Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Black Snake Rumbling: Some Native Americans Still Oppose The Dakota Access Pipeline

Black Snake is what some of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members call the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Not since Wounded Knee in 1973, has there been such a great gathering of indigenous tribes as there were in

Standing Rock. The first camps were set up in

August, 2016, along the Missouri and Cannonball rivers.

A year later, 2017, the tribe has achieved a significant victory over an environmental justice analysis. The case is Standing Rock v U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

What began as the protests aimed to protect and defend the water, sacred burial sites, and wildlife habitat in danger from a potential oil spill due to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, has become a national movement, attracting international attention.

The protestors’ fight has come to be known as the water protectors who “stand in the path” of DAPL.

June, 2017, Standing Rock’s battle with US Army Corps of Engineers resulted in a pending case over environmental justice. The nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice represents the tribe.

According to attorney Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, who represents the tribe, “until now, the right of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump Administration-prompting a well-deserved global outcry.”

The federal court has “protected our laws and regulations from undue political influence.” as David Archembault 11, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman said.

In the June 14th significant victory, Federal Judge James Boasberg said that the United State Army Corps of Engineers did not satisfactorily perform a study of the pipeline’s environmental justice analysis as it “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights or environmental justice.” The court did not determine whether the pipeline operations should be shut off and requested additional briefing on the subject.

June 1, 2017, Dakota Access Pipeline began transporting crude oil from Bakkan/Three Forks, North Dakota to storage outside of Pakota, Illinois. The point of contention between Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Energy Transfer Partners(parent company of DAPL), is Lake Oahe.

According to DAPL, “ 999.98 % of the pipeline is installed on privately owned property in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, and it is does not enter Standing Rock Sioux reservation at any point. “

“The Dakota Access Pipeline does not cross the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, even at the portion of the pipeline that is the subject of dispute at Lake Oahe.”

The controversy surrounding DAPL has been the potential impacts of an oil spill on the fishing rights of the Sioux Tribe in Lake Oahe, a sprawling Missouri River Reservoir under which the reservation sits, which is home to a variety of fish, including walleye, that serve as a significant food source for the tribe.

“The $3.8 billion pipeline project, also known as Bakken Oil Pipeline, extends 1,168 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, crossing through communities, farms, tribal land, sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat. The pipeline would carry up to 570,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it links with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.”

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will not be backing down. Chairman of the tribe, Dave Archambault ll, has said, “this is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing.”

According to Earthjustice Law firm, the Standing Rock Tribe will be making their best arguments to the court that the pipeline should be shut down pending the completion of a lawful environmental review. A decision is expected in September.

“The Corps’ EJ analysis defined the geographic unit as a half-mile radius around the Lake Oahe crossing which excluded Standing Rock Reservation. In the Corps EA it concluded that ‘there is no concern regarding environmental justice to minority populations at the Proposed Action Area at…Lake Oahe.” The court found that such a narrowly focused EJ inquiry was insufficient to discharge the Corps’ EJ responsibilities under National Environmental Policy Act

Standing Rock fight has also inspired indigenous activists in other parts of the country. Camps have been set up in the Texas desert last January to fight a pipeline project there. This demonstrates that the water or planet protector movement has inspired other Native American protests across the nation, against pipelines, otherwise known as “Black Snake,” by indigenous people.

In Bismark, which is about 70 miles from Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Christina, a white local bartender has a different take on the “water protectors,” as she observed them as trouble makers. She said that this is her home and that after the winter snow thawed out last April, the campgrounds in standing Rock were littered with refuse. According to Christina, this was hypocritical. “There were also setting tires on fires which was hypocritical because they’re polluting the air, yet they are claiming to protect the water.”

A member of the Standing Rock Tribe, Chase, who works at the Prairie Knights Casino, saw the water protectors as both good and bad. Bringing new voices to the situation was the positive side of the movement for Chase. The drawback Chase noted was how there were conflicts at the camp, and tires were slashed. He was not able to comment on who slashed the tires, but it was not a local member of the tribe. Chase also noted that back in July, 2016, protestors set vehicles on fire on the bridge over the Cannon Ball River, which separates Standing Rock from Mandan County, ND.

Professor Gary Helverson, Science instructor at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates said that although the protests did build relationships with lots of tribes, and many voices were heard, there were also trouble makers who were primarily people from the outside.

Fort Yates. Distance, activist, archivist and assistant to Ladonna Brave Bull, a Standing Rock Tribe member,

was concerned that Governor of North Dakota did not do more diplomacy to advocate natives’ legal right or concerns about burial rights. Distance also mentioned that pipeline was illegally approved.

Stand by and wait till September when Standing Rock will find out the Court’s decision as to whether the pipeline’s operations will be shut down.

According to Earthjustice, “The Obama administration made a carefully considered decision that these Treaty rights needed to be respected in connection with an oil pipeline immediately upstream of the reservation. The Trump administration ignored that advice, and acted as if the Tribe does not exist.

The case between Standing Rock Tribe and USACE is not over yet.


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