Hundreds of protesters have joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their effort to block construction of the pipeline they say threatens water supplies and sacred sites. Follow our live coverage.

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This is a live account of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests on Oct. 26. For updates on Friday, Oct. 28, go here.


Here’s what’s happening:

  • Seattle Times environment reporter Lynda Mapes and Times photographer Alan Berner are on the ground through the end of the week to report on protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline near Bismarck, N.D.
  • Hundreds of protesters have joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their effort to block construction of the pipeline they say threatens water supplies and sacred sites.
  • American Indian tribes in Washington state on Tuesday called on President Obama to overhaul the way the federal government consults with tribes on fossil-fuel export and other projects. Also on Tuesday, the Obama administration asked for the second time that Energy Transfer Partners stand down on the Dakota Access Pipeline, to no avail.
  • Read our primer on what’s going on with the oil pipeline. And here’s what we’re reading about the project and the region’s history.

This is a live account of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests on Oct. 26. For updates on Thursday, Oct. 27, go here.


Update, 9:30 p.m.:

The Dakota Access Pipeline slicing through four states of the U. S. also creates small-town divisions, where some business owners near the protest camp have plenty to say on the subject. They declined to give their names publicly, though, for fear of sending away customers.

In the tiny town of Solen, which is on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and about a half hour’s drive from the protest camps, some business owners are walking a difficult line.

For instance, a non-Indian garage owner is married to a Sioux woman who sides with the opponents — while he finds the whole controversy a nuisance.

“I think most of the people around here, Native and non-Native, would like to see it end. It’s a big inconvenience. All the traffic, the cops. I am for the pipeline. North Dakota is an oil-producing state,” he  said. “And it’s the safest way to transport it.”

At home, the dividing line is clear. “She is convinced the pipeline is going to break and people are going to die,” he said of his wife. “She’s got her view, and I’ve got  mine.”

Up the dirt road, off the main highway, is the Last Chance Saloon, decorated with branding irons, large, longhorn cattle horns and solid advice on a bumper sticker stuck on the wall: “When in doubt, let your horse do the talking.”

The barkeeper, age 89, was similarly opinionated with the couple — yet  circumspect.

“I wish it would end; I’m sick of it,” she said, pouring fresh coffee for visitors into Styrofoam cups. “And they keep coming, more and more.”

A lifelong resident of this farming hamlet, she comes in to clean the bar every day for her son and mind the counter during the slow hours.

“What else am I going to do, sit and look out the window? I like to stay busy.”

As for the coffee, it was hot, fresh and free. She wouldn’t take payment, no. Not from out-of-town visitors.

“Don’t make me argue,” she said.

— Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter


Update, 2:08 p.m.:

At 77, Jim Kohler has seen plenty. So when the mechanic for a local rancher was out getting a load of hay and peas to deliver for cattle feed about a half hour’s drive from the protest camp, near the hamlet of Solen, Morton County, on Wednesday, he wasn’t surprised when yet another out-of-towner drove over the stubble for a talk.

“I figured it was something about that,” he said, with a jerk of his head in the direction of the camp where opponents have gathered, determined to stop the North Dakota Access Pipeline, which slices through North Dakota and three other states. “It stinks,” he said of the protests, which have been building in strength and numbers since last April.

Locals are tired of the traffic tie ups, Kohler said, because of roadblocks that cause drivers to have to drive the long way around to and from Bismarck, the state capital. And he doesn’t like the hullabaloo in general, or much see the sense of it.

“I don’t understand it, they know they are going to lose,” he said of the opponents, who call themselves Water Protectors, and are mostly Native Americans, from nations all over the country. “It’s just plain old stupidity, it’s a bad scene.”

He snorted at the arrival of celebrities to boost the protesters’ visibility and morale, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who Wednesday even rode a spotted horse with a cowboy hat to make his point for the cameras. “That is just a dog-and-pony show,” Kohler said.

Mostly he can’t understand why the whole thing has blown up to an international spectacle. “They were always peaceful people,” he said of the Sioux. “Now they have opened a can of worms they can’t close.”

He was skeptical the opposition would make a difference. “It’s never going to change, I don’t see nothing changing,” he said. “It’s a necessary item,” he said of the pipeline. “Because people like to drive.”

Yet he doesn’t see the encampments and this ruckus amid the vast silence of the Great Plains going away.

“There ain’t no warpath yet,” Kohler said. “But it’s coming.”

— Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter


Update, 10:43 a.m.:

Protesters from the main camp pray on the highway, about 30 miles from Fort Yates, at the front lines of the demonstration. Police officers are just over the ridge, in the fog.

. (Lynda Mapes / The Seattle Times)
. (Lynda Mapes / The Seattle Times)

— Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter


Update, 9:19 a.m.:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson arrived at the main protester camp Wednesday morning — riding a horse.

