Mar 11, 2016 - Lakota and Dakota Nations Prepare to Battle Another Oil Pipeline by Matt Remle


Last fall, the Lakota and Dakota Nations and other tribes along the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline celebrated their long hard fought battle over the Black Snake when President Obama rejected its permit for construction. The multi-year battle saw the birth of a unique alliance between tribes, environmentalist, farmers and ranchers in what was dubbed the Cowboy Indian Alliance. Jointly, through tireless campaigning, awareness raising and direct actions the alliance put a stop to the proposed pipeline that would have brought tar sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, just several months later, the Lakota, Dakota, farmers and ranchers find themselves preparing to battle yet another cross country pipeline.

The proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, backed by Texas based Energy Transfer Partners, is a 1,168-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that would carry Bakken crude from western North Dakota to a distribution hub Illinois on route for refinement in the Gulf Coast.

If built, the Dakota Access Pipeline would transport as much as 450,000 barrels of oil per day with a future capacity of 570,000 barrels per day.

Energy Transfer Partners has been quietly getting permits for approval for construction from  the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois. Despite strong opposition from citizens in Iowa, on March 10th state regulators approved the permit for construction.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association have both passed resolutions opposing the proposed pipeline due to its route and its impacts on water and sites of cultural and historical significance, and its violation of treaty rights.

According to the Standing Rock resolution, “the Dakota Access Pipeline violates Article 2 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty which guarantees that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shall enjoy the “undisturbed use and occupation” of our permanent homeland, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation,” and that “the Dakota Access Pipeline threatens public health and welfare on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation,” it further states that, “the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe relies on the waters of the life-giving Missouri River for our continued existence, and the Dakota Access Pipeline poses a serious risk to Mni Sose and to the very survival of our Tribe.”

I recently spoke with Nicole Montclair-Donaghy (Kampeska Cinkila Win’) who is Lakota from Standing Rock and has been actively fighting against the proposed pipeline for several years about it and its potential impacts.

Can you give us some background on the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline?

Dakota Access, LLC is owned by Energy Transfers, a Texas based company. The pipeline will cross the Missouri river twice, once at the border of McKenzie and Williams counties and at the eastern border of Morton and Emmons counties. It will continue through South Dakota, Iowa, and end in Illinois. This pipeline is estimated to transport 500k barrels of Bakken crude per day, eventually working up to 800k barrels per day. It will cover 1134 miles, of which 238 miles of pipeline will be laid in ND. Emergency shut off valves and monitors will be located in TEXAS.

What will the potential threats be to sacred sites, sites of cultural/historical significance, climate change and water?

Though DAPL does not cross tribal lands, it will cross below rivers and lakes that do, leaving the water and land at risk for contamination. The pipeline poses many threats, environmentally and morally. Energy Transfers has strong armed landowners into signing easements with bribery and threats of eminent domain . There have been over 20 condemnation lawsuits in ND forcing landowners to take legal action to protect their livelihood. On January 11 2016, one of the 3 members of the ND Public Service Commission, the body that decides the fate of pipelines in ND, recused himself from further involvement in approval of DAPL. Commissioner Randy Christmann stated in his letter that his mother-in-law had signed an easement allowing DAPL to cross her land. The PSC approved the pipeline on January 20, 2016.

The more concerning threat is what this pipeline WILL do to the environment. All pipelines break at some point in their lifetime.* Pipelines spill their contents. And in some cases, pipelines explode. The pipeline will cross areas of the Missouri River in 2 places in ND, the integrity of these lines, although engineers claim that technology makes them safe, is not known. (When existing pipelines have been built in ND, inspectors were not required to supervise the line while being installed. Until recently in ND, there have been little regulations that require pipelines to have the needed apparatuses to detect pressure loss or shut off valves in case of an emergency.)

Should a pipeline rupture under the river, what will be the emergency response process being that the line is not within reservation boundaries? The contamination will leave the entire reservation without potable drinking water.

Pipelines are a threat to sacred sites early on in the process. Typically, the companies that lay the lines are intrusive and destructive. Energy Transfers is requesting a 50-foot right-of-way for the actual pipeline, but is initially requesting a 150-foot right-of-way for installation. This does not include access roads and storage of infrastructure. Leaving the impacted area at risk of destruction. The people laying the pipeline are not required to have any knowledge of identifying culturally significant sites, leaving any artifacts or significant places open for destruction.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe recently passed a resolution stating the DAPL violates the 1868 Ft. Laramie treaty can you expand on this for those who don’t understand treaty rights?

The 1868 Ft. Laramie treaty guarantees the undisturbed use and occupation of the homelands of the SR Reservation. Being that this has been written in treaty, it is the agreement between tribes and foreign governments. Although litigation has decreased the land that was promised in the 1868 treaty, the treaties were never revoked, leaving the treaties fully intact and enforceable.

Installing a pipeline would certainly leave irreparable damage to existing sacred sites.

What has been your involvement in opposing the DAPL?

I am a field organizer with Dakota Resource Council, my job is to work with oil and gas impacted communities. I work with citizens that have been adversely affected by the industrialization of western ND. Dakota Access is one of the many projects that I have been following and taking our task forces. Dakota Resource Council belongs to a larger network of member groups lead by the Western Organization of Resource Councils. We have groups in 8 states that work on similar issues.

How can people support the efforts to stop the DAPL?

One option is to file for an appeal against the ND Public Service Commission. This would take legal expertise and money. Another option is a grassroots approach; garner enough people to send a message saying that we don’t want the environmental and cultural devastation. DAPL has alternate proposed routes that would have been routed around the north side of Bismarck, it is very commonplace that communities with people of color are the first to be put at risk for these types of projects.


Nicole Montclair-Donaghy (Kampeska Cinkila Win’) is a Lakota from the Standing Rock Reservation. She began organizing during her college career which focused on advocating for Tribal colleges and students. Nicole leads oil and gas campaigns and is a lobbyist for Dakota Resource Council in Bismarck, ND.







by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)

Matt Remle (Lakota) is an editor and writer for Last Real Indians and LRInspire. @wakiyan7


*From a two-year span starting in January 2012, North Dakota experienced over 300 oil spills and 750 “oil field incidents” the public was not notified of these events until years later.

Last Real Indians