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Standing Rock Sioux Continue Opposition To Dakota Access Pipeline


We're going to start the program today with a conflict in North Dakota, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are out again today in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Last week, more than 100 people were arrested while trying to block construction of the pipeline. They say it will contaminate natural resources and destroy sacred land. Energy Transfer Partners is trying to build a $3.8 billion pipeline to shuttle more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day across four states. Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes was in North Dakota this week, reporting on the conflict as it escalated. She's just gotten back to Seattle, and we caught up with her there. Hi, Linda. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

LYNDA MAPES: Glad to be here. Thanks for calling.

MARTIN: So can you just give us a sense of what the atmosphere was like in North Dakota when you were there?

MAPES: You know, it was incredibly tense. I really was worried that someone would get killed. The escalation of violence was surprising to everyone. This has been very peaceful since it all started in April with really one or two events since then. And every single hour, it became more and more tense.

MARTIN: As you mentioned that this started - the protests really started in earnest in April. So this has been going on for quite some time. Now, do you have any idea why this escalation at this time?

MAPES: Yes. Last Sunday, so a week ago today, protesters decided to occupy a piece of land that was directly in the path of construction. This is land that they took under eminent domain, referencing the Treaty of 1851. And they called it the Treaty Camp. They decided that rather than be cornered by the company, they would take it to them, that they would advance into the very spot that they knew construction was coming to.

And police from six states advanced on the protesters, demanding that they retreat from the Treaty Camp. And tribal members were insisting that they were not going to disperse, they were going to stay. They locked arms. They prayed. They burned sage. They even build a sweat lodge over the Treaty Camp. And, you know, they were just as determined to stay as the police were to advance on them.

MARTIN: Well, to that end, though, one consideration in this case is the history of the relationship between the Sioux Nation and the U.S. government, which many people see as a history of broken promises, early treaties that were broken to lands like the Black Hills, which were taken during the Gold Rush. And I am wondering how much of the intensity of feeling around this, which has attracted not just the Standing Rock Nation members but also, you know, tribal members from around the country, how much of it is, in part, because of that.

MAPES: I think history was absolutely present at every moment. And it's a very big reason why this is so volatile and so bitter. There is very much a feeling among tribal members who keep saying enough is enough. There's a sense of having been pushed for 150 years off the lands that were their lands because someone else wanted them to make money. And it was so evocative to watch law enforcement chasing Indians on horses. This has been going on for more than a century. To see law enforcement in ATVs and helicopters pursuing Indians on horses across the Great Plains, it was incredible to see that in the year 2016.

MARTIN: Along with the protests, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been fighting the pipeline in the court. Based on court filings from this, some of the tribe is saying that it was not consulted about the planned construction and that this is a kind of violation of law, in essence. Can you just tell us any more about that?

MAPES: This is a very key point. The tribe has said over and over again that they were not adequately consulted on this project, that they were not consulted until after construction had already gotten underway. And this is true. The company took a big risk here. They started building this four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline before they had all of the permits in hand. And if you talk to the tribal chairman of Standing Rock, what he will tell you is that there's been consultation, but it's never been meaningful consultation, and that what is needed is a full environmental impact statement and a much more thorough review. So it's a very tense situation.

MARTIN: That's Seattle Times reporter Lynda Mapes. She just returned from North Dakota, where she was reporting on the standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Lynda, thanks so much for speaking with us.

MAPES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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