By RAYMOND GIBSON
While demonstrations involving thousands of protestors across the country stood in solidarity against President Trump’s executive order to move forward with the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota, a small group of local residents converged at the Knights Ferry Recreation Area to show their support for the demonstrators and their cause.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, along with large numbers of non-Native Americans, have been demonstrating against the construction of the pipeline for years. On March 9 the demonstrators erected a number of teepees on the National Mall in front of the Washington Monument, and then the following day, marched in protest of the North Dakota Access pipeline and Keystone XL, who are expected to start pumping oil through the pipeline as early as April 4.
Sharon Hoffman, herself a Native American and organizer of the local event on Friday, said the demonstration was a call to action.
“We’ve been against this project and have been demonstrating against this pipeline for the past three years. Today we just want to make our voices heard. This is wrong. Native Americans have a right to protect our land and our water and this is more important than more oil,” she said.
Among the demonstrators at Friday’s rally at Knights Ferry, Dayna DeCristoferi of Sonora and her 2 ½-year-old daughter Grace Shidester, came for the first time to demonstrate.
“We came today just to show some respect for Native Americans and their culture and lands. This whole thing touches my heart. There is enough power and money. What we need is the insight to try something else,” she said.
Also among the local group, Melinda Wright of Jamestown said the real issue is bigger than it appears.
“Oil is not our future. We have to think about the bigger picture here and the impact that this has in the long term,” Wright said.
Among the problems that the Native American tribes have with the pipeline project is what they consider a rush by the administration to push the project through without the proper environmental impact studies required by law. Mary Brown of Oakdale said that workers on the pipeline “completely ignored a court order to halt construction” and just “crashed right through” and started digging.
Though the general consensus of the group was that their demonstration, as well as those across the country, probably wouldn’t stop anything now, they nonetheless felt they needed to be heard.
“What we would really like,” Hoffman said, “is a meeting with the president. Maybe if he could see how much this matters to the native people, he would move to stop it.”