Along the Missouri River, up to 8,000 water protectors have gathered with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to protest an 1,172-mile oil pipeline.
What began as a legal battle to halt construction has grown into an international movement headquartered on an 80-acre campground in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Here’s a timeline of the major events in the protest.
Timeline of events
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter to the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), initiating the permitting process.
- Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act required the Corps to consult with tribes on the pipeline’s potential impact. THPO requested a full archaeological investigation in response, which allegedly went unreturned.
- The Corps published an environmental assessment stating the pipeline’s location avoided impact to important tribal sites.
- Various tribes, including the Osage Nation and Iowa Tribe THPO, voiced concerns about its lack of involvement in the Section 106 evaluation process.
- The Corps concluded its investigation, citing no historic properties would be affected.
- Protesters began gathering in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
- The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed a lawsuit against the Corps claiming the permits granted violate “multiple federal statutes,” including the National Historic Preservation Act and the Clean Water Act. The tribe argued the Corps approved the project without properly including them in the process, and that Energy Transfer Partners used outdated maps to survey the land.
- Nearly 30 environmental groups—including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and Earthworks—signed a letter to President Barack Obama describing the situation as “yet another example of an oil pipeline project being permitted without public engagement or sufficient environmental review.”
- More than 20 people were arrested on charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing.
- The tribe filed an injunction request to halt pipeline construction while the broader lawsuit was resolved.
- Pipeline workers allegedly bulldozed sacred sites the weekend of September 3. In response, peaceful protests turned violent; protesters reported six people had been attacked by dogs, including a child, and 30 people were pepper-sprayed.
- On September 9, Judge James E. Boasberg ruled against the injunction request, claiming the tribe “has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue,” and that the Corps provided “a reasonable and good-faith opportunity to identify sites of importance to it.”
- Following the ruling, the Justice Department, the Department of the Army and the Interior Department announced construction on tribal land would only move forward after further evaluations were conducted.
- Standing Rock Sioux tribe chairman, Dave Archambault II, spoke at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where a coalition of 1,200 archeologists, museum directors, and historians are calling for Native American artifacts to be preserved.
- The court rejected a second injunction request; Energy Transfer Partners maintains a legal right to continue building.
- The Justice Department, the Department of the Army, and the Interior Department issued a second joint statement requesting that ETP cease construction voluntarily.
- Bernie Sanders, along with four Senators, issued a letter to President Obama, requesting that he suspend construction permits until a full environmental impact statement is prepared.
- Journalists continue to be arrested and targeted for covering the controversy. “Democracy Now!” journalist Amy Goodman turned herself over to authorities to face criminal trespassing charges (which have since been dropped); felony charges for documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg hold a maximum sentence of up to 45 years; Actress Shailene Woodley pleaded not-guilty to criminal trespassing charges. Celebrities Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, and Leonardo DiCaprio have also joined the cause.
- After utilizing pepper spray on protesters, 141 people were arrested.
- The United Nations is investigating potential human rights violations.
- Amnesty International has sent a group of observers to Standing Rock to monitor the response of law enforcement during the protests.