Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 in Featured

Tribal Opposition Mounts Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Tribal Opposition Mounts Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

On February 5th, the Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II, released a statement reaffirming the tribe’s opposition to the proposed construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

He states, “As Chairman, one of my most important obligations is to protect and preserve the lands, waters and cultural resources of the Tribe.  For this reason, along with the Tribal Council and the Tribe’s staff, I am working hard to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.”  See full text of his statement below.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,168-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline, backed by Texas based Energy Transfer Partners.  If built, the pipeline would begin in western North Dakota near Stanley and would end near Patoka, Ill.

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.  Its proposed route would also cross the Cannon Ball River on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and over the Missouri River, posing a serious threat to water sources in the area.

According to Standing Rock historian, and tribal member, LaDonna Tamakawastewin Allard, the area where the pipeline would cross contains significant historical and cultural significance to many Northern Plains tribes.

She states that it is, “the place were the Mandan came into the world after the great flood,” and a place “where the Mandan had their Okipa, or Sundance,” and later where “Wisespirit and Tatanka Ohitika held sundances.”  She goes on to say that the site is where old Mandan, Cheyenne, and Arikara villages were located, in addition, to where the “medicine rock [is located] that tells the future is in the area.”  There are also numerous burials located in the area.

Last September, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association (GPTCA), which is composed of the 16 elected Chairs and Presidents or their duly appointed representatives of the sovereign Indian Tribes and Nations recognized by Treaties entered into with the United States that are within the Great Plains Region of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, passed a resolution opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Currently, the states of North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois have approved permits for construction. Iowa has yet to approve a permit for construction.

Proposed route of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Proposed route of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Statement of Dave Archambault, II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Dakota Access Pipeline

February 5, 2016

As Chairman, one of my most important obligations is to protect and preserve the lands, waters and cultural resources of the Tribe. For this reason, along with the Tribal Council and the Tribe’s staff, I am working hard to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Dakota Access is an 1,100 mile oil pipeline, to take oil from the Bakken through North and South Dakota and Iowa and ending in Illinois. As currently planned, the pipeline would cross Lake Oahe less than a mile north of the Reservation’s northern boundary. We have all seen the terrible problems created by oil spills in North Dakota and around the country, and it is simply unacceptable to place the risk of such a spill at our doorstep.

To cross Lake Oahe, Dakota Access must obtain permission from the Corps of Engineers. In December, the Corps issued a draft Environmental Assessment regarding Dakota Access. The Tribe responded swiftly by preparing comprehensive comments demonstrating that the draft EA is fundamentally inadequate. The Tribe’s comments focused on four major issues.

First, the Corps failed to consult with the Tribe as it is required to do with respect to any decision that impacts Tribal interests. Second, the Corps failed to properly address the cultural resources that could be harmed by the project. The Corps’ failure to consult meant that they did not even recognize the range of important cultural resources that are well known to the Tribe’s THPO and members of the Tribal community. Third, the Corps basically assumed that there is no danger of an oil spill – when we all know that is not the case. And fourth, the Corps, in its draft EA, simply ignored the presence of the Reservation and the interests of the Tribe. The Corps considered potential impacts of the project elsewhere, but not on the Reservation. The Tribe’s comments highlighted all these fundamental deficiencies.

To make sure that the Tribe was heard, I went to Washington, DC to meet with Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Defense officials on Dakota Access. We discussed these issues at length. This was followed by another meeting the following week on the Reservation – with Corps officials from the District level. At this meeting the Tribe’s THPO office, community members and I all had an opportunity to explain in detail the cultural resources that are along the pipeline route, as well as the risks to the Tribe regarding the waters of Lake Oahe. All the while, I continued to emphasize that the Corps has still not initiated formal consultation. And we followed up this second meeting with another letter to the Corps which further addressed the Tribe’s position and concerns.

I have also made sure that the Tribe’s concerns were known by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the federal agency with oversight responsibilities regarding the National Historic Preservation Act. In response, the Advisory Council has now written a letter to the Corps of Engineers, emphasizing that the Corps has not shown that it has adequately consulted with the Tribe and noting that the Corps must not go forward with any decision without complying with the National Historic Preservation Act.

The Tribe’s work on Dakota Access has included the Tribe’s THPO, water department, legal department, and outside counsel. This week, the Tribal Council has authorized some additional resources for this matter. We plan to move forward to enhance the Tribe’s position, seeking additional support and expertise on technical issues like engineering and hydrology, as well as in the public relations arena. We will also be reaching out to seek allies against Dakota Access.

We will continue to do all we can to protect the Tribe and its members, and all Oceti Sakowin treaty lands and water rights, from the risks and harms of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

By: Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)

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

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