Protesters gather in Winchester: Pipeline opponents stand in solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux tribe

Marie Francis, of Stephens City, protests against the oil pipeline project in North Dakota outside the entrance to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Winchester on Tuesday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – A group of about 30 activists gathered peacefully at the entrance to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday to protest the continuance of an oil pipeline project in North Dakota.

Demonstrations were held nationwide Tuesday at Army Corps of Engineers facilities and banks financing a pipeline that would carry oil through North Dakota, South Dakota and on to Illinois.

Locally, protesters cited the safety of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s drinking water and the threat to the way of life for an already-marginalized people among reasons for their demands that the U.S. government end construction on the $3.8 billion project.

Linda Smith, of Hagerstown, Maryland, stressed the gravity of the situation for her native brothers and sisters to the North.

“The really important aspect of this is that the Sioux tribe’s drinking water could be affected by the oil pipeline, and that’s a major concern.”

The pipeline has been the subject of resistance for several months. The Associated Press reported that the Corps announced Monday that it needs more input from the tribes and more environmental studies done before it can make a decision on whether to allow the pipeline to go under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

On Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, Energy Transfer Partners, of Dallas, and a subsidiary asked a federal judge to allow them to move forward with the project in North Dakota. The news agency reported that the company stated in court documents that the delay has cost nearly $100 million, “and further delay in the consideration of this case would add millions of dollars more each month in costs which cannot be recovered.”

Katrin Venema, of Winchester, expressed hope about the Corps’ delay, but still worries about what’s to come.

“The (companies hired by the Army Corps of Engineers) want to go under the (Missouri) River and they (Army Corps of Engineers) stopped that last night,” she said. “It’s a hope, but how long that’s going to last or what the next decision is – that’s why we’re here – to make sure the next decision is that they can’t do it.”

Kim Moon, of Winchester, explained the issue is not one of native or non-native concerns but of simple human decency and empathy for one another.

“I’m really thankful to be here to honor my brothers and sisters across the land,” she said. “I have some Cherokee heritage in blood, but beyond that I’m human. I’m just human and there’s so much we can do coming together, just us sharing our hearts together is such a testament to our faith and being conscious on this beautiful Earth and I’m just here to be a part of that.”

Moon also said that of the cars driving past the group, reactions have been more positive than negative.

“I see the smiles and appreciation,” she said. “People are nodding and they’re aware. That’s what we want. We want awareness because this isn’t just happening out there, it’s happening in our backyard. … It’s here. We don’t have to travel across the country.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.