BANGOR, Maine — Hundreds of people weathered a thunderstorm on Sunday afternoon at the Bangor Waterfront to show support for the Standing Rock Sioux, the Native American tribe battling construction of a North Dakota oil pipeline near territory it considers sacred.
On Friday, shortly after a federal judge refused to prevent construction of the entire pipeline, President Barack Obama’s administration temporarily blocked the portion that would be within 20 miles of Lake Oahe.
“It’s not a victory until it’s stopped. [The administration] asked [the construction company] to voluntarily stop the pipeline, and they don’t have to if they don’t want to,” said June Sapiel, a member of the Penobscot Nation who recently returned from a two-week stay at Standing Rock and plans to return soon.
“It’s solidarity with No Dakota Access Pipeline that we’re here for and for our treaties’ rights as indigenous peoples — to keep those sacred treaty rights,” she added.
Sunday’s rally largely was organized by Penobscot Nation member Sherri Mitchell, an indigenous-rights lawyer, activist and educator and executive director of the Land Peace Foundation.
“We’re want to share this moment of spirit and solidarity with our brothers and sisters out at Standing Rock. And we’re going to make this stand for all water and all life,” Mitchell said at the start of the event, drawing cheers.
Other participants included Kirk Francis, chief of the Penobscot Nation, tribal elders and representatives of Canadian tribes.
Like the Standing Rock Sioux, Maine’s tribes have had conflicts with government and industry. The relationship between Maine’s state government and its tribes has become increasingly tumultuous over the years, largely because of conflicts over sovereignty, fishing rights, water quality and other environmental matters.
Tensions spiked in the spring of 2015, when the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes withdrew their delegates to the Maine Legislature.
Reuters contributed to this report.