GREAT BARRINGTON — The Dakotas may be over 1,000 miles away, but for local activists, the controversy surrounding a pipeline project in the northern Plains states matters in the Berkshires, too.

"It's halted for now," said Amanda Kerswell, of West Stockbridge. "But just for now."

Kerswell joined her friend Dylan Renner, also of West Stockbridge, at the corner of Mahaiwe and Main streets in downtown Great Barrington on Monday to raise awareness about the Dakota Access Pipeline.

On Tuesday, a larger group led by local activist Fidel Moreno held a rally to raise awareness about the issue at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Protesters also took a stand in Park Square in Pittsfield earlier this week.

The controversial pipeline is proposed near a lake regarded as sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux on reservation land in North Dakota. A protest action that began this summer by a group of native youth has inspired a mass action and camp on the site, drawing hundreds of tribes from across the country.

The federal government has temporarily halted work on the pipeline as a result of the protest.

It's a step in the right direction, said Moreno, a retired filmmaker whose son is Native American, but more work remains to be done.

"We need to get the word out about water," he said. "Wells are dry in this area; we're in a 15-year drought. People are starting to wake up."


Moreno chuckled as he recounted growing up in the Southwest, where you could shoot someone for infringing on your water rights.

Moreno, who lives in Bennington, Vt., will head to Standing Rock on Monday to show solidarity with the protesters and stop the pipeline.

Michael Johnson of Monterey also hopes to head to Standing Rock next week. Johnson will document the religious ceremonies and prayers of the Native Americans at the protest.

"What's happening is the beginning of something major," Johnson said. "The Native American people together in unity and prayer, they're not going to back down."

As for Renner's action on Monday, that too was the beginning of something. Renner plans to make a stand weekly for the people in the Dakotas.

"We'll be here every Monday," Renner said. "For as long as it takes."

Dylan Renner, on Monday, taking part in a protest action in Great Barrington against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Dylan Renner, on Monday, taking part in a protest action in Great Barrington against the Dakota Access Pipeline. (EOIN HIGGINS — The Berkshire Eagle)