North Dakota protesters were anything but thankful this Thursday. Protesters gathered to form a bridge across a small creek that leads to tribal burial grounds. Activists who call themselves “water protectors” say that the reason for the bridges being formed is to reach a known tribal burial ground near Turtle Island.
Three protests were held Thursday. One was the Turtle Island bridge, the second in a small town called Mandan, and the third at Backwater Bridge where law enforcement injured a woman with a concussion grenade.
Morton County Sheriff, Kyle Kirchmeier, made a statement saying that law enforcement wasn’t surprised by the events that took place. He also stated that, “The energy these paid agitators and protesters exerted to try and draw our law enforcement into confrontations did not work. We will respond in kind to any advances protesters make on our line. It’s their decision and they can bring an end to this,” even though there is no proof that the protesters were paid.
The protests gathered over 400 people. Those that came were dressed in protective gear and masks and could be heard chanting, “Remember ‘73” as a tribute to Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973. By midafternoon when the group has mostly dissipated, protesters in Mandan set up tables with displays of pumpkins, pig heads, and other foods.
Large gatherings like these three and building bridges aren’t the only ways protesters are being heard. Chairman of the Cheyanne River Sioux, Harold Frazier sent a letter to tribal leaders and supporters asking for support in the economic boycott in Bismarck and Mandan. In a statement made on Tuesday he said, “If these communities will not listen to our reasoned pleas for justice and fairness, we must speak the only language they seem to have understood throughout the entire DAPL project: MONEY.”
It is the belief of the Cheyanne River Sioux that any money spent in those two towns will be used to support law enforcement. This idea is supported by the fact that the effort to stop the protests have increased and nearly 520 arrests have been made since early August.
This movement against the 1,170-mile pipeline has gathered the largest American Indian protest in history. Although Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the pipeline, say that measures have been taken to prevent any pipe leakage, over thousands of people have come from all over to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The Standing Rock Sioux strongly believe that the further construction of the pipeline will pollute the Missouri River, which is their main source of water, and defile sacred tribal burial grounds.