Standing Rock Sioux disappointed with court ruling over Dakota Access Pipeline

By Taiha Molyneux

The Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux says the denial of a temporary restraining order against Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) west of Lake Oahe in North Dakota puts his people’s sacred places at further risk of desecration.

The Tribe’s legal team filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order on Dakota Access Pipeline within 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe.

The motion was filed a day after private security, hired by Energy Transfer partners, the company overseeing construction were filmed using attack dogs and what appeared to be pepper spray on people who breached fences to stop bulldozers working on land east of the Lake on September 3rd.

The confrontation took place on land that had been identified in court documents filed by the tribe just 24 hours earlier as a sacred site of important historical significance to the Sioux people.

Sioux representatives say Energy Transfer Partner's response to the information provided in court documents was to “bulldoze the site -- the exact site identified -- over the Labor Day weekend.”

The company denies it was a historically significant area but a memorandum filed in support of the motion quoted a Tribal cultural expert, Tim Mentz Sr, describing the site as, "one of the most significant archaeological finds in North Dakota in many years." 

While the court granted a temporary restraining order on part of the construction work on the east side of Lake Oahe, it was not granted for the west side.

David Archamabalault II, Chair of the Standing Rock Sioux says, “We are disappointed that the U.S. District Court’s decision does not prevent DAPL, from destroying our sacred sites as we await a ruling on our original motion to stop construction of the pipeline.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and many others have spent months attempting to block construction of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipe. They believe the environmental threats it poses and the obligation to consult with the indigenous people have been ignored in the process. 

If completed, the pipeline would transport up to 500,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day across the country to Illinois. It would pass under the Missouri River which is the main water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and impact numerous sacred sites and treaty territories. 

When Māori Television questioned the company over accusations of the use of dogs and pepper spray, a spokesperson, Vanessa Granados responded in an email saying, "The safety of our workers is our top priority and we will do all that is necessary to ensure they are safe, including having security along our right-of-way."

While Energy Transfer claimed their security staff were injured by protestors, footage and photos circulating online showed only Native Americans and people who attempted to stop the earthworks with dog bites. Many also suffered from the after effects of what appeared to be pepper spray.

Members of the Sacred Stone Camp also say a pregnant woman and children were among those bitten and sprayed in the incident.

A story by producer and journalist Amy Goodwin of the independent news programme Democracy Now, captured the events as they unfolded. Her full report can be viewed below.  


A federal judge is set to make a ruling on an injunction filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop construction altogether on 9 September.