Yakama Nation leaders say N.D. oil pipeline controversy is "not only a Native issue"
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - The Sacred Stone camp in North Dakota started in April with just a few dozen people.
It's grown to a gathering of over 1,000 Native peoples and others who stand against the construction of a billion-dollar crude oil pipeline that will stretch nearly 1,200 miles underground in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
"This I believe is the beginning, and it is a very substantial effort to have that many nations and peoples come together and gather for a cause such as this," said JoDe Goudy, Chairman of the Yakama Nation Tribal Council.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota said the pipeline goes near their territory and disturbs their cultural and natural resources and Yakama Nation leaders said they stand with them.
"We felt that it was a right and just cause, that Standing rock was standing up on behalf of their natural resources. And that's a cause that is very near and dear, related to the Yakama Nation," said Chairman Goudy.
While the Sioux said the pipeline threatens their land, the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners said in a memo to employees, "concerns about the pipeline's impact on the local water supply are unfounded."
The company said the pipeline could create 33,000 construction jobs and could also bring in millions in revenue to the four states the pipeline travels through.
The Standing Rock Sioux tried to get a federal judge to temporarily stop construction on the pipeline in early September, but that failed.
Then the Department of Justice got involved, saying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will temporarily stop construction of the pipeline near where it would cross under the Missouri River.
"This is not only a Native fight, this is a U.S. citizen fight for those who are wanting to enjoy clean drinking water, untainted lands, and the natural resources that would be substantially impacted if there was a pipeline incident," said Chairman Goudy.
The Bismarck Tribune reported last month the pipeline was originally planned to go under the capital city, but it was moved after officials became concerned it could contaminate the water system.
"They are protectors, standing up for a resource, and that resource is water," said Chairman Goudy about the people gathered at Sacred Stone Camp.
Yakama Nation leaders said the gathering near the Standing Rock Sioux territory is just the beginning.
"The gathering is an effort that I think will continue on for the long run. I understand the goal and intent is to kill the pipeline. Have it cease to exist. Have the risks that are associated with the pipeline materializing cease to exist," said Chairman Goudy.
After choosing to temporarily stop work on the section of the pipeline under the Missouri river, the federal government said this controversy shows there may need to be discussions on reforms when it comes to building pipelines near tribal lands.