Indigenous people from Winnipeg join Standing Rock protest camp in North Dakota

For the last few weeks, a few thousand Indigenous protesters from across North America have been gathering at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota, including First Nations people from Manitoba.

Opposition to multibillion-dollar pipeline project by Dakota Access gets support north of border

Indigenous people protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota on Aug. 12, 2016. (James MacPherson/Associated Press)

For the last few weeks, a few thousand Indigenous protesters from across North America have been gathering at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota, including First Nations people from Manitoba.

They are gathering to protest a multibillion-dollar pipeline project by Dakota Access. Protesters are concerned the pipeline will affect the reservation's drinking water, and disturb their traditional sacred territories.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., heard a request from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to temporarily stop construction of the pipeline near their reservation, which straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. He's expected to deliver his decision on Sept. 14.

Kevin Settee, president of the University of Winnipeg Students' Association, travelled to Standing Rock last week, and he hopes the U.S. federal court sides with the reservation.

"Obviously the dream is to not have the pipeline built through their territory," said Settee.

But he is worried stopping the work would only be a temporary solution.
Kevin Settee and Sadie Phoenix Lavoie, look over the Missouri River in Cannonball, N.D. The planned route for the pipeline goes under the river. (Submitted)

"Water is a part of us, and we're not going to be able to survive if we keep doing what we're doing," said Settee.

He is concerned that projects such as the proposed Energy East Pipeline will have adverse effects on clean drinking water north of the border.

"I'm getting ready for it [Energy East]. When it comes, if it comes to front lines, all of these things are interconnected."

Settee, who is a father, is worried about the environment we're leaving for future generations.

"It's important to me because I have my boy. My boy is going to be coming up in an era with climate change. I want to be able to tell him that I stood up for him and the water."

The camp features an outdoor community kitchen, which serves free meals for the people gathered at the site. (Kyra Wilson)

Cecil James, a band councillor for Roseau River First Nation, drove eight hours to Standing Rock from Winnipeg this past weekend. 

"The NEB [National Energy Board] has projections to expand [the] tar sands, so that means more pipelines, more expansions of existing pipelines," said James.

He predicts similar protests will occur on the Canadian side of the border and he wants to be prepared "when that fight comes to our territory — there is no doubt in my mind, that it will."

Ceremony and tradition at camp

Kyra Wilson drove to the protest with friends to offer support, and was in awe to see Indigenous people gathered from across North America, sharing songs, ceremony and working together.

"It was just amazing, being a First Nations woman, and seeing the actual traditional roles being played out at the camp was so beautiful for me," said Wilson, who is from Long Plain First Nation.
Kyra Wilson was inspired by what she saw at the protest camp in North Dakota. (Cheyenne Thomas)

Many of the people who travelled to support the camp brought gifts, such as food and traditional medicines to the people of Standing Rock, Wilson said.

She described how peaceful the camp was while she was there, and she wanted to show support for the community.

"All they want is the right, and recognition — that it is their territory. They should be consulted when it comes to their territory in regards to the land," said Wilson.

While at the camp, Wilson witnessed the beauty of Indigenous culture. People often have a misconception that "Indigenous people are so broken," she said. What she saw on the weekend "was strong, resilient and beautiful people."

"I wish that everyone could see what is happening right now in Standing Rock, 'cause it's just amazing," said Wilson.

Settee shared similar sentiments.

"It feels like a sundance there, but it's not a sundance. It's protecting the land and protecting the water. Everything that they do there is for the water and future generations."

This weekend Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Man., is hosting a gathering of all nations in support of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.


Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He was an associate producer with CBC Indigenous.

Canadian Press, Associated Press