NORTH DAKOTA (Press Shia) – Native Americans protesting near a pipeline construction site in the US state of North Dakota describe their movement as a battle on the future of the generations to come.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota has been fighting to protect its land and water since several months ago, after the US government approved the construction of a $3.7bn oil pipeline designed to transport fracked oil across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
Native Americans are, in fact, challenging the US Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access pipeline, which crosses the Dakotas and Iowa to Illinois.
The pipeline’s proposed route takes it across the river immediately upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, which opponents say would threaten the water supply. Native American are also worried about the catastrophic environmental damage if the pipeline were to break near where it crosses under the Missouri River.
Bashir, an activist who is a member of a Sioux tribe, told a Press Shia dispatch that the project affects some “18 million people” who rely on the Missouri River for their water supply.
“In a four-state area, you know it’s a lot of people; I believe it was like 18 million people, (who) rely on the Missouri River; so, let’s say when the pipeline leaks or burst, you know, the oil is going into the reservation shared with Missouri River; it’s going to affect everybody downstream and all the cities that rely on the Missouri River for their water resource. So, it’s not just going to affect the tribes, it can affect everybody—18 million people. So, you know, that’s why you see a lot of people from all over here in the United States, here at these encampments, here in North Dakota,” Bashir said.
“You see people from all walks of life, you know, coming here in unity, standing in solidarity with Standing Rock, protecting our water, which is, our main source of life around; It’s not only going to affect us today, it’s going to affect our future generations. You see a lot of children around here. It’s going to affect them you know; there are future generations. I have a baby, she’s only 21 months old; it’s going to affect her too, you know.”
Elsewhere in his comments, the activist who has converted to Islam in September 2001, urged the Muslims to flock to the encampments in North Dakota to express solidarity with the Native Americans’ movement.
“My message is out to all Muslims is like, you know, like I said look into it, and you know, pledge your support, and if you can come here and show your support,” he said.
Leslie Henderson, a Native American who also converted to Islam thirteen years ago, is one of the participants in the North Dakota protests. She says values inherent in Islam have encouraged her to pledge support to the largest gathering of indigenous nations in modern American history.
“Allah has given us so much, has privileged us with being Muslim and that dignity and the inner strength to be Muslim – and that He infuses you with this love – it makes you feel like you can take on anything… and you know that it if Allah is with you, you can do anything. It makes you feel like you are fearless, you have no borders, no boundaries,” she told Press Shia, in response to a question on her motivations of attending the protests.
“Allah has created nature for us to protect, and to heal from– you know, there’s a lot of healing in the nature. It’s not a coincidence that people love nature and being in nature. There’s a healing for the human being. When Allah has given us this gift, it’s also a responsibility for us to protect it.”