The Army Corps of Engineers has approved a 1,172 mile long oil pipeline known as the Dakota Access that runs within a half a mile from Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannonball, North Dakota and continues through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. This approval was made without proper consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires free, prior and informed consent for development impacting Native American land, territories and waters. Federal law clearly requires meaningful consultation with affected Native American nations, and when the first draft of the pipeline was drawn by the Army Corps of Engineers in December of 2015, the Standing Rock reservation was inappropriately emitted from the map and all analysis of the project. Two different routes were considered during the planning stages of this project: one near Bismarck, North Dakota and one near the reservation. The route near Bismarck was decided against because it “would be near and could jeopardize the drinking
water of the residents in the city of Bismarck” according to the ACOE.
The Standing Rock Sioux first caught wind of the project in early 2014. The tribe has since been concerned that the pipeline will threaten the tribe’s main source of drinking water, the Missouri River, and destroy burial sites and sacred lands. There has been consistent opposition to this project.
In April of 2016, as an act of resistance against the project, several camps have been set up alongside the Cannonball River. Hundreds of Native American tribes across the nation have come to stand along-side the Standing Rock Sioux in support of Native Rights and Environmental Stewardship. Thousands of people have traveled from all areas of the world to join this peaceful protest. Native American tribes are individual, separate nations, and this movement has been creating history as such a large number of tribes have not joined together for a common cause like this since the 1800s. Across the United States, demonstrations have sprung up in various cities, and support can be found from indigenous communities around the globe, including from those in the Amazon, Mexico and Canada.
The Sarayaku tribe from Ecuador have similarly faced ‘big oil’ and were successful, which gives hopes to those supporting this wide spread movement in North Dakota. Three different federal agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation oppose the project as well, and wrote letters to the Corps of Engineers expressing environmental and cultural concerns.
The mainstream media’s coverage has failed to acknowledge that the consequences of a largescale oil spill would be devastating to not only The Standing Rock Sioux, but any of the communities and wildlife living along the Missouri River. This isn’t a “their issue,” it’s an “everyone issue.” In 2010, a pipeline broke and leaked more than one million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. In 2008 in Ventura, California, 200,000 gallons of oil were spilled. And then again in 2010, a few hundred more were spilled as well, destroying the surrounding wildlife. Over 50,000 gallons of oil were spilled into the Yellowstone River last year also. This pipeline crosses over 200 rivers and creeks with over 570,000 barrels of oil being transported each and every day, but while the environmental impact is deeply concerning, there are some very current problems with respect to the sacred sites of the area.
Hours after lawyers representing the tribe filed evidence in court documenting that some of the Dakota Access’ proposed route would go through a sacred burial site, bulldozers began work on the area. Confirmed burial grounds, ancient cairns and stone prayer rings were destroyed by the construction of a 150 foot wide, two mile long trench. These were culturally significant artifacts and places of prayer that cannot be replaced, taking a strong history with them.
Not only does the pipeline violate the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historical Prevention Act, it violates the basic human rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to their cultural, historical, and spiritual interests on their ancestral lands, lands that the Dakota Access will be disturbing. The pipeline violates the rights of the tribe to life, clean water, and a clean environment all of which are rights fortified to them by the F.t Laramies Treaties, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UN DIP, the ICCPR and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
This is an ongoing battle, and the camps have already began establishing plans to continue onward through the upcoming winter. The Standing Rock Sioux and those who stand in solidarity, are in this for the long run. Referring to themselves as the Water Protectors, the supporters are ready for whatever the future may hold. After a long winded media black-out, information and updates are now accessible on public news and across the internet making it possible for the general public to become informed on this powerful, history making, movement.
University of Nebraska at Omaha’s own Inter-Tribal Student Council is taking a group trip to participate in the gathering at Standing Rock over Fall Break in October. For more information, stop by the Inter-Tribal’s demonstration that will be held at UNO’s Plaza Thursday. If you would like to contribute towards the trip, donations will be taken that day and a bake sale will be held Oct. 6 in Arts and Sciences Hall.