The battle over private property rights and Native peoples, ‘water protectors’, has come to a head in North Dakota at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation , and on Tuesday, the issue was brought to the University of Montana.

Ruth Ann Swaney is the Native American Natural Resource Coordinator at the University of Montana, and she was part of a gathering on the UM Oval along with about 100 others raising awareness of all the issues that have coalesced at the site of a project owned by the Dakota Access Pipeline seeking to place a pipeline to transport crude oil beneath the Missouri River.

“I was one of the people who has been at Standing Rock, and the biggest message is to continue to raise awareness, as well as to write our government officials to look at the impact of their present plan,” Swaney said. The Standing Rock people do not want there to be a pipeline at all, but there are some that would be happy if it was just rerouted. I don’t think we should focus so much energy on a pipeline as much as focus more on alternative forms of energy, because oil is a finite resource.”

On October 27, over 140 protesters were arrested at the site, and many were charged with trespassing, rioting and criminal endangerment after some vehicles were set on fire.

Swaney said the opposition to the pipeline project runs deep in the Standing Rock people. She was asked how far members of the opposition would go to prevent the project from being completed.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I think there’s some people that will do whatever they have to do. I think that some of them would sacrifice their lives. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Swaney believes the Dakota Access Pipeline project should be abandoned altogether, and the money be reinvested in alternative energy.

“I also think that they should look at ways of providing support for those who have experienced trauma at the site,” she said. “The people who have been standing against the development who have suffered.”