BISMARCK, N.D. (CN) — Sitting Bull would be proud. Two weeks ago, members of the Dakota, Lakota and Yankton Sioux set up tipis in camps on a tributary of the Missouri River — a Spiritual Camp and a Warrior Camp — to fight a crude oil pipeline they fear will poison the Missouri River. For the moment, they have stood off the pipeline company and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Two hearings are set in North Dakota Federal Court this week: on Wednesday, the court will consider the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's July 27 lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers. The tribe challenged the Army's approvals of the pipeline on environmental and procedural grounds.
"The construction and operation of the pipeline, as authorized by the Corps, threatens the tribe's environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the tribe," the tribe said in the lawsuit filed by EarthJustice.
Dakota Access sued back last Monday, seeking a restraining order against the protesters, who had prevented its workers from entering the work site.
On Tuesday, Aug. 16, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland granted Dakota Access the temporary restraining order. Hovland will hear arguments Thursday, Aug. 25, on whether to make the order permanent.
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier warned the public last week to stay away from the site, saying Sioux protesters were carrying weapons, including pipe bombs, and that visitors risked assault.
A Thursday afternoon visit to the protest site, 30 miles south of the state capital, revealed no indications of threats or violence — just the opposite.
Residents of the Sacred Stone Spiritual Camp and Red Warrior Camp were celebrating the sheriff's announcement, on Prairie Public Broadcasting, that "construction of the Dakota Access pipeline south of Mandan, has been stopped — for safety reasons."
A spokesman for Energy Transfer Partners, the corporate parent of Dakota Access, which is building the 30-inch-diameter pipeline, told The Wall Street Journal that "construction has been halted at the protest site," pending the Aug. 24 court hearing, but that work on the pipeline "continues elsewhere."
Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners wants to pump 470,000 barrels of oil a day, from the Bakken Oil Fields in western North Dakota, 1,168 miles to a terminus in Southern Illinois, to be shipped on other pipelines to the Gulf of Mexico.
Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault, lead defendant in Dakota Access's lawsuit and one of 28 protesters arrested last week, denied the pipeline company's and the sheriff's allegations of threats and violence.
"The position of our tribe is clear: There's no place for threats, violence or criminal activity," Archambault told Prairie Public Broadcasting. "That is simply not our way."
Historians might raise an eyebrow at that — without questioning the claims on either side of this story.
The Standing Rock Sioux