Updated Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, 5:30 p.m. EDT: In the wake of the brave and unrelenting actions of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and water protectors, joined by other First Nations and nonnative allies, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior released a joint statement announcing the halt of the Dakota Access/Bakken Pipeline pending further review.
The temporary halt affects the 20-mile area around Lake Oahe.
The statement reads in part:
We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act. However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain. Therefore, the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior will take the following steps.
The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved—including the pipeline company and its workers—deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.
Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.
With billions of dollars invested in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, it is not just going away. Time will tell what actions are taken to ensure that the sacred and ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe—and their water supply both from the Missouri River and Lake Oahe—is safe.
A battle has been won, but the struggle continues.
Read the complete statement here.
The legal battle (pdf) to stop Energy Transfer Crude Oil—with approval from the U.S. government—from desecrating the sacred ancestral lands and endangering the water of North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux tribe turned violent Saturday when security officers attacked the land's protectors with pepper spray and vicious dogs, Democracy Now reports.
According to Steve Sitting Bear, spokesperson for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, six people—including a pregnant woman and a small child—were bitten by security dogs. At least 30 people were reportedly pepper-sprayed.
Though the term "protester" has dominated headlines since the 2014 Ferguson, Mo., uprising in response to the extrajudicial killing of Michael Brown Jr., many indigenous activists prefer to be called protectors instead of protesters. They believe the "term ‘protester’ is a colonized term for standing up for what's right"—and for many months, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other indigenous communities have been doing just that.
The Dakota Access Pipeline Project, also known as the Bakken Pipeline Project, was finally approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on July 27 after strong pushback from several tribes. The project is a 1,172-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline developed by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil. The owners of the Bakken-Dakota Access Pipeline Project are Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners (joint 38.25 percent stake), MarEn Bakken (36.75 percent interest) and Phillips 66 (25 percent). Security personnel contracted by the owners are responsible for the attack on the land's protectors Saturday.
The pipeline is to transport approximately 470,000-570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken-Three Forks oil-production areas in North Dakota, across South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, before terminating in Pakota, Ill. The oil is then to be transported across the country to other markets, including refineries in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
With a $3.78 billion investment that will create an estimated 8,000-12,000 local jobs during the construction phase, the local economic impact—including an increase in hotels, restaurants and other services along the route—is projected to be enormous. Read about the projected economic impact of the pipeline here.
Per usual, this appears to be a resounding success for capitalism and imperialist empire, but it is a catastrophic loss and egregious insult to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Their reservation is only 1 mile north of where the pipeline will cross under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, which is why the movement to protect the tribe's water source—as well as stop any further destruction of ancestral land—continues to grow in intensity.
“The Missouri River is over 12,000 years old," said Waniya Locke of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. "The Missouri River gives drinking water to 10 million people. We are protecting everyone. We are standing for everyone.
“All permits have been granted," she continued. "It really shows that the government can be bought out. They are not acknowledging that this is treaty land and it belongs to the Lakota-Dakota People, according to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty."
Writing for Yes! Magazine, LaDonna Bravebull Allard, historic preservation officer for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, laid bare the erasure of First Nations and the whitewashing of history that the U.S. government is so accustomed to perpetuating:
Of the 380 archeological sites that face desecration along the entire pipeline route, from North Dakota to Illinois, 26 of them are right here at the confluence of these two rivers. It is a historic trading ground, a place held sacred not only by the Sioux Nations, but also the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Northern Cheyenne.
The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. … Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.
If we allow an oil company to dig through and destroy our histories, our ancestors, our hearts and souls as a people, is that not genocide?
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe filed an emergency motion Sunday for a temporary restraining order to prevent further development of the pipeline, Indian Country Now reports.
“On Saturday, Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts [northwest of the confluence of the Cannon Ball and Missouri Rivers],” said tribal Chairman David Archambault II (pdf). “They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites. The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We’re asking the court to halt this path of destruction.”
