Pipeline approved on anniversary of violent clash in Standing Rock

The irony of today’s Keystone XL approval is not lost on those who led the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline Limited (DAPL).

Dennis Ward
The irony of today’s Keystone XL approval is not lost on those who led the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline Limited (DAPL).

One year ago today, one of the biggest conflicts of the months long protest against DAPL unfolded on the Backwater Bridge on Highway 1806 in North Dakota outside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe territory.

Law enforcement used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and for the first time, water during sub-zero temperatures to push back people from the front lines of the bridge.

Many who were on the bridge that night feel it’s ironic the Keystone XL pipeline would receive approval on the same day, one year later.

One of those most critically injured was Sophia Wilansky.  Her arm was nearly torn off in the skirmish.

On Monday, Wilansky released a statement.

“The fact that state actors are willing to assault and maim anyone who stands for water within an Indigenous-led movement only means that each of us must strengthen our resolve to contribute in our own way to the struggle to defend life and end the colonizing institutions that threaten it,” she said.

“No attack on my body or character will silence me or prevent me from returning to the front line as soon as I am physically able.”

Morton County Sheriff’s Department denied any wrongdoing in the case of Wilansky.

In an email response to APTN News said they “showed great restraint.  And that was proven by the fact no lives were lost and there were no serious injuries.”

A statement Joye Braun, one of the first people to camp at Standing Rock can’t believe given what happened to Wilansky and others.

“They don’t call that a serious injury?  Susie almost losing her eye, they don’t call that a serious injury?  Somebody’s scalp getting blown up like that, you don’t call a serious injury?  Bullshit.  I call Kyle Kirchmeier, I call bullshit.”

Braun is now part of the Wakpa Was’te Camp in Eagle Butte, South Dakota gearing up to fight against Keystone XL.

Following Monday’s pipeline approval, Braun called for 24 hours of prayers.

And then to watch for updates on what happens next.


Host, Producer / Winnipeg

Dennis is Métis from southern Manitoba. After spending a decade working in TV in Alberta and Ontario, Dennis returned to Manitoba to join APTN’s Winnipeg bureau as a reporter/correspondent in September 2014. In 2016, he won a Canadian Association of Journalists award for his story A Soldier Scorned for APTN Investigates. In 2017, he became a host/producer for APTN National News and Face to Face. In 2020, Dennis and co host Melissa Ridgen were nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best News Anchor, National.