BISMARCK, N.D. >> Members of American Indian tribes from around the country are gathering in Washington for four days of protests against the Trump administration and the Dakota Access oil pipeline that will culminate with a Friday march on the White House.
Starting Tuesday, tribal members and supporters plan to camp each day on the National Mall, with teepees, a ceremonial fire, cultural workshops and speakers. Native American leaders also plan to lobby lawmakers to protect tribal rights.
On Friday, a march of about 2 miles is planned from the Army Corps of Engineers office to the White House, where a rally is scheduled. Organizers on Monday didn’t immediately know how many people or tribes planned to take part.
“We are calling on all our Native relatives and allies to rise with us,” said Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. “We must march against injustice. Native nations cannot continue to be pushed aside to benefit corporate interests and government whim.”
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
The protest comes as a federal judge in Washington is weighing a request by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to halt construction of the last section of the Dakota Access pipeline pending the outcomes of their lawsuit seeking to stop the project. The tribes say that section of the pipeline, which will pass under Lake Oahe, a large Missouri River reservoir, will threaten their water supply, sacred sites and religious rights. The judge is expected to rule this week.
The Friday march will begin at the Corps of Engineers office because the agency manages the Missouri River and last month gave the pipeline developer, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, permission to finish the project. The company expects to wrap up the work and have oil flowing this month.
The two tribes feel they weren’t properly consulted about the pipeline route, which the government disputes. They also they maintain their treaty rights were violated when the government changed its mind about doing further environmental study of the Lake Oahe crossing after President Donald Trump took office in January.
“This fight against the Dakota Access pipeline has been the tip of the spear of a powerful global movement calling for the United States government and Donald Trump to respect indigenous nations and people in our right to water, land, sovereignty, and culture,” said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.