that will culminate in a march on the White House.
Tribal members and supporters plan to camp each day on the National Mall, with teepees, a ceremonial fire, cultural workshops and speakers. Native American leaders also plan to lobby lawmakers to protect tribal rights.
“We are calling on all our Native relatives and allies to rise with us,” said Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. “We must march against injustice. Native nations cannot continue to be pushed aside to benefit corporate interests and government whim.”
On Friday, the 2-mile “Native Nations March on DC” will lead participants from the Army Corps of Engineers office to a rally near the White House. Organizers said they expect thousands of people to take part.
The White House referred a request for comment to the Interior Department. That department referred the inquiry to the Corps, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The protest comes as a federal judge in Washington weighs a request by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to halt construction of the last section of the Dakota Access pipeline pending the outcomes of their lawsuit to stop the project. The tribes say that section of the pipeline, which will pass under Lake Oahe, a large Missouri River reservoir, will threaten their water supply, sacred sites and religious rights. The judge is expected to rule this week.
The march Friday will begin at the Army Corps of Engineers office because the agency manages the Missouri River and last month gave the pipeline developer, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, permission to finish the project. The company expects to wrap up the work and have oil flowing this month.
The two tribes say they weren’t properly consulted about the pipeline route, which the government disputes. They also maintain their treaty rights were violated when the government changed its mind about conducting further environmental studies of the Lake Oahe crossing after President Donald Trump took office in January.
“This fight against the Dakota Access pipeline has been the tip of the spear of a powerful global movement calling for the United States government and Donald Trump to respect indigenous nations and people in our right to water, land, sovereignty, and culture,” said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.