Mark Clatterbuck, an associate professor of religion at Montclair State University, was present at the Native American resistance protest in North Dakota to help fight the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), operated by Energy Transfer, is a 1,172-mile pipeline project that would carry fracked oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa. It would then travel through Illinois and down to the Gulf Coast for export.
There is Native American resistance to the DAPL, as it would devastate tribal, sacred and ceremonial sites. Native American tribes are seeking to halt the project, which would disturb graves, stone features and ancestral homeland.
The pipeline, if completed, would cross the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, the reservoir that provides drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
DAPL is slated to go right through ancestral tribal lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of Lakota and Dakota ancestry.
Clatterbuck said, “A treaty in the 1800s gave the territory to the Sioux tribe and said that, as long as the grass grows and water flows, the land is yours, but when gold was found, the federal government took the land from them.”
Clatterbuck, who appeared very shaken, explained that there was a violent confrontation where pipeline crews pepper sprayed and unleashed attack dogs on unarmed Native American protesters, including children and elders.
“The tribe has organized a camp, and so I went out as an independent observer,” said Clatterbuck, who was present with his young daughter.
According to Clatterbuck, there are about 2,000 people camped out at the site in an effort to halt the work.
“They want it to be known that they will gather here and be the physical resistance to the pipeline with their bodies,” said Clatterbuck. “It is super powerful to see how committed these people are.
People have lost their jobs in order to camp out, others cook for everyone, and there have even been people setting up schools for the Native students.”
People have been arrested for physically trying to stop bulldozers, chaining themselves to bulldozers, and even laying down in front of them.
“They are unarmed, but it’s a big group of people. So either the company voluntarily halts construction on the project or Federal Regulatory agencies shut them down,” said Clatterbuck.
“North Dakota’s winter is harsh, but they are willing to stay there if that’s what it takes,” he continued.
Clatterbuck helps run a 501 federal non-profit, Lancaster Against Pipelines, and has shown support by standing with the Sioux tribe. According to Clatterbuck, this fight is a spiritual event. “Water is sacred,” he said. “This site is sacred.”