As It Happens

Dogs, pepper spray used against North Dakota pipeline protesters

On Saturday, a group of Native American protesters broke through a fence and stopped construction workers from bulldozing near the site of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Sierra Walcott is one of the protesters.
A Native American protester holds up his arms as he and other protesters are threatened by private security guards and guard dogs, at a work site for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images)
Listen6:33

For months, members of Native American tribes from across the U.S. have converged on a piece of land in rural North Dakota.

I just know that I will protect my mother earth and our people from harm. That's all I know.- Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate  Protester Sierra Walcott

They've set up camp to try to stop construction of the $3.8 billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline - which they say cuts through ancestral lands and threatens the environment.    

On the weekend, protesters say they were hit with pepper spray and bitten by attack dogs controlled by private security officers protecting construction workers.

Here is a video of the incident posted by Democracy Now.

Sierra Walcott is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe, and was there during the confrontation. Here is part of her conversation with As It Happens co-host Carol Off:

Carol Off: Why did you and the other protesters decide to cross the wire fence on Saturday and enter the construction site?

Sierra Walcott: We were standing there and they were right across the fence. The builders were pushing earth literally right in front of us. Collectively we were feeling that pain of watching your mother get injured.

I know it's hard for some to understand but that's the same feeling: watching your mother get injured.

They brought out dogs. I saw six to seven dogs. As soon as I saw those, that mother bear instinct kicked in and I had to go in. I needed to try and make them understand that those dogs were not necessary.

A protestor is treated after being pepper sprayed by private security contractors on land being graded for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images)

CO: Some of the dogs had blood on their mouths that was believed to have been from the protesters. What did you see as far as what the dogs did?

SW: I thought that we had won the day. But they went over the hill and they would not leave. All I saw was that people started running down the hill saying 'we need water.'  Back at camp, I saw a gentleman, he had a large bite on his stomach. There was blood on his shirt and when he pulled it up he had a bite.

CO: Well the local sheriffs department says that it was the protesters who were the violent ones. What do you say to him?

Native American protestors and their supporters are confronted by security during a demonstration against work being done for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. (AFP/Getty Images)

SW: When we read that, we cried. Every day, all day, we pray, and the leaders continue to tell us why we are there. We are continually reminded that we are protecting our mother earth, that we don't have to use violence because prayer is stronger. 

CO: What is it you fear this pipeline will do?

SW: This pipeline will go under the river. It could desecrate sacred sites. I've heard the earth they moved on Saturday is a sacred site. When it does break, it could leak into the water of millions of people, and not just the reservation.

CO: There's going to be a ruling in federal court on Friday whether they will allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to move ahead. If it's allowed to go ahead what will you do?

SW: I just know that I will protect my mother earth and our people from harm. That's all I know.

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Sierra Walcott.

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