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Local Mohawks cheer Standing Rock victory

By Isaiah Mawhinney [1], Dariya Baiguzhiyeva [2] and Olivia Timm [3] 

BELLEVILLE – This week’s victory [4] by protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline [5] in the Standing Rock Sioux reservation [6] of North Dakota has touched the indigenous community in the Quinte area. 

On Sunday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers [7] denied a permit to drill for the oil pipeline in the Missouri River. The decision forces Energy Transfer Partners [8], the company behind the pipeline, to halt construction. 

Paul Latchford, a Tyendinaga Mohawk who is co-ordinator of Loyalist College’s Aboriginal Resource Centre [9], told QNet News Tuesday that from the perspective of indigenous people, the issue in the Dakota Access case is “responsibility, and that responsibility is water.”

The protesters argued that the pipeline raised the potential for oil spills that could contaminate their water.

Water is one of the  gifts of creation, along with land, air and fire, Latchford said. “And our responsibility is to sustain these elements, because if we lose any part of this we’ll die very quickly.”

Loyalist’s Aboriginal Resource Centre outreach officer, Dustin Brant, said it is amazing “to know that somebody was listening and that they’re halted for now.”

This fall, Picton freelance photographer Phil Norton visited Standing Rock and documented some of the protests. Among the first people he met were Mohawks from Tyendinaga who were there filming for television station Akwesasne TV [10].

“This issue does go beyond the local native community there. It has touched a chord with all native people. This is their same fight from wherever they come from,” Norton said. “I met them from all over North America.”

The protests were peaceful and welcoming to all people, he said, adding that he feels fortunate to have been a part of it: “I was a non-native, and they were very welcoming to the non-native supporters. At one point a notice went out on Facebook and it said, ‘Don’t come here to make it a photo-op for yourself. Don’t come here for any money interests or selling T-shirts. This is a place of peace and a place of prayer.’ ”  

The Dakota Access Pipeline project was to carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The dispute arose after the company planned to construct it partially on the territory of the Standing Rock Sioux.