FEATURE-N. Dakota pipeline fight gives spark to Native American activism

Wed Sep 7, 2016 5:50pm EDT
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By Andrew Cullen and Ruthy Munoz

CANNON BALL, N.D./WASHINGTON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - 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.

"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 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.

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.

"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."   Continued...