Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Links to Fayetteville

By Hillary Hollis

The Razorback Reporter

The Standing Rock Sioux protest against the oil pipeline in North Dakota reached Fayetteville Saturday and has affected UA students.

“As a person from a reservation, I’ve seen how badly our people need resources,” junior Gabriella Tovar said.

Tovar is Navajo and grew up on a Navajo reservation in Arizona, she said. She is majoring in criminal justice.

The protest that took place Saturday in Fayetteville aimed to show solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, organizers said. More than 70 people stood in the cold, drizzling rain from 1 to 4 p.m. at the intersection of Joyce Boulevard and College Avenue.

Besides empathy for the Standing Rock Sioux, many of the participants in the Fayetteville protest said they are concerned for the safety of water resources.

Oil pipelines are also an issue for Arkansas, Fayetteville resident Jayme Huff said. She cited the 2013 oil spill in Mayflower and the proposed Diamond pipeline that is planned to extend across the state. The Mayflower spill, deemed major by the Environmental Protection Agency, discharged 3,190 barrels of crude oil from a 22-foot long rupture which caused the evacuation of 22 homes in the area and flowed into a cove of Lake Conway. ExxonMobil eventually bought 24 Mayflower homes where families never returned and three others were demolished.

“Any of the pipelines can leak, and the water is in bad shape,” Huff said. “The history of oil companies is they pay fines and don’t clean up the mess.”

Protesters lined a grassy patch alongside the highway holding signs that read “I stand with Standing Rock,” “water is life. No DAPL,” “water and oil don’t mix” and “protect the sacred.”

Tiffany Holcomb-Pascual organized the protest at Joyce and College through Facebook.

Her daughter Kendra Pascual emphasized the importance of protecting clean water and air for future generations.

“We are fighting for the next generation. If there is no water and no oxygen, there will be no next generation,” Kendra Pascual said.

Energy Transfer Partners LP is building the pipeline to carry oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline also will cross South Dakota and Iowa; a section is routed under a dammed portion of the Missouri River called Lake Oahe. That is an ancestral site for the Standing Rock Sioux, adjacent to the tribe’s reservation. They oppose that aspect and sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia in July. Protests have continued at the site for months.

Protesters won a measure of victory when the Army denied Energy Transfer the final easement for the pipeline Dec. 4, although doubts remain about the long term.

“It was a tremendous victory, but the issue still persists and there’s no reason to go stagnant,” said Arlyn Brazell, a UA graduate student who traveled to Standing Rock with a St. Martin’s group.

The Army’s decision is a victory for the protest, but may create a perception that the conflict is over when it is not, said Samantha Haycock, chaplain of St. Martin’s.

Raising awareness was one objective of the Fayetteville protest. High school students Zoe Downum and Tabitha Edsall said this was one of the reasons they participated in the Fayetteville protest.

“It’s so sad because most of the people I talk to don’t know about it,” Downum said. “And I think it is so important for young people to use their voices because we are the next generation.”

Several issues are involved in the pipeline protests in North Dakota, including environmental concerns, the sovereignty of Native American tribes and the democratic right to peacefully assemble.

“No matter how people feel about pipelines and climate change, I think we can all agree that peaceful people should not be subjected to rubber bullets, water cannons and compression grenades,” said Kelly Mulhollen from the Fayetteville Omni Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology.

People tend to think of Native Americans as something out of the past, said Olivia Morgan, president of the UA Native American Student Association. It is unfortunate it takes a conflict like the Dakota pipeline for Native Americans to be considered relevant.

“This isn’t the only thing that has happened since the 1970s,” Morgan said.

Protesters chanted “water is life,” “honk if you drink water,” and “this is what democracy looks like.”

Some of the Fayetteville protesters have been to the protest in North Dakota.

Huff lived in North Dakota and went to protest with the Standing Rock Sioux this summer. She is an adopted member of the Lakota tribe, she said.

“I have been praying for the water for a long time,” Huff said.

Fayetteville resident Nik Robbins went to the protest in North Dakota over Thanksgiving. It is not the first protest he has participated in, but he said he thinks it is the biggest with the most diversity in the people protesting, he said.

Three groups from the St. Martin’s Episcopal Center on the UA campus have traveled to North Dakota to participate in the protest during the past two weeks, said Samantha Haycock, chaplain of St. Martin’s. Originally Haycock had decided to go on her own, but when she told church members she planned to go, many were interested in going with her, she said. A group of 10 including Haycock went to North Dakota Nov. 11. Two other groups from St. Martin’s went later.

Chis Ballos, who was born in the Marshall Islands, went to North Dakota for five days.

“A lot of my work is in climate justice,” Ballos said. “I wanted to go out there and thank the people personally because what they are doing is not just for their homes and water.”


A version of this article appeared in The Arkansas Traveler.