Members of Indian tribes from across the country began to arrive in Washington Tuesday for four days of protests, prayer and demonstrations to assert rights and raise awareness of issues affecting American Indians.
The Native Nations Rise movement will bring a teepee encampment along with speakers and cultural workshops to the National Mall next to the Washington Monument. An interfaith service is planned for Thursday at the National Cathedral, and the week’s events will culminate Friday morning with a march on the White House and rally in Lafayette Square.
The march, which is being led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Native Organizers Alliance, follows a years-long battle by the Standing Rock Sioux and environmentalists against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Protests against the pipeline last year drew Indians from hundreds of tribes to the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and sparked a resurgence of the indigenous rights movement.
The tribe had opposed the 1,172-mile pipeline, saying that it crossed sacred burial grounds and threatened its water supply where it crosses the Missouri River a mile from the tribe’s reservation.
In December, President Barack Obama temporarily halted the $3.8 billion project. But President Trump greenlighted its completion with an executive order soon after taking office in January.
Trump’s move angered tribe leaders, who say they have not been adequately consulted on the pipeline project. Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II traveled to Washington last month expecting to meet with a White House official to make his case for stopping the pipeline but learned that a final decision to go ahead with it had been made while he was en route.
While construction on the final phase of the pipeline continues, tribes remain hopeful they can stop it in court. On Tuesday, a federal judge denied a preliminary injunction request by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to halt construction on religious grounds. Now the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Standing Rock Sioux tribes will wait for a judge’s decision on a lawsuit the tribes filed jointly. That ruling is expected in April.
While they await that decision, they plan to make their case on America’s front lawn. Last week, Archambault called on other “Native relatives and allies” to join the protest.
“We must march against injustice,” he said in a statement. “Native nations cannot continue to be pushed aside to benefit corporate interests and government whim.”