BANGOR, Maine — Fittingly enough for a gathering to call for clean water, a thunderstorm and a long heavy downpour didn't deter a couple hundred people from gathering on the shores of the Penobscot River Sunday to protest the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
The multi-billion dollar pipe project would run across four states, from North and South Dakota, into Iowa, and on to Illinois. Along the way, the route authorized by the Army Corps of Engineers, runs across tribal drinking and fishing water, and through sensitive sites sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux of North Dakota.
"Today, we stand for our ancestors who suffered unimaginable hardships to ensure that we had the opportunity just to exist." says Sherri Mitchell of the Penobscot Nation. Mitchell told the crowd at the Bangor Waterfront, that the tribes across the continent must find strength in solidarity against an unchecked system of power and domination that's all but decimated the original people of America.
"Our ancestors faced displacement, disease, and death and even now when they should be resting and at peace, they're being subjected to more violence, as bulldozers desecrate their graves and turn their bones out onto the ground."
Many protestors drummed and held signs calling for an end to environmental destruction and the enforcement of treaties.
Sydney Marshall of Dover-Foxcroft held a sign calling for an end to the Natural Gas Act of 1938. That's an act which, among other things, regulates the interstate transmission and sale of gas products. Marshall says the act has led to an erosion of land owner rights through eminent domain.
"They don't get the land, they just a get an easement on it, which is better- they don't get to pay taxes. Towns, municipalities, counties and states have taken this to the Supreme Court time and time again and it's not been overturned so the only alternative? Repeal the act give us something better." And he adds, regarding the pipeline development over Standing Rock territory. "It's been a flim-flam from the start. We've been doing this for 520 years."
Penobscot Nation member June Sapiel said it was not a matter of if the planned pipe would leak crude, but when. "It is guaranteed that it is going to leak and will cause contamination within the river." says Sapiel. "The tributaries in that area are some of the few, relatively clean sources of water left there. We're just trying to protect one of the last sources of clean water."
Meanwhile, following incidents where a private security force hired by the pipe company used pepper spray and dogs to halt protests at the pipe site, work on a portion of the pipeline has been suspended pending further review by a number of federal agencies, including the Department of the Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which authorized the pipe route.
The tribes are calling for a permanent suspension of the work.