North Dakota Pipeline Protest; Indigenous Nations Unite

11 May 2017: Pipeline leak:




(Image taken from: )


Article about protest in the autumn of 2016/ winter 2017

(Updated 8 February 2017)

The protest action against the construction of an oil pipeline from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois has been growing since work on it commenced in 2016. The protest is largely lead by Native Americans, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. In recent months their protest has been strengthened by supporters streaming in from all over the USA and from other indigenous peoples across the world.


Norwegian Sami activists join the protesters in North Dakota (September 2016)

The Sioux Nation are opposed to the pipeline because it will pass below the Missouri River, which is the main source of water for the Standing Rock Sioux, who live on a reservation in the central part of North and South Dakota. Protesters say that a leak from the pipeline would be catastrophic for their water source. The second reason for the protest is that the pipeline is also due to run through one of the Sioux sacred burial sites.


Versions of this symbolic picture have been widely spread among pipeline protesters on Facebook. Many use it as their Facebook profile (October 2016). “Oceti Sakowin” is the Sioux name for their nation. It means “Seven Fires Council”.

As well as protesting on the ground, the Sioux have sued the Army Corps of Engineers for allowing the project, alleging that the agency violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NHPA requires the Army Corps to consider the cultural significance of sites, and NEPA to consider the implications for the waterways. The litigation is still going on, however construction has been allowed to continue while the case works its way through the courts.

The protest at Standing Rock has become a major gathering of indigenous peoples. At the main camp, organizers estimated more than 700 people were living in their shelters and vehicles during the autumn months. At the weekends, some said the numbers were in the thousands.

Along the edge of the main camp are flying the flags of the indigenous nations who are supporting the protesters. At the start there were six flags, now there are more than two hundred.


Flags flying at the entrance to the camp at Cannon Ball, North Dakota (September 2016)

Protesters are continuing to stay in camp throughout the winter – even though the average winter temperature is -18 degrees centigrade in North Dakota. Camps have published lists of what they need to protest through the winter months:


Oceti Sakowin camp, 24 Dec 2016

Reactions to the protesters have come from the state.  North Dakota Governor, Jack Dalrymple, has called in the National Guard as well as an army of other police officials. More than 140 people were arrested at the protests during the last week of October. Police and army have been accused of using unnecessarily rough treatment on protesters, such as pepper spray, dogs and rubber bullets.

Raw footage of arrests. Filmed 28 October 2016.

The Obama administration temporarily blocked construction on the project in September in hope of conducting a review, but a federal court intervened to allow the project to proceed.

The tension between protesters and the police grew throughout the autumn, and on 28 October 2016, Amnesty International announced that they would be sending  a delegation of human rights observers to monitor the response of the police to protests by indigenous communities.

The situation is still changing rapidly. Check out online news sources and the Sacred Stone Camp Facebook page for more information about the current situation in North Dakota.


For more information and tasks about why the Sioux are protesting, look at this webpage for TOK  or this webpage for EFL.



If you are a pupil in a Norwegian school reading this webpage, you may be interested to hear that DNB are a major investor in the project. They are currently (Nov 2016) under pressure to pull out of the project:

On 20 November, there was a major confrontation between activists and the police:

How can you help? If you´re interested in getting involved in helping the activists, have a look here: (27 Nov)

For an overview of the latest events, check out this page: (27 Nov)

Federal authorities have halted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline – giving a success (although it may be temporary) to the activists (5 Dec):

President Trump overturned the decision to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and other pipelines (24 Jan):

The US government is set to allow the final phase of construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, dealing a major blow to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe:




Discuss with your partner:

  1. What is the conflict about and what has happened so far? 
  2. Why do you think indigenous people from all the world are supporting the protesters at Standing Rock? Why do you think other indigenous people can relate to their struggle?
  3. Look at the symbolic picture that is being widely used by supporters on Facebook. What elements made up this picture? Do you think it is a good symbol of the protest?
  4. Posting a symbolic picture has become common on Facebook in recent years after certain events or protests. Why do people do this? What is their aim? Do you think it is a good idea or not?
  5. How should governments react to protesters – what is acceptable and what not? Explain your opinions.
  6. Find out more about the current situation in the protest. Discuss in class how the situation has changed since the above text was written.