The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is demanding a response from North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple after Native Americans attempting to stop construction of the $3.7 billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline allege they were attacked by dogs and pepper sprayed at the weekend.
The Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Harold C. Frazier released a statement today saying, “I demand answers from North Dakota’s governor and law enforcement. The State of North Dakota is quick to erect military barricades and try to portray us as savages when our water defenders merely park their cars along the side of the road, but where were all the police when dozens of innocent and peaceful Tribal members, including many from my tribe, were intentionally shot with pepper spray and ravaged by vicious dogs.”
Sioux Tribe members and many other supporters of the movement from across the country gathered at the construction site near the Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota on Saturday and breached fences in an attempt to stop bulldozers doing groundwork in the area.
Those in opposition to the pipeline say they were set upon by security staff with attack dogs and indiscriminately sprayed with pepper spray.
According to a post on the Sacred Stone Camp's Facebook page, "Last night 3,000 natives and our allies were at camp as the announcement was made about DAPL security macing people and that an unarmed pregnant woman was bitten by dogs sicced on the crowd. We all sat, the pow wow drum quiet, thinking of nothing but the travesty that happened and how the women, children, and elders there were put into extreme danger by DAPL. The unity developing in the face of it is palpable."
When Maori Television's online news team questioned Energy Transfer over the reported 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."
Sacred Stone Camp Sioux Tribe members and many others have established camps in the area and since mass protests began in mid-August more tribes and supporters have joined the movement.
Those involved in the opposition have spent months attempting to block construction of the 1,172-mile pipe and they claim the environmental threats it poses have been ignored.
The pipeline would transport approximately 470,000 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 a number of sacred sites and treaty territories.
The Morton County Sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeier issued a statement on September 3rd alleging “Protestors physically assaulted private security officers hired by Dakota Access Pipeline.”
Harold C.Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe refuted the claims and addressed the release issued by the Morton County Sheriff.
Frazier says the Sheriff's statement, “insinuates that the peaceful protestors were the provokers of the incident because several individuals allegedly cut a fence and entered the work site. State and local law enforcement officials kept telling the media without proof, that the protestors are committing unlawful acts. In my opinion unleashing vicious attack dogs on women and children, and spraying dozens of unarmed people simply because they are exercising their constitutional right to assemble is unlawful.”
Energy Transfer spokesperson, Vanessa Granado says “unwarranted violence occurred on private property under easement to Dakota Access Pipeline, resulting in injury to multiple members of our security personnel and several dogs.”
A story by independent news programme 'Democracy Now' producer and journalist Amy Goodwin during the confrontation showed people in opposition to the construction breaching the fence at the site. However, footage in Goodwin's story did not seem to display any obvious signs of violence towards security staff until they are seen in the footage thrusting towards the crowd with dogs. Her full report can be viewed below.
Harold C. Frazier has called on members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to avoid travelling to main centres in the Mandan-Bismarck area and says he is concerned for their safety.
“I am concerned about the escalating violence against Natives in that area.“
He has also called on the Governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple to meet with Tribal leaders in an effort to resolve the conflict.
“The key to settling this situation is in the hands of North Dakota leadership. I requested a meeting with Governor Dalrymple last week, but as of today have received no response.”
Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline has garnered international attention with rallies held in New Zealand led by Racial Equity Aotearoa at the weekend in support of the movement.
Supporters called on the New Zealand government and iwi to publicly support all Native American tribes against the project.