Resolution of construction issues involving the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has been postponed until at least September 9, as a U.S. District Court judge announced at a Wednesday, August 24 hearing that he would need until then to deliver a decision on a motion filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Earth Justice, an environmental law group.
Despite the postponement, SRST Chairman David Archambault said the court hearing was a victory in its own right.
“For our children that are not even here yet, this is something that is very powerful, very special,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network after Judge James E. Boasberg said he needed time to weigh the evidence presented at Wednesday’s hearing on the lawsuit brought by the SRST against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Whatever the result is, know that we won, because we’re changing policy on how pipelines are put in. These projects encroach on Indian country, so we’re setting a precedent that’s very powerful. And it’s only done because we’re able to unite and we’re able to do it with prayer.”
More than 4,000 people have gathered at camps along the Missouri River in an attempt to stop Dallas-based company Energy Transfer from piping Bakken oilfield crude underneath the Missouri River, the main source of drinking water for the tribe.
As hundreds of protesters rallied outside U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., Judge James E. Boasberg said he would need until September 9 to weigh all the evidence presented at a hearing on the lawsuit brought by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The tribe sued over the Army Corps’ approval of the pipeline without a comprehensive environmental and archeological review.
September 8 is the day that Archambault and other defendants appear in court to answer a lawsuit filed by Dakota Access Partners against the water protectors. Dozens, including Archambault, were arrested last week during demonstrations at the construction site near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Dakota Access brought a lawsuit against Archambault soon after.
The August 24 hearing hinged on whether the tribe had been adequately consulted during the permitting process, and whether due diligence had been performed. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved permits for the project at the end of July despite written objections by three federal agencies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Construction has started in all four states that the 1,172-mile-long pipeline will run through amid protests from citizens opposing the project.
“Out of 359 miles of pipeline we only had an opportunity of two sites to look at,” argued EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund attorney Jan Hasselman on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, referring to the consultation process. “That was not enough, and the scope was too narrow.”
Further, he said, Dakota Access’s archaeologists did not know enough history to even identify what constituted a sacred site.
“The site could be registered right now as a historical site with what they have found,” Hasselman said, quoting the tribe’s archaeologist. “Meanwhile, the Dakota Access archeologist had walked right over it.”
Dakota Access attorneys said the tribes had been given ample opportunity to visit pipeline sites and that since the company wants to have oil running by January of 2017, any halting of the construction would be unfair to people with vested interests. Construction is continuing elsewhere along the route.
But history and culture must transcend such concerns, Archambault said in a statement read during the hearing by one of the tribe’s attorneys.
“Our history connects us, and all of our spiritual connections are lost when sites are destroyed, even when they do not have access to them.”