The Dene Nation held a peaceful rally in downtown Yellowknife Monday to show its support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota.
The reservation is currently fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, a multibillion-dollar project that would see crude oil transported from an oilfield near the Canadian border to Illinois.
If the project goes ahead, the community says it will destroy sacred sites and even contaminate a river that people draw drinking water from.
Even though the US federal government has moved to temporarily halt construction of part of the line, American pipeline company Energy Transfer says it still plans on finishing the project.
In Yellowknife, Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus says Standing Rock’s fight to protect land and water resonates with many people living in Northern Canada.
“There’s a call across the country to support the people at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” Erasmus told a small crowd that gathered for Monday’s rally.
“They are preventing a pipeline from being built in their territory. This is about fossil fuel, clean energy and having a future for our young people.
“We’re asking for peaceful engagement. We want people to go into the schools and we want everyone to understand this issue because it affects all of us.”
Last week, a Northern activist who has roots in Yellowknife was arrested during a protest against the pipeline in New Salem, North Dakota.
Daniel T’seleie was one of several people taken into custody Sept. 14. He was later released but is reportedly facing a felony charge of reckless endangerment for attaching himself to construction equipment.
Yellowknife resident Snookie Catholique also traveled to the States to show her support for the people of Standing Rock.
“What I witnessed was the destruction of lands where the pipeline was going to be going through,” she said. “This kind of attitude and behaviour from industry needs to stop.”
Monday’s rally was held over the lunch hour along Franklin Avenue before finishing at Somba K’e Civic Plaza, where Erasmus and Catholique both addressed a small crowd.