Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe seeks prayers ahead of pipeline hearing

Brandon Stevens, a council member for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, was among the many tribal citizens who traveled to North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. "There is so much positivity here, families, children, community," Stevens wrote on Facebook on August 20, 2016. Back in Wisconsin, he posted a follow-up video on August 23, 2016. Photo by Brandon Stevens

The leader of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is asking for prayers ahead of a crucial court hearing in the nation's capital.

Chairman Harold Frazier plans to be at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as a judge hears arguments on a motion to halt the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. The case is being closely watched across Indian Country as protests continue at a construction site in North Dakota.

"There has been peaceful opposition to this pipeline where prayer has played a crucial role," Frazier said on Tuesday. "The prayers have been from many different religions, languages and peoples. Let us continue to pray that the parties that have to make a decision regarding this issue will hear your prayers and listen."

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed the lawsuit late last month after the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers approved the controversial project. A motion for preliminary injunction warns of negative impacts on the local water supply and of damage to sacred and historical sites.

"I strongly believe in the right of the people to be heard regarding the Dakota Access pipeline," Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, who was arrested last Friday as part of the protests near Cannonball, North Dakota and who also plans to be at the hearing, said in a statement submitted to the court on Monday. "The pipeline presents a threat to our lands, our sacred sites and our waters, and the people who will be affected must be heard. Peaceful demonstration can be very powerful and effective."

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has been allowed to intervene in the case although it won't be officially participating in the hearing on Wednesday. Dakota Access LLC, the partnership behind the pipeline, is also a party.

Dakota Access has temporarily stopped construction pending the outcome of the court proceeding in D.C. In a separate action, the company secured a temporary restraining order against Archambault and other Standing Rock leaders that prevents them from interfering with construction work.

A hearing in that proceeding was due to take place on Thursday but it was pushed back to September 8 as a federal judge in North Dakota urged Dakota Access and the Standing Rock leaders to work together and resolve that particular dispute.

The tribe set up the Camp of the Sacred Stones in April, as news of the project was beginning to spread. Since then, Indian Country has rallied to the cause -- as of Monday, 87 tribes have sent letters or passed resolutions in support of Standing Rock.

Standing Rock and Cheyenne River also sent their youth on a 2,000-mile relay run across the country to raise awareness. The three-week journey culminated with a series of actions in D.C., including a rally in front of the White House on August 6.

"When this pipeline breaks, it will only take five minutes for oil to get into our water intake system," Bobbi Jean Three Legs, a young member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said of a pipeline that comes within a half-mile of her reservation.

The youth effort -- dubbed ReZpect Our Water [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] -- has drawn attention from celebrities like actor Jason Momoa, who is Native Hawaiian, and actress Shailene Woodley, who ran with the group and went to Cannonball earlier this to show her support.

The sacred camp has attracted upwards of 2,000 tribal citizens and allies. Hundreds more are coming in and going from the site near the Missouri River.

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would start in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota before crossing into South Dakota. From there the route goes through Iowa -- where the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Meskwaki Tribe have raised objections.

The pipeline path ends in Illinois and backers say it would carry about 470,000 barrels a day. It has the capacity to carry up to 570,000 barrels a day or even more, according to Dakota Access.

The pipeline does not directly cross any reservations but it goes through territories ceded by tribes through treaties. It also goes through historic tribal sites, including a burial ground in the northwest part of Iowa.

The hearing on Wednesday takes place at 2pm in Courtroom 19, on the 6th floor, of the courthouse in D.C. Judge Judge James E. Boasberg is presiding.

Up to US is asking supporters to come to the courthouse for a rally starting at 1pm. The group led a caravan to the Democratic National Convention last month.

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