Camp of the Sacred Stones

On the outer edge of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, a small group of tents and teepees sits nestled against the Missouri River. The encampment, which three months ago could have been mistaken for a family camping trip, has grown into a functional living space for the protesters who occupy it.

Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí, AKA The Camp of the Sacred Stones, began April 1st, 2016 to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) currently being built along the opposite bank of the Missouri River. To quote the Camp’s website,

“The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), owned by Houston, Texas based corporation called Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. which created the subsidary Dakota Access LLC. The DAPL, also known as the Bakken Pipeline, is proposed to transport 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day (which is fracked and highy volatile) from the Bakken fields of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

Despite pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Dakota Access has failed to consult tribes and conduct a full environmental impact statement. The proposed route crosses the Missouri River at the confluence with the Cannon Ball river, and area that is of utmost cultural and spiritual, and environmental significance. The confluence an important location for the Mandan origin story as the place where they came into the world after the great flood. Where the two waters meet once created Iŋyaŋ Wakháŋagapi Othí, spherical Sacred Stones (thus the colonizers’ term ‘Cannon Ball’), but after the Army Corp of Engineers dredged and flooded the rivers in the 50s, the flow has changed and Sacred Stones are no longer produced. There are historic burial grounds, village grounds and Sundance sites that would be directly impacted. The water of the Missouri River is essential to life on the Standing Rock Reservation as well as all of the nations and states downstream.

The threats this pipeline poses to the environment, human health and human rights are the same as those that were posed by the Keystone XL. The current route of the DAPL will cross over the Ogallala Aquifer (one of the largest aquifers in the world) and under the Missouri River twice (the longest river in the United States). The possible contamination of these water sources makes the Dakota Access pipeline a national threat.”

I and some people from MN350 spent the weekend at the camp to stand in solidarity with those who have devoted themselves to stopping the pipeline. A weekend hardly felt like enough time to get to know people and understand the complex issues at stake, so I hope to make another trip in the near future.

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