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Charges dropped for Canadian Indigenous activist arrested during Standing Rock protests

Charges in the U.S. against a Secwepemc activist from B.C. have been dropped after she was arrested near the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

Kanahus Manuel was arrested near the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline Oct. 22

Kanahus Manuel (right) stands with two other Standing Rock protesters who had their charges dropped in North Dakota Tuesday afternoon. (Kanahus Manuel (Facebook))

All charges have been dropped against a Secwepemc activist from B.C. after she was arrested during the Standing Rock protests last year.

Kanahus Manuel was among dozens of people arrested near the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline Oct. 22, 2016.

She was in a courthouse in Mandan, ND Tuesday to face charges of criminal trespass, engaging in a riot, obstruction of a governmental function, disobedience of a public safety order during riot conditions and disorderly conduct.

She said Tuesday afternoon she was cleared of all charges and free to go home.

"They didn't have sufficient evidence," she said. "I'm feeling relieved."

Manuel said she didn't expect to be victorious against the state of North Dakota. "I feel like this is a victory for everybody who was arrested that day. Hopefully the charges against them will be dropped as well."

On Monday, Manuel called the charges she faced "bogus."

"It wasn't a riot," she said on the phone from Mandan, ND.

"On the day I was arrested, it was during a prayer walk away from the pipeline."

The sun was rising as the police began to make arrests, she said.

"It was really violent," she said. "We had elders, women and pregnant women. It was a peaceful march, we were singing.

"The police started to mobilize...they came over the hill like a war movie. They looked like war machines to us as civilians having not ever seen these machines before. We started to retreat because they were overpowering us."

Manuel spent the day and night in jail and was released the next day. Two weeks later, she plead not guilty to the charges against her.

"I believe that these are major human and Indigenous rights violations. Because when native people stand up to say 'no' to these development projects, whether it's in Canada with the Kinder Morgan project or here with the North Dakota Access Pipeline, if we are really following international standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People then these corporations and governments need the collective free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous People, and they don't have it. Indigenous People have said no."

Facing charges

This isn't the first time Manuel has faced criminal charges related to defending Indigenous rights.

In 2002 she was sentenced to three months in the Burnaby Women's Institute for protesting the construction of the Sun Peaks Resort in her home territory, citing threats to traditional hunting grounds.

Manuel has also protested on the front lines against well-known development projects in B.C. like the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and the Mount Polley tailings spill disaster by Imperial Metals.

About the Author

Brandi Morin

Brandi Morin, Métis, born and raised in Alberta, possesses a passion for telling Indigenous stories. Based outside Edmonton, Morin has lent her talents to several news organizations, including Indian Country Today Media Network and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News. She is now hard at work striving to tell the stories of Canada's Indigenous peoples to a broader audience.