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Standing Rock’s pipeline protest swells into a movement

CANNON BALL, North Dakota — A Native American tribe’s efforts to halt construction of a crude oil pipeline in North Dakota have swelled into a movement, drawing international attention and the support of movie stars and social media, and making a major oil company blink.

While the tribe’s lawyers work to persuade a federal judge to withdraw permits for the pipeline in a ruling expected on Friday, thousands of protesters gathered at campgrounds near Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lands.

While the tribe’s lawyers work to persuade a federal judge to withdraw permits for the pipeline in a ruling expected on Friday, thousands of protesters gathered at campgrounds near Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lands.

“This is a new beginning, not just for our tribe, but for all tribes in this country,” said Standing Rock Sioux spokesman Ron His Horse is Thunder, one of the leaders hoping for a rebirth of Native American activism beyond the pipeline battle.

“This is a new beginning, not just for our tribe, but for all tribes in this country,” said Standing Rock Sioux spokesman Ron His Horse is Thunder, one of the leaders hoping for a rebirth of Native American activism beyond the pipeline battle.Representatives of 200 tribes and environmentalists have set up camp in the rolling hills near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers in

Representatives of 200 tribes and environmentalists have set up camp in the rolling hills near the confluence of the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers in sight of the proposed pipeline route.They say the planned pipeline, near but not on tribal land, runs through a sacred burial ground and could leak, polluting nearby rivers and poisoning the tribe’s water source.

They say the planned pipeline, near but not on tribal land, runs through a sacred burial ground and could leak, polluting nearby rivers and poisoning the tribe’s water source.

The 1,100 mile (1,770 km), $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline would carry oil from just north of the tribe’s land in North Dakota to Illinois, where it would hook up to an existing pipeline and route crude directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.Protesters have included actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who authorities say is part of a group under investigation for illegally spray-painting construction equipment at the site.

Protesters have included actress Shailene Woodley and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who authorities say is part of a group under investigation for illegally spray-painting construction equipment at the site.

“Our indigenous people have been warning for 500 years that the destruction of Mother Earth is going to come back and it’s going to harm us,” said David Archambault, tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux. “Now our voices are getting louder.”On Tuesday, U.S. Judge James Boasberg granted in part the tribe’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the

On Tuesday, U.S. Judge James Boasberg granted in part the tribe’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop the project, and said he would decide by Friday whether to grant the larger challenge to the pipeline, which would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permits.Protesters were disappointed that the judge did not shut down construction altogether, but savored a small win when the group of companies building the pipeline, led by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners through its Dakota Access subsidiary, agreed to stop some work until the final ruling.

Protesters were disappointed that the judge did not shut down construction altogether, but savored a small win when the group of companies building the pipeline, led by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners through its DakotaAccess subsidiary, agreed to stop some work until the final ruling.

Access subsidiary, agreed to stop some work until the final ruling.
The pipeline was fast-tracked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year, but the project has been dogged by protests since April.It was envisioned as a safer way to transport highly flammable oil extracted from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada than on trains.

It was envisioned as a safer way to transport highly flammable oil extracted from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada than on trains.In June, a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in Oregon, forcing the evacuation of a school and the closure of a highway. In 2013, a runaway train in Canada crashed, killing 47 people and destroying buildings in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.

In June, a Union Pacific train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in Oregon, forcing the evacuation of a school and the closure of a highway. In 2013, a runaway train in Canada crashed, killing 47 people and destroying buildings in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic.

DIGGING IN FOR THE LONG HAUL

The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is one of six reservations in the Dakotas that are all that remain of what was once the Great Sioux Reservation, which comprised all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, including the Black Hills, which are considered sacred, according to the tribe’s website.The tribe has 15,000 members in the United States including as many as 8,000 in North and South Dakota. The reservation covers about 9,300 square miles (24,087 square km).

The tribe has 15,000 members in the United States including as many as 8,000 in North and South Dakota. The reservation covers about 9,300 square miles (24,087 square km).At campsites dotted with white tepees and colorful tents, many people prepared for the long haul.

At campsites dotted with white tepees and colorful tents, many people prepared for the long haul.”People are ready to stay through winter,” said Allyson Two Bears, who sits on the tribe’s emergency response team.

“People are ready to stay through winter,” said Allyson Two Bears, who sits on the tribe’s emergency response team.Members of an Ojibwe tribe are helping to erect lodges capable of withstanding North Dakota cold, and people from as far away as London and South Korea have joined the protest, signing their names to a map at the campsite.

Members of an Ojibwe tribe are helping to erect lodges capable of withstanding North Dakota cold, and people from as far away as London and South Korea have joined the protest, signing their names to a map at the campsite.The tribe has also enlisted the help of online petition website Change.org, which helped it gather more than 250,000 signatures on a petition to stop the pipeline. Youth members of the tribe aged 6 to 25 ran a relay race from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to deliver the petitions.

