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Two years after the protests against the rocks, the oil sector of North Dakota is in full swing: NPR



Police and protesters clash near the Dakota Access pipeline site in Cannon Ball, ND, in November 2016.

Morton County / AP Sheriff's Department


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Morton County / AP Sheriff's Department

Police and protesters clash near the Dakota Access pipeline site in Cannon Ball, ND, in November 2016.

Morton County / AP Sheriff's Department

Two years ago, in North Dakota, after months of protests from thousands of indigenous activists and ecologists, pipeline opponents rejoiced when the Obama administration denied a key permit for the pipeline Dakota Access (DAPL).

A few months later, the Trump administration overturned this decision and approved the construction.

Opponents of the pipeline feared that a spill from the Dakota access pipeline polluted drinking water from the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Reserve.

"It turned out to be a massive rally – a global rally," recalls Mike Faith, current president of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council.

Faith said the protests sent a message to the world: Native Americans were defending themselves, encouraging indigenous peoples around the world to join the protests. Among them, Leoyla Cowboy left work and home in New Mexico.

Leoyla Cowboy was one of many Indigenous Peoples from around the world who came to North Dakota to take part in the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations.

Jeff Brady / NPR


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Leoyla Cowboy was one of many Indigenous Peoples from around the world who came to North Dakota to take part in the Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrations.

Jeff Brady / NPR

"I'm still here, I'm not really gone," laughs Cowboy. The demonstrations changed the course of his life.

At the protest camp, she met and married her partner. Michael "Little Feather" Giron is one of hundreds of protesters arrested during the anti-DAPL movement. He pleaded guilty to civil disorder charges. Prosecutors say that he was seen pouring gasoline on a burned barricade.

Cowboy says Giron should be out of federal prison next October. In the meantime, she landed a job in North Dakota as the organizer of the Water Protector Legal Collective.

"What was really great and a blessing, is to be an aboriginal woman and learn to maneuver in the legal system," Cowboy said.

Prosecution continues

Two years later, the North Dakota justice system is still busy treating people arrested at anti-DAPL protests. Many have seen their charges reduced or rejected.

There is also a series of active civil suits that still need to be resolved. One of them was filed by protesters who sprayed the police with lukewarm water. Energy Transfer, the company that built the pipeline, has also filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace and other environmental groups for inspiring the protests. And in another case, members of tribes and others filed a lawsuit against the closure of a local highway near the demonstrations for five months.

This closure has had a negative impact on the Standing Rock Sioux Prairie Knights Casino. The tribe will not say how much. But the Bismarck Tribune reported that the tribe suffered a budget deficit of $ 6 million, largely because of the lack of money from the casino.

"I think the economy is slowing down but it's coming back in. I think we're trying to fix the barriers now," said President Faith.

Demonstrations provoke divisions

Divisions between the tribe and local residents, mostly white, intensified because of protests. Most people within an hour drive north of Bismarck do not want to talk about it, but Craig Keller, a Mandan resident, is an exception.

"People were not happy with what was happening and how the protesters were treating others," Keller said.

When protesters clashed with police in the state capital and at a local mall, many North Dakotans ruled their actions rude.

But less than 6% of those arrested came from North Dakota, according to Morton County Commissioner Cody Schulz.

Morton County Commissioner Cody Schulz said the Dakota Access Pipeline has cost his county nearly $ 40 million. The state has paid a large part of this cost.

Jeff Brady / NPR


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Jeff Brady / NPR

Morton County Commissioner Cody Schulz said the Dakota Access Pipeline has cost his county nearly $ 40 million. The state has paid a large part of this cost.

Jeff Brady / NPR

"A lot of the trouble and trouble has been created by people who are no longer here, so there is no reason to anger our neighbors and our friends," said Schulz.

Schulz says the protests cost his country nearly $ 40 million, including police, fires, including repairing damaged infrastructure, cleaning up protest camps and prosecutions. The county emergency fund costs only $ 500,000, so the state legislature has taken over the essentials.

North Dakota has the means to do this because the state's oil sector is booming. The Dakota Access Pipeline carries more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day and, despite the protests of two years ago, the oil industry is expanding.

"We are building pipelines here every day," said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

North Dakota's oil production is growing so rapidly that the state will likely no longer have pipelines next year. That's one of the reasons why Energy Transfer recently announced plans to expand its Dakota Access pipeline in order to carry more oil.


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