More than 2,000 U.S. military veterans are expected to join a protest at a camp in North Dakota. Thousands of activists have been protesting against a large oil pipeline project near a Native American reservation.
A reservation is an area of land in the United States that is kept separate for Native Americans to live and govern.
The protesters, who call themselves "water protectors," are concerned about drinking water on the reservation and downstream on the Missouri River.
At the camp, activists are facing snow, storms and below-freezing temperatures.
The veterans are part of a group called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock. They are building temporary housing and working with protesters.
Protesters have spent months opposing plans to build the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation. The protesters say the $3.8-billion pipeline is a threat to water resources and holy Native American burial grounds.
The veterans plan to form a human wall in front of police to protect protesters. Local police officers say they have made more than 525 arrests connected to the protest since August.
On November 21, police fired tear gas and large water cannons in below-freezing temperatures. They also fired rubber bullets. Some people were wounded.
A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department said protesters had started fires on the bridge and other places that night. But protesters said they lit controlled fires for warmth. CNN reported that protesters also said police flares started fires in the grass.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Sioux Nation, leads his people to peacefully pray near a law enforcement barricade just outside a Dakota Access pipeline construction site north of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, Oct. 29, 2016.
Protesters ordered to leave
On Monday, North Dakora state officials ordered that activists leave the camp because of dangerous weather conditions. On Wednesday, however, officials also said they would not force the people to leave.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineeres controls the land where the protest is taking place.
However, the protesters say the Standing Rock Sioux tribe owns the land under a treaty from the 1800s.
On Thursday, North Dakota's chief law enforcement official called some of the protesters “frightening” and said it was "time for them to go home.”
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday said he supports the completion of the pipeline. Trump’s transition team also said he supports peaceful protests.
Members of the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council condemned the involvement of veterans and asked them not to take part.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has said it was probably not possible to build the pipeline in a different place. But, he said he would try to rebuild a relationship with Standing Rock Sioux leaders.
Dalrymple said that state officials never thought about forcibly removing protesters. He also said his order for them to leave was mostly because of concerns about extreme weather putting people in danger.
The Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, LP, owns the 1,885-kilometer pipeline project. It is complete except for the part under protest.
I'm Alice Bryant.
And I'm Anne Ball.
Alice Bryant adapted this story for Learning English from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.
Words in This Story
veteran - n. someone who fought in a war as a soldier, sailor, et cetera
pipeline - n. a line of connected pipes that are used for carrying liquids and gases over a long distance
downstream - adv. in the direction in which a stream, river, etc., flows
water cannon - n. a machine that shoots a large, powerful stream of water and that is used by police to control violent crowds
flare - n. a weapon that fires out a large flame – often used to attract attention
attorney - n. lawyer; a person whose job is to guide and assist people in legal matters
transition team - n. a group of people who manage the change between one system or administrative regime and another