Mashantuckets support North Dakota tribe's protest of oil pipeline

Mashantucket — The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe has joined tribes from across the country in supporting the Standing Rock Sioux protest of the Dakota Access pipeline, a $3.8 billion project designed to funnel more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois, passing within a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux’s North Dakota reservation.

“We are united together in support of our brothers and sisters gathered at Standing Rock,” Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, said Thursday in a statement.

“This is about joining thousands nationwide who are speaking out about the importance of protecting our sacred sites and resources," he said, "while also protesting any disregard for tribal sovereignty whenever a proposed development or action threatens to impact a tribal community."

“What’s happening at the Standing Rock Sioux Nation could happen to any community,” he said.

A federal judge has said he'll rule by Friday on the North Dakota tribe’s lawsuit challenging federal permits for the pipeline.

On Wednesday, some 30 members of Northeast tribes, including four from Mashantucket, headed in cars for North Dakota to join the protest, according to Lori Potter, a Mashantucket spokeswoman.

The local contingent included Wayne Reels, director of the Mashantuckets' Cultural Resources Department, Jeremy Whipple, Annawon Weeden and Wolf Jackson, Potter said.

Others in the group represented the Narragansett, Mashpee Wampanoag and Shinnecock tribes, she said.

About a half-dozen more Mashantucket tribal members, as well as Jason Mancini, executive director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, are expected to depart Monday morning for North Dakota.

The Mashantuckets will host a Pipeline Protest Healing Fire, a gathering for local Native Americans and others, beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the tribe’s cultural grounds, 1 Matt’s Path, Mashantucket. It will continue for 24 hours.

Earlier in the week, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council sent letters of support for the protest to national leaders, including the Army Corps of Engineers, White House staff and President Barack Obama. 

The pipeline is to extend more than 1,170 miles through four states — North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. It will move a half-million barrels of crude oil each day across the Missouri and Little Missouri Rivers, a short distance upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Protesters object to what they say is the threat the pipeline poses to the primary water supply for more than 8,000 reservation residents and millions of others living downstream, as well as to sacred tribal historical and cultural sites.

According to news accounts, the monthslong protest turned violent Saturday after tribal officials say construction crews destroyed American Indian burial and cultural sites on private land in southern North Dakota.

Reportedly, hundreds of protesters confronted construction crews just outside the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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