Act: Inspiration

Prayer and Resistance Camp Launches in Louisiana to Challenge Pipeline Connected to DAPL

July 5, 2017

A new resistance camp, called L’eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life), opened on June 24. Based in southern Louisiana, the camp is against the 163-mile long Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

The camp, according to a press release emailed to Colorlines, is made up of indigenous and environmental justice communities. Described as a “floating camp,” it sits among Louisiana’s wetlands and contains numerous indigenous art structures that are on rafts. The camp’s name, L’eau Est La Vie, is in the indigenous-colonial Houma French language. The United Houma Nation is one of the tribes whose members are challenging the pipeline.

For these first two weeks, the camp will be full of prayerful ceremony, says Cherri Foytlin, state director of Bold Louisiana and an indigenous woman. “Someone is praying at all times at the camp for the next two weeks,” she said in a phone interview with Colorlines about the space which she considers a prayer and resistance camp.

L'eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp members prepare crawfish, a major part of the region's cultural and economic culture, on June 24, 2017, in southern Louisiana.L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp members prepare crawfish, a major part of the region’s culture and economy, on June 24, 2017, in southern Louisiana.

However, Foytlin says that campers are prepared to put their bodies on the line. If the Bayou Bridge gets the necessary permits to begin construction—one from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one from the state’s Department of Natural Resources and another from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality—they will “use [their] bodies to protect [their] children.” The Department of Natural Resources already issued its permit on April 3.

Energy Transfer Partners—the same company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline—needs the Bayou Bridge to bring the Dakota Access to its full potential. The company wants the crude oil from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota, which runs through the Dakota Access to Illinois, to ultimately end up at terminal facilities and refineries in St. James, Louisiana.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would be needed to bring North Dakota’s fracked oil to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline system, collectively called the Bakken Pipeline, would bring the oil to Nederland, Texas, and then to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The idea is to expand that existing system to St. James.

It would carry 480,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Environmentalists in the region—including many indigenous and tribal nations—are concerned how the pipeline may impact crawfishing industry if a spill occurs. Landowners are worried that Energy Transfer Partners will take away their land to use for the pipeline, which Energy Transfer Partners has done with other pipeline projects around the country (including the Dakota Access Pipeline).

Photo courtesy of Ethan Buckner / EarthworksIndigenous children at the L'eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp on June 24, 2017, in southern Louisiana.Indigenous children at the L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life) Camp on June 24, 2017, in southern Louisiana.

The company says the pipeline will provide an economic and employment boost, but The Times-Picayune reports that only 12 permanent jobs will come out of the project. It costs $670 million and would run across 11 parishes. Plus, the company’s controversial counterterrorism tactics in North Dakota (which include surveillance and infiltration) have made pipeline opponents more determined to keep Energy Transfer Partners out of their backyard.

“This is part of protecting ourselves and liberating ourselves from [Energy Transfer Partners] in particular,” says Foytlin. “It should have its social license revoked. They don’t deserve to keep doing business.”

Watch the video below to hear Foytlin speak about how the Bayou Bridge Pipeline could impact her land and people.


Teaser photo credit: Indigenous leaders open the L’eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) Camp in ceremony June 24, 2017, in southern Louisiana. All photos courtesy of Ethan Buckner / Earthworks

Yessenia Funes

Yessenia Funes is the climate justice reporter for Colorlines. She was previously an editor at YES! Magazine, where she covered racial justice with a solutions lens. Her work has appeared in Grist, AlterNet, Public Radio International, and Truthout. Her writing touches on how race and the environment intersect, but she is passionate about any and all social justice issues. Readers can find her essay on El Salvador's environmental degradation in the 2017 Women of Color Anthology. A daughter to Salvadoran immigrants, Yessenia dreams of reporting on climate and environmental justice in Latin America.

Tags: climate justice movements, Dakota Access Pipeline, indigenous social movements, pipeline projects