Erica Ryan-Gagne is usually busy taking care of customers at the nail salon she owns in the Indigenous village of Skidegate on Haida Gwaii

Now, she's marching on the front lines of an oil pipeline protest in North Dakota. 

The Haida business woman is one of thousands of people from across North America who have converged at the Standing Rock protest camp.

Ryan-Gagne drove 30 hours from her home in northern B.C. with her two young children to support the Sioux Nation' s battle against the Dakota Access pipeline.

'It's all connected; it's all big oil'

It's similar to the battles underway in British Columbia, said Ryan-Gagne.

"Whether it's Lelu Island, Flora Banks, a liquified natural gas plant proposed at the mouth of the Skeena [River], Enbridge Northern Gateway or the Dakota Access pipeline, it's all connected. It's all big oil," she said.

Haida Protesters at Standing Rock

Haida opponents of an American oil pipeline march in North Dakota. ( Erica Ryan-Gagne/Facebook)

Energy Transfer Partner's Dakota Access pipeline is a $3.8 billion project to transport light sweet crude oil from the Bakken oilfield to Illinois.

The route passes close to the Sioux Nation's reservation in southern North Dakota.

Enbridge is also spending $1.5 billion to be a part of the project. 

The Council of the Haida Nation supports Ryan-Gagne's trip and sent along several thousand dollars for the Sioux's legal defense fund.

Ryan-Gagne packed her car with jars of fish, dried medicine, cedar, sweaters, laundry soap and batteries for the Sioux protest camp.  She also collected American money to give to camp organizers from people on Haida Gwaii.

The protest has been volatile.  

Equipment has been vandalized. Guards have used pepper spray and dogs against protesters, and the National Guard has been called in.  

But Ryan-Gagne said she's a peaceful protester, bringing traditional songs and prayers and pulling her children in a wagon.

"This is what I'm teaching my children," she said. "You don't talk about it. You do it. We've come so far. and we're standing with them." 


To hear the full story, click on the audio labeled: Haida business owner on North Dakota pipeline protest's front line.

With files from Daybreak North