Standing Rock Water Protectors: A Breakdown of the North Dakota Access Pipeline Conflict And How You Can Help

Environmental and native rights activists have clashed this year with a Texas oil company over the construction of an oil pipeline that has been rerouted through sacred Native American land. The North Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7bn project intended to transport crude oil through a pipeline that stretches over 1,172 miles, from the Bakken oil field in North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois. Critics claim that the project violates the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, and activists are concerned that the pipeline poses a serious threat to the water supply of millions, particularly the indigenous people of Standing Rock.

After white citizens had protested the original pipeline route, also over concerns that their water supply would be contaminated, Energy Transfer Partners adjusted the planned pipeline project. Instead of running just north of Bismarck, the pipeline would be rerouted through the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recognizes the danger that the pipeline poses to the water supply, leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe claim the reroute was approved without the federally mandated tribal consultation.

Since the approval of the rerouted pipeline in late July, the local Standing Rock Sioux, along with thousands of supporters, have held nonviolent protests and prayer circles near Standing Rock in an attempt to block construction. These peaceful protesters, who call themselves “water protectors,” have increasingly been met with seemingly state-sanctioned violence. From hired guards with attack dogs, to a militarized police force firing on protesters with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons in frigid weather, human rights appear to have been blatantly and repeatedly violated without any serious repercussions. In late Oct, police in riot gear used tanks, armored vehicles, pepper spray, and a sound cannon to attack, arrest, and lock nonviolent activists in dog kennels. Responding to the issue on Nov 2, President Obama announced that he was “going to let it play out for several more weeks”.

Despite these brutal escalations, representatives of more than 200 Native American nations, as well as non-native activists, have continued to travel to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the water protectors. However, according to the Guardian, authorities are making every effort to escalate the situation to justify further repression. Reporters and filmmakers at Standing Rock have been shot with rubber bullets and arrested, the pipeline company has bulldozed ancient graves and sacred sites, and the Army Corps of Engineers has attempted to revoke the protector’s camping permits.

A class action lawsuit was filed on Monday on behalf of water protectors who allegedly suffered police brutality while trapped on a bridge near the Standing Rock camps.

On Tuesday, after the Governor backed away from approving a physical blockade, North Dakota officials attempted to block supplies, including food, from reaching the Standing Rock campsites by issuing heavy fines instead.

How you can help the Standing Rock Water Protectors


There are plenty of opportunities to donate to the Standing Rock Water Protectors. From sending supplies to helping cover legal fees, the water protectors can always use more resources.

Here’s how to donate directly to the Sacred Stone Camp.

Solidarity Events

Organize and take part in local events. Public interest makes it more difficult for elected officials and media outlets to ignore this issue.

Travel to North Dakota

From December 4-7, veterans will be “self-deploying” to Standing Rock. Currently, over 2000 veterans have signed up to peacefully protest alongside the water protectors. However, you don’t have to be a veteran to show support. Anyone willing to risk arrest, deliver supplies, chop wood, and help prepare food is welcome at Standing Rock. Nurses, medics, and others with experience in healthcare are especially needed. Before heading out, though, it’s very important to note that this is a peaceful movement. Also, since the weather conditions in North Dakota at this time of year can be harsh, please pack proper gear.

If you choose to travel to Standing Rock, be safe, respectful, well-informed, and well-provisioned. For many people, donating money or supplies may be a better way to contribute to this cause.

Express your concern by calling Local and Federal Agencies

Let Loretta Lynch at the Department of Justice know about the allegations of human rights abuse at Standing Rock. Contact the White House and remind President Obama that this issue will play a huge role in shaping his legacy. Tell North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple to stop government suppression of the right to protest.

  • North Dakota Governor’s Office: 701-328-2200
  • White House: 202-456-1414
  • Office of the Attorney General: 202-305-2935
  • Morton County Sheriff’s Office: 701-667-3330

Raise Awareness

Post support for Standing Rock on social media, talk to your friends and family, and sign and share the Stand With Standing Rock petition.

Break up with Big Banks

Seventeen banks are directly funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. If your bank is one of them, close your account and let them know why.

Wondering who to contact and what to say? Hugh MacMillan, a Food & Water Watch researcher, explains in an article from Yes! Magazine.

“Ask these banks to clarify whether funds they are providing are being used, in any amount, to pay for the heavily militarized response to the Standing Rock Sioux, including the attack dogs, sound-cannon trucks, heavily armed officers.

“People should also ask these institutions why they are sinking so much money into maximizing the amounts of oil and gas that can be brought to the surface and burned at a time when climate science is clear we have to maximize what we keep in the ground instead.”

According to an article from TruthOut, activists have already successfully managed to shut down pipeline funding from DNB, Norway’s largest bank, by confronting them with a 20-page report documenting the abuse of human rights at Standing Rock.

Some protesters, not content to merely close their accounts, have also taken to holding local, nonviolent protests at pipeline-supporting banks.

[Featured Image by John L. Mone/AP Images]