DAP pathway
(Photo credit: Tony Webster / Flickr)

For decades, Madonna Thunder Hawk of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota has fought to protect Native land and water.

“We are a people indigenous to this land and we are attached to the land,” she says. “We are not protesters. We are protectors.”

Thunder Hawk has become a prominent voice in the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The pipeline transports crude oil within miles of tribal land, and Thunder Hawk says if it leaks or bursts, the oil will pollute local drinking water.

“We have many small rivers and tributaries on our reservation that this pipeline would affect,” she says. “And we know the dangers.”

In July, a federal court ordered the pipeline to cease operating until a thorough environmental review is completed.

It was a step forward for tribal activists and climate advocates worried about the impact of expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. But the pipeline owners have appealed the decision, so its future remains uncertain.

And Thunder Hawk says the work of protecting land and water is ongoing.

“We’ve been dealing with this for many years, so it’s not a new blight,” she says. “It’s just a continuation, so that’s why we are always in the protect mode.”

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Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Policy & Politics