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Idahoans join pipeline protest

BOISE — Jaycene Howard’s voice trembled when she talked, but her message was clear: No Dakota Access Pipeline.

Howard, 21, was one of more than 200 people who attended a rally Friday on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol, including residents who traveled from the Magic Valley and outside Idaho. Protests have swelled to include thousands of American Indians and others who say the oil pipeline from the Dakotas to Illinois is threatening the environment and tribal lands.

Jason Prettyboy grew up on the Standing Rock Reservation and in Declo. Prettyboy said it’s important for everyone to be aware of the impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline, especially in the Magic Valley.

“Twin Falls is a farming community,” Prettyboy said. “One of the things that happens when they put these pipelines through is they use eminent domain. That affects everyone — white farmers, Native Americans — it’s an overreach. If they are going to use eminent domain, who’s to say they won’t use it here.”

Prettyboy graduated from Declo High School in 1994. He grew up farming and raising cattle near Raft River.

“I totally connect with the conservative, white farmers,” he said. “I grew up on farms. Water is sacred in this state. I think a lot of farmers and ranchers understand that.”

A judge on Friday denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s attempt to halt construction on $3.8 billion pipeline that crosses a half-mile north of their reservation in North Dakota. However, a few hours later three federal agencies ordered work to stop on one segment of the project in North Dakota and asked the Texas-based pipeline company to voluntarily pause work on a segment that tribal officials say holds sacred sites and artifacts.

In a joint statement from the Departments of Justice, Army Corp of Engineers and the Interior they said they would “reconsider any of its previous decisions” on land that borders or is under Lake Oahe and requested that Energy Transfer Partners “voluntarily pause” work within 20 miles east or west of the lake.

“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be a nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects,” the joint statement says.

At the Idaho Statehouse on Friday, speakers included Lee Juan Tyler, sergeant of arms for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Business Council and Lindsay Manning, chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribal Business Council.

Howard, the 21-year-old speaker, traveled from the Duck Valley Indian Reservation with her mother, Jan Howard, and other members of the Shoshone-Paiute tribe. She is Shoshone and Stoney Cree from Canada. As speakers took turns at a microphone, she held a sign above her head: “We support Standing Rock. Water is Life. No Dakota Access Pipeline.”

Her mother stood on the steps of the capitol holding a sign, as well, that said, “Clean water is a human right. It’s your problem too. We can’t drink oil.”

The younger Howard held back tears when she talked about how the pipeline would contaminate drinking water for people in Standing Rock. She said she thinks of her 1-year-old daughter and her future grandchildren. She worries the same thing could happen to them one day.

Howard said it was her duty to join others in front of the state’s capitol Friday morning, even though she can’t travel to Standing Rock until later this week.

Over Labor Day weekend, confrontations between protesters and private security guards hired to protect construction crews became violent. When construction crews removed topsoil across an area 150 feet wide for two miles Sept. 3 that the tribe says contains burial grounds and cultural artifacts, tribal members tried to intercede. Private security workers used guard dogs and pepper spray. Four private security guards and two guard dogs were injured and the dogs bit six people, including a child, and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

Howard watched the confrontation on videos posted to social media.

“I cried,” she said. “I was angry. I told my mom, ‘I need to go.’”

State authorities announced this week that the the National Guard would be mobilizing at the protest site. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s cause has drawn thousands, including more than 60 tribal nations, to a protest site in North Dakota called Sacred Stone Camp.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says the pipeline will threaten their environmental well-being and would damage and destroy historic, religious and cultural sites. They also say digging the pipeline under the Missouri River, near the reservation’s water intake values, would affect the tribe’s drinking water when the pipeline breaks.

Early in the process, the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri River near Bismarck, but authorities worried an oil spill there would put the state’s drinking water at risk, the Bismarck Tribune reported in August. The U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers evaluated the Bismarck route and concluded it was not a viable option. One of the reasons was its proximity to wellhead source water protection areas that are avoided to protect municipal supply wells, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

“This issue is a big issue,” Jan Howard said. “It’s not a problem for just Native Americans. It’s for humanity, the plants, and the trees. Everything on earth needs water.”

In the joint statement Friday, the Army Corp of Engineers said it will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe.

Sergio Larios, of Twin Falls, traveled to Boise Friday morning to attend the rally. He said a friend who lives in Boise told him about it, but he’s been following the protest for weeks, mostly through social media.

“I heard nothing about this in corporate-sponsored media,” Larios said. “It was from a grassroots source.”

Larios spoke at the event and also took part in a march around the capitol building where people held signs and shouted slogans like “Water is life.”

“I believe as an individual, with individual rights, I should lend my support to give voice to this community and to this cause and this effort,” Larios said. “I loved the turnout. I know there are more, but I was amazed at the turnout. It was nice to see different types of people.”

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