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Native American´s Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), USA


The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is part of the Bakken Pipeline Project (BPP). A 1886 km underground oil pipeline to transport around 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois, where it will shipped to refineries. The owner is the Energy Transfer Crude Oil, a Texas-based company and is financed by more than 15 banks around the world.

On November 2016 the project was reported to be around 90% completed and was expected to be delivered by January 2017. However, the section closest to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation (Native American territories) is where the conflict is taking place.

In July 2016, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, from North Dakota filed suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the project. The native tribes argued that the pipeline threatens the Native American cultural sites and their water supply. Furthermore, it does not recognize the “Treaty of Fort Laramie” signed 1868 in which United Stated recognize the Great Sioux Reservation. The motion suit by the native tribes was denied in September 2016. Afterwards they filed an appeal but it was denied again in October the same year.

As a form of protest and to block the ongoing building pipeline, Native Americans founded “spiritual and water protection camps” such as Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin camp, Red Warrior, and Rosebud Sicangu. Native have receive support all over the world and protestors in these camps have reach more than 10.000 people.  During protests and blockages, more than 750 people have been arrested, they have faced pepper spray attacks, rubber bullets and sound cannons, among other violent methods  such as attack with dogs which bit at least six people.

At the end of 2016, the Obama US government decided to explore other routes for the Dakota pipeline amid huge protests by Native Americans. As a symbol of solidarity with the native Indians in on December 2016, Veterans took a knee and collectively asked for forgiveness for the genocide and war crimes committed by the United States Military against tribal nations.

However, it seems this decision was short-lived victory as the owner of the project, Energy Transfer Partners, has been a major contributor to the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign. Once Donald Trump became president, he signed an executive order to advance the construction of the pipeline under "terms and conditions to be negotiated”. On February 7, 2017, Trump authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed, ending its environmental impact assessment and the associated public comment period.

As a form of mobilization against the DAPL, a divestment movement campaign is taking place around the world.  The campaign #DeFundDAPL invites people to withdrawal their money for the list of banks  which are funding the Dakota Access Pipeline in a direct or indirect way.

After the Trump decision, in a symbolic gesture, the protesters set fire to their own camp. “People have said their last prayers, and offered cedar to the sacred fire and are also burning these structures we have ceremonially built, so they must be ceremonially removed,” Vanessa Castle of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe. 


After four years of legal struggle in July 2020, a judge ordered Dakota Access pipeline to shut down. According to Earth Justice, "That ruling found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and glossed over the devastating consequences of a potential oil spill when it affirmed its 2016 decision to permit the pipeline. The court ordered the Corps to re-examine the risks of the pipeline and prepare a full environmental impact statement, but left open the question as to whether pipeline operations would be halted as a legal remedy pending further briefing.  After carefully analyzing the seriousness of the government’s legal violations, and the potential impacts on the Tribe and third parties, today’s decision concluded that shutting down the pipeline was necessary" [1]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Native American´s Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Ilinois.
Location of conflict:Standing Rock
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

-A underground pipeline across both sides of Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

-The pipeline is planned to carry 470,000 barrels per day (75,000 m3/d) of crude oil "based on contractual commitments to date".[11] The capacity may be increased up to 570,000 barrels per day (91,000 m3/d)

-According with the company, Lake Oahe already contains eight other pipelines uneventfully operating adjacent to the path of the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as one high-voltage electric transmission line.

-DAPL crosses at least 95 feet below the bottom of Lake Oahe, and at points, up to 115 feet below.

-The steel pipeline, developed and majority owned by Energy Transfer Partners, would connect the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal and pipeline terminus in Illinois.

-The entire project consist in 1,000-mile-long, 30 inches in diameter, it could transport an estimated 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of oil per day.

-The project, which traverses four states, is 92 percent complete overall and 99 percent complete in North Dakota.

