About 140 protesters gathered in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Essex Junction this morning. It was part of a national day of action, with advocates joining the Standing Rock Sioux to fight against a planned pipeline in North Dakota.
The Gathering of Solidarity in Essex Junction was just one of the events in the Northeast against the 1,200-mile long Dakota Access Pipeline. The $3.8 billion project would bring oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. Plans call for it to run beneath a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota that provides drinking water to the Standing Rock Sioux. The tribe contends the pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites.
350.org organizer Keri Ellis says the Vermont action in front of the local office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was one of several coordinated actions in the region and more than 100 across the world. “First and foremost this is an issue of indigenous rights. The folks in North Dakota have been basically pushed to the side in the permitting process. And it’s their water and their land and their sacred spaces that are most threatened by what’s happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline. It’s also an issue of climate change. We we need to not be building fossil fuel infrastructure. For both of those reasons it’s very important that this pipeline stop.”
Gwendolyn Hallsmith of Cabot Vermont says pipeline permits have been issued without proper review of both environmental concerns and indigenous rights. “The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to be looking after both the indigenous rights and the environmental issues associated with this pipeline and the permit that they’re supposed to be giving should have taken all of that into account and it obviously hasn’t.”
Organizers wanted the gathering to be more meditative so there was no chanting or shouting. Katrina Coravos of Bolton traveled to Standing Rock in August and stayed there for two months. “There’s just something that’s really powerful about that land and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. We saw eagles pretty much every day. And the sunsets and the sunrises there were just one of the most phenomenal things I’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful land. It’s sacred land. It’s beauty.”
Retired Episcopal Priest Linda Maloney was wearing Lakota beadwork. She notes that Vermont’s presiding Bishop has visited Standing Rock and the church stands with the tribe. “Indigenous people have been leaders for generations in drawing our attention to the violation of Mother Earth. Why don’t we listen?
The Army Corps of Engineers granted permits for the pipeline in July but on Monday called for more study and input from the Standing Rock Sioux. The tribe called the decision encouraging. The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, is asking a District Court in Washington, D.C., to confirm the company has the legal right to proceed.
Later in the day, activists gathered at the statehouse in Montpelier. On Wednesday members of Rights and Democracy Vermont will deliver a letter and close their accounts at TD Bank to protest the financial institution’s investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps’ regional office noted that each district is autonomous regarding regulatory authority and the New England office had nothing to do with the Standing Rock permits. In the statement from national headquarters, the Corps urges protesters to “adhere to the principles of nonviolence.”