Seldom seen on horseback, the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to the main protest encampment to show solidarity and lead a prayer. He said he was “going to stand with the Sioux Indians today in North Dakota to preserve the land and the sacred sites.” (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
Seldom seen on horseback, the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to the main protest encampment to show solidarity and lead a prayer. He said he was “going to stand with the Sioux Indians today in North Dakota to preserve the land and the sacred sites.” (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Update, 7:35 a.m.:

The Morton County Sheriff in North Dakota has determined dog handlers that engaged Dakota Access Pipeline opponents on Sept. 3, in which at least one protester was bitten, were not licensed and could be facing charges, the department said this morning after concluding an investigation.

Photographs of one dog with blood on its teeth and the frightened faces of opponents as dog handlers rushed them went viral around the world.

A checkpoint Wednesday near the site of pipeline protests in North Dakota. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
A checkpoint Wednesday near the site of pipeline protests in North Dakota. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Opponents were trying to stop pipeline-project bulldozers that the tribe asserts destroyed cultural and sacred sites. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office disputed this in a new release today.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has repeatedly said in court filings that its experts have not been allowed to review the sites as part of the investigation and that without tribal expertise, reviewers cannot complete an accurate survey.

— Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter


Update, 6:48 a.m.:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is expected at the protest camp to take a stand with the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline this morning. Jackson will meet with the media and tour the opposition camp that began forming in April, drawing more than 1,000 opponents to the pipeline from some 300 Indian nations, and their allies.

“The tribes of this country have sacrificed a lot so this great country could be built,” Jackson said in a prepared news release from the tribe. “With promises broken, land stolen and sacred lands desecrated, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is standing up for their right to clean water.

“They have lost land for settlers to farm, more land for gold in the Black Hills, and then again even more land for the dam that was built for hydropower. When will the taking stop?”

A thick fog hangs over Highway 6 while on the way south toward the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota on Wednesday. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)
A thick fog hangs over Highway 6 while on the way south toward the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota on Wednesday. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

Jackson noted the first route selected by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas, was north of Bismarck, the state’s capital. But the company rerouted it — in part because of concerns to protect municipal wells — sending the pipeline south instead, where it would cross under the Missouri River within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian reservation.

The U.S. Department of Interior told the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the spring that the corps should re-evaluate its assessment of pipeline risks because the rerouting potentially endangers the drinking-water supply for more people, who would have little time to act in the event of a spill.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District issued a finding of no significant impact after a limited review that included no environmental-impact statement, a more comprehensive review the tribe and its advocates are insisting on.

Jackson called the re-route “the ripest case of environmental racism I have seen in a long time.”

The company has said it followed all laws and that the pipeline is safer than oil by rail to transport an essential commodity.

— Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter


Update, 6 a.m.:

It was not first light and already things are heating up at Standing Rock, where tensions are mounting — but the hopes of opponents to beat the pipeline are too. Opponents  from tribes around the country and their allies have moved more than 100 tents into the path of the pipeline. They call it Winter Camp. But Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, the developer of the more than 1,000-mile-long oil pipeline through four states, notes the land beneath this last-stand encampment is its private property, having recently purchased it for the project from a rancher.

In defiance, pipeline opponents have seized this chunk of prairie back, upping the ante in the struggle, declaring theirs is a taking by eminent domain under the treaty of 1851. Meanwhile, the company is calling for prosecution, and the county sheriff is marshaling a police force from surrounding states. The world watches, and celebrities are arriving.

“Getting on a plane from Chicago to Standing Rock with Rev. Jesse Jackson, witnessing history as multiple movements come together to stand with Standing Rock Against the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Nick Tilsen, Oglala Lakota and a community organizer, texted Wednesday morning in the predawn darkness.

Washington state tribal members here for weeks and months are girding for whatever comes next. “It is my call. My heart is here. For my people,” said Gerri Lillian, a teacher of culture and language for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, in a message on Facebook last night.

She and others were thrilled to meet actor Mark Ruffalo, who has also come to the camp to support  the cause. But the merrymaking was short  lived. “We are wanted at the front lines, I just heard,” she wrote as rain fell overnight. “Helicopters are flying over us.”

Dan Nanamkin, of Nespelem, wrote: “They  are moving on us tonight, they are coming in with military, armored vehicles, it will be a battle here!” And then nothing more.

That is how it is here, with fragments of information sputtered over spotty if any cellular service, and fear of escalating police activity. The U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday called for a de-escalation of the conflict, and the Obama Administration has asked Dakota Access to cease construction near the Missouri River while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluates whether to reconsider permits for the  project.

But so far, the company has vowed to press on — and press charges.

— Lynda Mapes, Seattle Times environment reporter