North Dakota officials closed several miles of Highway 1806 Wednesday due to protests by Native Americans seeking to stop construction of the Dakota Access Bakken pipeline.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit in July against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and this week is seeking a court order to block the pipeline's construction, saying the pipeline would disturb sacred sites near its reservation and affect drinking water for the millions who rely on it downstream.
Protests began last week when 100 people gathered at the construction site where 18 people were arrested Thursday and Friday. On Monday, Dakota Access workers were told to leave their equipment when protestors walked onto the site and surrounded the equipment.
"I am here to advise anyone that will listen, that the Dakota Access Pipeline Project is harmful,” David Archambault II said in a statement on Monday. An estimated 600 Standing Rock Sioux tribal members and supporters have set up a protest camp near the construction site that runs near the 2.3-million acre reservation boundary.
Tuesday, Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier of Morton County ordered workers to stop work on the Dakota Access pipeline. The tribe has been holding peaceful 'spirit camps' to protest the oil line and on Tuesday, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal chairman Harold Frazier arrived with several busloads of his tribal members and said it’s the biggest such gathering of Native tribes he can recall, with representatives from tribes coast to coast and Canada. Tribes represented included Lakota Sioux, Oglala Sioux Ute, and Ponca.
Archambault said he met Wednesday with North Dakota Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp to express concerns about the pipeline that will cross the Missouri River north of the reservation.
A Sioux holy man, Arvol Looking Horse, the 19th successive keeper of the sacred White Buffalo Calf pipe, led hundreds in prayer at the gated entrance to the pipeline route. After the prayers, the access gates were propped open and the protesters continued on foot, horses, and pickup trucks along the construction route to the Missouri River.
Dakota Access filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday against Tribal Chairman David Archambault II asking a federal judge to order protesters to stop interfering with the project. Dakota Access says the protestors are putting the safety of the construction workers at risk.