Hundreds of protesters have joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their effort to block construction of an oil pipeline they say threatens water supplies and sacred sites. Need to catch up on the issue? Here's a primer.

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Seattle Times reporter Lynda V. Mapes and photojournalist Alan Berner are heading to North Dakota on Tuesday night to cover ongoing protests against the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline.

Hundreds of  people from Indian nations around the country and their supporters have joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s effort to block construction of an oil pipeline they say threatens water supplies and sacred sites.  Pacific Northwest tribes have had a particularly strong presence at the North Dakota protests.

Need to catch up on the issue? Here’s a primer:

The project

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline would transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken and Three Forks production region in North Dakota to a crude oil market hub located near Patoka, Ill. From there, the oil would ultimately be sent to refineries in the Midwest and on the Gulf Coast.  The 1,100-mile-long pipeline crosses four states, beginning near Stanley, N.D., and ending at Patoka. The pipeline is up to 30 inches around. About 60 percent of the pipeline has been built at this time.

The key players

Pipeline developer

About the DAPL protest

The Trump administration has advanced the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipeline projects. Seattle Times reporter Lynda V. Mapes and photographer Alan Berner traveled to North Dakota last year to cover the protests against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. Here are recent stories to help you understand the conflict:  

Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas, obtained federal permits for the $3.8 billion pipeline in July, two years after it was first announced. The company says that pipelines are safer than moving oil by rail.


The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies have been rallying in camps near the pipeline construction alignment since last April in Cannon Ball, N.D. Opponents on the ground today number between 800 to 1,000 people. They are from Indian nations all over the country and world, and their supporters.  The encampment is said to be the largest gathering of Indian people in North America  in the past century.

The pipeline’s opponents argue the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was never adequately consulted on the project, which threatens their water supply, as well as that of millions of people downstream from the pipeline’s proposed crossing under the Missouri River. Construction has already damaged the tribe’s sacred and cultural sites, including burial sites. The tribe demands a stop to further destruction of its cultural heritage.

Notably, Northwest tribes and their victory over fossil-fuel projects in their own territory have provided an example of tribal success in battling fossil-fuel energy projects.


U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District, holds the last easement, located next to the Missouri River, needed for the pipeline to be built.


The Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the National Guard and officers from police departments from surrounding states are mobilized in the area. They are often clad in riot gear and use armored personnel carriers, all-terrain vehicles and surveillance aircraft. The developer has also used private security forces and dogs.

The latest developments

As of Oct. 25, 2016: The tribe has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene to stop the project in the interest of public safety, and to investigate aggressive tactics used by police against opponents. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and State of North Dakota have called out the National Guard and declared a state of emergency. Opponents are moving their encampment to the path of the pipeline to block construction of the last segment. They’ve declared an eminent domain taking of the tribe’s ancestral lands under the Treaty of 1851. Winter is coming, and the developer’s contracts with shippers expire if the pipeline isn’t moving oil by Jan. 1.