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg sided with Standing Rock, ruling "that work will temporarily stop between North Dakota's State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe, but will continue west of the highway because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction on private land," ABC News reports.
NPR reports that the Army Corps has not pushed back against the order; instead, it "acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the court can render its well-considered opinion on plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction … therefore [it] does not oppose this short and discrete temporary restraining order."
Over the past several months, representatives from more than 100 indigenous tribes from across the United States and Canada have traveled to North Dakota to show solidarity with Standing Rock, setting up home bases at the Camp of the Sacred Stone and the Red Warrior Camp at Standing Rock Reservation. These tribes have been joined by nonindigenous allies as well, with approximately 2,000 people in the area to show solidarity.
According to Jacqueline Keeler, writing for Telesur, "This is the first time since the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn that all seven council fires [of the Océti Sakówin or Great Sioux Nation] have camped together."
“You think no one is going to help,” Frank White Bull, 48, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, told the Washington Post. “But the people have shown us they’re here to help us. We made our stance, and the Indian Nation heard us. It’s making us whole. It’s making us wanyi oyate—one nation. We’re not alone.”
Black Lives Matter stands with Standing Rock. As there are many diverse manifestations of Blackness, and Black people are also displaced Indigenous peoples, we are clear that there is no Black liberation without Indigenous sovereignty. Environmental racism is not limited to pipelines on Indigenous land, because we know that the chemicals used for fracking and the materials used to build pipelines are also used in water containment and sanitation plants in Black communities like Flint, Michigan. The same companies that build pipelines are the same companies that build factories that emit carcinogenic chemicals into Black communities, leading to some of the highest rates of cancer, hysterectomies, miscarriages, and asthma in the country. Our liberation is only realized when all people are free, free to access clean water, free from institutional racism, free to live whole and healthy lives not subjected to state-sanctioned violence. America has committed and is committing genocide against Native American peoples and Black people. We are in an ongoing struggle for our lives and this struggle is shaped by the shared history between Indigenous peoples and Black people in America, connecting that stolen land and stolen labor from Black and brown people built this country.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Green Party vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka joined protests Tuesday at the Red Warrior resistance camp. Stein spray-painted construction equipment and is expected to face charges of vandalism or trespassing at a construction site, the Bismarck Tribune reports.
Stein was also arrested in 2012 while protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline.
During a town hall Wednesday at Souphanouvong University in Luang Prabang, Laos, an attendee asked President Barack Obama what he could do about the destruction of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's “ancestral land, the supply of clean water, and environmental justice as a whole.”
Instead of answering the question directly, Obama said he was not familiar with the status of the Dakota pipeline and focused on what he described as his administration's "investment" in building a relationship with the First Nations:
The way that Native Americans were treated was tragic. One of the priorities that I’ve had as president is restoring…an honest and generous and respectful relationship with Native American tribes. So we have made an unprecedented investment in meeting regularly with the tribes, helping them design ideas and plans for economic development, for education, for health, that is culturally appropriate for them. And this issue of ancestral land and helping them preserve their way of life is something that we have worked very hard. Now some of these issues are caught up with laws and treaties, so I can’t give you details on this particular case, I’d have to go back to my staff and find out how we’re doing on this one. But what I can tell you we have actually restored more rights among Native Americans to their ancestral lands, sacred sites, waters, hunting grounds, we have done a lot more work on that in the last eight years than we had in the previous 20-30 years, and this is something that I hope will continue as we go forward.
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about the pipeline in November 2015 and again Sept. 6:
Neither Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton nor Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has issued a statement on the potential for water contamination or the destruction of the sacred ancestral lands surrounding Standing Rock.
Environmental racism is one of the most critical issues that we face and it must be rooted out and eradicated wherever it thrives. To that end, the "#NoDAPL Global Weeks of Solidarity Action" will run Sept. 3-17. For more information, visit this website. Find out what items are needed at Red Warrior Camp here.