BISMARCK, N.D. — A United Nations official who visited North Dakota in the wake of months of protests over the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline believes the concerns and rights of Native Americans haven’t been adequately addressed.
North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum says the state has respected legal protests and that it focused on maintaining peace and protecting the environment. He said his administration is working to restore relations with the Standing Rock Sioux.
The tribe has led the fight against the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota oil to Illinois. The opposition became centered at a camp that protesters established on federal land between the tribe’s reservation and the pipeline route. It grew at times to thousands of people, many of whom clashed with police, leading to about 750 arrests since August.
“My impression is that there was unnecessary use of force,” Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, told The Associated Press after visiting the area this week at the invitation of Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault. “Anybody has a right to protest and express their opposition to what is happening.”