-According with the company the Project will create 40 permanent jobs and 8,200 to 12,000 temporary jobs

Project area:1,900 km
Level of Investment for the conflictive project3,800,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:8,000
Start of the conflict:06/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company from United States of America - owner
Dakota Access, LLC from United States of America - Subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company, LLC,
Phillips 66 from United States of America - co-investor
Enbridge Energy Partners LP (EEP) from United States of America - co-investor
Marathon Petroleum Corporation from United States of America - co-investor
Relevant government actors:U.S. Department of the Army; U.S Government; State of North Dakota;Department of Justice; Department of the Interior; Natural Resources Defense Council; American Petroleum Institute;The Army Corps of Engineers;
International and Finance InstitutionsCitybank from United States of America
Wells Fargo (WFC) from United States of America
BNP Paribas (BNP) from France
SunTrust from United States of America
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) from United Kingdom
The Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (MUFG) from Japan
Mizuho Bank (Mizuho) from Japan
TD Securities
ABN AMRO Capital
ING Bank NV from Netherlands
Norway's largest financial services group (DnB NOR ASA) from Norway
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) from China
SMBC Nikko Securities from Japan
Société Générale Corporate & Investment Banking (SGCIB) from France
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:EJOS: Great Sioux Nation,
Supporters: National Congress of American Indians, Greenpeace; Science & Environmental Health Network; Sierra Club; Black Lives Matter (BLM),

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Sioux tribes. They have received solidarity visits from many other indigenous peoples' delegations (from Hawaii, Ecuador, Brazil, among others)
Forms of mobilization:Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Street protest/marches
Official complaint letters and petitions
Ask for disinvestments actions; for example #DeFund DAPL campaign.
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Shareholder/financial activism.
Development of alternative proposals


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Specific impacts on women


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Fostering a culture of peace
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Proposal and development of alternatives:On december 2016, The Army announced to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.
Indians Americans claim for the recognitions and respect of govern theirselfs snd their land.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The US Army Corps of Engineers suspended the project after months of protest, but in February 2017 said it planned to grant final easement for the remaining section of the project.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Treaty of Fort Laramie of April 29, 1868

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Environmental assessment: Dakota Access Pipeline Project, crossings of flowage easements and federal lands


Army halts construction of DAP

‘Water Is Life’: A Look Inside the Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters’ Camp

Black Lives Matter Delegation Returns from Standing Rock Camp

Dakota Access Pipeline: US Army Corps of Engineers shuts down protesters

Army Corps ruling is a big win for foes of Dakota Access Pipeline

Veterans beg forgiveness at Standing Rock:

Breaking: DAPL Construction on Hold Pending Further Review and Tribal Consultation

Divesting in DAPL in Favor of American Indian-Owned Banks

Trump backs Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines

We´re missing 90 percent of the Dakota Access Pipeline Story

JUST IN: The secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II that the current route for the controversial Dakota Access pipeline will be denied.

Push to Evict Remaining NoDAPL Water Protectors Intensifies

‘Divestment is our goal’: Seattle City Council to vote on pulling $3 billion from Wells Fargo over Dakota Access Pipeline

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Trump signs order reviving controversial pipeline projects – video

People at Standing Rock are still being arrested, and the Dakota Access Pipeline could be built under Trump

Naomi Klein´s video: "I feel like I have my future back!" Celebrating victory with Tokata Iron Eyes, 13 yr old water protector

LIVE in DC: Indigenous leaders and climate activists rally against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines

Company Arguments: Addressing Misconceptions About The Dakota Access Pipeline

Protesters occupy Standing Rock reservation, North Dakota (forms of protest)

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

Official Website of Stand With Standing Rock

Action to DeFund DAPL

“We beg for your forgiveness”: Veterans join Native elders in celebration ceremony

Other comments:- Dakota is the tribal name of the Dakota Sioux, meaning "friendly" or "allied."
-“We do not own the land, the land owns us.”said a spiritual leader in North Dakota
-On the Dakota language, the word “oahe” signifies “a place to stand on.”
-Some slogans of the campaign are: "You can´t drink oil!" and " Water is Life! "
--“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” said Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Meta information

Contributor:Grettel Navas, ENVJustice Project
Last update07/07/2020
Conflict ID:2668



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Delegation of Sarayaku people in visit to Sacred Stone camp