Susan Sarandon on Halting Pipeline in Indian Country: After ‘500 Years’ of Mistreatment ‘It’s Time We Listen To Them’

By Penny Starr | August 25, 2016 | 12:50 PM EDT

Actress and left-wing activist Susan Sarandon took part in a protest rally against an oil pipeline in the West on Aug. 24, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Actress and left-wing activist Susan Sarandon said on Wednesday that the dangers posed by potential oil pipeline leaks and the mistreatment of Native Americans in the United States for “500 years” are reasons to oppose a four-state oil pipeline that includes land on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation on the South Dakota-North Dakota border.

“It’s not a question of if the pipeline leaks - it’s a question of when,” Sarandon told CNSNews.com at a rally on the steps of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. “We have the history of what happens with these pipelines. That’s the most important thing.

“And we have the history of what we’ve been doing to Native American peoples for the last 500 years and it’s time to listen to them and stop,” Sarandon said.

The tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its July 26 approval of the oil pipeline because it will cross over multiple waterways on tribal land, and it is also opposed by some landowners in Iowa where it will cross the state to its destination in Illinois.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the tribe by Earthjustice, says, in part, “the construction and operation of the pipeline, as authorized by the Corps threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.”

Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, is constructing the $3.8 billion, 1,168-mile pipeline that's already begun in Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota. Now the project can proceed in Iowa.

On Wednesday, a federal District Court judge listened to arguments on the Standing Rock tribe’s call for an injunction to halt construction of the pipeline on their land. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg did not make an immediate ruling but said he would make a decision by Sept. 9.

CNSNews.com asked Sarandon why she opposed the pipeline, given that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the project, citing that it did not violate any federal environmental laws and that it would create jobs on Indian territories where unemployment is nearly double the national average.

Protesters, many from Native American tribes, held up signs in front of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 24, 2016. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

“I’m here as a mother and a grandmother, and I know this is an issue is something that needs to be fought on every front,” Sarandon told CNSNews.com at a protest on the steps of the U.S. Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., by several Native American tribes and other anti-fossil fuel activists. “It’s not a question of if the pipeline leaks. It’s a question of when.

“I mean, we have to stop using this means for energy,” Sarandon said. “And this is a great example. I thank the people of Standing Rock and all of their other [Native American] communities that have come to take a stand, because they’re taking it for us.

“And the history is clear. Whatever you’re quoting in terms of laws or whatever is not the point,” Sarandon said. “We have the history of what happens with these pipelines. That’s the most important thing.

“And we have the history of what we’ve been doing to Native American peoples for the last 500 years and it’s time to listen to them and stop,” Sarandon said.

The Des Moines Register reported that advocates for the pipeline said it could create up to 4,000 jobs, expand domestic energy security and that transporting oil by pipeline is safer than by rail.

The pipeline, when complete, could typically transport 450,000 barrels a day, with a capacity of up to 570,000 barrels a day.

About 100 people took part in the rally, many dressed in traditional Native American clothing and carrying signs opposing the pipeline.

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