Several hundred supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe staged a protest at the Army Corps of Engineers building in downtown Portland.
A plan to build an oil pipeline across land and rivers important to the Standing Rock Sioux has sparked one of the largest, most diverse tribal protest movements in decades. Last week, more than 100 protesters were arrested at their encampment in North Dakota.
In Portland on Monday, hundreds of protesters gathered in solidarity, carrying signs that declared “Water is Life” and “No Dakota Access Pipeline.”
“Fight for us. Write to everybody you can, tell everybody you can,” 82-year-old John Nelson told the crowd. Nelson, who lives in Portland, is the grandfather of the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
But the protesters also wanted to talk about what they see as violations of tribal water rights in the Northwest.
“The battle with the Army Corps of Engineers is big,” said Delia Sanchez, a Grand Ronde tribal member. “They manipulate every single river in the United States. They’re messing with our salmon runs. We’re not going to stand for it anymore.”
Many who came to the Portland protest had also participated in the protests at Standing Rock. Tiwani Sahme was among about 50 members of the Warm Springs Tribe who made the trip to North Dakota in September.
“I went to Standing Rock to sing and pray with my relatives.” Sahme said. “We brought our canoe, we paddled on the water.”
Sahme said he plans to use the skills he learned as a protester at Standing Rock to oppose Nestle’s plan to build a plant in the Columbia Gorge to bottle water from Oxbow Springs.
“We’ve been fighting them for years on this. Part of the reason that I went to Standing Rock was to game myself up, to gain knowledge so we can come back and fight this beast,” he said.
“Our people used to drink out of that spring, for a long time.”
As the protest was dispersing, a small group pushed their way inside the federal building at 1201 NE Lloyd. Portland Police Spokesman Pete Simpson said an officer took a report about the incident, but didn’t make any arrests.
“They went into the lobby, were there for a few minutes and then left,” he said.