SPOKANE, Wash. - Tensions have reached a boiling point over multi-billion dollar oil pipeline, and local Native Americans are expressing their concerns about the Dakota pipeline protests.
Thursday, police in riot gear began forcibly removing protesters who set up camps to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. More than 100 protesters have been arrested so far. Authorities are trying to remove road blocks and illegal encampments set up on private land. Many Native Americans are worried about the environmental impacts of the pipeline, and local natives say we should be worried about the same in Spokane.
"We need to let it be known that we're just as concerned about our river as they are about theirs. Because, if they're going to let this pipeline do that, they can let a pipeline go over ours too," said Jeff Ferguson, a local Native American who is against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Ferguson has previously spent time delivering supplies to protesters in North Dakota. He says the months-long protest is about protecting the land for future generations.
"That's why they're there, is because our great-great-grandchildren, they're going to need water to drink too," he said.
The Dakota Access Pipeline project was approved in July by the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers. The more than 1,100 mile pipeline would extend through four states. It would connect oil-rich lands in North Dakota to Illionois.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is now suing the Corps, saying the pipeline project is threatening the environment and their tribe's religious and cultural lands.
Several big names have been fighting the pipeline as well.
"That is land owned by the Native American people based on a single treaty they made with the United States. That treaty supersedes any laws that the state might make later," said actor and environment activist Mark Ruffalo.
But, Ferguson says this is an issue that extends far beyond Native Americans.
"This isn't a Native problem, he said. "This is a human problem. You know, we all rely on water. You can't drink oil."
As of Thursday night, law enforcement had cleared the area and pushed protesters about a mile back to the site of a previous encampment.
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