President Obama sought to defuse tension between protesters and police over the Dakota Access pipeline by revealing that the Army Corps of Engineers is looking at options to reroute the pipeline away from the Sioux sacred lands.
In an interview with NowThis released Tuesday night, the president indicated that the planned $3.8 billion pipeline being built near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota could be routed in such a way that it wouldn’t contaminate drinking water or harm burial grounds.
“We’re monitoring this closely, and I think as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of the Native Americans,” he said. “I think that right now the Army Corps [of Engineers] is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”
He added that the government planned to let the process “play out for several more weeks” but that he believes “this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”
The president’s interview came as tensions continued to rise at Standing Rock, where clashes between protesters and police have grown increasingly violent.
Last week a female protester fired shots as officers tried to remove her and others from pipeline-easement property, and she has been charged with attempted murder of an officer. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office meanwhile has been criticized for heavy-handed crowd-control tactics and use of controversial holding cells.
The pipeline would transport approximately 470,000 barrels of crude oil from oil fields in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois, and cross the Missouri River.
Protesters have been camping out at the contentious site since April, but only in recent weeks have tensions escalated. There are an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people at the Camp of the Sacred Stone, and thousands more flooding in on the weekends, including representatives from 300 different federally recognized Native American tribes.