Native Nations Rally in Support of Standing Rock Sioux
From the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), to the far-flung reaches of Canada and Alaska, Native nations are rallying around the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) and its fight to keep the Dakota Access oil pipeline from crossing under the Missouri River and pass within a half mile of the reservation, crossing Treaty lands.
On August 15, SRST Chairman David Archambault II issued a worldwide appeal.
“To all Native American Tribes in the U.S. and to all Indigenous Peoples of the world,” he said in a statement, “Please stand with Standing Rock by issuing proclamations, resolutions, and/or letters of support.”
And the Nations answered. Some, such as the Rosebud Sioux Nation, had already written support letters. Others have since issued proclamations, sent letters and passed resolutions. Today, Standing Rock has posted a list of 87 resolutions and letters from tribal governments. Among them, and in addition to NCAI: the Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Nation, Rosebud Sioux, Blackfeet Nation, Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, Tlingit & Haida Tribes of Alaska, Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Canada, and the Cherokee Nation. The Oneida Nation of New York, which owns the parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network, also stands in solidarity with Standing Rock.
The NCAI spoke for many by putting the development into context with others that have come before.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline is another chapter in a long history of constructing hazardous pipeline routes through tribal lands without respecting tribal sovereignty,” said the NCAI in a statement. “Pipeline projects, and the risks associated with pipeline ruptures, have irreversible harmful impacts on cultural places, aquifers and the environment. As first stewards of this land, tribes fully understand that protecting our water and natural resources is paramount. Any resource development must be done as tribes see fit, so these projects can coexist with our traditions and cultures to ensure that our resources are preserved for future generations. NCAI supports the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all tribes to be fully included in the decision-making process when pipeline projects impact tribal lands and resources.”
The Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska adopted a resolution calling upon the Army Corps of Engineers to reject the river-crossing permit under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and calling on the U.S. Department of the Interior to step in.
“As we embark on our own battles over trans-boundary mining issues, we need to support our brothers and sisters across Indian country so that we might be able to call on them to do the same for us in the spirit of the Idle No More movement,” said Council President Richard Peterson in the statement.
The Cherokee Nation invoked sovereignty in its resolution, which passed 15–2.
“They have not respected the Standing Rock Sioux as a federally-recognized tribe, with all the rights the treaties they have signed affords them as a sovereign nation,” said Joe Byrd, Tribal Council speaker and vice president of the NCAI’s Eastern Oklahoma Region.
The Sicangu Oyate, or Rosebud Sioux Tribe, extended its support and stated its “strong opposition” to the project in a letter that focused on the danger to sacred, culturally and historically significant sites.
“The pipeline could potentially damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious and cultural significance as it crosses ancestral lands of the Great Sioux Nation,” wrote Rosebud Sioux President William Kindle to Archambault. “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe stands in solidarity with the Hunkpapa, our relatives of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight to protect the land and resources so vital to our people. As we stand united, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your people to give you the strength and courage to continue the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline, and the state and federal governmental entities who permit this atrocious act.”
The Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas said the issue speaks to the water rights of Native nations all along the Missouri River and throughout the basin. It spoke of the 1993 Mini Sose Intertribal Waters Rights Coalition, which was formed to enable the 28 Missouri River basin tribes to “seek legal, administrative, economic and physical control over their water resources,” the tribe said.
“We stand in agreement with the position of your nation in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline and with the lack of due diligence on the part of the Corps of Engineers’ decision to issue a permit without proper environmental review and notification to all interested parties whose primary water rights may be placed in harm’s way,” wrote Kickapoo Chairman Lester Randall. “As we stand united, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your people to give you wisdom, strength and courage in the conflict against the Dakota Access Pipeline, state and federal agencies who display no regard for our people and homeland.”
The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska wrote to “support the fight against yet another invasion into Indian country,” Chairman Larry Wright Jr. said in a letter addressed to Archambault. “Your actions in leading the stand against the DAPL workers and agents protecting them is something that future generations will look to as a sign of leadership and what is needed to defend the land and water from further desecration and contamination in order to preserve all of our cultures, history and traditions.”
He also referenced a meeting that the Ponca had about the same pipeline with the Corps and Dakota Access representatives last February and said, “it was clear then and painfully clear now, there was no intent on their part to listen to the Tribal Nations.”
While Dakota Access would not go through Nebraska itself, the pipeline route does pass close to that state’s northeast corner as it runs from South Dakota to Iowa. California tribes weighed in as well, with a letter from the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley and a resolution passed by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians.
“The lack of tribal consultation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for this project is unacceptable, and the inherent risks to the water and land which threaten your community’s ability to have safe drinking water and sacred sites is an environmental justice issue,” wrote Big Pine Paiute Chairwoman Shannon Romero. “The Tribe stands in solidarity with you because we cannot be bystanders and watch the destruction of our mother earth.”
In its resolution, the Coyote Valley Pomo listed some of the numerous pipeline spills that have occurred, as did the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Support also came from the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in California. From Montana the Blackfeet Nation weighed in.
“As Indian People, we must continue to fight for the preservation of our water, land and all that affects our traditional way of life,” Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Harry Barnes wrote in a letter of support. “All this affects our people now and the future generations after us.”
Also in Montana, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council passed a resolution noting that its own ancient sites—villages and burial grounds—were threatened by the Dakota Access pipeline. The tribe “fully supports the effort of the Oceti Sakowin and all Missouri River Tribes to stop all construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will have a direct impact on the land held in reverence by all tribes with a direct connection to the land,” the tribe said.
The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa’s proclamation mentioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s request for a full environmental impact statement.
“The federal government, particularly the Corps, has failed in its responsibilities to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the surrounding communities by refusing to clearly identify the impact of the proposed pipeline,” Chairman Richard W. McCloud said in the proclamation. “The requirement of a government-to-government consultation process has not been met.”
The Tlingit and Haida adopted a resolution in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, calling upon the Army Corps of Engineers to reject the river-crossing permit under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and calling on the U.S. Department of the Interior to step in.
“As we embark on our own battles over transboundary mining issues, we need to support our brothers and sisters across Indian country so that we might be able to call on them to do the same for us in the spirit of the Idle No More movement,” said Council President Richard Peterson in the statement.
North of the 49th Parallel, the efforts of the water protectors have caught the attention of First Nations in British Columbia, which expressed admiration.
“No government should prioritize the rights of its people over expansion projects or energy-related greed, especially when such projects put its people at risk to lose their clean drinking water, a resource mandatory to survive on this planet,” the UBCIC’s letter of support said. “We at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs fully support the efforts of the Standing Rock Reservation and those currently protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Despite the intimidation your community and your allies face at the hands of law enforcement, government and private oil companies, we admire your dedication to fight for your right to exist, survive and thrive on your ancestral lands. We stand with you.”
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