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Back from Standing Rock protest, UT Arlington student shares story

FORT WORTH — As the standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline intensifies in North Dakota, a UT Arlington student is sharing her firsthand experience from the camp that protesters call home.

“It’s history in the making,” said Stephanie Vielle. “It’s still history; it’s just repeating itself.”

Vielle, 34, is political science major at UT Arlington and a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. She’s also Native American.

“I’m Blackfeet. I’m from Montanta,” she said.

She wanted to see for herself the standoff that’s raged on a North Dakota plain for months, to better understand the motivation for the people there.

Authorities are pitted against the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters, who oppose a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline from a company called Energy Transfer. The Dallas-based company says its pipeline is safe and environmentally responsible, but protesters fear it will pollute the water and foul the land.

“They don’t call themselves protesters,” Vielle said. “They call themselves water protectors because that’s what they’re doing, they’re protecting the water.”

Last month, Vielle drove to North Dakota to stay in the camp and speak with the people there. She documented it on Facebook, where she circulates what she’s observed among friends and UT Arlington’s Native American Students’ group.

“They’re living in the elements, in one of the harshest climates of the United States,” she said.

The dispute has turned increasingly ugly. Authorities say protests have become violent, and today, there were reports that government officials could cut off supply lines to the camp as winter sets in.

“For them to cut off supplies to American people is extremely wrong, and I don’t know why they don’t see that,” Vielle said.

Vielle supports the protesters that remain, and she feels that authorities have abused their power.

“I also think about my time in the military, when I was over in Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said. “Those same war tactics are being used against American people.”

Energy Transfer spokesperson Vicki Granado provided  the following statement to News8:

“Energy Transfer supports the rights we all have to safely and peacefully protest, which unfortunately is not what has been taking place in North Dakota.  It is just as important to recognize that the citizens of Morton County also have rights to ensure the safety of their families, their properties, and their livelihoods.”

Copyright 2016 WFAA

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