Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer is an activist who, along with her friends, started the petition to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and came up with its slogan, “Mni wiconi” (Water is Life).
In 2016, 13 year old Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux band Hunkpapa, along with 30 others started a petition to prevent Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. They argued that if the pipeline broke, would pollute their main water source and threaten sacred burial grounds.
Yellowhammer wrote “My friends and I have played in the river since we were little; my great grandparents raised chickens and horses along it,” Anna Lee Rain wrote. “When the pipeline leaks, it will wipe out plants and animals, ruin our drinking water, and poison the center of community life for the Standing Rock Sioux.” She also pointed out that there were 300 oil pipeline spills between 2012 and 2013 in North Dakota alone. This includes a spill of over 865,000 gallons of oil from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in Tioga, North Dakota in 2013, as reported by the New York Times.
The petition against the DAPL gained over 150,000 signatures, and was a part of the larger campaign against the pipeline. In July 2016, Yellowhammer ran 2,000 miles with a group of Native American youth called ReZpect Our Water. They ran from Standing Rock to Washington, DC to raise awareness, covering between 30 and 70 miles a day and ending with a rally in Washington’s Lafayette Square.
The protest at the pipeline site in North Dakota, near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, drew international attention when they set up a number of spiritual camps – Sacred Stone, Oceti Sakowin, Red Warrior, and Rosebud Sicangu – near the Missouri river. At the peak of the protests, around 10,000 people were part of the protest camps.
In November 2016, protesters in Chicago, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Denver, and other cities held protests against the pipeline in a coordinated protest which organizers called a “National Day of Action”. A month later it emerged that the security firm TigerSwan, who had been hired by Dakota Access LLC. to provide security during the protest were told to carry out “military-style counterterrorism measures” to suppress the protesters. TigerSwan also collected information used to assist prosecutors in building cases against protesters and used social media in an attempt to sway public support for the pipeline. The United Nations spoke out about the use of excessive force against protesters.
Despite this, in 2017, President Donald Trump issued a memorandum directing the USACE to expedite the project. After the USACE approved the final easement under Lake Oahe on February 9, allowing Dakota Access to complete the pipeline, the decision was challenged in a lawsuit by the Cheyenne River Sioux. Sacred Stone Camp was cleared by local law enforcement on February 22, 2017.