7 Sep 2016

Māori lawyer helps Sioux Tribe protest against a North Dakota oil pipeline

1:45 pm on 7 September 2016

A Māori lawyer is helping an indigenous tribe in North Dakota protesting against an oil pipeline being built over their sacred burial site.

Māori lawyer Kingi Snelgar is helping a  Sioux Tribe protest against a North Dakota oil pipeline.

Kingi Snelgar said he hoped to bring back to Aotearoa what he had learned from the experience helping the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Photo: Supplied

Kingi Snelgar has just graduated from Harvard University and was working as a judge's clerk in the US state of South Dakota when he heard that members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe needed legal assistance in their fight against an oil pipeline.

Mr Snelgar said there was a clash between protesters and security contractors at the construction site this week.

"Several people were bitten by dogs and pepper sprayed and there was certainly no violence from this side."

"The area that was being dug up ... was actually [the] burial ground and the company knew this before they went to this area and intentionally, as I see, provoked the people through digging up the ground."

A spokesperson for the pipeline's developer told local media the protesters broke through a fence and attacked workers.

Mr Snelgar said tribal members believed the pipeline was environmentally dangerous.

"An emergency meeting [is] taking place between the judge and officials, there has been an injunction filed and the final decision about whether the pipeline will go ahead will be decided by Friday."

Mr Snelgar said the people were only trying to protect the water, not only for indigenous people, but all peoples.

He hoped to bring back to Aotearoa what he had learned from the experience, he said.

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