Thousands of people from around the world, including hundreds of indigenous and tribal nations, are currently camping near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to protest the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). What started as a fight to protect sacred Sioux lands from destruction has become a broader struggle for Native American rights, freshwater conservation, and an end to fossil fuel development and corporate greed. On the frontlines, water protectors are facing increasing violence and police repression, but stand strong in peaceful, nonviolent prayer. This kind of unshakable determination has enabled the movement to effectively halt construction of a major pipeline, and has inspired people from around the world to lend their support.
On September 26th 2016, Earthworks landed in Bismarck, North Dakota. My colleague Hilary Lewis and I travelled there from our post in Washington, DC to report on the growing, Native American-led opposition to Energy Transfer Partner’s latest project known as the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). We didn’t have a specific address to navigate to, or even cell service to navigate with, but we knew to follow the highway south towards the town of Cannon Ball. Aside from a security checkpoint outside of the capitol city, staffed by some helpful National Guard officers, the journey was as desolate as it was beautiful.
For over 25 years, Earthworks has worked with frontline communities impacted by mining, drilling, and digging. Two and half years ago, we began using FLIR infrared technology to film and monitor emissions and leaks at oil and gas facilities around the country. In early 2016, these efforts became a formal part of Earthworks, known as the Citizens Empowerment Project (CEP). We opened our doors to concerned citizens everywhere, and began soliciting requests for the FLIR camera on our website.