An early proposal for the Dakota Access Pipeline [DAP] had it cross the Missouri River by Bismarck, the ninety percent white state capital. The Bismarck Tribune claims this route was rejected because of the threat posed to their water supply.
The rerouted pipeline passes the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The pipeline passes sacred burial grounds; places of great significance, places protected by Federal law.
Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement and Vice-Presidential candidate, issued a declaration:
“The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the four states involved and the Energy Transfer Pipeline company have all entered into agreement to try to put the Dakota Access Pipeline through. They never once contacted the reservation to ask about the impact on their land or to ask for input on what could be a very dangerous project. People’s lives are at stake. Because of that, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has taken a very strong position to halt any kind of construction of pipeline underneath their land. Not only would the pipeline destroy the environment, it would poison and contaminate the water for years. This is why over 90 Native nations have come together. They’ve brought their tribal flags. That’s what is flying over Standing Rock.”
The DAP is controlled by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It may not seem a military action, but this Native American tribe is defending sovereign lands against the United States Military. The army is at their door, threatening their water supply, demolishing their sacred sites.
Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said “This demolition is devastating, these grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, our sacred land has been turned into hollow ground.”
Former tribal historic preservation officer Tim Mentz said “I surveyed this land, and we confirmed multiple graves and specific prayer sites. Portions, and possibly complete sites, have been taken out entirely.”
The Standing Rock Sioux began a legal challenge to stop construction. The tribe says it was not properly consulted before the U.S. Army Corps fast-tracked approval. Jan Hasselman, the tribe’s attorney said “We’re days away from getting a resolution on the legal issues, and they came in on a holiday weekend and destroyed the site. What they have done is absolutely outrageous.”
Dennis Banks continued “The Army Corp of Engineers gave them permits. What business does the Corp of Engineers have giving permits to construct and destroy our environment without any kind of consultation? That’s what Judge James Boasberg was asking in court yesterday. What kind of consultation was done?
The answer of course, is none.
They never consulted with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
This action is as historic as the stand we took at Wounded Knee in 1973, and the widespread support is similar.
If the pipeline contaminates the water, the damage will last for generations. Look at what happened with the Gold King chemical spill into the San Juan and Animas Rivers last year, killing horses, sheep and crops of the Navajo Nation. People on the reservation still have no water! In Arizona, Resolution Copper Mining plans the largest copper mine in the continent, taking millions of gallons of scarce water if they succeed. They will destroy lands sacred to the San Carlos Apache.
This is why 90 Native nations are coming together at Standing Rock, along with people of all ethnicities. In all these confrontations with mining companies, Native people are the guardians of the land.
People should come visit us for the weekend. Bring your water, bring your camping gear. Some of the elders have gone inside, but people should come out and camp with us. The young people should come and see and hear. Come see the young kids who are having fun, who are feeling free.
That is how we felt at Wounded Knee. We felt free. This is our hope again.”
Those hopes may be short lived.
The US Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits allowing a corporate body to threaten their water, their sacred sites, their sovereignty.
These areas do not belong to the United States – they belong to the Lakota Nation; a sovereign nation governed by a sovereign people, a nation not of the United States.
Obama’s administration reaffirmed a commitment to preserve Native American sacred lands.
Donald Trump – who owns stock in the pipeline, who received funding from the pipeline, who calls for removal of regulations on the oil and gas industry – is now President Elect.
Standing Rock may be Trump’s litmus test. His handling of the DAP could allay the fears of non-white Americans. It could also warn of things to come.