Reports that crews are bulldozing sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux, and that security guards for the company building a $3.8 billion pipeline in North Dakota attacked American Indian demonstrators with dogs and pepper spray, spread rapidly through Indian Country last weekend.
The Sioux protest is drawing strong support in New Mexico, where more than two dozen organizations have signed a letter to the president and the state’s congressional delegation supporting the tribe’s resistance and its lawsuit seeking to stop construction of the pipeline along the proposed route.
“A lot of Native people are really surprised about how that tribe has been pushed around by the company,” Karl Duncan, director of the Poeh Museum in Pojoaque, said Tuesday of the pipeline builder, Dakota Access.
The Sioux are protesting the building of a 1,100-mile pipeline above the mouth of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers on their homelands. The projected pipeline, with a capacity of 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day, would crisscross rivers, tributaries and creeks 209 times.
Like the Sioux, Duncan said, Pojoaque Pueblo fights for such causes as protection of sacred places. And the Northern New Mexico tribe wants to help.
He is helping to organize a march of solidarity with the Sioux that is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Pojoaque wellness center. The march will end at the Poeh Cultural Center, where there will be a gathering with songs, a blessing and food. People also will be able to drop off donations for the thousands of Indians who are camped near the North Dakota construction site.
The Sioux, Duncan said, are concerned that leaks from the pipeline could contaminate the source of drinking water for 28 million people and destroy historic burial grounds and prayer circles.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has issued a partial temporary restraining order halting construction along a portion of the pipeline.
A lawsuit filed in July claims the company didn’t consult with the tribe or conduct required environmental, historical and archaeological assessments. It calls for a moratorium on all pipeline construction “until the Treaty Rights and Human Rights of the Standing Rock Tribe can be ensured and their free prior and informed consent is obtained.”
Soon after the suit was filed, 18 tribal members were arrested for blocking an access point for the company.
Since then, the camp’s population has grown, to at least 2,000, but sometimes considerably more. Mariel Nanasi, director of Santa Fe-based New Energy Economy, is there. She said the camp now has five kitchens, a school, multiple medical tents and a legal office. People have come from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Palestine, Sri Lanka, South Carolina, Washington state and Alaska.
“People are really taking care of each other,” she said. “It’s been extremely inspiring to see.”
And, she predicted, “People here are going to stay. We’re going to stand and resist this pipeline from going through.”
Ricardo Cate of Santo Domingo Pueblo, whose Without Reservations cartoons appear daily in The New Mexican, is among those who have gone to North Dakota. He has been filing cartoons, which you can see online at facebook.com/kewacate.
Nanasi said the Sioux have reason to fear oil spills. In New Mexico, she said, there were more than 1,800 spills related to oil and gas production in fiscal year 2015. The letter she drafted supporting the Standing Rock Sioux says, “This sort of risk is unacceptable in New Mexico, in North Dakota, or anywhere!”
Calling the proposition “insane,” she said, “We’re in a climate crisis situation. We need to keep fossil fields in the ground and move toward renewable energy that is not as destructive to our climate, water and air.”
Marian Naranjo, a potter and founder of Honor Our Pueblo Existence, said she has been talking to Pueblo youth who want to join the North Dakota camp, cautioning them that while they are upset, they should not take their anger with them. “We have to go in prayer and in support of the people whose territory it’s happening in and help them,” she said.
Some Pueblo people are planning to drive to North Dakota with donations at the end of this week, Naranjo said.
“It’s a national issue with people right now to protect our water sources,” she said. “Many tribes are coming together to hold that energy for our Mother Earth.”
Support for Sioux