The tribe has also enlisted the help of online petition website Change.org, which helped it gather more than 250,000 signatures on a petition to stop the pipeline. Youth members of the tribe aged 6 to 25 ran a relay race from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., to deliver the petitions.The protest and lawsuit by the Standing Rock Sioux are not the first efforts by Native American and environmental groups to stop or reroute planned pipelines through culturally or environmentally sensitive areas.

The protest and lawsuit by the Standing Rock Sioux are not the first efforts by Native American and environmental groups to stop or reroute planned pipelines through culturally or environmentally sensitive areas.Aboriginal Canadian and Native American groups have opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Nebraska, along with other pipeline projects.

Aboriginal Canadian and Native American groups have opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada to Nebraska, along with other pipeline projects.
Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has said he would approve TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal if elected, reversing a decision by the administration of President Barack Obama to block it over environmental concerns. TransCanada has sued the U.S government to reverse Obama’s rejection of the pipeline.The Standing Rock Sioux have hired a political campaign director to publicize their actions to stop the North Dakota pipeline.

The Standing Rock Sioux have hired a political campaign director to publicize their actions to stop the North Dakota pipeline.”They’ve been making really good use of social media as part of this and that has actually changed the way Native American activism takes place,” said Katherine Hayes, chair of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

“They’ve been making really good use of social media as part of this and that has actually changed the way Native American activism takes place,” said Katherine Hayes, chair of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul.The Standing Rock Sioux sued in July. Last month, celebrity activists joined about 100 members of the tribe outside a Washington, D.C., courthouse where hearings were being held, while others demonstrated in North Dakota.

The Standing Rock Sioux sued in July. Last month, celebrity activists joined about 100 members of the tribe outside a Washington, D.C., courthouse where hearings were being held, while others demonstrated in North Dakota.Over the weekend of Sept. 3, protesters broke through a wire fence in an attempt to chase bulldozers grading the land. They were met by pipeline security staff and guard dogs.

Over the weekend of Sept. 3, protesters broke through a wire fence in an attempt to chase bulldozers grading the land. They were met by pipeline security staff and guard dogs.Actress Susan Sarandon, who joined the Washington protest, said she was there to help publicize the tribe’s cause.

Actress Susan Sarandon, who joined the Washington protest, said she was there to help publicize the tribe’s cause.”These kinds of things happen when people don’t have a voice,” Sarandon said, referring to the government’s decision to fast-track the project. “We have to give them a voice.”

“These kinds of things happen when people don’t have a voice,” Sarandon said, referring to the government’s decision to fast-track the project. “We have to give them a voice.”

Images from the protest site, by Reuters

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Navajo Nation president: Suicides linked to pollution of sacred waterways

In testimony before Congress, letters to the federal government and press releases, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and his vice president have brought up recent tragedies that have shaken some reservation towns to their cores.

They said eight people killed themselves in communities impacted by the unleashing of toxic waste from a Colorado gold mine into the San Juan River on the Navajo Nation, burdened by the stress of seeing a sacred waterway polluted.

“When you’re being abandoned in your great time of need, what do you do? It causes great amount of distress,” Begaye said at a recent Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing where he pleaded for more resources from the federal government over the spill.

Some residents in the affected communities were skeptical, wondering whether there’s a direct correlation between the mine spill and suicides. Some saw the suggested link as an effort for tribal leaders to score political points on a national stage.

Residents in the region learned something was wrong with the river — a vital source of water for livestock, drinking and crops — through social media, radio reports and by seeing new people around their towns. The Aug. 5 spill took days to reach the reservation.

Farmers wept at the sight of their crops wilting, livestock owners started hauling water from elsewhere to sustain their animals and the tribal utility stopped pulling drinking water from the river.

Begaye responded harshly to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and hosted prominent environment advocate Erin Brockovich on a tour of the reservation.

Begaye invoked suicides in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Oct. 2, asking for a preliminary damage assessment from the mine spill. The agency denied the request.

Begaye also referenced “three suicides in communities that were affected by the Gold King Mine spill” in a mid-September plea to the federal government for mental health and cancer treatment facilities on the reservation.

He told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee of the suicides a day later during a hearing on the impacts of the mine spill.

A spokesman for the president at the time said Begaye was referring to suicides in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation.

Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez have said the tribe’s Department of Health is investigating any connection between the suicides and the mine spill. Neither one responded to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Messages left at the health department weren’t returned.

Between July 1 and Oct. 15, at least 10 people died of suicide in the two police districts that cover communities along the San Juan River, according to Navajo police statistics. Six of those happened after the mine spill.

The statistics also show more than three times as many suicide attempts in those districts.

But the communities also suffer deep hardships like rampant unemployment, poverty, alcoholism and domestic violence that are major contributors to high suicide rates – an issue on American Indian reservations nationwide.

The suicide rate for American Indians aged 15 to 24 is more than twice the national rate.

Local churches responded to the suicides with prayer walks. Students participated in a program about American Indian pride and values, helping one another and leadership. Tribal, county and state agencies sent in counselors and others to help.

The Utah Navajo Health System declared an emergency, freeing up resources for programs, services and staffing. Hendy said his organization got the OK to hire someone dedicated to addressing suicide prevention, substance abuse and healthy lifestyles.