For almost a year, hundreds of people continuously occupied a strip of land along the Missouri River in North Dakota, in the hope that the mere fact of their presence would help change the course of America’s energy future.
They called themselves water protectors, protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
They say a breach in the pipe would contaminate drinking water for millions of people, and they say the pipeline crosses treaty lands of the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Those are lands given to the Sioux in treaties in the 1800s, but then taken away.
They say the tribe was not adequately consulted before the pipeline was OK’d by the federal government.
They say they were there in peaceful, prayerful protest of a pipeline the Tribe didn’t ask for, and a system that overlooks them.
That’s one half of the DAPL story. Others say that somewhere along the line, the water protectors lost their focus. They tell a story of violent and disruptive protests, of freeloading festival goers looking for the next big get together, of environmentalists overlooking their own impact on the land.
Both stories are true, and the people behind them are equally entrenched in their parallel narratives. For the past several months, Inside Energy and Prairie Public Broadcasting have followed these narratives, from their quiet beginnings to their inescapable collision, when law enforcement officers swept through the largest of the protest camps to evict the few remaining encamped protesters.
This is The Encampment, a 30 minute radio documentary by reporter Nicky Ouellet